Reflections, early morning, June 1, 2020

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction … The chain reaction of evil — hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars — must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.” — Martin Luther King, 1963

The founder of my organization, Dale Carnegie, said that we are creatures of emotion, not logic.

Unfortunately, his statement rang all too true this past weekend. As you know, it all started with the horrific death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the reaction that followed. I, like many of you, watched that reaction as we viewed our local and national news. Emotions of anger and hate ran rampant right in front of our very eyes. Yes, it started with peaceful protests, then quickly evolved into riots and looting. The really sad part of this is that many of the businesses that had their front windows shattered here in Madison are small businesses that had just started to reopen after the COVID-19 lockdown. The other interesting thing is how targeted some of the break-ins were. Not only was a jewelry store one of the first to be trashed on State Street, another jewelry store at West Towne Mall experienced the same thing.

I understand

I am not an African American. But I can truly empathize and relate to the violent, emotional reaction that so many have had to Mr. Floyd’s death at the hands of a police officer. I understand that that this was not just a one-time event. Over the course of the last several years, all too many African American males have lost their lives in the same manner. Shock, hate, fear, and gut-wrenching disgust are just the beginning of a long, long list of negative emotions that are absolutely natural. I understand the pent-up anger when I see concrete blocks being thrown through windows and police cars being set on fire.

I understand and can try to put myself in their shoes, but I cannot. I pray for them and with them that this incredible cycle of abuse and hate come to an end.

I don’t understand

What I do not understand is the secondary reaction of destruction and looting. I cannot remember where I first heard the phrase, “Never fail to take advantage of a crisis.” That seems to be exactly what is happening in many of the events I witnessed over the weekend. A prime example is where the car is running and waiting for the looter to come out of the store with “the goods.” This is NOT an example of the emotional reaction that I have mentioned above.

On top of all this we continue to deal with a viral crisis that has killed over 100,000 people in the United States alone!

I have to say that my head is spinning. So where do we, can we, go from here? Some way, somehow, a bit of logic needs to be added to the 100% emotion-laden recipe that has NOT BEEN WORKING! Someone, somewhere has to say: “WE HEAR YOU AND HERE IS WHAT WE ARE GOING TO DO!”

Unfortunately, that person has not appeared on a national level. That leader is needed now more than ever! However, there is such a person right here in Madison who has been doing the job very well. Many of you have heard of Michael Johnson, president and CEO of The Boys & Girls Club of Dane County. After the riots and looting on State Street on Saturday night, it was Michael Johnson who organized the State Street Cleanup on Sunday morning. Hundreds of people showed up to do exactly that.

When I heard that he did this, I was reminded of a quote and a song.

“You’re either part of the solution or part of the problem, there is no in between,” said Eldridge Cleaver. And yes, it takes work and guts to part of the solution! DO IT!

The song is a powerful African American spiritual by Shirley Caesar, “Peace in the Midst of the Storm.”

We need more Michael Johnsons who are indeed part of the solution and at the same time, give us some peace in the midst of the storm!

Amen.

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