Forever Changed by George Floyd

I’m alone at work on my drawbridge. It’s 8:30 in the morning and the sky outside is so dark grey that it feels like the sun had gone down. Lightning and thunder crash all around me. The sideways rain disorients me. It’s as if gravity no longer exists.

I came to expect this kind of weather every day Florida, but I can count the number of times I’ve seen lightning in the Pacific Northwest on one hand, even though I’ve been here for nearly 6 years.

It feels like my nerves are on the surface of my skin. Even a slight breeze feels agitating. The atmosphere is highly charged. And this fucking pandemic doesn’t help. I’m so over it. I’m so done.

Masochist that I am, I decide to read the news. It seems like the whole world is on fire due to what happened to George Floyd. I already know it’s about police brutality and injustice, and I’ve been righteously indignant for days now. But for some reason I feel the need to actually see the video. I feel like I should bear witness.

Don’t watch it, unless you’re okay with being fundamentally changed. But watch it, because we all need to be fundamentally changed. Either way, it’s disturbing.

Floyd is lying on the ground with three cops on top of him. One has his knee on his neck. His full body weight is pressing down on him. Three on one, with a man who is already handcuffed, for a confrontation that was never violent in the first place. A fourth cop is standing over the action, protecting the other cops from the crowd.

The cop with his knee on Floyd’s neck is willfully choking him. He’s gasping for air. Calling for his mother. Begging them to stop. The crowd is telling them to stop. Saying this isn’t right. Saying blood is coming out of his nose. Saying there’s nothing in academy training that teaches you to do this… strangle someone on the street.

I watch for more than four minutes as he gasps for air. Four minutes is a long time. Stare at the clock for four minutes. Do it for George Floyd. You’ll see. Four minutes is the average length of a drawbridge opening.

This is very triggering for me. I used to live with someone who had to fight for every single breath he took. I know how terrifying it was for him. I know how helpless I felt. I feel helpless now.

The man is subdued, for God’s sake. Why won’t they stop? This isn’t necessary. There’s no need for this.

In my loved one’s case it was a health situation. There was nothing, really, for me to fight against. In Floyd’s case, if I had been on the scene, I’d want to wade in there and kick that cop in the head until he was dead. Anything, to let this guy breathe. Anything. Why isn’t the crowd doing that?

Because the “protecting” cop/thug has a gun and mace and a night stick, as do the other three. They are not listening to reason. They would not tolerate physical intervention.

Why won’t neck cop get up? Because the crowd is taunting him, calling him names? Is it a point of pride, not to listen to the crowd? Is he showing them who’s boss? Is this man’s life worth proving the point that you’re the alpha here? Why won’t he stop? My God! Stop! I hit the desk with my fist.

I’m crying as I watch. No, I wouldn’t kick the cop until he was dead. That’s not really in me, even at my most desperate. I would have been on my knees. Begging. Trying to appeal to their humanity.

But there is no humanity in them. You can tell. They’ve lost it. They are animals. They are in predator mode. They are very quiet. Very focused. They’ll have their kill. Because they can.

And just like that, about 4 minutes in, you see Floyd’s life leave his body. He’s clearly, obviously dead. The man is dead. I’ve never seen someone’s life disappear before, up close and personal. I’ve never seen that exact second. He goes from being a man to being dead, just like that. He’s gone.

My God, I have just witnessed a murder. I’ve never seen a murder before. And this defiant man gets paid to protect and serve us. He is a murderer in a uniform.

The murderer stays on Floyd’s neck for at least another three minutes. Why? To make sure he’s truly dead? To make sure he’s past the point of return?

I cry as the rain beats against my window. I watch as they pick George Floyd’s body up like a piece of meat, dump it on a gurney, and roll it away. Like he’s nothing. Like he never was anything.

It feels like everyone in a position of power is insane. And that’s terrifying. What do you do when you feel helpless to stop a power structure that’s gone mad?

I understand why the world is on fire right now. I get it. We are past the point of a plea for reason. The people in power have absolutely no desire to do the right thing. Peaceful protest doesn’t cut it. I don’t think burning and looting shops is the answer, either. Those business people didn’t do this to Floyd.

