Remembrances of Things Past: Moments of Hope in the Madness

Remember that scene from the 1976 movie Network, when news anchor Howard Beale (Peter Finch) cried, “We know things are bad — worse than bad. They’re crazy. It’s like everything everywhere is going crazy, so we don’t go out anymore. We sit in the house, and slowly the world we are living in is getting smaller, and all we say is: ‘Please, at least leave us alone in our living rooms. Let me have my toaster and my TV and my steel-belted radials and I won’t say anything. Just leave us alone.’ Well, I’m not gonna leave you alone. I want you to get MAD! I don’t know what to do about the depression and the inflation and the Russians and the crime in the street. All I know is that first, you’ve got to get mad! You’ve got to say: ‘I’m a human being, goddammit! My life has value!’ So, I want you to get up right now and go to the window, open it, and stick your head out, and yell: I’M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!”?

The murder of George Floyd by the foot of a Minneapolis cop while his buddies stood by nonchalantly gives rise to similar feelings of shock, grief, and anger … provoking our collective conscience, triggering marches and protests across the country and around the world.

Say some of their names: George Floyd. Rodney King. Breonna Taylor. Ahmaud Arbery. Eric Garner. Michael Brown. Tamir Rice. Freddie Gray. Sandra Bland. Philandro Castle. All African-Americans offed by white police officers. Let’s not forget others, like Trayvon Martin, murdered by self-appointed racist vigilantes. Each was a human whose life was taken prematurely and unjustly by powers-that-be.

Remember Rev. Al Sharpton’s words at Floyd’s funeral – “I can’t breathe” and “get your knee off our necks” – which painted a plaintive picture of the systemic racism, police brutality, cover-ups, and injustice suffered by Floyd, black people … and other American minorities?

George Floyd personifies the plight of black people in the USA. But he also reflects the oppression of all scapegoats, underdogs and social outcasts: Native Americans and indigenous people. Immigrants. Hispanics and Asians. Women. Jews and Muslims. LGBT persons. The poor, homeless, hungry, infirm, widows and orphans, even “middle-class” Americans unable to afford basic health care or better educate their children.

A pandemic has killed more than 110,000 people in three months in the USA. The economy is in recession, with tens of millions out of work. Protests against racial injustice in policing have broken out in hundreds of cities and towns across the country, with some provoking outrageous acts of police brutality and the risk of contributing to a resurgence of the coronavirus. At the center of the maelstrom is an incompetent, capricious, malicious president who cares about nothing but acting tough, protecting himself, and dividing the country.

Yesterday (June 9), Trump tweeted, “Buffalo protestor shoved by Police could be an ANTIFA provocateur. 75 year old Martin Gugino was pushed away after appearing to scan police communications in order to black out the equipment. I watched, he fell harder than was pushed. Was aiming scanner. Could be a set up?”

A set-up? Trump doesn’t know the meaning of “provocateur,” let alone how to spell it correctly. Whoever helped him write this conspiratorial message was determined to cast suspicion on a senior citizen we saw violently treated, head bleeding, and left fallen on the street. And then some …

When Trump’s guardian gatekeepers used weapons of warfare to clear the street by Lafayette Park of peaceful protestors for a photo op – just after he’d pontificated in the Rose Garden about weak governors and mayors needing to do away with demonstrators and “dominate” the streets – a few respected leaders had seen, heard, and experienced enough.

It was then, perhaps, that marches and moments became a movement—a referendum on Trump’s administration, Republican senators, and the soul of a nation:

• Colin Powell, former Secretary of State under President George W. Bush, announced that the president “has drifted away” from the Constitution and that he “lies all the time.”

• Trump’s own top military brass –Secretary of Defense Mark Eper and Mark Milley, Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff – spoke up and out, knowing well their Trumpian consequences.

• The defense secretary insisted military personnel “be used as a matter of last resort and only in the most urgent and dire of situations.”

• Milley, the nation’s top general and most senior military officer, reminded his soldiers of the rights of their fellow citizens to free assembly, adding: “We all committed our lives to the idea that is America–we will stay true to that oath and the American people.”

