Silence When It Matters
Terry H. Schwadron
May 28, 2020
We know what it looks like when Donald Trump and his administration think that current events have gone awry.
We have come to expect tweets galore (truth notwithstanding), Rose Garden insults and slaps, a strident tone against things that range from mask-wearing to all-things-Russia to the need for a totally reopened economy. By this measure, we also know that anything less than having the Trump amplifier volume set at 11 means that the administration does not hold the issue du jour in bad odor — and may even find objectionable behavior in a positive light.
That’s what we learned from the Charlottesville riots, with good people on both sides, per Trump, or his comparable outrage over a football player bending a knee in quiet protest. He is noisy in his trashing of international trade and security issues, and, muted in any concern arising from border scenes of separating children from families in the ever-present immigration emergency that this administration finds.
So, in the aftermath of the police homicide in Minneapolis, the shooting of a black jogger in a Georgia suburb, this odd, but too-familiar Central Park incident in which a white woman called 911 for cops to protect her against a black bird-watcher. what we have from Trump is an assessment, upon questioning, that it is a sad event.
Silence, or relative silence but for one “sad,” is unacceptable.
No, I don’t believe this president — or any — is the supreme arbiter of right and wrong, but the office requires reflecting a public somberness and seriousness about a continuing and building problem. It is worse if that president is tied to policies that appear to support bad behavior among an American public whose coarseness and blamefulness is on an continuous upward spike.
This is a president who hesitates not a moment before entering his strong, loud and influential voice in individual cases real and imagined, who sees no distance between his office and the Department of Justice, inappropriately reaching into military justice cases on behalf of a favored Seal leader and against a Navy captain trying to save his crew from coronavirus.
But for now, crickets. Ditto the Justice Department, the Homeland Safety people, the Republican leaders in the Congress. No partisan gain, no care.
The Minneapolis death
There are plenty of immediate voices ruing police procedures that have led, seemingly inevitably, to the videotaped death from a police officer’s knee pressed into the neck of George Floyd on a routine police stop. At least three other police officers were looking on — and all four have now been fired by a visibly irate mayor, though the district attorney’s office has yet to say anything.
The comparisons with the Eric Garner death in Staten Island are obvious, but this death fits into a long, long list of deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of local police officials.
This death is coming amid a spate of killings of unarmed black men, as in Georgia, and a rising number of these weird cases in which white women are calling police for seeing a black man in a store, in their street, and now in Central Park. Some, like this most recent case, are captured in video — in this case, the very act of filming with a camera seems to have inflamed the situation. It’s prevalent enough to have adopted its own “Karen” shorthand name.
We have a racism problem that is getting worse. Coronavirus has added an extra layer of anti-Asian violence and spite, renewed anti-Semitism incidents, anti-Bill Gates conspiracies, and actual fights and shootings over requests for mask-less protesters to put on a protective mask
From Donald Trump, what we get is Zero. Even when he does speak, as he did about the Georgia case, it was a generalized, soft, quiet unhappiness over the incident. . With the exception of an on-again, off-again FBI intervention, we’re not doing much about it.
The same president who can work up outrage over lack of investigation of a baseless charge of murder 19 years ago of an intern in the Florida office of former Rep. Joe Scarborough (She died after a fall, prompted by a heart problem), Trump cannot find it important to speak to a rising tide of racism.
What Do We Make of It?
Under Trump, we have stopped federal investigations of various police department practices and culture that have contributed to the rising deaths of blacks by police. Under Trump, we have accelerated national divisions over income, housing, and now disease. There seems no acknowledgement that coronavirus is hitting disproportionately at urban areas with large black and brown communities.
Under Trump, it is more important to hit back at criticism first, to threaten Twitter and other social media for allowing critics, and, to his mind, disallowing conservative voices, whether about race, immigration or face masks.
Jacob Frey, the mayor of Minneapolis, made it clear: Being black in America should not be a death sentence.
I would like to hear this message and campaign taken up by the White House.