I keep thinking about a sign I saw during one of the Portland protests a couple weeks ago, as you read this. The majority of signs were exactly what you’d expect: variations on Black Lives Matter or Feds Out of Portland or Defund the Police, each one something I agree with — each of those mirroring chants during the protest as well, with so many of the familiar favorites being screamed at the Justice Center walls. (“No Justice, No Peace, No Fascist Police,” or “This Is What Democracy Looks Like,” they seem to have multiple applications, but maybe that’s a sign of the protests I show up for; the more simple “Quit Your Job” was a new joy, however.)
I’m distracting myself. The sign that I keep thinking of read, simply, “Fix Your Hearts Or Die.” It wasn’t a threat, or at least, that’s not how I read it; it’s not as if the person holding the sign was threatening to kill anyone. But the simplicity of “Fix Your Hearts” as a demand sticks with me. There’s a cleanliness, a bluntness, to it — a reduction that feels assured and correct. People not supporting Black Lives Matter, people not appalled by what’s happening here in Portland in terms of federal agent overreach, people standing on the wrong side of history… their hearts are broken. Of course.
I keep thinking about the federal officers that night, as well. I keep wondering what they were thinking, what stories they were told and that they tell themselves to do what they do. In the middle of the protest, being there, it’s so clear that the lie of rioting protestors or violent agitators is just bullshit; there’s passion and anger and, yes, power in the crowd, but the tear gas is fired into the crowd for none of those reasons. It’s violence in and of itself, an attempt to disrupt and destroy protest. Who could do that?
(But then, I am just as unable to comprehend who could have a problem with protests saying “black people matter,” and here we are.)
Fix your hearts or die isn’t a threat, it’s a forecast. You might be living in the medical sense, but there’s no soul there. No true life worth living.