While not conclusive, Gavin Long appeared to believe that he was part of a budding revolution. After five cops were murdered in Dallas, Long, a former Marine, took gun in hand and killed three more in Baton Rouge.
On a social media site registered under the name Gavin Long, a young African-American man who refers to himself as “Cosmo” posted videos and podcasts and shared biographical and personal information that aligned with the information that the authorities had released, so far, about the gunman.
“One hundred percent of revolutions, of victims fighting their oppressors,” he said, “have been successful through fighting back, through bloodshed. Zero have been successful just over simply protesting. It doesn’t — it has never worked and it never will. You got to fight back. That’s the only way that a bully knows to quit.”
No one put Long in charge of the lives of other African Americans. No one told Micah Johnson, the Dallas killer, to make the decision for other black people. But they acted nonetheless. Whether it was the product of thoughtful analysis, unfettered emotion or cognitive impairment, or all, or other issues, it still happened.
There will be a debate at Fault Lines today, with Chris Seaton and Noel Erinjeri tasked with making their best arguments for and against the killing of cops. So it’s clear, neither believes that killing anyone is ever acceptable or the answer, even though they will argue their respective sides zealously.
Has “the revolution” begun? There will certainly be consequences. If cops were unduly afraid of black men before, prone to shoot too soon, needlessly, this will increase the fear. Because of what Long and Johnson have done, other people may well die. The black men and women who will pay for their choices didn’t authorize these two to start the revolution on their behalf. They didn’t make a choice to sacrifice their lives because Long and Johnson have had enough.
There is way too much talk, angry rhetoric, justifying the frustration suffered by Black America. Some deny it. Others exaggerate it. Many inflame it. There is also talk of reform, recognition that the situation is horrible, but despite the headlines of change, the hope, it hasn’t materialized. The warring tribes can’t put down their words, their weapons. Not even for a day.
There are some fools on social media screaming for more bloodshed. Whether they would give their lives to back up their cries is unknown, but I would suspect there will be twisted people who will be radicalized by this, who will take up arms, who will kill and be killed. This doesn’t make for a revolution, but it may well make for more death.
I can speak only for myself. While I would like to believe I understand the frustration, I realize that I don’t. I can’t. I can only see it from the safe distance of my life, and it’s mere hubris to believe that I can feel what others feel.
It’s easier to know what the cops are seeing. Law enforcement is comprised of hierarchical organizations, with people at various levels to speak for it. It’s a flawed hierarchy, but it provides a chain of command that gives some voices authority to speak.
There is no leadership of the Black Lives Matter movement. There are some voices that are better recognized than others, with their own followings, but also with their detractors within the ranks. Even the ranks are hard to discern. What is missing is a grownup to take charge of the decision-making. To say “no, stop this.” Or, god forbid, to say, “the revolution is here.” Then again, even back in the 1960s, as Martin Luther King marched peacefully in the streets, Malcolm X was ready to fight.
Ironically, the nation’s first black president is in office, and this might have been his opportunity to demonstrate leadership, to take charge of this, to be the grownup. Instead, he’s tried to be everything to everyone, to offend no one, to commit to nothing, to appease all sides. And by doing so, he has reduced himself to irrelevance.
To call for the end of the killing, the anger, the dehumanization, seems too obvious and trite. Yet, if the killings don’t stop, there will only be more dead bodies. Where are the grownups? Where are the leaders with guts and brains? How many more dead bodies will it take?