Every day that goes by the fault line that defines America deepens as the dead bodies pile up around the molten divide.
In the midst of a once in a century pandemic that has killed hundreds of thousands of Americans and infected millions so much of America is fixing for a fight. We are like a large extended family restricted to being indoors for too long with some family members well-armed willing to start shooting just to get breathing room.
We can’t blame Donald Trump for this national alienation but he counts on encouraging it as the only way he can hold on to power and avoid being held accountable for decades of being above the law and corrupting every sphere within which he operated.
The ethos of greed infused self-interest at the heart of Trumpism was baked into the way we came upon the bounty that was this continent between Europe and Asia and our deferral of the reckoning for our original national sin of slavery and all the exploitation that has followed.
NOT AN ABERRATION
The holders of white male grievance and Donald Trump are both on the lam from the arc of justice and they will shoot their way out of the corner history has them in. His rise to power is merely a logical progression of all that has come before, not a radical departure from it.
A lack of upward mobility and economic hardship for an ever-increasing percentage of American families for decades prompted many to finger immigrants as the cause of their deteriorating circumstance.
A lot of Americans really like what Donald Trump did by separating migrant children from their parents and putting them in cages. As other commentators have expressed, ‘the cruelty is the point.’
Let’s not sugar coat it. Our history is a cruel one. Trump is actually in touch with white America’s dark side that’s defined by grievance, scarcity and an insatiable fear that there fundamentally isn’t enough to go around.
They have to jealously guard with their guns whatever they have, like Mark and Patricia McCloskey, the St. Louis couple, who stood outside their home and trained their guns on peaceful BLM protestors back in June, who were featured during the RNC convention.
IRISH NEED NOT APPLY
The notion that we ever really welcomed immigrants is a misremembering of our own history. The native people that were here first we killed off. Then we brought in hundreds of thousands of slaves from Africa to work the land we stole from the Native Americans. We kept the descendants of our captives in chains for centuries and have since beaten and murdered them when they attempted to exercise the voting franchise we pretended to extend them.
Almost twenty years ago, when our country was attacked and we had the sympathies of the nations of the world we went on a global shooting spree that upended several countries that helped set off the greatest migration of refugees since the Second World War.
And then, faced with the misery of the human blowback of millions trying to escape the regional wars we started we raced to close our borders.
On the eve of the climax of the RNC’s White House extravaganza, support on the right grew for a white 17-year-old, armed with an AR-15, who took it upon himself to travel from another state to Kenosha, Wisconsin to protect private property and allegedly murder two Black Lives Matter protestors in the process.
The 17-year-old, who was a police cadet in his Illinois hometown, conscripted himself into Donald Trump’s army that now includes New York City PBA president Patrick Lynch, the New Jersey State Police Benevolent Association and the International Union of Police Associations that have all endorsed the incumbent.
From the press reports this adolescent lived in a black and white world of a perennial war between the good guys and bad guys where guns are the only tools to sort it out. Now, he will have the rest of his life to contemplate all the shades that there are in between.
SKIN COLOR PASSPORT
The juxtaposition of the Kenosha police shooting of 29 -year-old Jacob Blake seven times in the back and the way the 17-year-old white ‘out of town’ vigilante was able to saunter past police, openly carrying his rifle he had just used, tells you all you need to know about our cold civil war swing state terrain.
His white skin was his passport from the chaos on the streets he shot his way out of so he could return to the neighboring state and sleep in his own bed as the families of his victims learned their loved ones would never sleep again.
He was pulled into this domestic war theater conjured up by Donald Trump who has cast himself as the tough guy willing to do whatever it takes to restore law and order, even though he sparked the chaos in the first place.
Trump has perfected the tyrant’s touch for using active duty military, law enforcement and religious clerics as extras in his movie. He shrouds himself in the symbols of righteous piety even as he instigates the violent disintegration of the nation that he needs to whittle down so he can pocket it.
DOUSER OF DIVIDES
He’s a douser of divides, exploiting the alienation between much of the American labor movement, that’s been supportive of the Black Live Matters movement, and those police unions who now have flocked to his side looking for cover.
Make no mistake, this presages just how he could get re-elected which would be the crowning success of Vladimir Putin’s installation of a red, white and blue authoritarianism.
Donald Trump’s worldview got a big boost from the appearance of Cardinal Timothy Dolan at the RNC. New York’s leading prelate’s prayer invoked the imagery of “our troubled cities and the police who guard them.”
