by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
They say tragedies always come in threes, and so far 2020 is notable for a total, months-long shutdown of the country due to a global pandemic that was followed by violent riots sweeping across more than seven hundred cities. With half the year still left, I am not anxious to see what the third panel of this Bosch triptych is going to be.
Nonetheless, it feels odd that many people don’t seem to realize these two events are directly related. During the best of times, hell-raising is a national pastime in America, and after not being allowed go outside and have any fun for a few months it was only natural the place would explode. “Locking the country down filled the room with gas,” noted radio host Vincent Coglianese. “George Floyd lit the match.”
It’s a real tribute to our success as a nation that we typically do a great job of channeling our reckless and defiant instincts such that they are a great strength, rather than something that tears us apart. After all, hijinks and questioning authority are literally America’s reasons for being.
The Revolutionary War, which defeated the most powerful empire on the planet, could be plausibly described as monkeyshines that got out of control — secret societies in the back of taverns, tarring and feathering snitches, and donning costumes to dump tea in the harbor. And over two hundred years later, Americans triumphed over perhaps the most evil empire the world has ever seen. How did we do it? Shortly before the fall of the Berlin wall in 1987, David Letterman observed that “communists are no damn good at … laying rubber in front of the Dairy Queen.” It was obviously a joke, but from afar, our culture of hell-raising probably seemed pretty intimidating to the Russkies.