But we all prop up the system that allowed this to happen to Floyd, and that system has made it clear that it has no ears. It won’t listen. And fire, man… fire removes the old, twisted growth. Fire makes way for the new. Fire allows us to start over. But the best fire in this instance is metaphorical. Literal fire would muddy the message. No. we need the slow burn of peaceful yet demanding protests by reasonable people who are trying to make people in authority be reasonable as well. We need to turn up the heat and increase the pressure for justice to finally be born in this country.

Destruction and violence shouldn’t be necessary. I don’t condone it. But we do have to start over. We can’t continue to pay people who think that they’re then allowed free reign to stand on people’s necks. It’s not right. It never has been.

A sailboat requests an opening, and I come back to the here and now. Why would anyone be out in this weather? Why risk it?

As I’m about to raise the bridge, I hear a dog barking, frantically. I delay the opening and look for this dog. Probably longer than I should. Definitely longer than I normally would.

I don’t want to kill this dog. I’m desperate not to kill him. But I can’t find him anywhere, even though I hear him. That’s really strange. Why can’t I see him? I think I’m in shock.

Traffic is backing up. Finally, I’m forced to do the opening and hope for the best. My stomach is in knots. The sailboat floats casually though as if nothing is happening. That’s privilege for you.

I close the bridge. The lights turn green. All is go. I watch an unmasked jogger with a prancing, barking labradoodle puppy on a leash cross over. I’m feeling irritated.

And then, holy jumping Jesus, I’m encased in a ball of white light. I’m covered in gooseflesh. I step numbly back from the electric operating console. That lightning strike was so fast and so close that I didn’t even hear the thunder.

And now I’m watching the launch of the first crewed, private rocket as SpaceX delivers astronauts to the International Space Station. What a contrast. So much ingenuity in space, so little here on the ground.

Everything is different, now.

But I’m still breathing. George Floyd, a fellow human being, is not. May he rest in the kind of peace that none of us who are living in this hellish status quo should enjoy.

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After an emotionally and exhausting day which included the writing of this post, I got in my car to commute home in a downpour. Less than hour later, that very interstate was shut down by rioters, and Seattle, too, began to burn.

Please know that I make a distinction between protesters and rioters. We had a peaceful and lawful protest in Seattle for four hours. Then all holy hell broke loose. People were hurt. businesses were destroyed. Just like the officer who kneeled on Floyd’s neck, people were doing criminal things, taking advantage of an already tragic situation, just because they could. This did not strengthen the message. It added to the thuggery. It demonstrated even more of what needs to change in this world.

Stay safe, everyone.

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The Seattle Pun Slam

On a recent Sunday night, it was my pleasure to attend the Seattle Pun Slam, called Pundamonium, with a date. It’s held the second Wednesday and the forth Sunday of each month at the Peddler Brewing Company in the Ballard neighborhood. Tickets are 6 dollars.

Pundamonium also happens in Chicago, Los Angeles, Madison, Milwaukee, and Minneapolis. If you live in any of those fair cities, I highly recommend pun slams. They’re a great deal of fun. (But then, I do love a good pun. It’s just how I roll.)

Think poetry slam without the poetry. Contestants compete against each other. In the first round, you are given a topic up to an hour in advance, and you have to come up with as many puns as you can when you take the mic for two minutes. Each contestant is scored by a panel of judges.

In round two, the contestants only get 30 seconds to come up with puns on a topic they pull out of a hat. (Here’s where I would crumble. I’m not a spontaneous punster. I need time to mull things over. My comebacks usually aren’t very snappy.) I have to say that watching this and the next round was increasingly excruciating but also hilarious. Again, they’re scored.

In the third round, the top four punsters go head to head on stage with absolutely no prep. I really admired their courage. (I did kind of lose respect for one guy, though, when one of his puns was a thinly veiled insult directed at a competitor, and it clearly struck its mark. That was unnecessary.)

The puns were running fast and furious, and the beer and the food was good (and clearly that was the only reason some people were there, but what the heck, we’re all adults), so a good time was had by all.

If you do come to the one in Seattle, I recommend that you dress warmly, as it’s held outdoors in a tented courtyard. They do have gas heaters here and there, but I was kind of glad I had someone to snuggle up with.

In this increasingly tense world, it’s a pleasure to have some lighthearted, apolitical fun for a change. It feels good to be laughing again. More, please.

Maybe I’ll see you there sometime!

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