United Stands of America

United Stands of America

The pressures exerted by coronavirus are greater than we think. You don’t have to suffer it yourself to be a target for those pressures, either. They are working away at you day and night. Whatever exerts pressure on you will press more at present. I find it myself. My tendency to be slightly melancholic is exaggerated so that even as the television news pictures start, I feel tears welling up in my eyes. Others feel greater than usual anger; some, mounting despair.

The tinderbox of the United States was waiting for a match. George Floyd’s cruel death was that light. The President is talking violent rhetoric and taking strong action to quell the revolt of people wanting justice. He is right to be strong. There are always looters and pilferers among the crowds and they must be policed. He does not want a modern civil war, something more possible than most people think. He is wrong to talk the way he does, as though the local Governors are a threat to him. They are not, but they could easily become one. Nasty language never stopped a riot.

The frustrations of the black man and woman are not exclusive to the United States. The economic divide caused by poor education is often effectively a colour divide. Poverty was not eliminated by Martin Luther King – it was highlighted by him. Bad police treatment is repulsive, wherever it happens. I doubt anyone can fail to be sympathetic to the protests now taking place across America. 

We know that the inequalities of life are inevitable but should never be so extreme.

The mood of the protestor has changed. Originally an explosive anger, now it has become largely a democratic peace protest. The President had better be careful how he confronts that. Rhetoric of military force, the use of various ‘harmless’ bullets in front of the White House, police belligerently clearing the path for the President, may be considered acceptable responses for a riot in America, they are not acceptable as responses for a peaceful protest.

A quieter mood and the democratic protest that goes with it is far more dangerous than a riot. It is a statement of rights and any attempt to quash it is seen as anti-democratic. All the references to Antifa won’t subdue such a  move. The threats of the army restoring order will likely exacerbate the situation rather than cool it. It needs a reasonable response with promises of serious action, followed swiftly by that action. If Trump wants the November elections he had better deliver fast.

We cannot tell from so far away how entrenched racism is in the police force. The anecdotal evidence we have is disturbing enough, incident by incident, to warrant thorough investigation. But if there are fundamental racial beliefs in police ranks it will include the top; it may even emanate from there. Investigating and punishing on-the-beat policemen to eliminate this is a waste of time. Trump had better devote his time to police force quality than berating the State Governors. 

And that is one of the most disturbing things about the political management of the United States. The President is in a position to do anything he likes – in theory. But his most effective power is directed to those who need encouraging, restraining, changing. To them he can talk directly. His least effective power is to take on State Governors. They are locals and any attack on them closes local ranks very quickly. The whole democratic process seems undermined in the USA.

Leading a nation the size of the USA in a world where China is becoming the predominant economy is a tall order. It requires a statesman, a leader who is seen to combine the emotional rapport of Obama with the determination of Truman and the international clout of Kennedy. We all need that, not just the American voter. As the Covid-19 situation comes under some sort of control the leaders of all democratic countries should make it clear to the Senators and Representatives in the USA how important their country’s leader is to the security of the Western world.

It isn’t only Trump who wants America to be great again.