Protesters are marching under a banner that reads “Black Lives Matter”. They do this because it seems pretty evident some folks disagree, judging only based on the number of peaceful arrests for what are usually non-crimes that turn into black people being dead.
It’s a slogan that begs for a response, though. Logically, black lives can’t matter if all lives don’t matter. If yellow lives and white lives and brown lives and blue lives and green lives don’t all matter the same as black lives, then that’s our problem in a nutshell. All lives matter equally under the law; that’s in the Declaration: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal…” means precisely that.
Here’s where some wiseacre observes that “all men” didn’t include women and slaves. Jefferson’s original draft was quite particular to mention that Great Britain had forced slavery on the Colonies — but people forget that part, and that the Continental Congress edited it out to appease moderates in Parliament. It doesn’t fit the narrative, so we ignore it.
Speaking of facts: I was using blue and green facetiously when I wrote them just now as colors of skin, but there is in fact a slogan that Blue Lives Matter, to match up with All Lives Matter and Black Lives Matter. Remove the capital letters and it is of course true; policemen are people, and their lives matter just exactly as much as everyone else’s. To deny this accepts intrinsically the proposition that someone else could decide that your life, for instance, might be worth less than another’s. Civilization gets pretty dystopian when people can make that decision. Hence the protests.
Which brings us right back to the original point: Black lives matter. And some people appear to be making the decision that they matter less than white lives, at least statistically speaking. (Editor: The truth of the matter is more complex, as truth always is, but for our purposes this is close enough to true to work with.)
And yet, it’s plain to supporters of the cause of Black Lives Matter that when someone chants one of the other slogans in their faces, they’re being racist. It’s a denial of their cause, not a debate over semantics.
Except semantics is important. It’s a science that is used in part by advertisers to determine the impact of word choice on the listener. So for example, if you take “Black Lives Matter” and add “Too” to the end, it has the same literal meaning but less punchiness, less assertiveness. Remove the “Too” and it automatically invites a contradictory response. It’s a loaded phrase — which, incidentally, is the hallmark of a great slogan.
The trouble isn’t so much that it invites a response or puts the non-black hearer on the defensive. It’s that it’s a flagrant self-evident outright lie.
In truth, no lives matter.
If people’s lives mattered, we wouldn’t imprison so very many Americans for crimes that harm nobody — like smoking pot. We wouldn’t set a minimum wage below the poverty level, forcing people to sell their lives an hour at a time for not quite enough money to house and feed themselves. We’d make sure there existed a safety net for our veterans when they can’t manage to return to civilian life and instead end up on the street — and if green lives don’t matter, no lives matter.
Black men wouldn’t get killed disproportionately during arrest. And good people whose highest aspiration is to help wouldn’t be militarized, armed, and carefully trained to view the populace as the enemy — and then given a badge, a gun, handcuffs, and a nightstick and told to Protect And Serve.
No lives matter, because green lives don’t matter. No lives matter, because blue lives don’t matter. No lives matter, because black lives don’t matter. White lives don’t matter, because if we don’t value one life, we don’t value any life.
This isn’t a trick of words. It’s the honest truth. No lives matter.
The first step in solving a problem is admitting you have one. It’s time to face this problem squarely, head-on, and admit to ourselves that under our present system our lives don’t matter. We come close to this when we look at the election results in November and recognize our votes don’t count, but we need to understand it in such a way that it finds us where we live and it sinks in.
Do you have kids? A sister you love dearly? Are you in love with someone so bad it hurts? Did your mother rock you to sleep and soothe you when you were little?
Their lives don’t matter. Neither does yours.
This is the system we live in.
But let me tell you something: I’m pretty damn sure my life matters. It matters to me, if to no one else. There are people I love dearly, and when they are in pain it hurts me. And if my life matters, and their lives matter, your life matters too. Heck, even that cop had a mother, and God knows the dead man’s life matters or BLM wouldn’t be out marching.
We live the way we do in the system we have like a frog in boiling water. Except we’re more powerful than a frog; all it can do is jump out. We can change the system if we choose; in fact, we’re obligated to do so. I’ve got a few suggestions, if you’re interested.
When I quoted from the Declaration of Independence, I stopped at the beginning. Why not read on a bit, and then tell me what you think: Do black lives matter? Does yours?
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,
–That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it…
My dear readers:
What may be stopping you at this point is the belief that you can’t change society. You can. People do it every day of their lives, in little ways; in a larger sense, we live in a nation that undergoes a peaceful revolution every four to eight years like clockwork.
I’m not saying it will be easy; it’s not just a matter of voting, or donating, or even going to protests and volunteering. It’s hard to change the way things are.
But I have faith in you.