The Death of One Man
Despite the bungled response to the Covid-19 pandemic that contributed to an unjustifiable death toll, Donald Trump and his sycophants took a victory lap, declaring it was a job well done. To them, the horrific loss of life that could have been mitigated isn’t as vitally important as the stock market, the economy and Trump’s reelection. Apparently, Trump is incapable of grasping that while the death of 100,000 people can be experienced as a dispassionate statistic, the pointless death—the murder—of one specific individual is a tragedy. And if that murder is caught on video for everyone to see, and the victim is an innocent black man whose life is snuffed out by a policeman who looks no more concerned than if he was killing a bug, Americans find it unacceptable. George Floyd is that individual.
The Cowardly Captain Bone Spurs
Trump is oblivious to the pain of the black community. His narcissism, disinterest and lack of compassion make it impossible for him to understand that the cry of “I can’t breathe” is not just that of the dying George Floyd. It is the cry of a community being smothered by the people sworn to protect it; by a community lacking in decent housing, healthcare and economic opportunity. It is a time when all people of good will are saying, “Enough!” It is time to address this problem and initiate the changes necessary to send it to the ashbin of history.
And the President of the United States, who should be out front trying to bring the country together, is out front driving the country apart.
“If you don’t dominate, you’re wasting your time,” Trump bellowed on a conference call with the nation’s governors on Monday. After another night of violent protests across the country, Commander Bone Spurs berated the governors for their mishandling of what has become another major crisis in the midst of a pandemic and economic crunch.
Take back your streets, use force, use the military were among Trump’s prescriptions for managing this rebellion against injustice. Leaning on his fantasied warrior experience, he warned they’d look weak and be considered “jerks” if they didn’t harden their resolve. Trump’s idea of toughness was clearly revealed in his tweet, “When the looting begins, the shooting begins.” And if the protestors outside the White House ever breached the gates, “vicious dogs and the most ominous weapons ever seen” would greet them.
The Coward Hides in the Bunker
Despite his pronouncements, when faced with a large group of angry protesters outside the Executive Mansion, Trump hid in the White House underground bunker used in the past during terrorist attacks. But then word of his bunkering down got out, and he had to show the world that he’s as tough as any tyrant. Nobody messes with Commander Bone Spurs. He would brand himself as the new Law and Order President. That’s what his base wants and that’s what he’d give them.
Don’t Call Me a Coward; I’m the Law and Order President
So, Monday evening Trump entered the Rose Garden and announced to the assembled world audience that he would no longer tolerate the demonstrations, which he conflated with rioting, looting and damage to property. If the governors and mayors would not control their states and cities, he would send in the military to do so.
Not a word about the underlying cause of the protests, or that many were peaceful. Then, as if to demonstrate how to deal with these annoying people exercising their Constitutionally protected First Amendment rights, police in riot gear, mounted police, and national guardsmen, assisted by Secret Service officers firing flash-bang grenades and tear gas pushed the hundreds of peaceful protestors out of Lafayette Park across from the White House, injuring an Australian news crew in the process.
A Brief but Important Pause
The Coward in Chief sent in the military to confront American citizens exercising their constitutional right to protest. With this action, Trump has taken the most dangerous step to destroy democracy in three years of similar actions. Looking ahead, it is quite evident that he will take whatever illegal actions are necessary to achieve a reelection that he can win only if he cheats. Patriotic Americans must remain vigilant to fight back. This is an issue that I will continue to address in the months ahead, but now is the time to focus on George Floyd’s murder, Trump’s response and its implications.
The Pretend Christian
With the Park cleared, Trump marched to Saint John’s Episcopal Church, known as “the church of the presidents” where President Lincoln prayed. Ivanka and members of his cabinet accompanied him. Ivanka then pulled a bible from her $1,500 Max Mara purse and handed it to her father to use as a prop. Brandishing the bible upside down—not his, just “a bible” —he posed for photographs as if he was accepting the Oscar for best performance in a movie.
The Right Reverend Mariann Budde, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington was outraged. She condemned Trump’s blatantly political act saying, “Everything he has said and done is to inflame violence. We need moral leadership, and he’s done everything to divide us.” This stunt was repeated the following day when, accompanied by his wife, he visited the Saint John Paul II National Shrine. The Washington Archbishop, Wilton Gregory, called Trump’s action “reprehensible.”
Of course this means nothing to a man who makes no attempt to even pretend he’s a practicing Christian. His idea of Christianity may be summed up as: Do unto others before they do unto you. Trump lacks even the slightest bit of humanity. Look at his apathetic reaction to the Covid-19 pandemic and deaths of well more than 100,000 Americans in just four months.
Possible Government Response
Trump has no interest in uniting the country or attempting to bring calm, nor has he any interest in addressing racial injustice. So, for now, we are stuck with a totally self-absorbed leader. But having one abusive parent doesn’t mean we all have to sit in the corner and shake. Local governments can make substantive changes in police protocol indicating a serious commitment to addressing systemic racism.
- Eliminating chokeholds and strangleholds as an acceptable means of subduing a prisoner would be a step in the right direction.
- It should be mandatory for police to have body cameras on while in uniform; and if they’re not turned on during a confrontation, it should be prima facie evidence of the officer’s guilt.
- All police offers should have to attend interactive group sessions, designed specifically for them, dealing with underlying prejudices and racial issues.
Unless the Supreme Court revisits the issue, legislation will likely be required to change what is known as “qualified immunity,” a form of legal immunity that protects a government official from lawsuits alleging he or she violated a plaintiff’s rights. Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote in a 2017 case “We have not hesitated to summarily reverse courts for wrongly denying officers the protection of qualified immunity in cases involving the use of force. But we rarely intervene where courts wrongly afford officers the benefit of qualified immunity in these same cases.” The result is that police officers can literally get away with what otherwise would be considered murder.
This country has a long and deeply rooted history of racial inequality. George Floyd is giving us an opportunity to look at it in the harsh light of day, see its ugliness, and deal with it at every level.
As for protestors, I cannot tell my grandson living in Minneapolis or another grandson going to New York City that they should not be out there protesting. I am proud of them for taking a stand. But I do worry about their safety. Nonetheless, they have a right to assemble peacefully and raise their voices and the country’s awareness. They take to heart the words of a great President, Abraham Lincoln, who said, “To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men.” Unlike the coward in the White House Bunker, my grandsons do not remain silent.
Real lasting change will come only when governments at every level are responsive to the black community. Black lives have to matter to everyone. And much of that change in attitude, laws, and opportunity will come only through the ballot box. So in the midst of these protests, community leaders should organize voter registration drives and then follow up in November to make sure these new voters go to the polls. George Floyd’s brother has said it best.
“Let’s stop thinking that our voice don’t matter and vote — not just the president, vote for the preliminaries. Vote for everybody. Educate yourself, educate yourself. Don’t wait for somebody else to tell you who’s who; educate yourself and know who you’re voting for. And that’s how we’re going to hit them, because it’s a lot of us. It’s a lot of us. And we’re still going to do this peacefully.”