Baltimore burns with the flames of righteous unrest. Young and disenfranchised and victimized by the oppressive hegemony of money and established privilege, the hopeless hurl rocks at the sneering faces of corrupt and untouchable authority. It sickens and divides, pushing hard against our senses of right and wrong.
For myself, such riots have ever been curiosities; phenomenon to assess; tempests to weather from the safety of distance—in every meaning of that word, distance. I have been neither threatened by their onset, nor particularly impacted by the outrageous and unequal treatment throughout our society that ignites them.
As one who was granted true opportunity from birth to run as fast and far as one’s legs could carry them from a healthy head start, my core emotional response to my own daily reality is closer to gratitude. Guilt is nonexistent. After all, I didn’t make this world. I just compete within its crooked rules.
One of those rules is to hold close to the system and beliefs that promise comfort to its more privileged members. Recognition of inequality is discomfiting enough, but to speak openly against it is treason. I have been inertly floating in the comfortable stasis of the protective amniotic sac that my quiet acquiescence secures.
That water has broken. And my clear eyes focus upon disquieting truths. Such as the fact that me and the balance of my generation has not only been played like willing dupes, actively perpetuating and reinforcing the architecture of our oppression, but now in the wake of reluctant recognition of our culpability, we do nothing but sit in judgment of our children we’ve left to fight battles that we had long ago surrendered.
I am responsible. And if you belong to my generation, you’re also responsible. It is our fault. All of it. And if you don’t think so, you’re even more at fault. We were granted this life to lift each other and to build upon our collective prosperity. But we did nothing but take the money and run. We didn’t learn from the lessons of those who went before. We only advanced our technology and multiplied our population to compound our mistakes and our misery.
Let’s think more about responsibility. (I champion personal responsibility, by the way.) No doubt, many behold the protesters and claim that they, like each of us, are ultimately responsible for the course of their lives, including the circumstances of oppression. I partially agree, and add that the more powerful position one is born into, the more responsibility one has for the promotion of our greater wellbeing.
What are our common individual responsibilities? Let’s start with attributes like kindness, honesty, empathy, courage, devotion, generosity and thirst for knowledge. Let’s also acknowledge that the evils of society are entirely of our own creation. And that they are fixable. In fact, often we can identify the problem and the solution, but we’re unwilling to do the necessary things. I also realize that we are not individually responsible for the policy decisions of our government, but we cannot deny that we are collectively responsible for every bit of it—and that the collective responsibility extends to each of us in the demands that we be engaged, informed, and vigilant in discarding that which doesn’t work and progressive in developing and promoting better candidates and solutions.
As long as we have free and open elections, we have the power to change everything. For too long we have been divided and conquered. For too long I’ve played nicely within the lines. You probably have, also. It’s worked for us individually, while it’s totally fucked us as a whole. I hope this makes you feel accountable. Even more, I hope it makes you think about how you can help flip the script.
We profess to value equality. Yet we’ve built a society that is suffering from institutionalized and growing disparity. It’s not the only challenge, but it goes to the selfish heart of our root problem. Likewise, “Every life matters" is a statement that draws consensus agreement, until it comes to requisite action.
Those protesting in Baltimore are fighting against mighty forces. It’s a battle in a revolution that we should be waging. They cannot win without us. A victory over inequality is a triumph for all.