Point of View Columns

Four Days in the Life of America

August 25, 2020

5,741,189–177,284 (number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans the beginning of the day)

The day begins with recollections of last night’s RNC Convention and wondering if the crass cavalcade of caricatures of conservatism was a nightmare, or did it really happen. Here’s a hint – it really happened.

Some of the lowlights included the embodiment of what Making America Great Again is all about, a young white man by the name of Charles Cook who looked like he stepped out of a Norman Rockwell vision of an America that didn’t include anyone who was not a white American. Mr. Cook actually said that “Trump is the bodyguard of Western civilization”. And as jaws dropped at the hyperbole all over the country there was this chilling realization that this line is straight out of the authoritarian playbook.

First it must be made clear that life as “we” know it is in mortal danger. Check. Second, that danger is readily identifiable – Democrats, leftists, lawless Black and LatinX people and godless masses – Check. Third, this danger is so overwhelming that as a group “we” are helpless and hopeless. Check. And Fourth, the only answer to this existential threat to “our” way of life is not some collaborative effort – that isn’t enough – “we” need an all-powerful leader, and only he can save “us”. Check.

The remaining box to be checked is that “we” don’t need a governmental apparatus, “we” place “our” trust in the one true messianic leader. And when that box is checked all of us will be living in a totalitarian state.

And if that seems extreme, it’s only because proper attention isn’t being paid. Four years ago Trump proclaimed at the 2016 RNC convention that “only I can save this country”. And that is the same kind of language that dictators from Hitler to Trujillo to all the other Hell-dwellers in between have used.

And not to be outdone, a woman by the name of Kimberly Guilfoyle who is Donald Trump, Jr.’s girlfriend and National Finance Chair to the Trump Reelection Committee. See screamed and screeched and shouted fire in an empty room claiming that Democrats “want to destroy this country”. And in an over the top tirade she checked three of the Five Steps to a Dictatorship. One – the country is in mortal danger. Two the danger is the Democrats – no need for specifics, “we” know who they are. And Three, this danger is overwhelming in that they want to destroy this country – and “our” way of life in the bargain.

Of course Don Jr. was among many others who echoed this theme. But the other item of interest was that there were by count three Black speakers who spoke glowingly of Trump and denigrated the Democrats with virtually every syllable. But former NFL and college football star Herschel Walker went over the top and stayed there.

He testified that since he grew up in the Deep South he knew what racism was (as if racism isn’t experienced by Black Americans in every state and territory). And because he, Herschel Walker was an expert on racist behavior, he could testify that Donald Trump was not a racist. So that settles that.

The morning also carried a reminder of the awful carnage arising from random police violence that stalks Black people all of the time. Jacob Blake, the 29 year old Black man who was shot in the back seven times by a Kenosha (Wisconsin) police officer on Sunday evening, actually survived this initial trauma. However, his father reported this morning that his son is paralyzed from the waist down and it is quite possible that he may never walk again.

Someone should tell young Charles Cook about this aspect of Western Civilization.

The day meanders, as every day does, and then there is the press conference in Kenosha. The mother, father, sons and sister of Jacob Blake, along with family attorney Ben Crump, provided a stark picture of what police brutality does to a person and to a family and to this nation.

It appears that Jacob Blake will never walk again. He lost his colon and small intestine, part of his stomach and his liver. He was also shot in the arm and may still die from his injuries.

The pain being suffered by his family is poignant and awful. All the more awful because it just keeps happening and justice continues to be delayed and perhaps even denied – again. Despite clear video evidence none of the three officers has been dismissed and the police officer who shot Jacob Blake has not been charged with any crime – awaiting a thirty-day investigation of what is obvious to every sentient being on the planet.

It may be that Black Live Matter in America. But it absolutely clear that, in America, White Lives Matter More.

