Why is this different?

“But your eyes and your heart are intent solely upon your own dishonest gain and on the shedding of innocent blood and on oppressing and extortion.”

-Jeremiah 22:17

To start, we need to see why this time at least feels different. It’s still too early to see if the current protests will result in any lasting change, but it could start something, and begin to move it forward. The protests at least feel different. So the first question many will ask is “why?”

This is not the first time a black man or woman has been killed. This is not the first time the person committing murder was a white police officer. This is not even the first time it has been caught on video. The death of Eric Garner was so eerily similar to that of George Floyd. He was approached by police for a non-violent crime and killed by asphyxiation (Garner’s and Floyd’s words “I can’t breathe” even became a battle cry both times). This is not even the first time such events have happened in such rapid succession. So what makes this different?

Part of it has to do with our news cycle. With the ubiquity of mobile phones, where everyone has ready access to instant video making and watching, together with the need for a 24 hour news cycle tailored to your particular interests, there has been an overflowing amount of news over the past few years. It is impossible to take it all in. Then, in March, the Coronavirus began to dominate the news. So much so that it drowned everything else out.

Further, as the world collectively began to shut down, it seemed to many that very little of note was occurring outside of the pandemic. The only thing that broke through all of that, it seems, were the stories of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd. While similar stories had happened in the past, and had even happened in rapid succession, this was the first time that, it seemed, there was little else to drown it out.

Beyond that, the ubiquity of mobile phone video, and how people have become more adapt at shooting live video with them, meant that responses to protests (which in many cases mirrored the same brutality the protesters had organized against) were widely

protesters holding signs

visible, fueling the protests rather than quashing them.

All of these factors coalesced to make this, at least for the moment, feel substantively different. God’s indictment against Israel for its oppression and extortion of the vulnerable seemed to suddenly be more applicable in America to so many people for the first time, while being a familiar refrain to others whose protest the first group joined.

 

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