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  • June 3rd, 2020


By Joel M. Vance


Clint “Dirty Harry” Eastwood recently turned 90. He is famous for growling “make my day” while fondling his Smith & Wesson.44 Magnum revolver in preparation for blowing away some bad guys. Eastwood, while one of the great movie directors of all time, is politically sometimes right of Attila the Hun, but you forgive him because he’s making great entertainment, not national policy.


Coincidentally, our local newspaper, a right wing rag which gives op-ed space to every raging conspiracy whack job in its circulation territory, and whose editorial page columnists trumpet the gospel according to Mitch, Lindsey and, and Dirty Donnie, recently headlined its Sunday front page lead story “Report: COVID 19 cost Missouri tourism 2.16 billion.” Buried on page five was the headline “Missouri reports 33 new COVID 19 deaths, making total 771”. There, in a nutshell, is how the paper and by extension the Dirty Donnie presidency views the Covid 19 pandemic— an unwelcome intrusion into what’s really important, the economy and making money for people like the president. Never mind more than 100,000 Covid 19 deaths nationally, let’s get business open and make money.


Intruding upon this less than noble pursuit of Mammon, is the infamous incident of a Minneapolis cop kneeling on the throat of a black man, George Floyd, until the unfortunate victim died, a murder which has triggered a subsequent rash of rioting in various cities around the country where African-Americans have been killed in encounters with police. Setting aside for a moment discussion about the demonstrations, let me quote Donald J “Dirty Donnie” about one demonstration which took place in front of the nation’s symbolic home, the White House.


Dirty Donnie using his favorite weapon, Twitter, tweeted about the turn toward violence in demonstrations after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.” Presumably from the White House (unless he was hiding out somewhere) Trump also threatened to turn vicious dogs loose on protesters, an echo of the nineteen sixties when Birmingham, Alabama, public safety commissioner Bull Connors sicced police dogs and turned fire hoses on peaceful civil-rights protesters. I had thought that might be the low point of the battle by African Americans for equal rights during the tumultuous Sixties, but I hadn’t reckoned on the emergence of someone like Dirty Donnie.


Nothing he has done so far is more symbolic of the chaotic condition the country Dirty Donnie has brought the country to was when he ordered his storm trooper bodyguards clear a path for him with rubber bullets and tear gas so he could pose for a photo, uninvited and unwelcome on the steps of an Episcopal Church, clutching a Bible for unexplained reasons. If ever in the chaotic history of the Trump presidency there was a moment when God should have smote him, it was that moment. You have to wonder if God hasn’t washed his hands of the whole unhealthy mess we have created of His creation, and left us to fend for ourselves while He has gone on to more successful projects somewhere else in the universe.


Trump so far has used the office of the presidency, not to lobby for calm and an end to the divisiveness which is fracturing the country, but instead has with obvious malice tried to shift blame for the national unrest to the governors, the Democrats, Black Lives Matter, and for all I know, the man in the moon. His  strategy always is “divide and conquer”.   He thrives on creating conflict and stirring up ill feeling. It’s not an attractive attribute in anyone, much less the president of the United States.


Trump threatens to (and maybe by the time you read this already has) mobilize active duty military personnel against demonstrators, apparently without regard as to whether they are peacefully assembled or not. Using the military as a police force within the United States is illegal, and would seem to graphically violate the First Amendment of the Constitution granting people the right to peacefully assemble and to “petition the government for redress of grievances”.


Setting the military against the citizenry would seem to be a short step away from a military dictatorship, something that until now would have seemed frightening and impossible. We’ve always had faith in Congress and the Supreme Court to stand in the way of a military takeover, but conservative majorities in both the Senate and Court raise the ghastly specter of them simply standing by while Dirty Donnie turns the United States of America into chaos.


A few days ago protesters set fires near the White House and in response, Dirty Donnie turned out the lights and retired to the White House bunker. Does anyone else sense an echo of a suicidal Adolf Hitler hiding in his bunker in his final few days or of Saddam Hussein being dragged from a spider hole by American troops? Before he ordered his troops to clear a path to the church so he could hold aloft a Bible which he certainly never has read and which in no way follows its precepts, he called Russian dictator Vladimir Putin, probably for instructions on how a dictator is supposed to act.


Dirty Donnie has done so many irrational and erratic things in the past few days that any explanation short of declaring him mentally unbalanced would be like searching for the proverbial pony in the proverbial heap of dung. There is no pony there, folks—just a pile of political manure. Dirty Donnie is a lethal threat to the integrity of the Democratic Republic, an unbalanced incompetent who has demonstrated intent to destroy the best of us. He has besmirched the legacy of a once noble Republican Party, probably dooming it to an ignoble footnote in the history of the country. More frightening, he threatens to take that, Democratic Republic down the same ignoble path. Do we want to be a military dictatorship? I pray not, but we better do something pretty damn quick to avoid it.


 I don’t recall any Birmingham cops strangling protesters as prejudiced as they undoubtedly were against African-Americans. I was working on a Montgomery Alabama newspaper at the time, encountering  virulent racial prejudice on a nearly daily basis. George Wallace and John Patterson were engaged in a political race for the governorship and it was a tossup as to which one was more deserving of damnation. White Citizen’s Councils were springing up everywhere in the South like poisonous mushrooms. They were an alternative form of the Ku Klux Klan and their repulsive beliefs of white superiority are active today in neo-Nazi and militia type groups that flourish on the fringe of society.