The day concludes with Day 2 of the RNC Convention, otherwise known as The Trump Show. Amazingly, but not shockingly, he is shamelessly using the Office of President of the United States as just another campaign prop. Consider:

  • Trump sends Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Israel just so that he can tape an appearance at the RNC from Jerusalem. Historically, the Secretary of State does not participate in partisan events like conventions, but Trump never studied history.
  • Trump administers the oath of citizenship to five new Americans in the White House in a Made for Convention TV moment. Since Trump has no shame, it is redundant to point out that he has no shame. And it would be stating the obvious that none of the five new Americans would have a shot at citizenship if they had tried to enter the United States after January 20, 2017.
  • Trump issues a presidential pardon to a Black ex-felon in the Oval Office in another Made for Convention TV moment. Presumably, as long as the pardoned individual doesn’t plan to move into the suburbs he is alright with Trump.
  • Melania Trump gives a speech from the Rose Garden which, of course, is part of the White House and is traditionally out of bounds for purely partisan events. But that observation is just a redundancy when it comes to Trump.

August 26, 2020

5,779,189–178,535 (number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans the beginning of the day)

The day begins with twin tragedies, different tragedies but tragedies nonetheless. In Kenosha, white vigilantes, like the ones that were featured in the first night of the RNC convention descended upon a demonstration in Kenosha and killed two protestors. A seventeen-year old white man was arrested with his gun. Needless to say no shots were fired even though this white man was suspected of just having killed two people with the gun he was holding.

The irony does not escape the family of Jacob Blake or Black Americans everywhere.

To compound matters, the CDC has issued an obviously politically motivated directive to the effect that asymptomatic individuals need not be tested for the COVID-19 virus. This order is in perfect synchronicity with Trump’s wailing that there are too many tests which is why the United States leads the world in COVID-19 cases.

The stone-headed illogic of such a position should be obvious to every non-scientist, much less the leadership of the Centers for Disease Control. Yet, we now have a directive that will result in more infections, and therefore more cases, and therefore more deaths.

But at least for the next pre-election month or two there will be a decline in cases….it is truly a Faustian bargain.

August 27, 2020

5,837,800–179,604 (number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans the beginning of the day)

The day begins with a virtual swirl of news – Hurricane Laura, California is literally on fire, vigilantes in Kenosha, more lies from Trump and….by the way, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to kill Americans by the minutes. So what does Trump do?

He narrows his narrow focus to himself and himself alone. This evening over a thousand people will array themselves on the White House lawn, shredding the last fig leaf of propriety and presidential decorum, so that Trump can accept the RNC presidential nomination.

Aside from the fact that given the events of the past twenty-four hours it might be a good idea to tone things down, the White House is not supposed to be an obvious political prop. But for Trump – everything and everybody is a prop in the The Trump Show.

We learned today that Hurricane Laura was the most powerful hurricane to hit the United States in over a century – and hurricane season has at least another six weeks to go. And one has to wonder how many times it will be necessary to point out that climate change is responsible for these bizarre meteorological occurrences – which of course, is the reason why one million acres of California’s forests are ablaze.

In Kenosha, a 17-year-old white man walks into the confusion of nighttime demonstration and protest and shoots two people, killing them both. He then walks away casually, right past the police who have been told that this young man with a gun has just shot two people. And the police let him walk away and drive 30 miles back to Illinois where he was finally arrested.

Meanwhile Jacob Blake lies paralyzed in a hospital, shot seven times for walking away from the police while unarmed. And that is why it is clear that, even though Black Lives Matter, White Lives Matter More.

And all the while Trump continues to add to his all-time presidential record of 10,000 lies as president – and counting – by claiming that the economy was in shambles when he became president – so untrue he might as well also add that the sun is actually the moon. But Trump Nation believes him and will continue to do so, the facts be damned.

August 28, 2020

5,883,700–180,700 (number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans the beginning of the day)

Last night marked the finale of The Trump Show, a.k.a. the RNC convention. And it featured everything that is wrong with Trump, including seventy minutes of bellowing by Trump. The context of the finale is important however.

First, it took place on the White House lawn which is not where partisan activities are supposed to take place, let alone serving as the venue for the convention of a political party. And in attendance were over 1,500 people who wore no masks and totally ignored the concept of social distancing.

Second, while the Party of Trump celebrated, another 1300 Americans were dying yesterday. And Jacob Blake, he of the seven police bullets in his back, lay paralyzed and shackled to a hospital bed, with the prospect of justice still as far away as on the night when he was shot.

The 57th anniversary of the March on Washington was yet another sign that the outrage and fatigue occasioned by institutional racism and racist systemic institutional reality that has spread from the national Black community to the nation at large. One can hope that this is true.

