George Floyd, the man who died under a policeman’s knee in Minneapolis, Minnesota, had served five years for armed robbery during a home invasion. This is a fact, and it is a fact which has received very little attention in traditionally Democrat-leaning media over the last week while getting substantial play in Republican-leaning media over the same period of time.
George Floyd has been turned into a hero by many. The Republican media recognizes this and has attempted to exploit it, even as many moderates have rejected the narrative. It is wrong to reject it, because the narrative contains a measure of objective truth. Floyd is not a hero to “the left” en masse; that much is false. But he is in the process of being beatified by some. He was not a saint, and attempts to portray him as such open the door for political opportunists to paint protesters as fundamentally weak on crime. Worse, those most likely to be sanctifying him are those who have a history of insisting that capitalism and free markets and federalism are at the core of American injustice. They champion a “burn it all down” mentality, with the expectation of recreating America in their image.
This is the group that the GOP wishes to run against.
In light of that, Republicans have presented Floyd as a monster. He was a home invader, he was likely passing counterfeit money, and he had drugs in his system. There’s only one piece missing from their narrative, but it’s a critical item.
The American justice system declares that people can be released from prison upon the completion of a prearranged sentence. At the core of our system is a simple concept: reform.
Whether prison is meant as a way to push people toward reform is a matter of lively debate, but that debate is unimportant. The question is not whether prison is intended as a means to reform criminals, but rather whether criminals have within themselves the capacity to abandon their lawbreaking ways.
The number of reformed criminals currently acting as productive members of society demonstrates this to be not merely possible, but a common result of jail time. They may have restrictions on their future activities due to their prior failures; they may be unable to vote, for example, or own a gun, or be employed in some security-focused positions. This is not because they are viewed to be a criminal but because they have demonstrated themselves to be willing to engage in criminal behavior. It’s akin to a parent keeping the keys away from a teen who has crashed a car even after repairs have been made. The teen is no longer speeding, nor is he in the process of being cut from the wreckage; that is in the past. He is no longer paying for the repairs, those have been completed as well. The only thing remaining is a measure of caution on the part of the parent.
The Republican position on George Floyd rejects this. It says that a person who has served time is by definition still a dangerous criminal. George Floyd was a home invader; that means he would always be a home invader. No amount of time he could serve would balance the books.
This is an odious refutation of our legal system.
Their narrative grows worse. Because Floyd had been a bad man, we are provided with the implication that he was somehow deserving of death. We are told that he had a heart condition and was on drugs, and that he was struggling with the police. There is video, however. Across the eight minutes of Floyd’s suffocation, he was not in a position to struggle with the police. He was, simply and efficiently, being choked to death.
And he was innocent. His innocence is the missing piece to the Republican narrative, and it is a glaring and offensive omission.
Just as the possibility of reform is the guiding principle behind our prison system, the notion of being innocent until proven guilty is our national core. It, in conjunction with enumerated rights, allows a free society to function. By intentionally abandoning these two concepts, the Republicans are proving themselves to stand just as strongly against the foundational principles of America as any of the “burn it all down” Marxists.
There is a stance which rejects both of those groups. It is where George Floyd is recognized as neither a saint nor a monster, but rather as a person… a person who’d made bad choices in the past, and who had his life taken without a trial while he was fully subdued. It can be embraced by the most liberal or most conservative among us. It is patriotism.