Remember Elizabeth Barret Browning’s iconic 1845 love poem: “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways”? It swept the world.
Compare that to what’s sweeping the country today.
“How do I hate thee?” say protesters to cops response to police killings of black men.
“How do I hate thee?” say hundreds of cops to thousands of protesters converging on them.
“How do I hate thee?” says our President to the press or anyone who questions his dictates.
“How do I hate thee?” say Trumpists to anti-Trumpists.
“How do I hate thee?” say anti-Trumpists to Trumpists.
Anger and the ensuing hatred, according to most psychologists, is triggered by fear. If you want to understand what’s happening in the country right now, substitute the word “fear” for “hate” in all of the above and things become a lot clearer.
The Russians are influencing our elections. The Chinese are stealing our industry. Climate change is destroying the planet. Covid19 is killing us.
And those are just the fears we share. Now add the fears that separate us – whites vs. blacks, women vs. men, Urban vs. Rural, North vs. South.
We’re pack animals. We need each other. But, for the last ten weeks, we’ve had to defy nature and stay separate from the pack. No shaking hands or hugging. No baseball games. No concerts. We can’t even vote the way we used to.
The economy is teetering. 40 million people are out of work. American icons like Hertz, JC Penny’s, and Neiman-Marcus are going under. What’s left, Walmart and Amazon?
Fear and pent-up anger has swept the country. All that was needed to unleash it was a suitable flash point.
Which was provided on May 25, 2020, by white Officer Derek Chauvin of Minneapolis, who took a knee on African-American George Floyd’s neck, and calmly –with no expression – killed him.
It was the third murder of an unarmed black person by white cops (or ex-cops) in just the last few weeks.
Coming on the heels of generations of killings like this, the horror of it triggered riots across the country, from San Francisco to Boston, Minneapolis to Austin, not to mention Berlin, London, Paris, Vancouver, Amsterdam, Lebanon, and more.
Remember the shot heard round the world? Now we have the knee seen round the world.
Now cops are scared of protesters and protesters are scared of cops.
And you know who is really, really scared – of rioters and the next election? The guy who has used fear as a political weapon for the last four years, the guy who hid from protesters in the White House bunker last Friday night, our President.
The Constitution is very clear about not using the US Army against US citizens – except in DC. So guess what the phony tough guy with a phony bone spur is doing?
Yep. Poor DC.
“You have to dominate,” he bloviated to governors on a Monday conference call from inside the safety of a barricaded White House. “If you don’t dominate, you’re wasting your time — they’re going to run over you, you’re going to look like a bunch of jerks…”
“…you gotta’ arrest people, you have to try people, you have to put them in jail for 10 years.”
Across the country a few cooler heads prevailed. Two cops in Queens, NY removed their combat gear and knelt with protesters, calming themselves and the protesters. Officers in Des Moines did the same thing. One can only imagine the life and property saved if more cops did that.
After the call, the National Guard, the mounted police, and the Secret Service used flash-bang shells, gas, and rubber bullets peaceful protesters in Lafayette Park to clear a short path from the White House to St. John’s “Church of Presidents” (which President Fear Monger may have attended…once?). He held up a borrowed Bible for some photos then scurried back to the White House. The whole thing took minutes.
“He did not pray,” said Episcopal Bishop Mariann E. Budde. “He did not mention George Floyd, he did not mention the agony of people who have been subjected to this kind of horrific expression of racism and white supremacy for hundreds of years.”
On the phone call with Trump, Governor Waltz of Minnesota said to him, “a posture of force on the ground is both unsustainable militarily — it’s also unsustainable socially, because it’s the antithesis of how we live.”
The antithesis of hate is love, which brings us back to Elizabeth Barret Browning and a more dignified and human kind of power.
Remember the Women’s Marches every year since 2017: the pink hats, the millions of women across this country and the world who march for equality in the “Me too” movement?
No-one killed. No-one bloodied. No-one hurt.