By Mike Canavan.
The words of Emma Lazarus’s famous 1883 sonnet “The New Colossus” have never seemed more distant than they are today in the ‘Divided States of America’. Normally they are the hallmark of all things that America holds to be good and great; however today nothing could be further from the truth. The part of the poem most often quoted is: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
This country’s greatness and true genius lies in its diversity. But today, why on God’s earth would anyone want to be part of this fractured nation?
Lazarus was a passionate immigration activist, becoming particularly involved in the plight of Russian Jewish refugees. She wrote the poem in 1883 to help raise funds for the construction of the Statue of Liberty’s pedestal.
The most important document in America history, written on parchment — the Declaration of Independence is encased in a titanium and aluminium frame, secured behind bulletproof glass and plastic laminate. Each night it is lowered into an underground vault that is Atomic Bomb proof.
It’s first words begin with a magnificent pronouncement, biblical in its majesty: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights.”
However as George Orwell wrote in Animal Farm: ‘some are more equal than others’.
Notwithstanding the native indigenous communities of America and Australia: both countries are lands of immigrants. So Lazarus poem is as relevant to us here as it is to Americans at-large.
This weekend against dire warnings from political leaders and chief medical officers alike, thousands rallied in Australia to support the notion of “black lives matter”. All in all there were peaceful and measured protests, although from a pandemic point of view perhaps somewhat unwise.
Much blame must rest at the feet of social and the main-stream media for sensationalising the whole event. Drawing more crowds than the ramshackle despotic organisers might had ever hoped for. No doubt the last period of the lockdowns did not help either.
Only time will tell if the insidious Covid-19 virus will strike in a second wave of infections. But the most important point to make out of these gatherings was that they did not descend into violence, looting, and insurrection. They embodied the essence of democracy, the right to protest, notwithstanding the wisdom, given the issues of our nation’s health at this moment. They are diametrically opposed to the actions and behaviour of many Americans including those in law enforcement in protest in the name of civil rights.
So why has a nation like America with a constitution, Bill of Rights and history of noble sentiments descended into such anarchy?
Tragic as it is, the death of black man George Floyd in the custody Minneapolis police appears to have little to do with the fractious behaviour of the looting thugs that are running rampant on the streets of many of the nation’s capitals. There is no question or doubt that the people responsible for this poor man’s death must be held to account. This however does not give permission for protesters to terrorise the streets, nor looters to burn and pillage innocent shop keepers in the name of “black lives count”. There is nothing that can justify forcing the honest people to cower in terror, locked behind closed doors, fearing for their families health and safety.
I have read that Mr Floyd’s death was the “match” that set fire to a divided nation. But one has to wonder, why is it so divided? Naturally the Trump haters claim it is all his fault. But is it?
It appears it has been part of a perfect storm set upon be political opportunists. The economic and social devastation of the pandemic has created a political landscape that has allowed these opportunists a canvas to act out their ultimate plans.
There is little or no doubt that certain Democrats in America believed that Donald Trump was not fit, nor did deserve to be the President of the USA.
It’s also no secret that ever since his election, large swathes of the Americans left, particularly in the cities, have regarded his presidency as illegitimate. They have tried many defamatory tacts over the past few years to impeach him. There were doubtful, and now discredited theories about him being a Russian spy. A tax fraudmeister. A sexual predator, to name just a few. It is because they believe this loudmouthed candidate of rural America was never supposed to rule over the country’s sophisticated urban elites in the first place.
Their obsessive view is that Hillary Clinton was the only suitable candidate to be President and continue the legacy of Camelot and the born to rule class. Alas for them, much of middle America did not share their views. A strong argument can be put that certain Democrats are as good as egging on looters and rioters in a bid to blame Trump for decades of unrest and take the 2020 election coming up.
This would in no small part explain why over the past several days the faces of the protesters have become increasingly multiracial and privileged.
I hold no candle nor brief in support of Trump. Frankly speaking, many of his twitter postings are nothing short of maniacal. However, he was democratically elected even though the Washington gentry find it difficult to accept, and he has a moral right and obligation with the democratic support of the nation to be its President, at least until the end of the year and the next election.
Inspired by an outraged left, who are none too concerned to see the Nation in chaos, on the contrary they are only to please that this spark has fuelled such social maleficence that will possibly derail the Trump train.
The great tragedy is that these riots will only make things worse for the very people they were purported to help.
Cities can take decades to recover from this sort of civil insurrection. Just look at Detroit, Michigan, or Newark, New Jersey: Who would want to sink capital or a lifetime’s effort into a town where it could be all burned away in an instant?
It’s also important to note that the protesters are being aided and abetted by city state officials across the country who have, wittingly or not, allowed these protests to turn into full-blown moral holidays leading to orgies of pointless violence.
Early last week Trump made what might be considered as a thoughtful and reasoned speech, he declared himself the “ a President of law and order” and said he would mobilize every available federal force both “civilian and military” as he vowed to put an immediate end to violent protests that have swept the nation for days.
In a brief statement delivered from the Rose Garden of the White House he declared “an overwhelming law enforcement presence” until the protests have been quelled, and he threatened to send in the U.S. military to “quickly solve the problem for them.” And he has.
“Today, I have strongly recommended to every governor to deploy the National Guard in sufficient numbers that we dominate the streets,” he said from the White House, warning that he would step in if a city or state “refuses to take the actions that are necessary to defend the life and property of their residents.”
“The biggest victims of the rioting are peace-loving citizens in our poorest communities, and as their President, I will fight to keep them safe,” Trump said: “I will fight to protect you. I am your President of law and order and an ally of all peaceful protesters.”
In both instances, the president made little mention of the root cause of the unrest, however, aside from acknowledging that Americans are “rightly sickened and revolted” by Floyd’s death. Trump vowed that justice would be served and that Floyd “will not have died in vain”.
“But we cannot allow the righteous cries and peaceful protesters to be drowned out by an angry mob,” he continued in the Rose Garden. “The biggest victims of the rioting are peace-loving citizens in our poorest communities, and as their president, I will fight to keep them safe. I will fight to protect you. I am your president of law and order and an ally of all peaceful protesters.”
Citing his authority under the Insurrection Act of 1807 to circumvent federal law barring the use of federal troops for domestic law enforcement, the President has made good on his threat.
There may be no easy way to guide the nation through its current peril. Barack Obama’s measured coolness did nothing to stop the fires of Ferguson any more than Richard Nixon’s law-and-order edicts quelled Vietnam-era unrest.
The president may not be able to contain the wildfire, but one wonders how much his actions are fuelling the flames?