June 1st - here we are, in the month that separates the first part of the year from the second part. And this year, as months have blended into each other more weirdly than ever before, I think plenty of us have been thinking of June as somehow a bellweather of how we might be going forward. Some places are slowly reopening, lots of places are seeing significant drops in new Covid-19 cases, and of course for many who are not me, it also means that the summer season is really getting started. So it can also be a kind of mini-New Year, a chance to start fresh and maybe make it to the end of the year with better results.
Today in Philadelphia, it won't be that easy. As you may or may not know, things exploded here over the weekend. What started as a peaceful protest memorializing the police killing of George Floyd, turned into two days and nights of heavy duty destruction and violence. Things are extremely tenuous right now. The fires are either out or under control, but if the wind blows in a certain direction you can still smell smoke. The helicopters are finally gone (at least for now - they kept coming and going all through Saturday and Sunday), and there are fewer siren sounds. Curfew has been lifted for this morning. The National Guard has arrived, and everyone is hoping that it will not be needed.
People have been injured, including some in law enforcement. The property damage is considerable, and a couple of buildings that housed retail in Center City will have to be demolished because they were so damaged from fires, meaning that some people are also losing their office and/or living space. After the cleanup, who knows what places will reopen or decide to rebuild? Everything has already been closed and the future uncertain because of the pandemic, and I'm sure for some, this will be the point where the break comes.
It's been sad. It's been scary. It's been frustrating. It's clear that serious and systemic change has to happen, though that's been clear for a long time. But of course there are already people seeing only what they wanted to see, and saying that this proves that "those people" only want handouts or they resort to violence. "Those people" of course meaning black Americans. In spite of the fact that there were plenty of lily white people taking advantage of looting. In spite of the fact that black Americans and other people of color have been facing disproportionate levels of income. healthcare, and pretty much everything else that is easily available and often not even realized by those of us who have pale skin.
I realized over the weekend that a bumper sticker that I've seen a lot over the years was actually a lot smarter than I'd ever realized. Yes, a bumper sticker.
When people are treated justly in all ways - legally, financially, socially, etc. - then we are saying that no one has to be like everyone else to lead the life they deserve. The world will never ever be perfect, and none of us will ever be 100% happy, but if we are all treated with humanity and dignity and have the same opportunities, there are fewer reasons to look at things as being Us vs. Them for anyone in any situation.
So if you want to help the world and your community to regroup, and you want to feel like you are starting the second part of this year in a way that can only improve it, work for justice - however small, however local, let it start to ripple through the water of our world. Unless we can all afford our own planet, we are here together. And if you don't think that we all deserve dignity, kindness, and respect, then every single bit of this is on you.
It's June 1st - take a deep breath, regroup, and decide to move forward in the best way you can.
And on Tuesday, November 3, 2020, make sure to vote so that our country will be able to regroup and move forward