This is my second attempt at writing something about the outrage that has engulfed our nation in the wake of George Floyd’s killing at the hands of Minneapolis, Minn., police.
The first version was filled with sentiments that have already been expressed, some of which might have angered a reader or two. Besides, it’s easy to have passionate opinions when you’re writing from Suffield, a place far removed from the demonstrations and fury.
Suffield is an insulated town. People drive to work and drive home. It’s an introverted town. People go out of their way to not be seen. Politics, though testy at times, is comparatively civil. The Suffield Police Department, based on my own experience (albeit not as an American of color), has demonstrated itself to be responsive, professional, judicious and a credit to the community, and nothing I’ve read, seen, or heard suggests otherwise. And, Suffield has a history of taking great pains to make sure the world — whether it’s the railroad, Interstate 91, Bradley International Airport, or a biodiesel plant – bypasses our quiet, little town.
Nonetheless, there is a world out there, and it’s turning.
I know these shifts in political momentum. As the head of a nonpartisan organization, I was a part of a sea change in Connecticut that saw the strongest government ethics and campaign finance laws in the nation enacted by the very people it oversaw. About 20 years ago, a spate of scandals spurred a push for change. Initial efforts were defeated handily, but scandal after scandal, including one that took down the governor, raised the stakes to the point where only massive reform was acceptable. What turned the tide was not a series of massive demonstrations, but the incontrovertible belief by everyone in the state that something was very, very wrong with its government. A poll at the time said that 83 percent of state voters surveyed said there was a problem with money in politics.
Now, compare that to the 76 percent of Americans who consider racism and discrimination a “big problem,” and the 74 percent who think the country is headed in the wrong direction, according to a June Monmouth University poll. Change is upon us.
Year after year, and death after death of black lives have raised the stakes such that only major changes to the criminal justice system and the social safety net that generations of African-Americans have fallen through will be acceptable.
This is not my opinion, it’s a realistic projection.
The wind of change is blowing, and we might yet just feel it here in our insulated little town.