As cities break into revolt and the President threatens martial law, I feel the need to clarify where I stand. To put it bluntly, I believe the police are and have always been an institution designed to threaten and control rather than serve and protect, and the murder of George Floyd (and the subsequent murders of multiple protestors by police in the following days) only illustrates this. Outcries against the destruction of property, whether blamed on black protestors, white outside agitators, agents provocateurs, or white supremacists, are an admission that to so-called moderates will always defend the right of capital to withhold and exploit human needs, i.e. defend private property, before it defends the right of human beings to live as they choose, or live at all.
It’s no coincidence that the President chose his most recent photo op, concurrent with his threat to invoke the Insurrection Act, in front of a church. The church, to their credit, responded defiantly that Mr. Trump used the photo op to spread a message “contrary to Christianity.” This is worth unpacking. Did Trump blaspheme Christianity, or has Christianity blasphemed itself by repeatedly buttressing imperial projects wherever they hope to bloom, by refusing even in its liberal iterations to stand genuinely against injustice? When such a church states that they stand with protestors, what does it mean exactly when the church as a body refuses to interrogate standard liberal assumptions about the ultimate goodness of American empire?
I would like to believe that this recent wave of protests will mark a turning point in this worldwide nightmare, that somehow this will cause the government to make some sort of concession to the humane principles it supposedly operates under. When I try to think how this might happen, I only remember the crushing of countless protest waves before this, and feel sick.
I originally drafted this post wanting to put forward the potential utility of a religious order of the kind I’d previously described in a situation like this. Ultimately, I can’t “wouldn’t it be nice?” this situation without going further back than I’d like. Wouldn’t it be nice if so many people hadn’t been murdered by police? Wouldn’t it be nice if America weren’t founded on slavery and genocide? But, ultimately, I can’t do anything but suggest that maybe, in the stomach turning but extremely likely event we find ourselves in this position again, a network of solidarity based on solid organizational principles, genuine religious belief, and a desire to overturn this world for the better might be worth something. Maybe, by creating institutional space where neither the law nor America holds the illusion of ultimate authority, we can create a kind of courage and knowledge difficult to sustain otherwise.