Back during the pandemic (remember that?), nearly every corporate advertiser rushed out TV commercials stating, “We’re all in this together.”
No, we’re not.
Even our name, the United States, is a load of hooey. There’s nothing united about this country. We are instead bristling with divisions: right and left, white and black, pro-Trump and anti-Trump. Obviously, that refers to President Donald Trump, who, as his first defense secretary Jim Mattis said in an extraordinary statement, “is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people — does not even pretend to try. Instead, he tries to divide us.”
Even matters of public health, as in fighting the coronavirus, collapsed into anger, as heavily armed ultraconservatives, agitated by Trump, succeeded in prematurely reopening the country. Even wearing a mask became the subject of a violent dispute.
But then our powers of concentration were shattered to smithereens by still another example of the racial prejudice that runs deep in our history, and still another case of deadly abuse of citizens of color by the police. This time it was George Floyd, who was victimized by officer Derek Chauvin, who fancies himself a “Dirty Harry” but is really the prototypical dirtbag police abuser. Floyd was killed on the streets of Minneapolis, where his last words were “I can’t breathe.”
A passerby recorded the deadly encounter, so the officers involved were not able to default to the good ole days of law enforcement, when they would simply lie about the reasons they used deadly force.
That deadly force is disproportionally dished out to people of color, America’s traditional whipping boys. Time after time, even with video evidence, they get away with it. But this time, the sheer casual taking of a life that was captured by a smartphone struck a nerve, not just in Minneapolis, but around the country, and even around the world. Not only were there massive protests, but violent massive protests. The one good thing was that the confrontation with police forces everywhere did not include just blacks, but whites — for that matter, just about all demographic groups. George Floyd had unified much of America in an uprising.
And who is the one person you would not want to lead the nation in this crisis? Your president, Donald Trump, that’s who.
His behavior is getting even more erratic than ever. After issuing empty threats against the protestors, calling them “thugs,” pandering to his white supremacist base, he decided to rally his theocrats. So after ordering police and military forces to clear the area of peaceful demonstrators from the streets around the White House, he went totally berserk and took a stroll across the park to a nearby church that had been vandalized the night before.
He wasn’t through even then. He posed for pictures holding, get this, a Bible. It was so bizarre that even men and women of the cloth were offended. Of course, Trump as president has made it his hobby to destroy any shred of national unity.
If the Democrats get their act together, which is a big “if,” and actually do beat him this November, they will be left with a gargantuan task: stitching the country back together. It may not be possible. It certainly will be impossible if Donald Trump is re-elected.
Bob Franken is an Emmy Award-winning reporter who covered Washington for more than 20 years with CNN; his opinions are his own.