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Any real revolution must be local

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In the wake of George Floyd’s death, J.R. Wilco and Leo Clark discuss equality, unity, and finding common ground.

The Brandenburg Gate was often a site for major historical events and is today considered not only as a symbol of the tumultuous history of Europe and Germany, but also of unity...
Photo by Jörg Carstensen/picture alliance via Getty Images

In some ways, I realize that in doing this podcast, I probably can’t win. I’m going to say something someone doesn’t like. I’m going to leave out something that someone gets upset over. Something I focus on, or ignore, or describe may strike you in a way I don’t intend; maybe in a way you feel shows how far apart we are. I understand that going in, but I’m unable to be silent and only focus on basketball. For this post at least, I will talk about what I think and how I feel about what the United States are going through right now, but I’m going to do it in a conversation with Leo Clark, a man I’ve known going on 20 years.

I’m not sure when I first met Leo, but I remember watching at least one game of the 2002 World Series together and I’ve had him on Superfluous Poppycock a couple of times before. He’s one of the few people I know with his own IMDB page. He played basketball in college and in Europe after that.

Like me, he has five children. In his spare time, he teaches young basketball players how to shoot. Also, Leo’s black. He’s been racially profiled. He’s been arrested unnecessarily. Like most of us, he’s been judged not by the content of his character but by the color of his skin. When I decided to do a podcast about the nation’s reaction to and future after the excrutiating death of George Floyd, I reached out to Leo. I didn’t know everything I wanted to say, but I knew I wanted to hear what he had to say in response. I’m grateful he took the time to speak with me.

For the image at the lead of this story, I’ve chosen a picture of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Germany. Over the centuries, the Brandenburg Gate has served many purposes. Napoleon used it for a triumphal procession after a victory over Prussia in 1806. After World War II when the city of Berlin was divided and the country was split into East Germany and West Germany, it stood near the Berlin Wall. What had been one nation became two states practically at war with each other. After the Berlin Wall came down and Germany was reunified, the gate became a symbol of unity.

The word “unity” comes up a lot in this podcast and so I find the Brandenburg Gate symbolic. The above image of the was taken through a windshield of a car in the rain. Beyond its outline, the gate is difficult to see. But it’s there. Much like the ideal of unity — something I want very much to see in this country in my lifetime. Something that seems so very far away right now, with too many systems and barriers in the way. And a storm raging.