Alan Zendell, August 26, 2020
It was no coincidence when David Duke, convicted felon and former Grand Wizard of the KKK tweeted that our new president had their backs, the new president being Donald Trump and “they” being White Supremacists. It was no coincidence when heavily armed militia members in camo garb occupied state capitols in Michigan and Kentucky after Trump tweeted that supporters needed to resist Governors who issued mask orders to prevent the spread of COVID.
It was no coincidence, either, when armed vigilantes showed up to confront demonstrators in Kenosha, WI in the wake of protests over the police shooting of Jacob Blake. That occurred after two days in which the Republican Convention pounded away at the need for law and order, outlining an alternate reality in which Democrats favor lawlessness, Godlessness, and socialism. It was Trump pumping up his base of angry people who support his white-first agenda, whatever he chooses to call it.
In lionizing Mark and Patricia McCloskey, who aimed loaded guns at peaceful demonstrators in Saint Louis, Trump did what he always does. Without overtly saying so, he winks and nods at the worst of us, implying that it’s okay to express themselves with bullets. It was a clear, unsubtle invitation to Americans who do not support the Black Lives Matter movement to take up arms to defend their white suburbs. That kind of behavior is despicable – in other words, it’s typical Donald Trump.
Self-styled militias and vigilante groups have nothing to do with law enforcement. People who take the law into their own hands are criminals. If they injure or kill anyone, they are guilty of felonies. They are more dangerous than looters and arsonists, because their actions are unauthorized and their presence enflames already explosive situations.
Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth unambiguously addressed the issue of deputizing armed citizens: “Hell no! I won’t deputize private citizens. Deputies must be trained to strictly follow all police procedures and directions. What a scary, scary thought. These people create confrontation. They are not helping.” He went on to decry the role of social media, specifically Facebook, for spreading misinformation and letting itself be used as a vehicle by radical troublemakers to invite vigilantes into situations where they have no place.
Last night, one of those vigilantes, a seventeen-year-old boy who traveled to Kenosha from Antioch, Illinois, egged on by right wing activists and Facebook postings which had no purpose other than to provoke violence, shot and killed two protestors, and severely injured a third. It was all captured on video, and he has been arrested and charged with first degree intentional murder.
The events in Kenosha, this week, are tragic. But the harm done to that peaceful midwestern city is only the tip of the iceberg. Trump not only condones, but willfully incites this kind of violence, because he believes it will inspire his base to re-elect him. Over the last three years many people have warned that Trump is dragging us toward Fascist authoritarianism. Armed vigilantes are a chilling reminder of Nazi Brownshirts terrorizing German citizens in support of Adolf Hitler’s policy of racial purification.
A majority of Americans of all races have been horrified by the continued overuse of violence by law enforcement against people of color. As awful as that it, it is only made worse by a president who encourages more violence by his supporters. It demonstrates in the clearest possible terms that nothing that increases his power and wealth is out-of-bounds. Is there anything he would not do to assure his re-election?
Having lived through the Civil Rights Movement, the wars in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan, and the rise of right wing politicians, Americans my age have seen our country swing away from the idealism of our youth to angry self-righteousness. I once subscribed to the naïve, complacent notion that America’s values were unassailable, but I failed to take into account the lengths people will go to when they’re driven by greed and lust for power. Rather than speak of equality and racial blindness, Trump is leading us exactly where we feared he would. If he is not defeated in November, we can look forward to more and more armed confrontations between extremists at both ends of the spectrum.
I did not choose the banner for this blog lightly. It lays out exactly what our founders intended when they drafted the Constitution. “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity…” Most of us know the rest, but it means nothing to Donald Trump.