By Jamie Rosler
It’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day, over fifty years since his assassination, and American politicians are making excuses for white supremacist rioters’ invasion of our government buildings.
There’s a general rule (laws, actually, all over the United States and in several other countries around the world) that pedestrians have the right of way at all intersections and crosswalks (marked or unmarked). As a pedestrian, though, one knows how rarely that rule is adhered to by drivers.
Regardless of legal standing, the responsibility ultimately rests with the person most likely to sustain a life-threatening injury, assuming they care to keep living. It’s not fair, but it’s true.
Also not fair but true, as with many other statistics in the USA, people of color are more likely to be injured or killed in a vehicle-pedestrian accident. This is the result of various factors, all of which could themselves be written about at length (and indeed have been and should be). Those factors are not inevitable facts of human existence. They are entirely within our control if only we (white people, those in power anywhere, you who are reading this essay) would stand up every day and speak these truths out loud.
As I sat in a Jayco-brand camper in a Dallas wood lot less than a ten-minute drive from where President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, I wondered why messengers of peace are murdered but messengers of murder aren’t.
Not wanting to be a messenger of murder myself, I have to acknowledge the innate hypocrisy of having little to no objection to someone assassinating the 45th President of the United States. For people who care about humanity, and have been paying any attention to American politics, it seems hard to argue against the idea that innumerable lives would be better, if not outright saved, had he been disposed of a few years ago.
Of course there’s no knowing what his most rabid supporters might have done in reaction, just as there’s no reason for progressive liberals to think a Pence presidency would have been kinder (the modern Republican party has been heading down this road for decades, after all), but the mob that stormed the Capitol earlier this month would certainly have been fed less fuel by their narcissistic dear leader.
As I was writing this, an historic second presidential impeachment came to pass, and of a one-term president no less. The likelihood of a conviction in the Senate is sadly not guaranteed. We’re looking at the very real possibility of a second American Civil War, fought over much of the same ideologies (hint: it has nothing to do with federalism or states’ rights).
People are posting on social media to help their community prepare for the worst possible scenario. I changed my travel plans (don’t @ me, I’m being Covid-safe) from driving from Texas to New York right now, to waiting until after Inauguration Day to avoid a potential spike in nationwide violence. It’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day, over fifty years since his assassination, and American politicians are making excuses for white supremacist rioters’ invasion of our government buildings.
Walking my dog in west Dallas the other day, a pedestrian in a city of drivers, I stood on a corner across the street from a park and at the entrance to an interstate on-ramp. There was no traffic light to wait for or obey. Cars from two different directions were taking their turns, as they saw it, disregarding the person standing and waiting to cross, until one driver stopped. Instead of making a left turn onto the highway when traffic stopped coming from the other direction, they stopped and waited for me to cross the street.
This simple act resonated so deeply, in a way it might not have in a different time or place.
We all have the power to change patterns of behavior that seem otherwise ingrained in our society. We have the power to see, to decide, to act for change. We have this power every day in everything we do. We can be the government official supporting sedition, or we can actively stand against it and protect our fellow humans.
Which do you want to be?