Close your eyes and you can see that video of Trump standing in front of St. John’s Church holding a bible as a prop after US police and military forces used force to clear Lafayette Square of peaceful protestors.
Historically, dictators can only successfully consolidate their grasp on power when they coopt the symbols of law enforcement and religion, making it possible to extend their dominion over the here and now along with claims on the hereafter.
What better way to obscure his own crime wave and malfeasance in failing to execute a coherent national public health response to a virus that’s killed close to 200,000 Americans than by getting the imprimatur from the police unions and America’s cardinal’s prime time blessing.
What appears to be of no consequence to the police unions that have endorsed Donald Trump is his attack on the American labor movement to which they owe their very existence.
Trump has made a full court press to drive unions, like the American Federation of Government Employees, out of the federal workplace where they have been since 1962 when President Kennedy signed off on collective bargaining.
These federal workers, many of whom are veterans, staff the Bureau of Prisons, the Veterans Administration and dozens of other critical agencies. These are some of the same workers who were forced to work without pay for 35 days in 2018-19 by Trump because he wanted more money for a wall with Mexico, a wall he said Mexico would pay for.
And then there is Trump’s attempts to dismantle the U.S Postal Service, one of the nation’s most highly unionized enterprises that’s also one of the largest employers of veterans. It has not only helped knit the nation together with universal service, it has provided a path to the middle class to millions of people of color.
Under his tenure his National Labor Relations Board has “rolled back workers’ rights to form unions and engage in collective bargaining with their employers, to the detriment of workers, their communities, and the economy,” according to the Economic Policy Institute.
Trump’s appointment of Eugene Scalia, son of the late Supreme Court Justice Anthony Scalia to lead the Department of Labor, has turned it into “the Department of Employer Rights”, according to the Los Angeles Times. “Despite his positioning himself during his presidential campaign as a flag carrier for the working class, Trump has rolled back numerous pro-worker regulations from the Obama era and before,” writes Los Angles business columnist Michael Hiltzik.
His installation of corporate lobbyists in key agencies like the EPA, which safeguard the nation’s environmental health, put workers in the oil and gas industry at greater risk as well as the communities that host these industrial sites.
Trump’s despicable handling of COVID, denying it was a problem, then trying to subvert the states’ efforts to fight it, helped to spread the disease which has killed thousands of essential workers including doctors, nurses, EMTs, police officers, correction officers, transit workers, postal workers and teachers.
This scourge has decimated their families and will leave tens of thousands more with long-term, life-altering health complications just like the unsuspecting first responders who believed the EPA that the air was safe to breathe in lower Manhattan after 9/11.
For months now, President Trump has coopted the CDC and FDA to align their scientific guidance they offer with his deadly propaganda that too much testing is what is driving the rise in virus cases not his failure to have a coherent national public health strategy including requiring the wearing of masks and contact tracing.
His super-spreader campaign consists of events that pack cheek to jowl as many unmasked people as possible is churning through dozens of Secret Service agents who have been sickened by COVID or quarantined and of course exposed their own families to the deadly virus in the process.
His campaign’s flagrant violation of the Hatch Act prohibition against federal employees and assets, paid for by ALL taxpayers, being used for partisan political purposes is just the latest example of an unprosecuted crime wave enabled by the Republican Party which has been subsumed by Trump’s red-hot racist demagoguery.
This is the man who police unions are flocking to for protection.
Our current moment continues to be framed by so much of the corporate news media as just another quadrennial campaign with focus groups, polling and billions in ad revenue. Yet, our normal political discourse fails to capture the essence of our peril and the possibility the republic maybe well on its way to falling.
As Princeton University’s Eddie S. Glaude observes in his seminal book “Begin Again” what’s needed now is a “a third American founding in the context of a political transformation” that starts with owning the violent racism that’s been at the heart of the American narrative from its inception until this very day.
“It must involve a complete rejection of the way we have conducted politics up to now,” writes Glaude. “Otherwise, we will succumb to the temptation of safety and find ourselves trapped once again. It is worrisome that there is deep sentiment in some quarters in this country for nothing more than a return to American life before Trump.”
Glaude continues. “I find this feeling dangerous, because often it is not merely a response to the damage Trump has wrought on the country—and the American psyche—but also more subtly a reaction to all the long-standing and difficult questions Trump’s presidency has brought into view.”
At its core, 2020 marks the culmination of an age-old tug of war for the soul of our nation between two competing world views, one rooted in fear and scarcity, the other in faith and abundance.