- Glenn Sonnenberg
Musings from the Bunker 6/12/20
Better late than never…problems with email this morning…
The long hot summer of 2020 officially begins on the June 20th. One might also argue that it began in the long COVID-19 lockdown of May. But it actually arrived on Saturday May 30th. On that day, many of our fellow citizens took to the streets to protest the brutal murder of George Floyd, a man in custody, hand-cuffed and on the ground, by a member of the Minneapolis police force with a horrific service record, aided and abetted by three fellow officers whom I would argue are as culpable.
It was clear to me several weeks ago that we are on the verge of a long summer of discontent and reckoning. Many people are cooped up in their homes, unemployment stands at levels not seen since the great depression, and the inequities of our tax code, educational system, health care system, and policing, have been laid bare. Add to this that the Federal wage stimulus currently is slated to end during this summer, as are many of the various State-wide restrictions on evictions. We are a nation with a lot of work to do. Whether we are up to the task of honest exchange of ideas and development of actions for moving forward will not likely be clear until after the election in November.
In the meantime, as temperatures climb, the humidity throughout the cities of the East and South intensifies, the lack of work persists, job retraining is moribund, COVID continues to make otherwise ordinary behaviors high risk, and racism persists, there is a perfect storm for civil unrest and the inevitable responses to that unrest.
We have a president who will do most anything in his re-election calculus, including encouraging military suppression of peaceful protests, calling on people to protect their Second Amendment rights, admonishing governors for not being tough enough and threatening adversaries, real and imagined, at every turn.
How we deal with the inevitable unrest that will spark up throughout the summer will define our collective safety and our democracy. Violence is not okay. Looting is not okay. But neither is a hallmark of the current protests. The wave of police-on-citizen violence against Black Americans that has become so visible in the past several years is just one of many shames that will require action in coming months. The lack of real wage growth is killing off the middle class, as is the shortage of affordable housing and, with it, the price of housing. We likely can expect further militaristic and autocratic pronouncements from Washington, fueling the President’s well-armed base and we may yet see American turning against American.
We are on the precipice. It is 1968 all over again. But since 1968, gun ownership and the deadliness of these weapons have increased. Respect for our institutions has plummeted. It’s going to be a long, hot summer.
I’m still reading a lot, as are many of you. Some recent reads, all for different reasons (and without much commentary). Try looking them up if they sound interesting:
The Cactus League
Deacon King Kong
The Body in Question
I also recommend two books apropos for our current moment. The first is Crash, by Emily Bazelon (yes, for those of you legal trivia whizzes, she is the granddaughter of D.C. Circuit Judge David Bazelon). Its subtitle is “The New Movement to Transform American Prosecution and End Mass Incarceration,” which is as good a descriptive as you need. It’s phenomenal. The other is Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See, Think, and Do, by Jennifer Eberhardt. The great Bryan Stevenson describes this book as “Groundbreaking.” It is.
Lauren and I were fortunate enough to hear Bazelon and Berhardt speak at the Aspen Ideas Festival last year. It’s worth a listen: https://www.aspenideas.org/sessions/hacking-human-psychology-for-a-fairer-criminal-justice-system?fbrefresh=1591673033
Finally, some books from some friends:
Solitude, by Michael Harris, recommended by Mary Paeng
Series of books, listed by author, all recommended by Jerry Coben:
• Daniel Silva (Gabriel Allon; one of the more interesting characters, I think, in all of that genre of fiction)
• Michael Connelly (Harry Bosch)
• Lee Child (Jack Reacher)
• David Baldacci, his Memory Man series, “about a detective who was a standout college running back, drafted high, played one play in the NFL, suffered such a devastating hit that it left him with synesthesia—that’s a real condition, as you may know—so he perceives different emotional states or vibes in different colors, but also has perfect recall.”
• Peter James (Roy Grace, a British detective; dark stories, but interesting characters
• The six books in the “Girl…” series (the first three by Stieg Larsson, the others by a collaborator)
THINGS WE CAN DO TO HELP
This is an excellent discussion led by President Obama. And there is a list of places to learn more and do more in response to the spate of police killings and address other issues, like mental health: https://www.obama.org/anguish-and-action/. Thanks, Mandy Lowell, for forwarding this.
Best wishes to stay safe,