Trump’s USA: Reality Show or Reinvention?
The world spins into chaos every few decades, but few spin as fast as the United States is currently doing under Donald Trump, the director of what was once the top reality show in the US, now the country’s president.
The death of George Floyd, an African American man who died with a police knee to his neck while begging for his life, lit a fuse that blew up into the burning and looting of Minneapolis and rallies around the country, some violent. Simmering anger over dozens of killings of blacks over the years boiled over, these days often caught on mobile phone videos, showing beatings and shootings of victims not capable of harm. Trump initially warned the protestors that lootings would lead to shootings, and threatened mayors and governors that if they did not take a tougher stance, “I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them.”
The rallies grew, spreading even overseas to Canada, Germany, the United Kingdom and South Korea, and online in many other countries — and Trump took a tougher stance. On June 1, police officers and National Guard troops used chemical spray, smoke and sound bombs, and forcibly pushed peaceful protestors out of the way — to allow Trump to go to take photos with the Bible in hand in St. John’s Church.
Mariann Budde, the Episcopal bishop of Washington, D.C., denounced the president’s use of the Bible and her church for the PR stunt. Twitter earlier tagged Trump’s posts as glorifying violence. He has been rebuffed by the mayor of Washington. D.C., for his offer to control their rallies, same with Atlanta, New York city mayors and by the state governors.
In an unprecedented move, in the past week, a number of declarations of differences of opinion with their president were made public by the US military establishment. Trump’s previous Secretary of Defense James Mattis issued a statement denouncing the president, “We are better than our politics.” Current US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper has also moved to put space between himself and the president. Retired General John Allen differed with the president’s actions on the St. John events, writing that “his actions may well signal the beginning of the end of the American experiment… Donald Trump isn’t religious, has no need of religion and doesn’t care about the devout, except insofar as they serve his political needs. The president failed to project any of the higher emotions or leadership desperately needed.” And many more…
This may be more an indication of sympathy with the popular indignation in the US about the military and some image of their dignity and role, than right or wrong in the universal sense. After all, the injustices and brutalities against the minorities have never been given much attention, and the convictions are few and very light compared to the crime. And the US military invades other countries, causing hundreds of thousands of civilian casualties; engages in torture; assassinated Iran’s general recently; blocked medical supplies from Iran, Venezuela and Cuba; bombed Syria before the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapon had conducted its investigation, all without much issue. Mattis himself is called “Mad Dog” for alleged war crimes in Iraq and protecting killers of civilians, but is highly respected in the US military institutions. Perhaps foreign lives, black lives, migrants, all matter less, but we should be cognizant nevertheless that there may be limits to injustice, or acceptable use of force, and that the situation may begin to change. There are many good people in the US police and military, like all countries and peoples, everyone has to just stand up and show that they draw lines of what is clearly wrong. Hopefully the world’s powers will help us move in the direction of increased tolerance and harmony rather than taunts and provocations, division and force.
Somewhat difficult for a president who has attacked the Muslims, Mexicans, Chinese, allies and partners, almost the entire media. Recently President Trump called the London Mayor Sadiq Khan “stone cold loser” and challenged him to an IQ test (which if pursued may make for a hit reality show episode). “Kahn [sic] reminds me very much of our very dumb and incompetent Mayor of NYC, Bill de Blasio, who has also done a terrible job — only half his height.” Sounds very much like the days when political correctness wasn’t such a big thing. Did anyone ever complain about height-shaming? Trump has also discredited the World Health Organization endorsed by the rest of the world, the International Criminal Court, and promised to arrest any of its investigators of US crimes if they visit the US, considered the United Nations useless and declared Obamagate the greatest of crimes, but without details.
Zen and Taoist wisdom says that to see far, one must have clarity, which comes from stillness and silence. More can come from less. The Christian religion preaches that one must listen to the spirit, the Muslims that it must come from prayer and fasting, the native American Indian practices periods of communion with nature. The US and the world are in need of these silences and listening that all religions and philosophies commend — to carry one through periods of disturbance, not by more quick retorts and tweets, and drowning out others through media.
In a brotherhood-sisterhood of nations, the big sibling must lead and be respected… even though from time to time everyone falters. The US is a creative and spiritual power as well, and has reinvented itself in the past, and everyone must work together to address both the immediate problems of anger and reviving the economies, and also the fundamental issues of fair justice, equilibriums of necessary work and shared fruits of the economies. The US style of adversarial and unfettered competition attitudes, and partisanship in both personal and national levels has turned deadly for itself. We should pray for each other — instability in the biggest economy and military in the world cannot be good for, and may even endanger, the world.
Part of the power to move peoples in what happened to George Floyd was not that he was perfect or well known, it was that people around respected him as a good man, a “Gentle Giant”. Videos showed him, a Christian, an optimist who moved to have a better life, exhorting the young blacks to not waste their lives, to work for a better future. While his neck was pinned, he didn’t curse but said “Please, please,” and that as he was dying, he called “Mama, Mama.” Gen. George Allen was listening because he asked the public to listen to Terence, the brother of George Floyd, who asked that the protests in his brother’s name be peaceful. That a general will listen, and the brother of the deceased could ask for restraint instead of anger, shows that there are still the elements of greatness and justness that can be fanned again in the US to make it a leader, not because it is rich and has a mighty military and media, but because it can lead amid diversity. Part of the Series: “George Floyd: Racial murder leads to burning of Minneapolis, destabilizes US”
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**Also published in: https://www.manilatimes.net/2020/06/07/opinion/columnists/trumps-usa-reality-show-or-reinvention/729872/