George Floyd's tragic death at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer has been rightly panned by both the left and the right, and peaceful protests across the country have sprung up to address this and other instances of police brutality.
But we've had protests against police officers before. None in recent years has devolved into nationwide rioting and chaos. What's so different about 2020?
One explanation: The tyrannical coronavirus lockdowns. As Ross Douthat explains over at the New York Times, our major cities are especially susceptible to unrest when their residents are forced to stay at home.
In place of any broad legitimacy, the liberal city relies for public order on wealth and entertainment, surveillance and prison sentences, pot and video games, elite guilt and lower-class forbearance.
This is a decadent-but-sustainable arrangement under normal circumstances, but the coronavirus has exposed its weak points. Take away schools, pools, sports and movies and suddenly the infotainment complex is reduced to Zoom and Netflix and claustrophobia sets in. Tell people to wear masks and the surveillance camera doesn’t seem like such a threat. Close the colleges and suddenly the activist cohort and its more radical pupils are set idle. Put cops to work enforcing social distancing and their authoritarian temptations are magnified … and then all you need is a particularly brazen injustice to light the spark.
Now that it’s been lit, the liberal coalition’s claim to represent order against Trumpian chaos or political competence against right-wing fecklessness is burning day by day. And the torching of its credibility has happened fastest among the white and woke. As public officials, white progressives lack both credibility with aggrieved protesters and full control over their own overzealous cops. As supposed custodians of public health, they’ve proven unable to sustain social distancing requirements when it’s someone other than disreputable conservatives challenging them. And as ostensible champions of facts and reason, they’ve been as quick as any Southern sheriff in the 1960s to blame outside agitators, false flags and even foreigners for their own misgovernment.
Violent and criminal riots have many causes, of course, and there's no excuse for the destructive and dangerous actions we've witnessed over the last week. But when our "leaders" force people out of work, lock people in their homes, and ask police to enforce draconian lockdown orders, social unrest is just waiting for a spark.
Rather than rely on our mayors and governors to keep us safe, why don't we get back to what has made our nation great: self-governance.
A self-governing people can implement common-sense safety precautions while balancing health with the livelihoods of American citizens. Top-down government control, on the other hand, didn't save us from COVID-19, and its long-term damage will be felt for years to come.
Let's get America back on track. Let's open up our cities and communities, and get We the People back to work.