While digesting all of the public announcements and warnings, saturated info streams on social media, countless press conferences, and regular updates on rate of infection for Coronavirus Pandemic, it occurs to me that I need to take a moment and be thankful that I’m sane.
The last significant social upheaval that ushered in an enormous amount of stress and inconvenience in my life and community was the 2015 Freddie Gray riots in Baltimore. Capturing the attention of our country and covered by national news, the unrest was incited by outrage over the death of a 25-year-old black man at the hands of the Baltimore police. The crisis lasted for five days, during which the entire time, I was full-blown psychotic.
Freddie Gray was arrested for possessing a knife. In the course of transport, he was victimized with what the police jokingly referred to as a “rough ride.” A “rough ride” means that the person in custody is placed, unsecured, in the back of a van and driven around recklessly to inflict great pain, injury, and emotional trauma. This brutal ride resulted in a coma coupled with a severed spinal cord and, ultimately, Freddie’s tragic death.
The West Baltimore black community was outraged. With the announcement that he had lapsed into a coma, protests began to organize in front of the police station. Upon Freddie’s passing, the outcry swelled and intensified when the police department could not give an adequate explanation for his death.
On the day of Freddie’s funeral, the civil discontent became disorderly and inflamed. Numberous protests surrounding the memorial and Freddie’s West Baltimore neighborhood exploded into violence and anarchy.
The mob began a sweeping procession starting in the impoverished neighborhoods of West Baltimore and headed into the heart of downtown. I lived in downtown Baltimore and watched the entire pandemonium unfold on TV. Covered by sky cams and broadcast to the local network, I watched in real-time as the riot, consumed with anger and starving for justice, began a violent journey towards my neighborhood, vandalizing and burning everything in its path.
The rampage that went through the streets of Baltimore resulted in at least twenty police officers injured, hundreds arrested, a multitude of businesses damaged, countless vehicle and structure fires, and numerous drugstores looted. A State of Emergency was declared, and thousands of Maryland State Police and the Maryland Army National Guard was deployed to stabilize the area.
The city was placed on a curfew, and the streets, restaurants, and shops became an eerie ghost town. Instead of Baltimoreans walking, biking, and gathering on the once-bustling urban streets, long dramatic formations of state police and national guardsmen, donned in camouflage and flanked with machine guns lined the streets. Our community had been transformed into something more like you would expect to see in a third world country governed by martial law.
And me? What was my perspective on this sensational transfiguration of my community? . . . . well, it was all fake, of course.
Yes, fake. In fact, I believed it was all designed for me. I was convinced that none of it was real. The entire social catastrophe was wholly engineered by the government to develop my understanding of intercity social challenges.
Certain that this cataclysmic social collapse was only an illusion, I marveled at its complexity. This secret arm of the government expertly manufactured all of it. . . . the hundreds of rioters, the massive damage to businesses and property, the thousands of police and national guardsmen, the citywide curfew, the official declaration of Baltimore’s State of Emergency . . . all of it was conceived and executed precisely for me.
It was simple logic. I mean, how else would I learn about how disastrous and devastating racial injustice and inequality can be to a major city? The lessons that I would glean from this orchestrated social crisis would prove invaluable later. When I finally assumed my predestined role as a world leader, I’d be navigating familiar waters.
So that brings me back to the Coronavirus. I can’t help but wonder how I would be interpreting this crisis today if I was still delusional. What would the narrative be? How would the warped filter of psychosis distort my reality of a worldwide pandemic?
Curious to think about. But I hope I never know.