The nation sits now on the eve of the traditional Labor Day beginning of the presidential campaign, when Democrats and Republicans alike lean heavily into the business of November 3 and make strong arguments for the candidates they have selected to race to the White House.
That’s not right. That’s what one would say in normal times. These are not normal times. These may be the worst days in the modern history of the Republic. As a nation, we keep focusing on violence attached to passionate political demonstrations when, in truth, the evil is much closer to home for all of us.
The carnage on the streets of the south side of Chicago is not connected to passions about politics or disagreements about who will be the best person to head the nation. It is an old violence, rooted in gangs and drug turf, that the city, the state, the nation, has not been able to adequately address for a long time now, decades, actually. It picks unusual victims, people on the streets, people sitting on the porch, children at play, anyone who happens to be in the way when the shooters come out to unleash all that bullet power.
But what is it about?
I don’t know. It has become that senseless. None of us can know what it is actually about except the individual shooter and maybe the victim in his or her last moments of life, when it settles like a shroud, delivering a reality we have been ignoring for too long.
We live in a violent nation where these senseless attacks have now become part of the backdrop, homicides in Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, Detroit, name the big city and the problem seems all too much the same. There is a hierarchy at work that we can’t see, and it involves people who use violence not as a weapon but as a tool. It has become so regular that many of the rest of us just tune it out. Its not time to argue that crime stats show a decline. It’s time to recognize that what is is so bad it can’t be well represented a chart.
But black lives do matter, as well as the lives of potential and likely victims everywhere who look to leadership for hope and some protection. They have good hearts, but they are trapped in this setting concrete of violence that has isolated and wrecked whole neighborhoods and the people who live there.
That is why what happens in Portland, or in Kenosha, or in Milwaukee, or in Minneapolis may grab our attention for a few days, particularly when the flames of arson seem so hot you can feel them through the TV screen. But it is not the complete story. It is something on the top of the story that lifts its lid just long enough for us to get a glimpse of what is happening inside of our country. That picture, much more clearly presented on any violent weekend in Chicago, is ugly, deeply troubling and festering every minute of every day.
There is fire, hatred, death, despair, all combined beneath the surface.
That’s what the next president has to fix, that connected problem that seems unconnected until you look at the victims and how they died, look at the weeping families, look at the undelivered promises of a nation that only a few months ago seemed so confident, so wealthy, so self-assured.
It’s time for us to recognize that politicians who use these circumstances, pointing to them as examples of opponent-fueled decline, are part of the evil problem. They must be defeated for the simple reason that they have unleashed so much hatred in a nation that is always so eager to hate in so many ways.
Of course I am talking about Donald Trump. He has shown no sign of understanding even what is on the surface of this problem. He has unleashed a collection of followers who have no respect for the political dynamic and believe a rifle or a handgun is all that is required to resolve political disagreements in the streets.
Do you want that kind of campaign this time around?
I don’t think so. It will result only in more murderous violence and mayhem, fueled by the bitter ramblings of the unhinged man who lives the White House. He obviously has no way of controlling anything, not himself, not the parts of government he keeps trying to unleash, not his family, not his trusted advisers.
The problem with this kind of action is that it is always defined by the lowest level, the mindless teenager vigilante who shows up with a rifle, the fool who drives right into the crowd, the cop, maybe frustrated, maybe frightened, who resorts to a mind-boggling level of violence in a situation that demands some reasoning, some calm, some resolution short of a trigger squeeze.
There is still time to call forth our better angels, but it seems as though they have been hiding these past few months, or maybe waiting to see what we would do on our own. Free will is a most intriguing concept, but it cannot not guarantee that it will be used for the best purposes.
You can do whatever you want in America. We know now what happens when what we want is bad. What happens when what we want is good?
Go campaign on that.