Running the race

You’ve heard about them, I’m sure. Special interest groups who think it’s fine to disrupt the everyday routines of ordinary people so that they (the special interest people, that is) can promote their own agenda. Shutting down major roads, blocking traffic, getting large crowds of people to yell in the streets for hours on end — and expecting the police to protect them while they do all this, no less. Why should these folks get to impose their agenda on the rest of the community? Who the hell do they think they are?

I’m responding to this bit of local controversy. Black Lives Matters organizers are planning to stage a protest during the Twin Cities marathon this Sunday, and a bunch of marathon folks don’t appear to be happy about that at all. People from all over the world, after all, have trained for months and spent lots of money to come to Minnesota and run 26.2 miles, and many of them don’t think it’s fair that their dreams should be disrupted by somebody else’s political agenda.

Of course, what the anti-BLM contigent seems to be overlooking is that the first paragraph above describes the ways that marathons are organized just as much as (and probably even better than) it describes BLM protests. To hold a marathon, after all, cities wind up shutting down miles and miles and miles of major thoroughfares for hours so that several hundred people can run a really long distance. Traffic in the neighborhoods near the race route — and for a 26.2 mile race, that inevitably means a lot of neighborhoods — gets blocked off, rerouted, and/or shut down. People stand along the race route cheering and clapping and shouting for the runners — and they often start this infernal racket at obscenely early hours of the morning, disrupting the sleep of ordinary people who have no interest in watching strangers jog down the block where they live for hours on end.

Put simply, marathons are incredibly disruptive events to the everyday routine of a city, and the main purpose of this disruption is relatively trivial: i.e., so that people with a higher-than-normal amount of time, money, and leisure can run for 26.2 miles, even though no one is chasing them and (for the vast majority of them, anyway) there’s nothing waiting at the finish line for them beyond the personal satisfaction of having finished.

To be clear, I’ve got nothing against people getting that sort of personal satisfaction. If you can finish a marathon, that’s an impressive feat, and you deserve to be proud of yourself. That said, there’s still a lot of privilege involved in being able to get an entire city (or, as is the case here, two entire cities) to shut itself down for a day so that you and a thousand other people can enjoy that bit of self-pride.

Meanwhile, BLM is in the streets — and, yes, disrupting the lives of ordinary people — because thousands of other ordinary people who were minding their own business have found their lives “disrupted” by police officers in the most forceful and final way possible.

And it seems to me that if it’s okay to disrupt a city’s everyday routine so that a thousand people can run through the streets without having to dodge traffic, it should definitely be okay to disrupt a city’s everyday routine — or even its “special” events — so that a thousand people can express their grief and rage over the senseless, unwarranted killing of ordinary people by police officers. But if, by some twisted logic, the latter isn’t important enough to shut a city down for a day, then the former definitely isn’t.

One Comment:

  1. I appreciate your pace and your cogent comparison. I wish I could be so patient and kind in my presentation of these same ideas. Instead, I’m coolly angry and sarcastic. Thank you for this.

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