One nation divided by liberty and justice for some
It has never been more apparent in my lifetime just how interconnected we all are. This is not just because of the novel coronavirus pandemic and its ability to infect all of us regardless of age, race, religion or sex or that we are interdependent on each other to stem the tide of this infectious disease without a cure. Nor is it just because we have become intensely aware of how dependent we are upon essential workers who have previously gone unrecognized. And then even further, as we come to realize that the collective buying power of the working classes, which spends some $13.4 trillion a year is the real engine that makes our economy work, not so much Wall Street. The latter is more of a barometer than a thermometer of economic health.
It should also come as no surprise during all of these crises that a third one arises in the guise of racial injustice in America, leading us to a new awakening of an age old problem. There are echoes of this from the past. During the 1918 influenza pandemic following World War I, there was a fierce racial backlash and racial violence against African Americans perpetrated by forces committed to the entrenchment of white supremacy they have long been accustomed to in a changing world. We see it today in Donald Trump’s attempts to racialize COVID-19 as “Kung Flu” and his attacks on civil liberties and immigrant communities.
It comes to me that Donald J. Trump has risen up just like this virus. His outrageous tweets have become a virulent specter that embody the worst characteristics of this con artist and have infected the world — just like the coronavirus has. Try as we may to inoculate the population with real news, this Trumpian virus has wreaked havoc over the past few years. As with all pandemics humanity has faced, this too will be checked and made less destructive: It’s called “herd immunity.” Herd immunity is what happens when more than 70% of a population has recovered from an infectious disease and created antibodies to it.
As Trump’s poll numbers drop to sub-40 percentile levels in the wake of his Tulsa, Oklahoma campaign rally failure, we might perceive that the punking of his online ticketing for his rally by K-pop activists via TikTok was a kind of political antibody response to his infecting rhetoric.
That his campaign could be sabotaged by the very medium that brought him to unexpected victory in 2016 is its own kind of social justice that may only be relished after November. It just may be that the fever of this political virus, which is Trumpism, is about to break just like when you sweat out a cold from your system.
Let me be clear here, getting rid of Trump will not cure us of systemic social injustice in America, racism by any other words, but it would be a good start. Nor will it cure us of the plague of social media disinformation, both of which seem to be endemic to mankind generally. But it will rid us of this self-serving tyrant. He’s the one that even the slaveholding Founding Fathers warned us about and feared.
Yes, America is imperfect and it has rarely lived up to her hallowed creed of Liberty and Justice for all, but still, it is one of few countries where people can take to the streets to redress their grievances, to protest and to move the entire nation in a little less imperfect direction without being massacred. Don’t get me wrong, I am not dismissing the scourge of police brutality nor the use of federal troops in Lafayette Square and the use of tear gas on peaceful protesters, but rather, I’m saying it could have been far worse this time.
Sure there are moments when our country, against all the odds, seems to get it right, like the recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or the status of sanctuary cities in California, but there are many more examples like the 1921 massacre in Tulsa, Oklahoma where some 300 black Americans were killed by white vigilantes and their entire community burned to the ground. There are more examples of violence against people of color that are rarely taught in our history books that keep most white Americans, and even minorities themselves, blind or ignorant to the intolerance that has seeded this country from its beginning.
Racism is endemic to our American fabric and will be harder to cure than COVID-19. It can’t be solved with the passage of new laws, which must be done, or with creating new regulations on or reorganizing police departments, also a necessity.
But as Connie Rice, the famous L.A. civil rights attorney, said recently, police culture must change from that of being warriors to being guardians. I would take her words one step farther that as a nation we must all become guardians of liberty and justice, and not be the police force of the world nor complicit in tyranny and injustice. It starts here in our neighborhoods, in our schools, our streets, our city and state.
Democracy is best practiced at home first as a vaccine against tyranny and injustice before we try to inject it by force to cloak American economic interests abroad. It appears that “liberty and justice for all” is still a radical ideal that for a growing number of Americans is still worth standing up for. Perhaps it is time for democracy to go viral again — like a shot heard round the world.
It is the vaccine against the Trump virus.