My wife and I attended a rally in front of the courthouse in Easton on Saturday. At one point each of the thousand or so at that June 6 rally were asked to take a knee. As I knelt on the ground for not nearly as long as the eight minutes, 46 seconds the cop charged with murder pressed his knee to the neck of George Floyd, the literal gravity of the crime became demonstrably apparent to me. The weight of my adult male body, if pressed by one knee long enough, could kill. If held longer, it could kill the grass beneath my knee. I can’t imagine the pain and fear and suffocation that flowed through the body of Mr. Floyd in the last moments of his life.
That same day, Team Trump 2020 sent out emails imploring his supporters under the subject line of NO KNEELING! Well, great. I’d sign that petition. No kneeling on anyone’s neck. But, no. This had nothing to do with crime and punishment. Nothing to do with justice. As usual, Donald Trump doesn’t get it. He doesn’t want to get it. He has no clue and never will. No empathy. Not a shred of human decency. The no-kneeling he refers to is football players taking a knee a couple of years ago when the National Anthem was played. This form of protest was led by NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick whose intent was to call attention to the injustice of the deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner and many other black men at the hands of cops. Kaepernick meant no disrespect of the flag. He followed the advice of veterans he knew who told him it was the custom of soldiers to take a knee when “Taps” or the National Anthem is played for a fallen military hero. As a result, the Super Bowl quarterback’s career is done. Politically blacklisted by the NFL.
“The American Flag is to be revered, cherished, and flown high. We should be standing up straight and tall, ideally with a salute, or a hand on heart,” Team Trump proclaimed in its June 6 missive.
“There are other things you can protest, but not our Great American Flag—NO KNEELING!”
Nobody who takes a knee in protest of Officer Derek Chauvin taking a knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck is disrespecting the flag. The fired renegade cop disrespected the flag and all the life, liberty and pursuit of happiness it stands for. And so does Donald.
At a Super Bowl party in February when he should’ve been paying closer attention to COVID, Trump mocked the National Anthem by waving his hands as if he were a military-band maestro while smirking, cajoling and backslapping political supporters. I saw no hand on heart. (Certainly, no taking a knee. That would’ve taken his face out of camera range.) This is respecting the flag?
Donald recently visited Fort McHenry, disinvited by the mayor of Baltimore. A black Democrat, so he doesn’t care. Nor could Donald, I challenge him, recite the lyrics to the National Anthem. I’ve been to Fort McHenry many times. I know what the “O” in “O say can you see” stands for. I never mean any disrespect when I sing out that it stands for Orioles. The song was written in my city where the flag still waved the next morning. So, go salute yourself, Mr. President.
As protesters in Lafayette Park near the White House took a knee or engaged in other such “terrorist” expressions of protest, Trump ordered military troops to disperse them by means of tear gas, flash grenades and rubber bullets just so he could stroll across the street and hold up a Bible in front of the boarded-up church next door, which he hasn’t visited since the required Inauguration Day ceremony. Are we to become a police state?
Donald didn’t bother during this stupid photo op to open the Bible and read an appropriate line or two regarding this occasion of national strife. It’s just as well. He probably would’ve picked, had he any knowledge of the Bible whatsoever, something inappropriate. Such as “an eye for an eye.” Under such biblical justice, Chauvin should die by someone taking a knee to his neck for, say, eight minutes, 46 seconds.
But Donald doesn’t care about justice—anymore than his lackey attorney general. He’s all about retribution and finger-pointing. Donald doesn’t like it that people who actually know what they’re talking about have called attention to his inattention to the onset of the pandemic. And that he will risk a relapse just so he can squeeze in a quarter of economic recovery before November’s election. (Who believes he won’t try to fix the numbers?)
Now he’s gotten his fondest wish—to take COVID-19 off the front page, off the round-the-clock cable news cycle. Now he can distract us with Law and Order while blaming Fake News for everything from the “Russian hoax” and impeachment—his excuse for ignoring coronavirus—to taking a knee on a black man’s neck.
I know something about news and about Donald the Derelict. We covered Donald for decades at Newsday on Long Island and New York City. He was a joke. A jerk. No one took him seriously until he screwed you out of millions he owed you. Which he did regularly, daring mom-and-pop companies to sue him. (He rarely hired, say, GE—they had more lawyers.) I listened to voicemail messages he left, claiming to be his own public relations agent. He fooled no one. It was good for laughs. The only question was whether he was faking it because he was too cheap to hire an agent or too narcissistic to believe anyone could do a better job. Ha!
As for “Fake News,” here’s what I know that Donald doesn’t. Yes, the majority of reporters and editors I worked with in more than 55 years in newspaper journalism were, if not liberal, at least sympathetic to the concerns of middle class and those not quite so fortunate. This ground-level tilt toward basic social justice was balanced by publishers and higher newsroom management whose influence kept us all in line with the realities of capitalist survival. It’s a kind of checks and balances on which the Constitution attempts to keep our government in line. Neither is a perfect system. But in the case of journalism—professional journalism as opposed to partisan propaganda—the result is truth, more or less, as we see it one day at a time. The news report of any single day may be proved wrong in the long run. And the wrongs are duly reported. One prime example is the New York Times’ verification of aspects of the weapons of mass destruction that the Bush administration deployed to justify its regime-change carnage in Iraq. It was a lie. We know better now because the Times itself, and other responsible media sources, corrected the historic record.
When was the last time Trump World admitted an error? Remember they’re still on the record that Trump’s inaugural crowd was greater than Obama’s in 2008. Who cares except Donald, who can’t get over that Americans voted twice to elect a black man president?
Whatever Fake News is out there comes from the White House, or more precisely, from the world of Trump Twit Nits—almost exclusively comprised of lies, incendiary retweets and disinformation owing to Donald’s boundless and often racist ignorance. The president is an idiot and a fool. The danger is we don’t know whose fool he is. Vladimir Putin’s is my guess. I suspect the Russians and Deutsche Bank own him. I believe Trump would resign before surrendering his financial records, which would surely ruin him. But he’s doing a pretty good job of that all by himself.
I’m reminded now, again, of The Who song, “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” If we do, America, we deserve whatever further disaster befalls us. I believe any of us, no matter our political affiliation, can agree that this guy is a jerk. Even if you’re a devout racist, Trump is not favorably representing your demented interests. He’s making you look bad, which may be the only good thing about the Trump presidency. By accident, of course.
Steve Parks is a retired New York journalist now living in Easton.