• Daniel Ethan Finneran

O Sancta Simplicitas!

“What strange simplification and falsification mankind lives in! One can never cease to marvel once one has acquired eyes for this marvel!”

- Friedrich Nietzsche

The question is, given our limited exposure to the light, and, worse, our hesitancy to approach it as though confused and flightless moths, whether or not we’ve yet acquired this perceptive sense, and whether or not we’ve since tuned it and learned to gaze upon the places beyond which, for want of sensitivity to things detected in the dark, we might otherwise look? Have we, or have we not, obtained eyes sufficiently keen for those shaded, distant marvels, those terrible, unillumed sights at which, having felt fall the scales from our long-encumbered face, and for once breathed the liberation of a brow no longer burdened by their weight, we can now freely marvel?

I, for one, believe myself to have come into possession of such eyes. About this, though, I can’t be certain; they haven’t the ability to invert and look back upon themselves. They’re not so supple as to be able to turn and gaze upon their own shape, to examine the strange contours of their round and liquid form. And, despite all their forward acuity and strength, they have great difficulty recognizing their likeness in another. Still, I think my face is now embedded with such a pair as this. Its roots are deeply sunk, and its wispy fingers stretch and tickle the front lobes of my brain. My older orbs, so far as I’ve been informed, have thus been retired, and—with this newly sharpened and discerning pair—replaced.

As a consequence, I’ve not yet enjoyed a moment’s rest from their constant habit of marveling. They do so ceaselessly. I can get no rest. It’s a pastime in which they’re wholly engaged, and a task at which, for fear of missing out on the ongoing marvel, they dare not blink.

They’ve lately seen the strange simplification and falsification in which mankind, or at least mankind as he exists in America, currently lives. They’ve noticed it again and again, replayed daily on the nation’s television screens, and acted out in their busy streets and upon the stages of their public forums. It appears every time there’s an unfriendly interaction or a violent stand-off between a police officer and a man, a woman, or—heaven forbid—an unsupervised child of color. It’s noticeable every time their aggression overcomes their reason, and their obstinacy refuses to yield to gentler means. This past year has borne witness to many events of this kind—events of which, desiring nothing but a brief intermission for equanimity and peace, a short interval reserved for love and cohesion, the American soul is wearied.

Just recently, within the dread span of one week, they’ve seen a young boy, thirteen years of age, shot dead in an ill-lit Illinois alley. The boy, Adam Toledo, was pursued by a Chicago police officer at two-thirty in the morning, an ungodly hour at which any boy, no matter his daytime deviltries, ought to be tucked in bed. As it turns out, Toledo had excused himself from his mother’s oversight for two whole days, a small vacation to which, at the time, his now-grieving mother seems to have been indifferent. Roaming freely on the streets, Toledo enjoyed a weekend’s absence for which his mother, in any other circumstance, would be urged to offer an explanation. While we’ll not withhold from her our condolences and our sincerest sympathies for her untimely loss, by which, hopefully, a small portion of her heartache might be eased, I think her community is owed a response, and her family a commitment to be better.

When he should’ve been under her roof, passing his hours, peacefully, dreaming of adventures to which he might awaken the coming day, Toledo was out shooting his gun at cars in the street. He was joined by a twenty-one-year-old comrade and a fellow Latin King from whom, perhaps, he was receiving a crepuscular education. Such hours, it seems, are suitable to the training of young initiates in the moonlit arts of gangs. When the officer finally arrived, to the great relief of those on the receiving end of Toledo’s insouciant bullets, he saw the boy, still armed, attempt to flee. In an act of juvenile unwisdom, or criminal habit, Toledo, swift of foot, though small of stature, tried to outrun an adult officer to whom he might’ve more prudently conceded. Inevitably, the officer caught up to him. Toledo, likely unnerved, stopped at an opening in a fence. He then pivoted toward the officer and, in one precipitate motion, raised his arms and cast aside his loaded gun.

The body-cam by which the officer’s uniform was adorned captured the entirety of the tragic scene. The footage, now released to the public, attests to the perceived hostility of Toledo’s indiscrete and, sadly, fatal move.

A few days ago, on the day on which former Minneapolis police officer Derrick Chauvin’s unanimous guilty verdict was read, officers in Columbus, Ohio were called to intervene in a domestic dispute. Immediately upon their arrival, as an adjacent neighbor’s security footage made clear, a fight spilled out from the driveway onto the sidewalk, and from the sidewalk toward the curb of the street. No sooner had the police arrived than the scene erupted and all civility was lost. Having thus disembogued, the tumult was spreading, and a pinprick of harsh words seemed ready to burst into a torrent of blood.