• But it was Trump’s former secretary of defense, James Mattis, whose rebuke cut deepest: “Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people,” said Mattis. “Instead, he tries to divide us … We know that we are better than the abuse of executive authority that we witnessed in Lafayette Square. We must reject and hold accountable those in office who would make a mockery of our Constitution.”

The president wanted to fire Defense Secretary Mark Esper for not supporting his idea to use active-duty troops to quell protests; meanwhile, Trump Jr’s hunting trip in Mongolia last year cost American taxpayers nearly $77,000 in Secret Service costs alone.

Trump has gone too far, crossing the threshold of our national breaking point, publicly cursing those who (hitherto) had protected and shielded him—like his first former chief of staff, John Kelly, who said “I agree” with Mattis about Trump: “We need to look harder at who we elect.”

It was an “emperor-has-no-clothes” moment that prompted Senator Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) to admit she was considering not voting for Trump and suggest that other Senate Republicans felt the same way.

Remember Watergate?

The impeachment process against Richard Nixon began in the U.S. House of Representatives on October 30, 1973, following a series of high-level resignations and firings widely referred to as the “Saturday Night Massacre.” On May 9, formal impeachment hearings began, culminating July 27–30, 1974, when the Democratic-led Judiciary Committee approved three articles of impeachment, charging the president with obstruction of justice in attempting to impede the investigation; abuse of power by using the office of the presidency to unlawfully use federal agencies to violate the constitutional rights of citizens and interfere with lawful investigations; and Contempt of Congress by refusing to comply with congressional subpoenas.

Sound familiar?

Republican congressional leaders met with Nixon, informing him that his impeachment and removal were all but certain. Thereupon, he resigned the presidency on August 9, 1974, before the full House could vote on the articles of impeachment.

In the case of the United States v. Donald Trump, however, the full House voted to impeach him. In fact and indeed, he was impeached.

While lamenting white supremacy, police brutality, and a system that denigrates black Americans like George Floyd, demonstrations are “moments” of national consensus, in effect, about the role Trump has played and his culpability in inciting human rights violations.

Let’s hope that a number of senators will recognize and repent of their wrong-doing and complicity by remaining silent. Maybe they’ll, too, take a walk to the White House and bring an end to this dreadful mess.

Remember Martha Mitchell, the wife of U.S. Attorney General John Mitchell under President Nixon, who became a controversial figure with her outspoken comments about the government during the Watergate scandal? Nixon selected her husband to head the Committee to Re-Elect the President (CREEP) for his 1972 campaign. During the campaign, however, Martha Mitchell began complaining to the media that the campaign had engaged in “dirty tricks” to win the election.

Remember A Warning, last year’s Washington tell-it titled book? Written by “Anonymous,” who’s still a top White House insider, the candid 2019 exposé of the Trump administration authored by someone described as a “senior Trump administration official” was a sensational follow-up to an anonymous op-ed piece the NY Times published in September 2018. Many inside and out of government have played guessing games, trying to identify the author.

My own hunch? Kellyanne Conway.

The mother of four married to anti-Trump activist attorney George Conway, a conservative co-founder of the Liberty Foundation seeking to bring Trump to justice, she can’t be as dumb as she comes across; hopefully, there’s more sense and sensibility – patriotism – to her than meets the eye.

Remember, more recently, when Twitter began fact-checking and flagging Trump’s tweets for false, misleading, and/or potentially violence-provoking content … while also providing links to more objective and factual information?

These remembrances of things past prompt some conclusions:

“Black Lives Matter” must be more than a catch phrase to which we give lip service. Yet it hasn’t – nowhere nearly enough! – and now requires assertive declaration, assessing people beyond the color of their skin, where they come from, or their lingo and language.

For me, the people’s uprising is a beginning, a beacon of hope.

Actually, a glimmer to hold onto that hope still springs eternal!

Shared here are personal observations, experiences, and happenstance that actually occurred to us as we moved from the USA to begin a new life in Portugal and Spain. Collected and compiled in EXPAT: Leaving the USA for Good, the book is available in hardcover, paperback, and eBook editions from Amazon and most online booksellers.

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