Saturday, May 30, 2020 by Darren Clarke
In the wake of the ongoing protests incited by a Minneapolis police officer killing George Floyd on May 25th the President of the United States reacted with a tweet/threat at 12:53 AM, May 29th, that seemingly parroted the words used both by Miami’s police chief (and noted racist), Walter Headley, in 1967, and by presidential candidate and segregationist George Wallace in 1968-
“When the looting starts the shooting starts.”
A helpless man pleading for his life, “Please… I can’t breathe,” under the knee of a police officer hadn’t pulled Donald Trump’s attention away from a tantrum about getting fact checked on Twitter but the looting of Target, that got his attention. The morning after his late night tweet/threat it was announced Donald Trump was holding a press conference at 2 pm. Which got me to thinking- What should he say? What would Donald Trump say if he wasn’t hopelessly devoted to flim-flam, if he was say, in between that 1 AM Tweet and the next morning, visited by three ghosts?
So I wrote it.
Here’s the press conference speech Donald Trump should have given but never did-
America has never been great.
Let’s start there- America has never been great.
Hundreds of years ago Americans kidnapped and enslaved Africans. That’s an indelible part of who we were and who we are- We are the people that kidnapped and enslaved human beings because, well, because we could, and because we didn’t have the good conscience to do better.
We built enormous wealth on the toil of those slaves while taking away their freedom, denying them liberty and education, limiting our estimation of these people and their descendants to that of being mere possessions. We were so attached to this lack of humanity we couldn’t provide even a modicum of freedom without fighting a Civil War. Since that time where freedom was extended more symbolically than actually we have contradicted ourselves via segregation, via mass incarceration, via pervasive, systemic, racism, via police brutality, via voter suppression, via unequal access to all things, and via an intensely corrupted justice system.
We were a long ways away from greatness then and with each step forward we seem to have always taken one step back.
Here today, hundreds of years after we endeavoured to kidnap and enslave people to increase our wealth we are in many ways as corrupt, as brutal, as lacking in human decency as the mindset that drove those who initially perpetrated slavery.
Here, today, we continue to fail to be decent human beings.
We need to first acknowledge the sins of our past and recognize they still exist today. We need to apologize for that. We need to meaningfully act to make amends.
Given the history of white on black brutality we need to acknowledge the divide we have created between races. We need to understand what we’ve done and be accountable. We need to listen to the black community now. Really listen, really empathize and really act to begin the difficult chore of actually providing equal access to the pursuit of, life, liberty, justice and basic human decency.
So beginning right now we will be inviting members from all across the black community to speak to us about their reality. We will invite interested members from the business community, from the arts, we will invite parents, single parents, we will invite children, we will invite historians, poets, philosophers, professors, doctors, nurses, farmers, janitors, electricians, we will invite inmates, we will invite the unemployed, we will invite Black Lives Matters activists and when we they are finished telling us their thoughts and stories we will ask them who else we need to hear. And when we’ve listened exhaustively we will ensure that the black community is the driving force behind real action moving forward.
Let’s start there- With listening. Really listening.
Because we haven’t been listening.
To be honest when George Floyd died at the hands of a police officer I wasn’t listening at first. This latest example of our willingness to look the other way in the face of the most damning evidence of systematic, pervasive, racism, being ignored by myself, by the police force, by the prosecutors in Minneapolis, and in the end enabling this endless cycle of institutionalized violence.
George Floyd shouldn’t be dead. But he is. Ahmaud Arbery shouldn’t be dead. But he is.
We need to seek justice for them and their families, we need to act to prevent this from continuing to happen. We need to change because lives depend upon it. We need to change because who we are depends upon it. And change begins with listening.
Our inability to listen, our inability to hear, has left people feeling like they have no other choice but to protest and riot. Too often our attention has come only in the form of more contempt and more violence. Too often we have heard only what we wanted to hear, perverting the cries of those who we have mistreated into something we could easily dismiss.
We need to start by listening honestly, by wanting to hear things that may often be uncomfortable to hear, things that point out the worst aspects of ourselves. We need to listen humbly. Let us not turn away from facing the failings of our forefathers, the failings of our nation, the failings of ourselves. Let us not seek to retreat, like we historically always have, to entitlement, to white fragility, to ignorance, to violence.