A heavy-set, sixteen-year-old girl by the name of Makiah Bryant appeared to be at the center of the conflict. Dressed in a black shirt, blue jeans, and polychromatic shoes, Bryant accessorized her outfit with a large, unsheathed knife. She wielded it as she knocked one of the other girls to the ground (whom an older man, prompt to exhibit his chivalry and affirm his strength, proceeded to stomp; is there no prohibition against kicking a girl when she’s down?), before turning it on another. Apparently, more so than her supine foe (upon whom, given the vulnerability of her unenviable position, she might’ve easily pounced) Bryant’s anger was enflamed by another. She turned and directed her attention to the girl clad in pink, a retreating victim into whom she seemed much more eager to sink her blade.

Indeed, she came very close to doing so. Just as her arm was initiating its fatal descent, and just as the poor girl covered in pink, cap-a-pie, raised a hopeless hand in defense, the police officer fired four shots. To have done otherwise (as many have suggested) might’ve risked further violence and collateral damage. A Taser, as often impotent as inaccurate, wouldn’t have done the trick, and a social worker, though a fine mediator, would’ve been too verbose. Thanks to the unerring accuracy of the gun, however, and the sureness of its rapid strike, the girl in pink is alive today. She was able to remove herself from Bryant’s minatory advance and seek the security of the nearby house. Bryant, breathless, slumped down along the car against which her pink target was, but a moment ago, desperately pinned. Officers attempted to revitalize her, but her fate, at that point, was little in doubt.

It’s at this point we encounter the strange simplification and falsification in which Americans live, and for which the legacy media and a certain political class are jointly responsible.

The simplification is this: every police shooting of a minority suspect, no matter its peculiarity or its context, no matter its justification or its legitimacy, is demonstrative of—you guessed it—systemic racism. The fact is both obvious and inescapable, and one need not try to refute it. Such an attempt would not only be vain, but indicative or your own thinly-veiled racism, and the odious bigotry of which you, an unreformed racist, can’t hope to be cleansed. Each encounter, then, is yet another, unforgivable example of the racial bias by which the institution of policing is, and has been forever, marred.

To borrow again from Nietzsche, we’ve “made everything around us bright and free and easy and simple”. Bright, in that it’s clear that racism is always the problem—one needn’t look beyond the surface and probe the depths of the cloudy difficulties by which we’re really plagued; free, in that we needn’t toil nor think for ourselves, nor exercise our autonomy in our quest for truth; easy, in that we’ll be spoon-fed the pre-digested answers to which our bland palates have become wholly accustomed; and simple, in that the police are racist, racism must be extirpated, and, Carthago delenda est, so goes the police. What could be simpler than that?

Such is the simplification. The falsification is this: In almost every story involving a black or brown person and a police shooting (an awful, though relatively uncommon incident of which the media find it always useful to apprise us) the facts are consistently distorted or, worse, concealed. Of course, this assumes there’s any allegiance to the facts at all. In many cases, the facts, like garbage, are tossed blithely to the side, and, in their place, a myth much more congenial to a certain worldview is happily adopted. This new, delightful narrative, of which the media are the nefarious authors, is the product their poetic fantasy. It’s the creation of their shameless fictions, of their half-baked stories, of the rebarbative tales told about America, by which they hope to see her first condemned, and then destroyed.

Again, borrowing from Nietzsche, “How we have known how to bestow on our senses a passport to everything superficial, on our thoughts a divine desire for false conclusions!” Conclusions, unimpeded by facts, such as George Floyd being a reformed and Christ-like man who’d never dare resist arrest, and Derrick Chauvin a vile and demonic racist; Adam Toledo, a young boy in the bloom of his innocence merely breathing the sweetness of the morning air, shot dead with his arms raised in a guiltless posture; Daunte Wright, a young father with an unblemished past, stopped and killed for the trivial sin of hanging air fresheners from his rear-view mirror; and, most recently Makiah Bryant, the “peaceful, loving, little girl” who was all things innocent and harmless.

O Sancta Simplicitas! What holy simplicity, what divine naiveté, is expected of us in order to believe these fictions? Are our opinions to be guided, and our actions directed, by so much unthinking credulity? Or, perhaps, might we come into acquisition of eyes all our own, of unclouded, truth-seeking orbs by which simplification can be detected, and falsification perceived? Might we then come to marvel at these marvels, and look with clarity upon the truth?

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