Gassing and gaslighting in the summer of 2020
The police radio is going in the kitchen, static chopped up with the crackling voices of the NYPD and every few minutes a series of loud touchtones, like when someone picks up the other line and starts dialing when you are on a call.
A Siamese cat is on my lap and there are two Labrador Retrievers at my feet and my husband who knows almost nothing of the life inside of me sits next to me, staring into the depths of his phone as if he is waiting for it to speak to him. He’s a good man. I think I may be too dark for him, too restless. He can finish a Bud Light in two sips and he can fix the radiator on the car and open up the pipes below the sink with his big hands and he can cry at Love Actually. He tolerates my craziness with a stoic affability that sometimes makes me hate him or myself. But right now, he’s the only normal thing in the world, and for that I am more grateful than I can admit to him.
On radio, the cops sound scared. They sound untrained in emergency management. They sound like the shirtless boys from Lord of the Flies, puffy chests and sharpened sticks. The dispatcher has been calm for hours (days?) but she is slowly starting to unravel. Her voice has a tremble in it that wasn’t there this morning. She has lost contact with the squad and she can’t get them back, no matter how many times she asks the same two questions: Are you reading? Is it shots or flashbangs?
According to the internet, flashbangs are the “less-lethal” explosive device used to temporarily disorient an enemy’s senses. I had never heard of them before, but my senses can sympathize with the effect. When did we start doubting what we are seeing with our own eyes? There is so much flash, so much bang, that we can’t tell where the light stops and the real bullets begin. It’s only later, as we slowly bleed out, that we realize that we have been hit.
Because there is the first autopsy report, from Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office. With its many words, it tells us nothing. It tells us that Floyd died as a result of “cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression.” There was talk of heart disease and cardiovascular existing conditions. I have never seen an autopsy report distract so much. A spokesperson for the county says that due to state laws they cannot discuss “the matter” any further. But I was confused. I was disoriented. Had they had discussed it all? Because I would like, at the risk of upsetting the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office, to discuss it just a bit further. “Cardiopulmonary arrest” is a baffling description for what we can all see is a crushed windpipe.
A policeman’s staticky voice comes from my kitchen: There is something on the ground. I cant tell if it’s a person or a thing. Whatever it is, it’s moving.
The arrest “turned” deadly, we read. Where is the killer in that statement? Where is the dead man?
Because there is the second autopsy report, done at the request of the family, that confirms what we all can see with out own eyes: that a policeman held his knee on a man’s throat until he choked to death – which this new independent autopsy confirms. George Floyd died of asphyxiation. The Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office has no comment at this time.
It takes ten days for me to stop being shocked. When I see the latest video, the one where the man falls down and cracks his head on the Buffalo sidewalk, I don’t show it to my husband. It has become unremarkable.
It’s Thursday, only seventy-two hours since we watched an Unknown Military Group, almost entirely white males with eyes the color of ashes as they fired point blank into the faces of a small group of journalists. As I am writing this, an updated version of an essay I started earler, I find myself not believing the previous sentence that I myself wrote as it happened three days ago. This is how we forget. Flash. Bang.
In the afternoon, Trump may have ordered Barr who may have ordered Esner who may have ordered the Unknown Military Group to fire seven to ten canisters of an undetermined airborne substance into a crowd of peaceful protesters. Every GOP Senator questioned about this – the ones who voted for a war in the Middle East because Saddam was using chemical weapons on his own people – said no such thing happened.
We can only watch the dailies. They write the script. Flash. Bang.
The state capital is full of platoons of armed men in generic uniforms the color of barbarism. No visible identification. One of them looks at the camera and says he want to “get this thing started.”
Today they pushed an elderly man and he stumbled and fell on the cement and cracked his head open and began to bleed out while the police walked around him, ignoring the blood.
When questioned, they say he “tripped”. Flash. Bang.
This bizzaro world of the United States, is, of course, nothing of the sort. This is how it is. It is the real world, not an alternate universe. But now the prism of white privilege is reflecting back its distorted spectrum into the eyes of its benefactors, so if only for a moment they experience the vertiginous terror of what it’s like to be hurt by your government and have nobody care. Because this is how life in America has been for generations of minorities – we’ve simply chosen to ignore it for the same reason the GOP ignores the gassing of US citizens. Because it’s easier than telling the truth.