Let us seek the truth no matter how uncomfortable it is.
Speaking of which… If you are thinking that as someone who has embodied racism in my actions as a landlord, as a businessmen, as President, as someone who has shamelessly leveraged the racial divide in this country to gain and maintain power, if you are thinking that I am the last person who should be leading this movement you are right.
You are right.
I am a symbol of the deeper ailment that has progressively placed a firmer grip on America- a huckster, a con man, a veritable pirate willing to surrender any and all pretence of decency and conscience for self enrichment. I am a symbol of the modern, ethics-free, pyramid-scheme, politician, inserted into power mainly to provide access to various forms of predatory capitalists to fully loot America. And that’s what I’ve done. I have facilitated the infiltration and overwhelming of democratic and public institutions to allow for the acceleration of wealth inequality in our nation. Because let’s be honest, the only way the rich are going to get richer is if you get poorer.
But I’m here now. I am the President. And I recognize how wrong I’ve been in every possible way and I will start this most important undertaking despite myself. Yes we need to urgently start listening to the black community alongside taking real and meaningful action but in conjunction there’s things we can do right away that will inarguably make the lives of the Black Community better- In Education I can remove Betsy Devos, a person wildly unqualified and wildly corrupt, from her position as Secretary of Education. We can look to invest in our schools and teachers. We can invest in our Public Healthcare system institutions and nationalize individual healthcare so all Americans have access. We can remove the lobbyists I have insinuated into various levels of government particularly those that impact your environment- the water we all drink, the air we all breathe. I can act to not only stop the ongoing efforts of the Republican party to suppress voting particularly in communities that traditionally do not vote for us- which, of course, would largely be the black community. I can look to enhance access to voting for all Americans. I can act to work on limiting campaign financing to stop corporations and predatory businesses from effectively buying seats in Congress and the Senate. I can have our justice system, from the outside and within, begin necessary change to end systematic discrimination and mass incarceration. I can act to demilitarize our police forces and increase accountability for police officers who look to perpetrate violence on fellow citizens. I can lead a long overdue, honest, look at gun violence seeking to address the idiotic gun culture in our country that leads to too many Americans being shot, with more aggressive, more consistent, gun control. Make no mistake, the lives of too many Americans, in particular here, the black community, have been forfeited by our unwillingness, my unwillingness, to address the undue influence of the NRA and the gun lobby. I can look to stop the pilfering of American wealth by corporations and billionaires and reassert reasonable taxation and regulation on them.
There’s a ton of work we can start on right now. Obvious wrongs. Obvious inequities. In unison with these efforts we will seek to sincerely apologize for our ongoing racism, to fully understand its’ impacts, and to attempt to make things right.
America has never been great. Not ever. Not for one minute. Not for one second. And there’s nothing wrong with that if we are urgently looking to evolve and get better. We have been at best, the possibility of greatness. That possibility exists most clearly in our willingness to change, to recognize our failings, to strive to overcome then. That possibility exists most optimistically in what is is best about us not what is worst.
Let’s start here. I am sorry. I was wrong. I need to make things better. Just as the coronavirus has pointed to my failures as President- my gutting of the Centre for Disease Control, my inaction and deflection, my constant warring on access to healthcare, my marginalization of immigrants and the disenfranchised, so too has the continual attacks on blacks by police officers and other white men with guns shone a light on my failings as President.
I have leveraged the racial divide in this country for power. I have inflamed and emboldened the worst aspects of the white community. There’s an all too real body count attached to that. In lieu of this and so many other failings I will not be seeking re-election in November however in the few months I have left I will try to do some good.
We aren’t great, we aren’t going to be great any time soon but we can start by doing some good.
As we know that’s not what happened at the President’s press conference. Instead, as part of his ongoing efforts to distract from the death count attached to his comprehensive failure to prepare and react to the Coronavirus, he withdrew from the World Health Organization.
And then he left.
He set something on fire to distract from the blaze attached to his last case of arson. Because burning things down is all he knows how to do.
(Article picture via Wiki Commons)