Of hoaxes and heroes: the President wants to focus on anything but COVID19

Last week, the US broke records for new coronavirus cases day after day. If this were a normal administration, it would be flooding news programs with medical experts to tell Americans to wear masks and to take precautions to fight the virus’s spread. But the Trump White House is doing the opposite.

The President hosted an explicitly mask-optional 4th of July gathering at Mount Rushmore. There’s little sign that the President wants to in any way address the public health crisis which has plunged the US economy into recession, forced social distancing, and killed as of today 125,000 Americans. Instead, he’s stoking a culture war based on protecting flags from liberals with matches, keeping confederate statues standing tall.

This is part of a predictable pattern, in which a mostly symbolic issue is raised as a cultural outrage. It seems this year, the President is elevating the protection of statues and ‘traditional American heroes’ as a catalyst for his re-election.

Over the weekend armed militias assembled in Gettysburg in response to a hoax call on social media to stop liberals from distributing small American flags and bringing them. Some real Columbus statues have been defaced, as well as a counter-defacement of a Fredrick Douglass statue. If the cure for distasteful speech is more speech, then President Trump has seized on a novel response to the disagreement over US statues and their racial ties — more statues.

The President proposed a National Garden of American Heroes, to be “a vast outdoor park that will feature the statues of the greatest Americans to ever live.” The idea and heroes suggested by President Trump feels like a Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum which could satisfy the folks in those militias chasing imagined flag burners. Included on the President’s list of great American’s are: Billy Graham, Ronald Reagan, Indian-fighter Davy Crockett, conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

The list is a red herring to distract from the real debate about portraying a legacy of white supremacy and slavery by celebrating Confederate generals in memorials, holidays, and the names of military bases. Two southern states continue to conjoin Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday and Robert E. Lee day — to celebrate civil rights for blacks and white supremacists on the same day.

It doesn’t matter who is on the President’s crazy list. Proposing a list of new statues without Asians, Hispanics, and Native American’s is a ruse to get people debating statues rather than reflecting on the profound loss of lives, liberty, and happiness in this terrible year.

Over ten years ago, I wrote here about the healing effect of flying the American Flag. This year, a neighbor asked my family to take down the Black Lives Matter sign in front of our house, as it was deeply offensive and those in law enforcement. It’s chilling to think that those three words can offend in 2020.

I’ve continued to fly the flag, and after a respectful apology from the neighbor, am glad to have that sign back up just beneath my American flag. The President is vilifying those who believe its time for a reckoning with the racism which continues in our land even today.

As we think about liberty and justice for all on this national holiday, allow me to recommend a film. Nothing But a Man is a 1964 film starring someone you may already know, Alan Dixon from Hogan’s Heroes. It’s free on YouTube, and it shows the racism of that time 50 years ago – and how economics with racism enforced white supremacy just as lynchings did in years prior. That year, My Fair Lady won the Oscar for Best Picture. Hollywood was fixated on turning out victorian views of white Europeans: Mary Poppins, The Sound of Music, My Fair Lady – which having just seen Nothing But a Man seems like a way preserve the willful ignorance of white American’s during a time of social change.

If you take a look, let me know what you think of it.
Thanks, and happy 4th of July.


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