Saturday, June 06, 2020

Race for the White House # 75

Where to begin this week?

It is a tumultuous time in America amid the pandemic, protests, and politics. Things seem a little calmer this Saturday than last week although every day has seen crowds converge on cities big and small. The worst appears over in terms of looters, rioters, and the opportunists bent on destruction. What remains for the most part are peaceful protests that are taking place not only in the big cities with large populations of African-Americans, but even in heavily white small towns and suburbs where people seem eager to stand for justice and for the proposition that Black Lives Matter. I will say as I have always said that black lives matter because All Life Matters and we should never seek to give in to the temptations to divide ourselves. We all need to be able to recognize victimization where it legitimately exists but to move on from a culture of victimization and bitterness to a society full of equal opportunity and hope for all.

In that spirit I am happy to see instances where police and protesters have found common ground in the streets of our country. They have knelt down together and even embraced in some circumstances. We still have seen though through our never ceasing video camera society, horrible instances of people demonizing law enforcement personnel as well as the cops themselves acting in wholly inappropriate matters. We still have a long way to go but this episode in our history can serve to open up conversations that need to be had.

Of course, there is still a virus in America that we should not forget about. The fear is that all the congregating across the nation will lead to a spike in cases in the very near future. Most people seem anxious though to take advantage of greater freedoms. People are going to restaurants to eat outdoors. I am not quite yet willing to do that, but I did get a haircut today for the first time in almost three months.The job report that came out yesterday which of course still shows high unemployment, was surprisingly better than expected and the current President took a victory lap of course and even shamefully claimed it was a "good day for George Floyd." Opponents of the Administration claim the numbers were cooked and the true unemployment rate is higher than claimed. I really do not know what to believe, but just remember the roles were reversed eight years ago when Barack Obama was seeking reelection and Republicans like myself were claiming unemployment was likely much higher than we were being told.

The election is now less than five months away. This week, Joe Biden formally clinched enough delegates to become his party's nominee. With all that has happened since the first few weeks of primary voting, that kind of delegate counting seems like eons ago. Nobody really know just how he will formally accept his party's nomination at this summer's convention in Milwaukee. Will a convention even happen in person? Donald Trump and Republicans want a big television spectacular with large crowds, but now seem to be seeking a new site as the RNC was unable to come to common ground with the reasonable health related questions asked by officials in North Carolina. So goodbye Charlotte, hello Mar A Lago ballroom?

I would not nearly have the time here to analyze all the political aspects of what we have seen this past week. We just know that as General Jim Mattis, the former Defense Secretary in Donald Trump's Cabinet tells us, he is the first President to not even try to unite us as a people. The ardent supporters of Trump basically say good, we do not want to be united with the other side. Clearly, many on that other side fully agree. People are ready, willing, and able to be tribalized these days. That will lead to much contention in this election home-stretch, but also in the aftermath.

As to be expected, Trump has attempted to use the rioting and looting to his political advantage. After all, I believe a majority of Americans were disgusted by much of what they have seen in terms of activities that went far beyond peaceful protests. Many harken back to 1968 when Richard Nixon was able to win during a time of unrest by calling for "law and order" (while also stressing unity.) He was running as the challenger though, and he also happened to be a former Vice President, just like Biden is now.

Trump calls himself the President of  "law and order" but through his rhetoric and actions is far more like the President of "bull and shit." This week we saw first of all, the disgraceful burning of an historic church, which had long been active in civil rights causes, during the unrest in Washington D.C. That should appall every American. Trump though, staged a photo op, where he walked to the church from the White House, but only after peaceful protestors had been dispersed by federal law enforcement officials by using gas. I have no issue with the cops being tough on unruly mobs, but this was not the case at that very moment, and this was certainly uncalled for, just for a Trump photo-op. So, our egotistical President, who rarely goes to church himself, walked up to the damaged church and held (upside down) a Bible that did not belong to him. It was perhaps reality television at its most cringey, though his die-hard fans of course claim to love it. This reportedly happened because Trump was incensed that reports leaked that he had been taken to the White House "bunker" on Friday night during heated protests outside the gates.

Even many Republicans have been unable to defend this episode and for some in the media are claiming it might be a turning point. Defense Secretary Mark Esper walked to the church and posed in a photo with Trump but then tried to distance himself from the even, reportedly angering Trump to almost firing him. This also spurned Esper's predecessor General Mattis, once a Trump apologist talking point in regards to the "grown-ups" around him to issue a scathing essay about this matter and of the concept of the armed forced in the streets of America to quell unrest as Trump has said he wants and has threatened to deploy. Mattis's words were eloquent but fairly brutal. He all but compared the Trump Administration's tactics to those of the Nazis. Trump fired back against his former Defense Secretary, not on the merits, but by launching personal and clearly inaccurate attacks.

One thing is clear. Trump likes the idea of force to "dominate the streets" and stop unrest. After all, he is on record in having praised the brutal way Communist China cracked down on their protestors years ago in Tienanmen Square and we all know how he seems to feel these days about the brutal dictator Kim Jong Un.

Of course, I have to once again say that too many in politics and the media have been off track in giving a pass to those who break the law in what they claim is a response to injustice. Yes, some people are justified in righteous anger, but that will never be the solution to alleviating racism. It will only serve the sick purpose of elevating racism. When black America speaks about what they have been through and how they feel in America, white America needs to listen. These are legitimate concerns. We also need to not be so scared of discussions that will be considered politically incorrect or distorted for selfish reasons by disingenuous voices on the political left. Any African-American unjustly killed by a white cop is a tragedy and should never happen. We should never stop fighting against those cases. However, the truth is that far more African-Americans are killed, not by white cops, but through street violence perpetuated by other African-Americans. We need to deal with this problem too and it is incumbent on all of us, white, black, and otherwise, to want this pandemic to go away too. Those black lives matter too and I want to see all Americans just as indignant in stopping gang violence as in stopping police violence. In both of those circumstances, the culture of silence needs to stop. We need a lot more "snitching" if we are to save innocent lives. The time for excuses should be over. Let the horrible death of George Floyd motivate us to address all the hard questions, not just the politically correct ones.

According to the polls, Joe Biden might be months away from being President. This week, in Philadelphia, he gave what I thought was a pretty good speech on all of this and the need for greater unity on racial matters. He was correct in how he called out Donald Trump but of course unwilling to address the role that many in his party, including himself, have played in fostering division.

Later this week, Biden made a claim that 10-15 percent of Americans were "not very good people." Some are debating if this is a gaffe or not. Frankly though, most Democrats have said they agree with him or think he soft-pedaled the number. My feelings are mixed. For one thing, I can parse the words "not very good people" and say that perhaps that is different than "bad people."

These days, from what we see on television and online, it is hard to claim that there are not a lot of truly deplorable folks out there. Ten to fifteen percent though? That is literally many, many millions of people and I find it hard to believe there are that many. In any event, anyone running for President should not be saying things like that publicly. Both Trump and Biden are guilty of it. Their tribes will applaud them at every turn but it disappoints me.

Amid what all in America are facing these days, we need to remember the words of President Abraham Lincoln during what was even a worse time in our history:

"We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature."


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