I KNOW IT LOOKS DARK

Very very dark. American philosopher, political activist, author and social critic Dr. Cornel West said Monday evening on Brian Williams’ show that now may be the darkest moment in American history. Or something very close to that. Cornel West never holds back, nor plays nice with his words.

The reasons for his assessment were socially and politically complex and not what you may have immediately thought.

But whoa. Wait. Not the Civil War? Not the arrival of the first slave ships in America 400 years ago? And this from a black man who seriously ponders his ideas and words before he turns them loose. He didn’t say it outright, but you got the impression he felt Donald Trump and the Republicans are intent on and capable of destroying our democracy of 230 years.

No need to act incredulous, though. How many of us have let our thoughts wander to the dark side the last few days? Are we witnessing the beginnings of an American Armageddon?

DID WE JUST SEE STRIKE THREE WHIZ BY?

Within three months we’ve had to confront three disasters the likes of which this nation has rarely seen in 100 years. First, a pandemic that has so far taken the lives of more than 115,000 Americans and is threatening to pick up steam. Then, the economic fallout from that, the food lines, closed businesses and unemployment not seen since the Great Depression. And now, an assault on the peace and wellbeing of communities almost everywhere by the violent lawlessness of organized gangs of looters taking advantage of police deployment to handle large crowds of mostly peaceful protesters, over ingrained practices of police brutality and racial inequality, sparked by the recent murder of George Floyd.

But in the midst of the chaos, so many, many stories of sacrifice, reaching out, selflessness, bridges built, community spirit and even bravery, from ordinary people and local leaders who do understand we are all in this together. I say those stories, those people, represent a huge majority that wants real change and maybe this time they are not going to stop until they get it. The Great Realization of course includes equality and justice for all. All.

WE SHOWED UP TO CLEAN UP, TOGETHER

A lot of young people, it was reported, but Santa Monicans of all ages, races, genders, incomes, turned out independently Monday morning with brooms and trash bags to begin the huge task of cleaning up from the destruction of the night before. The City was out there too, in force. It was something that needed to be done, but it was also a way for people to say this is my community and I care about it. It was reported and televised widely by the media, to their credit.

I dislike the term “silver lining” in situations like this. I’d rather look for great good and change that can come hand in hand with great tragedy and loss. And if you’ve been glued to your screens, you have seen it, over and over.

Police, even captains and chiefs, taking a knee with protesters. Going in to nervous crowds and speaking with people, one on one. Even consoling, understanding how distraught people are over racism and injustice, seeming to be on an endless cycle. Protesters confronting those intent on violence and destruction and often dissuading them.

THE CITY AND POLICE RESPONSE

Here Sunday was terrible, with tragic consequences. Around 100 SM businesses were damaged or even destroyed. Many of them Mom and Pops, built up over years or decades of hard work. I reserve judgment until there is a good investigation but it appeared as though those entrusted with keeping us safe did not take the most obvious steps.

This didn’t come out of nowhere. We saw what happened to other communities for two nights running. The police chief and her officers needed to sit down with the entire City Council to prepare. It would appear that didn’t happen.

When you ask for a position like Police Chief, at very high profile, responsibility and salary, and City Council, with enviable benefits and prestige, you have to do so knowing you may have to step up during a war, or tsunami, earthquake or terrible fire, or civil unrest. You have to be ready for that. We were not, the consequences were extreme, and the residents need to know why not.

BUT THERE IS MUCH TO CELEBRATE

And build on. Let’s focus on that. So many now seem to better understand the decades and centuries of racial oppression in the USA, how devastating it is for families of color, every single day, and how that degrades us all. “No Justice, No Peace” used to bring knee-jerk reaction from many whites, now much more understood and accepted. “Black Lives Matter” was a source of conflict not very long ago, and now seems to have hit home. (I saw someone post recently, a white woman, “If I see ‘all lives matter’ one more time, I think I’ll scream — it’s not about YOU!”)

These terrible events are that, and sad and depressing, but I see so much possibility for meaningful, radical, lasting, good change that I am choosing that perspective. Only light can chase the darkness, and the Beatles, among a few others, reminded us what that light is. It’s all you need.

Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 34 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at therealmrmusic@gmail.com

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