Let’s talk about symbols. Whether of words or gestures, symbols are important. Therefore let me say that the current, all-consuming national tragedy began with someone “taking a knee” – on the NECK of a fellow American. It turned into a deadly act of subjugation by a man radically and fatally abusing his civil authority. The image –and the symbol – lingers. Once upon a time, along with the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., we STOOD UP to declare our mutual love and we KNELT on both knees before a loving and all-powerful God. Powerful, affirmative symbols! We prayed together for deliverance from the sin of racism. We passed laws to that effect. King was murdered – a shocking and abiding symbol of how much work we had left to do. You can’t make people love one another. But since then, in our better moments, we’ve linked arms, tried (most of us) to obey those laws in the loving spirit in which they were ratified and again declared our respect for civil authority and for the symbols – such as the flag or the anthem – that unite us at public events, never pretending that our work of unifying was complete or that the fellow American to my right or left, however much I might disagree with him politically or religiously, did not continue to deserve my love, tolerance and understanding — especially if I expected him or her to love, understand and tolerate me. I think they call that the Golden Rule. The Colin Kepernick-generated symbol of “taking a knee” was an act of protest, yes (there’s nothing more American), but also an act of separation and disunion during very public demonstrations of unity and mutual respect, albeit enforced by both tradition, consensus and, in the case of the NFL, regulation. But Kaepernick’s gesture, disagree if you like, created needless tension and division and abides in my mind as a repudiation of our common bond of tolerance to which the national media, a craven, faceless monster of group-think, is now lending its imprimatur. It seemed to me to be a public act of anger. I know about anger. I’m often an angry person, for well or ill. But anger, along with sheer gleeful malevolence, is also why we are waking up to a ravaged nation of debris and death today. It’s also a sin. Meanwhile, the latest prominent soul to be swept before this wave of intimidation and political correctness run amok is Drew Brees, a seemingly decent and humble but patriotic family man who regularly puts on a uniform with fellow African-American teammates. I detect not a speck of racism in him. He simply loves his country and believes there’s a better, equally public, forum for powerfully airing grievances over lingering problems occurring at the intersection of police power and African-American civil and human rights. On NFL Sunday, Marathon Monday and many other times – we are together. And a week ago we were almost entirely together in our disgust and were loudly and peacefully protesting the outrage in Minneapolis. By contrast, the pronouncements and gestures of Kaepernick and his supporters, to my mind, play off the themes of white guilt and black power – all equally poisonous as claims of white supremacy. So – let’s not take a knee on one another’s necks. Let’s stand up – together.
“Yes, America is burning, but that’s how forests grow.” What?? What?? Wait a minute!! Let me read that again. “YES, AMERICA IS BURNING, BUT THAT’S HOW FORESTS GROW. Did someone really say that at a time like this? Certainly not anyone in a position of responsibility at a moment when untrammeled violence and flames are ravaging our cities and thousands of business are being looted and destroyed and police and citizens injured or even killed. It could only have been some callow, starry-eyed 6th grader, making it someone — just somewhat — forgivable and maybe worthy of a C+ for poetry. Or, perhaps, for splendidly observing nature’s grand pageant. Above all, I thought to myself, no adult ELECTED PUBLIC OFFICIAL ever said such a thing at a perilous and tragic moment when so many of our fellow citizens of every race are suffering. So I checked and read the remarks in the context of the speech that contained them, only to find them even more ludicrous, shocking and outrageous — in context. Some of you would rather not know who would say such a thing, if, indeed, they came from a public official. And I don’t blame you. So, warning: the following may contain information that may be unsuitable for those already suffering spasms of rage at the excuses and accommodations the political class and the media are making for the chaos that engulfs us. Those words came from Maura Healey, Attorney General of my native Massachusetts. Let me just say that a week ago, we were united as a nation in our disgust and anger and calling for justice at the sight of an innocent African-American man being strangled to death in broad daylight by a thug cop. Many of us do not deny that too many African-American men have been shot or killed by police for it not to signal some need for reform, intervention and re-education. ( I was an M.P. in the Army and underwent police training.) But now we are all being called racists. And we have an Attorney General suggesting we are undergoing a necessary purgation. She needs to say that to some small business owner, preferably an African-American one, standing in front of the charred remains of his clothing store. The 6th grader gets a C+ for poetry. Madame Attorney General gets an INCOMPLETE. Surely she can do better than this. For one thing, she can’t seem to see the trees — being American lives, labors and hard-earned possessions — for this fancifully regenerating forest. God help us!
Thug cop, righteously outraged citizens…then come the professional anarchists to set everything afire.
