Keep the Children at Home

When I first saw the mural of George Floyd with large angel wings, I assumed that it was a satire on his sanctification—effective, perhaps, but not in the best of taste. Shortly afterwards, however, I realized that the mural was in earnest: The picture of the mural in the newspaper included a man genuflecting before it, and the caption said that he was making a “pilgrimage.” Apparently, St. Peter can no longer cope alone at the pearly gates; he need bouncers, too, heaven having become something like a nightclub.

George Floyd was not a saint; in fact, he was a bad man, and being killed by a brutal policeman does not change a man’s life from bad to good. He was a man of many convictions—criminal convictions, that is, not political ones—and at least one of his crimes was of deep-dyed malignity. Along with five others, he broke into a pregnant woman’s house and held her at gunpoint while his associates ransacked the house for drugs and money. This is not the kind of crime that results from a sudden surrender to temptation. It was premeditated and planned, albeit not very intelligently or successfully. Fentanyl, Inc.: How Ro... Westhoff, Ben Buy New $13.50 (as of 05:32 EDT - Details)

George Floyd was not a quick learner. He had several convictions for possession and supply of drugs, yet when he moved to Minneapolis, allegedly to turn over a new leaf, he still took drugs, and a video showed him discarding what was probably a packet of drugs when he was first arrested.

None of this exculpates the policeman, Derek Chauvin, and no decent person would suggest that it did. But the ludicrous sanctification of George Floyd naturally conduces to an examination of his character, and is moreover a sign of our modern tendency to make martyrs or saints of victims. But victims do not have to be martyrs or saints in order to be victims, and George Floyd certainly did not die for any cause.

Tell Your Children: Th... Berenson, Alex Buy New $13.85 (as of 05:32 EDT - Details) As is so often the case, sentimentality is but a short step away from brutality. The sanctification of George Floyd implies that the character of a victim of murder is in some way a measure of the seriousness of the murder, when what is wrong with murder is that it is murder. Even the murder of a very bad man is murder, such that if Derek Chauvin were killed in prison by other inmates, it would still be murder. We may in our hearts regret the murder of a good man more than we regret that of a bad, but the law can take no notice of such a distinction. Any other attitude would be to justify or excuse murder.

Another example of the relation between sentimentality and brutality has been the use of very young children in demonstrations. There are videos of two girls, 9 and 7, one making a speech at a demonstration and the other marching in a demonstration, her pretty little face contorted with hatred, chanting a horrible slogan, “No justice, no peace” (a justification in advance of further looting, or worse), and making aggressive gestures.

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