No, you don't, President Nero. Don't point the finger elsewhere. The fire and smoke … the bodies in the streets ... it's happening on your watch. In Trump's America. You've been soaking the soil of the country with the gasoline of hate and division since you descended that staircase five years ago. And it’s working — working with the haters and shallow thinkers who are somehow able to reconcile the schizophrenic messaging that you’re not a racist, but if reelected you'll keep black people out of the suburbs.
Predictably, the White Privilege Parade marched out last week to remind us that if only Jacob Blake had complied with Kenosha, Wis., police during that botched arrest attempt, he wouldn't have been shot in the back seven times.
In the back.
Other apologists waved Blake's rap sheet, an unspoken message ringing out loud and clear: He had it coming. When do we see the officer's record?
Maybe Blake snapped. Maybe the protesters snapped. Wouldn't you, if you were born a suspect in America? If like Philando Castile you were stopped 49 times over the years before an officer fired seven times into his car during that final traffic stop?
What if your car was searched four times as often as those driven by whites even though they find more contraband in their cars? Wouldn't you get angry? If you knew that just 13% of black Americans are drug offenders but comprise 74% of the drug offenders sentenced to prison, wouldn’t you just get tired of it all? Maybe one day you just wouldn't comply.
Maybe, handcuffed to a hospital bed, paralyzed from the waist down, you’d see the video of a 17-year-old Trump supporter, a killer with a semi-automatic rifle, shambling past the police, and maybe you'd wonder if it were a black man how many times he'd have been shot. You'd wonder why cops refer to armed white militiamen itching for a civil war as “friendlies.”
You might wonder, too, why men in tailored suits who conspired with Russia to hijack the last election are rewarded with commuted sentences. Why investment bankers who stole money and homes and wrecked the economy the last time are still counting their money behind big shiny desks.
You'd wonder about it all, wouldn’t you, like L.A. Clippers Coach Doc Rivers did last week when he said, “It’s amazing why we keep loving this country, and this country does not love us back.”
You'd look in wonder at your mother, Julia, as she spoke haltingly and eloquently to the press, awash in grief and despair, echoing the words of George Floyd's family and Martin Luther King about the need for change and the necessity of calm because she understands that the small percentage of looters and arsonists are just what Trump needs. He's selling fear, and they're providing the product. She knows that black Americans are routinely painted with the same brush — as suspects.
The president went through the motions, expressing bland concern about the shooting, but he long ago surrendered the moral authority to lead. Chaos and white supremacy are his friends, irony his mistress. A lawless president is selling law and order. And it's working.
Doesn't it make you wonder about America? What used to be America, anyway.
Tony Bender writes an exclusive weekly column for Forum News Service.