Like everyone else, I am watching the world’s events unfolding in utter disbelief.
Martial being declared by an orange bastard, hiding in our White House’s basement. Protests by those who are rightfully angry over yet another murder of a black man by a white police officer. Riots that are breaking out all over, destroying businesses and homes and lives and which are prompting that same orange bastard to incite racial wars and try to limit our freedom of speech.
And that’s just us, and that’s not even counting the global pandemic. That’s not counting the people in India, for example, who are literally dying of starvation at the side of the road as they try to get home from other states, where they have been working – but they no longer have jobs, nor even enough money to ride the train. So they walk, unable to afford food until they collapse from starvation and exhaustion and die. Nor is it counting the horrendous typhoon that has recently hit that area, nor the fact that on this, the first day of hurricane season, we already have our third named storm of the year.
HOW did we get here?!
I am overwhelmed by the rapidity of the breakdown of our nation. I am overwhelmed by the fact that the real leadership in this country is coming not from the federal government – and anyone who knows me knows I am a dyed-in-the-wool Federalist – but from the mayors and governors, who are soldiering on and making calm, rational choices in the face of government opposition, in the face of government interference, in the face of government ineptitude. From Christine Todd Whitman, who just today tweeted to Trump to basically STFU, to the Houston Chief of Police who did the same thing, real leaders are stepping up where it counts. They don’t give a damn if it’s popular. They only care that it’s right.
If there is a silver lining to the protests, it is this: #blacklivesmatter is trending, not just here, but around the world. Liverpool’s soccer team took a knee in solidarity (https://www.bbc.com/sport/52875059) My Muslim friend in Hong Kong let me know that around the world, Muslims are speaking up in solidarity with the movement. Across Africa, especially in South Africa, marches and protests are being held to show solidarity. https://www.npr.org/2020/05/31/866428272/george-floyd-reverberates-globally-thousands-protest-in-germany-u-k-canadaNot only that, but across the country peaceful protests are being held as well – right here in Wichita, this weekend – and police officers are taking a knee and taking part. (https://www.bbc.com/news/av/world-us-canada-52883495/george-floyd-uplifting-moments-from-peaceful-protests?intlink_from_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.bbc.com%2Fnews%2Fworld&link_location=live-reporting-map#) I would like to think that this time, it will take hold. I would like to think that this time, we’re there, we’ve got it, that this time, the world is sick and tired of the discrimination and prejudice and the double standards and that this time, we’ll get it right.
To be clear, it’s not the protests and riots that bother me. We’ve done this a lot in our nation’s history. We did this in the 1760s, the 1790s, the 1830s, the 1860s. The Zoot Suit Riots of the 1940s and all the riots and protests of the 1960s and 70s, and into the 80s. We’ve been here, done this, before. We are always okay. Protest = change. Always has, always will. When the oppressed finally rise up, we have revolution. It’s not pretty, but it gets the job done. (God, I sound like Thomas Jefferson.) No, that’s not what bothers me.
What bothers me is the utter lack of responsibility from anyone at the top of the food chain in this country.
A real president would have been in the ground already in Minnesota. In Los Angeles. Birmingham. Meeting with the governors (or at least, meeting with them via Zoom), brainstorming, offering solutions and aid, but not dictating to them. A real president would be addressing the issues, offering real solutions. But we don’t have that. We have a whiny ass toddler who couldn’t find a coherent sentence – or an ounce of intelligence – if it bit him on the ass.
A long time ago – spring of 2016 – I wrote a couple of pieces that asked a simple question: what the hell did Trump want with the presidency? I postulated then that he would never abide by the Constitution, that he would use it to enrich himself, that he was only interested in what he could get from it. I was right on every single point. The one thing I did not foresee – or rather, did not want to consider – was that we would have a perfect storm in which he might want to grab total power, overthrow our Constitution, and wreck the very foundation of our democracy.
That’s where we stand today.
That’s what scares me. Not the rioting. Not the protesting. Not the coronavirus.
That this nation we love, whose history I have studied most of my life, whose Founding Fathers fought and died in order to create it, will be destroyed. That the reputation we started to build with Teddy Roosevelt as a world superpower and peace broker will be irrevocably destroyed, and we will become instead the largest banana republic in the world.
Is this how American colonists felt, in the 1760s and 1770s? When their protests and non-importation agreements worked, they were happy to remain part of the British Empire. When they stopped working, however, it was time to ask: what do we do now? Do we take the step off, into the abyss? Do we suck it up and continue on? At what point is living under tyranny no longer tolerable or possible?
Is this what it felt like in the 1950s, and especially the 1960s, as Freedom Riders were attacked, as men like Medgar Evers and Martin Luther King Jr. were killed, as Watts burned and men like Bull Conner vowed that he would ‘die trying’ to keep segregation as the law? As peaceful marchers were met with fire hoses and attack dogs as they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge – a bridge, I might add, named for a KKK Grand Dragon of all disgusting things?
No. It couldn’t have been. Because both times, we had real leadership. We had rioting Sons of Liberty, yes – but we also had the Committees of Correspondence, and later the Continental Congress, to lead the way. We had men like George Washington to lend a steadying hand. We had men like Kennedy, Johnson, and Eisenhower to provide us with thoughtful, real leadership and guide us through two of the most turbulent decades in our short history. We had men in the highest office of the land who were real leaders.
But we don’t have that now. Not from the top. For the first time in history that I can think of, what we have is leadership from the states. Not the federal government. The states.
We stand at the brink. It will take only a small thing to tip us into the abyss.