In Search of Peace (Gwen Moritz Editor’s Note)

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FAIRFIELD BAY – In early 2006, a few months after my father died, I used my quarter of his modest estate to buy a small house in the middle of this retirement and resort town on the north side of Greers Ferry Lake. My inheritance was entirely too modest to afford anything on the water, but we keep a small boat in the small carport (when it’s not in the shop, that is) and can be on the lake in a few minutes.

For a couple of journalists to own a second home, especially when we still had a couple of teenaged dependents, seemed like a miracle. Still does. And I’m absolutely certain that it would delight my dad for us to be taxpayers in Van Buren County, where he was born and raised.

This is an Opinion

Mainly we use this little house as a weekend getaway, but we’ve enjoyed full weeks here when we’ve had more pressing financial priorities than elaborate vacations. As we proved to our boys, a vacation that includes boating, hiking, caving and a drive-in movie (a slow, winding 30 miles away at Mountain View) would seem exotic if we crossed a state line to do it. In fact, a cousin from Michigan has brought his family down several times because for them it is an exotic out-of-state vacation, and being able to offer friends and family a place to relax has been incredibly satisfying. My dad would approve of that too. (Plus, they invariably leave the place cleaner and better stocked than they found it. Score!)

I wax rhapsodic about Fairfield Bay because I’m here with my husband at this writing rather than in New York City, where we had originally planned to vacation. That plan crumbled months ago in the face of the coronavirus, and it’s just as well since disease has now been compounded by social unrest.

Instead, we are monitoring the protests in Little Rock and elsewhere from the preternatural quiet of a little town on the edge of the Ozarks. And from my small but comfortable second home in a town that is just about as white as it is possible to be, I recognize that what seems surreal and unimaginable to me was actually totally predictable.

(Recommended reading: “What Did They Think Would Happen?” by Sarah Longwell, publisher of The Bulwark, an online publication by “Never Trump” conservatives.)

The proximate cause of the current demonstrations (constitutionally protected behavior) and riots (criminal behavior) was the horrific homicide committed by a white Minneapolis police officer who kept his knee on the neck of an unarmed black man for nearly nine minutes. What makes the death of George Floyd different from the many other cases in which unarmed black men die at the hands of police is the chilling nonchalance with which Derek Chauvin killed a man suspected of a $20 crime. We all understand that police officers must protect themselves, but Chauvin felt safe enough to keep a hand in his pocket and comfortable enough to do it on camera.

I didn’t even know that a knee to the neck was a police maneuver — being ignorant of such things is a privilege, I suppose. But it clearly is. NBC News reported last week that Minneapolis police officers used their arms or legs as neck restraints 237 times since 2015, and rendered the subject unconscious in 44 of those cases. Did no one consider that such deadly force would eventually be deadly?

I have no reason to believe that Chauvin deliberately targeted Floyd because of his race. But I do wonder — don’t you? — whether Chauvin would have kept his knee on the neck of a 46-year-old white man suspected of a nonviolent crime for three minutes after the suspect stopped breathing and as a crowd of bystanders begged him to stop. Anything’s possible, I suppose, but as long as we have to wonder about equal justice, none of us can expect lasting peace.