So — a bad thing happens. Happens to an African-American man. We’ve watched it. Been enraged and disgusted. (I’ll bet non-African Americans have suffered the same brutal injustice at the hands of a thug cop and we don’t know at this point the motive of this particular thug cop in a city I somehow believed might be generally more congenial on all scores only because it is in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s pacific, as in “peaceful and friendly” mid-west “where the dark fields of the republic roll on under the night.” But it’s either very significant or not that the victim was black. In the wired, camera-ready age, such things don’t escape public view, and it’s good that they don’t. (Let me modify that — many abuses do still undoubtedly escape public view, just fewer of them. ) Then, The Outside Agitators — such as ANTIFA — converge. The criminals and anarchists take to the streets to exploit the situation. They burn and loot. Shades of Detroit, L.A., Watts, Rochester, etc.,etc.etc. 170 business damages or destroyed in this episode — that can be updated by the hour. A police precinct burned down — and left undefended. Leaders retreat from the role of leadership, cowed into inaction. Fortunately, that seems to be changing. The home of the rogue jerk thug cop surrounded and food kept from being brought in even to his family (not that it is lawful to starve an accused criminal — and his family — to death). The attorney general’s house surrounded: intimidation, vigilantism, black racism ( one call recorded by cameras, “Kill all the Whites”.) Feckless pathetic politicians, race-bating charlatans such as Al Sharpton rush in.
I recall being at a drive-in movie in Fresno, California during the summer of ’67, a summer of much rioting in the nation. I’d walked to the concession stand in the middle of buy something and was walking back to the car where my friends and fellow employees at Kings Canyon National Park were waiting to enjoy the main featured movie. Suddenly on the big screen — they still had newsreels at the movies in those days — were scenes of Detroit burning during race riots there, an episode that helped begin that city’s decline. Then on the same big screen came a black-and-white image of President Lyndon Johnson addressing the riot situation. Echoing over the swarm of cars at the drive-in came LBJ’s words, “burning and destroying buildings has nothing to do with civil rights.”
This was the President who’d ushered with much political skill and maneuvering the monumental Civil Rights Act. Historians have said he was perplexed that he could do some much and then face this. He probably came to understand, as we must understand, that it isn’t all about racism. It’s about political anarchy and a belief that violence and upheaval usher in a new world order that generally falls outside anything we’d recognize as democracy, equality, racial harmony or justice. And it’s also kids of every race seizing the opportunity for destruction and trash all forms of authority. Listen to the lyrics of much rap music over the last generation. But it’s also about the “professionals” who know enough to exploit to the breaking point every civil unrest.
This is a tragedy redux. It will not end, ever, I fear. And I’m full of fear — as mass mayhem — that it bound to erupt down here in Florida, for what self-respecting trouble-making, race-baiting anarchist wants his neighborhood to escape the plague — falls into the middle of a pandemic which it shall also almost certainly re-ignite.
Pray. Then act. Or, at least, write or speak your own protest against criminal professional protesters.
…and nothing but a glance, very brief, in which I raise the question, was Barrack Obama a great President? I see ABC News has a poll saying that. Greatest President of the lifetime of those polled. Hmmmm.
Well, his was one of those Presidencies — there have not been that many, really, or perhaps none — in which the elites, Hollywood, those who play hard at identity politics decided this dazzlingly fine and personable liberal young speaker got to walk, boat-to-boat, on water, get the Nobel Peace Prize, t-shirts, Oprah. He was above criticism in their mind from the start, every bit as much as, in their mind, Trump is beneath contempt. An example of what I call the physics of politics — for every action there is an equal and opposite RE-action.
But while I liked President Obama, spoke with him briefly just once before he was elected and can well understand why people would contrast this natural “consoler-in-chief” unfavorably with the blustery, uncouth incumbent, I can’t see that he did anything except saddle us with an unworkable health care plan and push the Democratic Party culturally left — a journey it is continuing. Where are the guiding, stable principles? For instance — one tender example — on what grounds, other than a glance at the polls, was he ever against gay marriage? And one what grounds, other than a glance at the polls, justified his shift on such a profound, paradigm-adjusting issue?
It seems to me he ruled by executive order. This has become popular in the time of Congressional gridlock. But Congress is often gridlocked because we are in the middle of a shatteringly important social-cultural shift that threatens to pull us apart. There are days I think the modern American Presidency, not unlike the modern Papacy, has become too complex for one person.
As Kevin D. Williamson put it back in December of 2016, Obama ruled with a pen and a phone. He was great, as Clinton was great, to those who measure greatness by the force of your speech. In substance, in all kindness, I don’t think we’ve seen greatness for a while.