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As a white male who has benefited from white privilege in this country by virtue of being white and male, I don’t feel as if I actually have a right to say anything about the events surrounding the death of George Floyd here in Minneapolis.

But this morning as Joy and I drove to the lake we walk daily in south Minneapolis we saw smoke rising in the distance in both Minneapolis and St. Paul, stimulating thoughts and feelings in me I have never before experienced. It all seemed surreal.

And as we talked about what we were seeing I had the same primary thought I have had since Monday night:  George Floyd is dead.

A man who was alive and well on Monday afternoon was dead before the sun had set that night and it didn’t have to be that way. George Floyd did not have to die, should not have, but now nothing can bring him back to life. Nothing. No matter what punishment officer Derek Chauvin is given, and it should be substantial, George Floyd will still be dead.

It’s the finality of that fact that occupies my mind. Whatever we may think about death or believe about it, death is death, the end of life, a moment that alters reality in a permanent way.

Yes, George Floyd’s death is part of a larger narrative of America’s systemic racism that lies at the core of the police brutality Chauvin and those other three policemen displayed.

That racism must be dealt with, starting at the top with a President who has nurtured racial tensions and the racial divide in our country since he was elected.

But he and his entire administration are the tip of the iceberg. America is a country that has yet to confront the endemic racism that goes back to the very founding of the nation.

All of that is important, demanding, begging, pleading for our attention, but I think what matters most right now is that George Floyd is dead.

Nothing should overshadow that tragic truth.

His family will never again sit down with him at a meal and talk, laugh, and even shed tears together as families do.

His six year old daughter will never her father again.

His friends will never enjoy his company again.

George Floyd is dead when he shouldn’t be, didn’t have to be, could still be walking around had one racist policeman not killed him.

That is what I cannot seem to get beyond four days after his life was taken.

Yes, in the wake of what has happened we can and should say that his life mattered. He mattered. His place in his family mattered. His place in all the relationships he had mattered. His place in the world mattered.

But now his death matters because it means his days on earth were cut short for no justifiable reason. What happened could have ended with his still being alive right now. It didn’t.

So whatever else we think about today and in the coming days, let’s not forget that. Let’s not forget that a week ago George Floyd was working, smiling, laughing, telling stories, sharing his life with the lives of others, and now he is dead.

And all that is left now are memories that should not be all that is left of him.

Yes, his life mattered, and now so does his death, something I wish someone could change but no one can.

Perhaps I am feeling the weight of that because of the enduring truth of the words the 16th English poet John Donne wrote: “Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind.”

George Floyd was me, and I was George Floyd. We all were, and his death diminishes us all.