According to the first thorough examination of the street protests triggered by the death of George Floyd, undertaken by Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project in conjunction with the Bridging Divides Initiative at Princeton, more than 10,600 incidents of what is benignly called “unrest” were recorded between May 24 and August 22. Of these, some 570 involved violence. Of those, most have involved Black Lives Matter activists. Preliminary insurance estimates show that the damage will surpass the $1.2 billion in damages accrued during the 1992 Rodney King riots. And then there are the atmospherics that separate these protests from many that have gone before: lusty screaming, ecstatic vandalism, the menacing of bystanders.
The ritualistic exhibition of destructive behaviors in city after city is without precedent in America. Neither the civil rights demonstrations nor the protests against the war in Vietnam looked remotely like this. The differences demand explanation. Blame what you will on the usual bête noirs: Donald Trump, cancel culture, police brutality, political tribalism, the coronavirus pandemic, far-right militias, BLM, antifa. All these factors feed the “demand” side of the protests and rioting, the reasons for the ritualistic enactment. But what about the “supply” side—the ready and apparently inexhaustible ranks of demonstrators themselves? What explains them?
The answer cannot be “racism.” The spectacle of often-white protesters screaming at sometimes-black policemen undercuts anything dreamed of by Critical Race Theory. So do the actual statistics concerning cop-on-black crime. So do public attitudes. In 2017, according to Pew Research, 52 percent of respondents said that race “doesn’t make much difference” in marriage, and another 39 percent said that interracial marriage is “a good thing.” When 91 percent of the public shrugs at or applauds interracial marriage, it is absurd to speak of a spectral racism that permanently and irredeemably poisons society.
So, here’s a new theory: The explosive events of 2020 are but the latest eruption along a fault line running through our already unstable lives. That eruption exposes the threefold crisis of filial attachment that has beset the Western world for more than half a century. Deprived of father, Father, and patrium, a critical mass of humanity has become socially dysfunctional on a scale not seen before.