It must be noted that the history of the 1963 March on Washington has been sanitized and romanticized in order to gloss over the uncomfortable truth about that event. The truth is that the March was preceded by months of argument and anguish by the white leadership of the national government, beginning with President John Kennedy and Attorney General Robert Kennedy who simply didn’t want the March to happen.

The national Black community was also far from unified about the usefulness of

such a demonstration, but ultimately common ground was found. The March was one of protest and an expression of frustration Dr. Martin Luther King’s speech was one of many, none of which were conciliatory, all of them being articulated expressions of a demand – not a request – for major institutional change.

Ironically, Dr. King’s so-called “I Have a Dream Speech” could fairly be summed up in four words – “No Justice, No Peace”- but it has been sanitized primarily to make white America comfortable. Today’s March, with signs and placards that could have been printed in 1963, it is clear that there is still no justice and there is still no peace.

A particularly poignant moment during the March occurred when Dr. King’s granddaughter, thirteen-year old Yolanda King spoke. She expressed the power and the promise of youth. She also demonstrated so eloquently and clearly, why we believe in the hope and promise that youth represents.

Her grandfather would have been proud.

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Point of View Columns

King Had More Than a Dream

The recent national celebration of the birth of Martin Luther King, Jr. illustrated the caution with which the lens of history should be used. Obviously history depends upon who is telling the story and what are the motives of the historian. In the case of Martin Luther King there are competing motives.

Many of the celebrants who extol Dr. King’s virtues as a peacemaker and an advocate of universal harmony conveniently forget (or neglect) the broader of the story of this man. Seen through the lens of the times in which he lived he was a radical. Dr. King fought against a system of American institutionalized racism that was so vicious that a man could be killed for seeking the vote for Black Americans (e.g. Medgar Evers shot to death in his driveway in Mississippi in 1963 or for going to church on Sunday to worship God (four Black girls murdered by Ku Klux Klan bombers at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, also in 1963)

Only a radical Black man would stand up against the system of American racism that had countenanced, indeed accepted, the lynching of thousands of Black men and women in the 100 years prior to the Montgomery bus boycott that brought Dr. King to national attention. And only a radical Black man would seek to inspire Black people to shed the cloak of subtle resistance and instead to take up the armor of confronting the hatred and racism that flowed unchecked through the American bloodstream.

Much has been made about Dr. King’s commitment to non-violence without taking into account that he understood the very radical strategy employed successfully by Mahatma Gandhi. Both Gandhi and Dr. King understood that their enemy – the British in India and white American racists (and their enablers) in America, would meet resistance and protest with unimaginably vicious violence and hatred.

They both understood that strategically, exposing the imperialists in India and the racists in America for who they were would ultimately induce such shame and disgust that change would have to come. Certainly the imperfect results in India and America should not diminish the understanding that true victories were won against odds that would have been insuperable in violent conflict.

Dr. King espoused nonviolence as a strategy. He did not advocate complacency or the peaceful and timid acceptance of the status quo. Dr. King sought to uproot the status quo and for proof we need to go no further than to remember that Dr. King identified income equality and poverty as evils that also had to be confronted. He also understood the error of American imperialism so tragically exposed in the Vietnam War. And for taking those positions he was criticized and shunned by many in a country that now seeks to honor a sanitized version of a man who sought to change the world.

Even the so-called “I Have a Dream” speech has been misinterpreted and miscast as an expression of hope for a better day in some vague day in the by and by. But a more truthful understanding of his radical call for change on that August day in 1963 is revealed in his words before his reference to the “dream”. Consider some of these excerpts, clearly spoken and just as clearly, conveniently ignored:

“One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.”

“Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.”

“It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning.”

“There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.”

“No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

These were the words of a man who had a clear-eyed vision of the vile and hateful nature of institutionalized racism and these were the words of a man who fought against it literally to his dying day. Those who wish to praise Dr. King without acknowledging his radical stance in the face of what were (and are) overwhelming odds, do not do justice to his memory.

Those who wish sugarcoat the memory of Dr. King through mythical hagiography dishonor everything that he stood for and died for.

It is right to remember Dr. King. It is also right to remember that he had a lot more than a dream.

 

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