There are a couple fellow bloggers/blog readers who stop by here on occasion who live in Baltimore and its environs; if you are that person, know that I'm praying for your safety.
I don't know if it's national news (I'm local enough that it's been dominating my news), but there are riots happening right now in Baltimore following the death in custody of a 25-year-old named Freddie Gray. Gray was arrested for carrying a switchblade; at some point during his transportation to incarceration, he suffered a serious spinal injury. He doesn't seem to have been given timely medical attention, and as a consequence, he passed away.
And now Baltimore is ablaze, literally.
It's not clear quite what happened to Freddie Gray. It seems to be undisputed that he wasn't buckled into the transport van, but I don't see how that can cause, as his family alleges, his spine to be 80% severed at the neck. It's certainly possible that Freddie's cause of death was some form of police brutality, but we don't know what happened to him.
Meanwhile, since I live in the Northeast corridor, Facebook is rife with opinions. They range from the simple and poignant: "Prayers for Baltimore," to the vitriolic: either "The rioters are animals," or "Anyone who would call the rioters 'animals' is an animal."
As always, I think the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Certainly there is something to be said for making an effort to understand. I don't know what it's like to be a young black man in a majority-black, economically declining city like Baltimore. I also don't know what it's like to be a police officer in Baltimore, on the other end of the kind of interactions that cause mistrust on both sides, and charged with keeping the peace.
There is never any excuse for the kind of rioting happening in Baltimore right now. Rioters looted and torched a CVS drugstore, and then punctured the firehose so that the blaze couldn't be put out. Explain to me how CVS is responsible for what happened to Freddie Gray. A store run by Chinese immigrants was completely wiped out. Innocent people are losing property and they're being made unsafe because all the police in the city are otherwise occupied.
After the death of Michael Brown in August 2014 in Missouri, Ferguson experienced weeks upon weeks of this kind of unrest. It is widely accepted that it only died down because the weather got to be too inhospitable. Unfortunately for Baltimore, protest weather is just ramping up.
I have to withhold judgment on what happened to Freddie Gray in Baltimore. But I do not have to withhold judgment of indiscriminate destruction.