So, there was recently a guilty verdict on all counts of the police officer who murdered George Floyd. I consider that a good thing (though it still doesn’t bring him back, nor does it instantly solve the systematic problems). There have been a lot of high-profile killings by police officers which have been very controversial. Almost all of them have been completely acquitted or even not charged in the first place, which many find frustrating, but it is true that there are a lot of question marks in those cases.
But not this one. Not only is it landmark in that the police officer who killed an unarmed person was actually convicted of murder, but it’s also noteworthy in that it was extremely obvious. There is high-definition footage of him kneeling on the already-subdued (and therefore not a threat) victim’s neck, begging for air, for nine minutes until he asphyxiates and dies. There is no world in which this is proper police procedure, nor any world where doing so is necessary in order to protect the life of the police officer or anyone else. There’s grey area why a police officer might fatally shoot an unarmed suspect who might be running toward them. There is no grey area why a police officer needs to kill a suspect who is already prone and cuffed.
Which is probably why there was such an easy conviction. But what is awful is that this conviction is still regarded as controversial. This should be something everyone, on the Right, on the Left, and everywhere else, should agree on. And yet there is a significant, admittedly minority, movement in parts of the Right that wants to make a victim out of the murderer. You can find any kind of idiot you want on the internet, but this isn’t just 4chan or some darkened corner of Reddit. We have Tucker Carlson, a cable TV pundit who gets sky-high ratings, and Marjorie Taylor-Greene, a member of Congress, both using their very big, influential soapboxes to defend this convicted murderer.
Why this is particularly worrisome to me is that we’ve reached the point where “murdering people is okay” (or at least “murdering black people is okay” or “the police murdering people is okay”) is now a political opinion. A minority opinion, sure, but it has very “legitimate” representation now. The step between something crazies in the YouTube comments believe and something top Republican influencers and members of Congress believe is a huge one. What will happen if this form of conservatism becomes more popular? What if it becomes the default? I never would have expected Trumpism to become the default form of American conservatism just a few years ago, but here we are. I’m a little worried about what the next form will be.