The White Citizen’s Councils formed in1954, predating my stay in Montgomery by two years. They were spawned in response to the 1954 Supreme Court ruling that in theory desegregated the nation’s schools (although in actuality the reality of equal education had to wait many years, and given the administration’s attitude toward public education today under the leadership of private school advocate Betsy DeVos is still not a given).


The objective of the White Citizen’s Councils not only was to oppose integration of schools, but to oppose voter registration in the South where the obstreperous groups were prevalent. Here’s what Wikipedia says about them “members use intimidation tactics including economic boycotts, firing people from jobs, propaganda, and threatening and committing violence against civil rights activists.” Does any of that resonate with today’s right wing philosophy?


The Councils at their peak had about 60,000 members, including all three members of the Montgomery city commission.  Today, militia groups are estimated to have perhaps 40,000 members nationwide. It was, for an African-American in Montgomery when I was there, an exceedingly uncomfortable time and, for me, a white person from Missouri which was no exemplar then or now for racial justice, who had a deep sense of racial injustice then and now, a continual deep feeling of revulsion.


Dirty Donnie has given today’s rebirth of the White Citizens Council types  credibility by calling them “very fine people” after a demonstration in Charlottesville a while back where a peaceful protester was killed, and in veiled language he has equated the peaceful African-American demonstrators in today’s protests with the looters (which mounting evidence indicates often are neo-Nazi and Confederate flag waivers from out-of-state). There always will be a segment of the population looking for a fight. Demonstrations against the killing of George Floyd have provided these gun waving rednecks with an excuse to get involved.


They may claim that they are sticking up for the police, but what they really are is just another disgusting example of the Ku Klux Klan, the White Citizens Councils, and roadhouse thugs, rebelling against authority, and what they perceive as life not giving them what they think they deserve because it’s what they want. In an old movie, “The Wild Ones” Marlon Brando, playing a motorcycle gang rebel says, in answer to a question about what he’s rebelling against, “whatdya got?”


There is no legal or moral excuse for resorting to violence, no matter the motivation. The cause does not justify vandalism, burning of private property or any other abuse of law or common sense. Neither does the rash of injustice justify Dirty Donnie feeding the flames, whatever his motivation—a celebration of exercising power, pandering to his base, or whatever dark and devious motives muddle his deteriorating brain. On the other hand, you have the increasingly prevalent belief that the police are a band of brutal storm troopers dedicated to breaking heads. There is no doubt that is simply not true, that the majority of police are dedicated to their jobs, and to keeping peace. But it only takes one rogue cop kneeling on the neck of a black man to inflame the country. While Dirty Donnie is completely out of his tree when he says there are “good people” on both sides of any given riot, it’s equally possible there are thugs on both sides.


The word “thug” has its origin in India, derived from a band of brigands where it means “swindler or deceiver” both of which would be more descriptive of Dirty Donnie and his cabinet than it would describe the swaggering, gun toting, wannabes shootists who have turned what should be peaceful demonstrations into barroom brawls. When Dirty Donnie uses the word it is code for black. Let us not forget that dirty Donnie’s father, Fred, was arrested on Memorial Day, 1927, for marching with the Ku Klux Klan in New York City. In a bit of historical irony, the Klan parade was to protest Protestant citizens being “assaulted by Roman Catholic police of New York City.”


The United States has a lifelong history of the oppression of minorities—African-Americans as slaves, Native Americans dispossessed of their lands, Japanese-Americans interned and deprived of everything they owned. No minority has been immune from it. We were founded upon lofty principles, but we seldom have lived up to them. As a democratic republic we have talked a good game, but as a largely white nation we have trod upon that idealistic dream from the beginning.


We are a nation founded on protest, not always peaceful. But usually, there has been a national leader  who stepped forward to calm the roiling waters of the violence and bring the nation back to some sense of where it intended to go.  If anyone is entitled to sum up the current situation and what should be done about it, it is Congressman John Lewis of Georgia who was savagely beaten during a freedom March from Selma to  Montgomery in 1965, a day that has become known as Bloody Sunday. It was a peaceful demonstration until Alabama state troopers broke out their bludgeons and turned a peaceful demonstration into an unforgettable dark moment in our history and yet another example of the white man’s ill treatment of African-Americans. Congressman Lewis said this about the current wave of demonstrations and violence, “I know your pain, your rage, your sense of despair and hopelessness. Justice has, indeed, been denied for far too long. Rioting, looting, and burning is not the way. Organize. Demonstrate. Sit in. Stand up. Be constructive, not destructive.”


Although most support Mr. Lewis in his uplifting thoughts, there is in an uncomfortable minority who say that the time for peaceful demonstration has passed, and that the only way to bring about change is by conflict. The white South tried that in 1860 and for the next five years the country was bathed in blood. It didn’t work then and it won’t work now. At a time when all Americans, no matter the ethnicity should be bound by a dedication to fighting a pandemic, it is on the verge of self-destruction. Perhaps there is no answer, perhaps we will go on fighting among ourselves until we are done in by our own limitations, whether pandemic or embedded hatreds.


Congressman Lewis currently is undergoing treatment for stage IV pancreatic cancer. It is the spirit and the strength of voices like Mr. Lewis’s that the country needs today, not the feeble spouting of a sociopathic Dirty Donnie. Make his day, voters, on November 3 and send him back to the swamp that spawned him.

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