guest post: i can’t breathe

Truly what is always most stomach churning when this happens over and over again is that it becomes so routine. It seems like just yesterday that Eric Garner was telling an officer of the law, sworn to serve and protect, that “I can’t breathe” eleven times before they murdered him.

Nothing about the loss of a person’s life should ever be “routine”. It should never be routine for one man to stand by why another murders a man in front of citizens on the street and have the power to stop it. He begged for human mercy and decency. It should never be routine for that type of force to be used as the first, second, or third option in deescalating a confrontation between police and an American citizen. It should not be routine for officers accused of murder or rape or any violent crime to be simply fired or put on leave without additionally being put in handcuffs and in custody as they await trial for their crimes. This should also be a federal crime somehow.

I feel terrible that I can go on with my life. I cannot believe how many names come to mind and the stories just like this in these past years. When you forget one and look it up it pulls up more that I had forgotten. I had forgotten. That makes me even more sick of myself. It makes me wretch that as hard as each of these days has been for me over the past decade, including the school, church, and club shootings, each time it becomes part of the background of serious-shit-and-sludge that is the American society. And we must labor and push our way through everyday just to get out of bed and face the world again. Routine.

We are all little powder kegs waiting to explode. COVID-19 has further revealed the hatred, fear, and rage that is destroying us. Isolation and lack of community finds us all in dark places. Our mental health is at a low worldwide.

Still, our children are scared and seeking structure and hope, our elderly are in need of support and companionship, we have our lives to rebuild from layoffs and our communities are crying out for organization and cooperation in building a new normal. Our friends need a hand, a phone call, a kind word and any sign of encouragement. You do to.

My point is this, people. This man has died in the street at the hands of those that we have long known do not protect us. Their reckoning has long been at hand. Don’t let the anger, rage and betrayal of this happening again take you down that last road that makes it too hard to get back up again. Fight despair. Don’t let George Floyd lose his life just for you to further lose a grip on yours. Call a friend, hug your child. Go sit in the backyard (at a safe distance with a mask) with your parents. Help someone. Play music. Scream. Run. Find that job. Build that community coalition. Find strength in helping someone else find strength. Find a way to feel safe again. Rebuild and get strong again.

Because the moment will come for all of us, in different times and different ways, where we will have an opportunity to participate actively against the institutionalized and structural racism, bigotry and hate that threatens to destroy our country, our freedoms and our future. Protests, working on a campaign, community organizing and educating, getting voters to the poles, going to school for law degrees, becoming police officers, mentoring children. The list is endless and the the totality of the needs is yet unknown as is our future. Civil Rights 2.0 is at hand and the true battles are yet to come.

I include myself when I say that very soon observing from the sideline will no longer be an option. The fight is in our government, in our schools, our lessons at home, in our courts, our hospitals and therapist couches, our homes and in our streets. You will choose your arena but make no mistake if you believe in freedom and equality you will have to fight for it.

We can only hope those fights remain intellectual, in our courts, our state and federal houses and not with violence. But I have my fears. I have nothing but admiration for those of my friends in that fight right now. So despite the heartbreaking tragedy of these past few days take heart, take care of you and yours and find courage and strength for the days to come. Most of all stay safe.

-Rober Ellis, 5/26/2020

Robert and I met nearly four years ago for a first date at a dog-friendly brewery in NE Minneapolis. We never worked as a romantic couple, but we’ve worked tremendously well as friends. He’s an intelligent compassionate man, and a very talented musician. Robert is thoughtful, kind, delightfully funny and a person of color. He’s grown up here in the Twin Cities metro area and he has an adorable huge brown dog. At a certain angle, he sort of looks like Obama. So that’s fun.

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