George Floyd : at least some beginning of the end of the dream deferred may now be in sight (VOTE on November 3)??

Jun 4th, 2020 | By | Category: USA Today
“Rococo Contemporary; Homage to Fragonard” by prize-winning Toronto artist Michael Seward, May 2020.

GANATSEKWYAGON, ON. MAY 31, 2020. 2:00 AM ET. RANDALL WHITE : I don’t yet know quite what to make of the protests against the Minneapolis police role in the tragic death of George Floyd (and much else) that have dominated cities across the USA for the past few days.

(The parallel actions where I live in Canada have been at least somewhat different – for the most part without the alarming violence, eg.)

I was in my early 20s in 1968 when riots in the likes of Baltimore, Chicago, Detroit, Kansas City, Louisville, Newark, Washington (DC), and Wilmington followed the April 4 assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.

They were joined by protests over the February 1968 Orangeburg massacre at South Carolina State University, the July Glenville shootout in Cleveland, and the divisive Democratic National Convention at Chicago in August.

I remember watching the Watts Riots in Los Angeles on TV in 1965 as well. And I remember from the 1960s at large that “violence is as American as apple pie.”

Bobby Kennedy tours 14th Street in the aftermath of Washington DC riots, April 7, 1968. Bob Schutz/AP. Senator Kennedy himself was assassinated in Los Angeles just two months later.

So there are certainly historical precedents for late spring 2020 in Chicago, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New York, etc, etc – in the America that fought a breathtakingly destructive Civil War against slavery in the first half of the 1860s. I am also old enough to see big differences between 1968 and 2020. And on that note I turn off the TV and seek solace in sleep.

MAY 31. 4:30 PM ET. We have just returned from a real-world outdoor walk along the east-end Beaches boardwalk on a beautiful, sunny Sunday afternoon.

Even with the war on COVID-19, it is reassuring on the shores of a great lake first known in present-day Canada’s other official language as Lac de Frontenac.

(The successor name “Ontario” is said to be an Iroquoian word that means any of just “Great” or “Shining Waters” or “Rocks Standing by Water.” Take your pick : the related political geography was then and is now a democracy, in one sense or another.)

Back home on TV … 1669 arrests in 22 cities … And then later, according to Wikipedia’s “George Floyd protests” article : “As of June 1, there were protests in more than 200 cities … as of June 2, governors in 23 states and Washington, D.C., had called in the National Guard … From the beginning of the protests to the morning of June 2, at least 5,600 people had been arrested.”

“Protesters are shot with pepper spray as they confront police over George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis, Minnesota on May 27, 2020.BY STEPHEN MATUREN/GETTY IMAGES.”

JUNE 1. 7:00 PM ET. Trump’s appalling Rose Garden speech this evening is crystallizing my own thoughts, whatever else. And I can’t be altogether alone.

My wife, for one thing, is already there (as the polling statistics might suggest).

Trump is posing as a defender of law and order. And the violent sidebar to the main attraction of peaceful protest may seem to give him some shaky ground to stand on … But, but, but …

The Rose Garden speech – which in any serious real world would only fit in a Mel Brooks re-make of “Springtime for Hitler” – is pushing me deep into my wife’s camp.

Yes there is some looting and vandalism along with the great mainstream of peaceful protest. And all forms of violence are always abhorrent in popular, democratic demonstrations – just like carrying assault rifles at right-wing protests against rules of law on COVID-19.

But Trump’s “crypto fascist” speech on June 1, 2020 (along with the deeply disturbing police brutality used to clear some streets for his cynically hypocritical photo op at a boarded-up church) has expelled all concerns of this sort from my mind.

Protesters at New York City hall, near the NY Police Department Headquarters, June 2, 2020. (Photo: Robert Deutsch , USA TODAY NETWORK via Imagn Content Services, LLC).

JUNE 2. 11 PM ET. I watched Joe Biden’s response to all the madness on TV this morning. I was more impressed than I expected.

I was equally happy that the great mainstream of peaceful protest broadened all day in many, many cities across the USA (and in Canada too) – while the reprehensible looting, vandalism, and violence was largely confined to the sidelines.

JUNE 3. 2 PM ET : ON CULTURAL DIVERSITY AND AMERICAN DREAMS. My first thought at the end of Trump’s June 1 Rose Garden speech was that if he manages to get away with this, and even get re-elected on November 3, 2020, then Democracy in America really is in very grave danger of vanishing forever!

If this happens then one of my favourite lines from the late great US “dean of counterculture comedians” George Carlin (1937—2008) will acquire a much deeper depth than it has right now : “It’s called the AMERICAN DREAM cuz ya have to be ASLEEP to believe it.”

Protesters outside Oviatt Library in Los Angeles, June 2, 2020. Samantha Bravo.

Yet hearing that even Republican televangelist Pat Robertson has attacked the June 1 speech – and accompanying police brutality to clear a path for a boarded-up church photo-op (“You just don’t do that, Mr. President”) – gives me some hope that “the Donald” will be a mercifully one-term US president.

On this more hopeful assumption, the real American Dream has just been deferred, as in Langston Hughes’s great poem of the early 1950s, “Dream Boogie.” (Which so brilliantly begins : “Good morning, daddy! / Ain’t you heard / The boogie-woogie rumble / Of a dream deferred?”)

The deepest message of the 2020 protests against the Minneapolis police role in the tragic death of George Floyd (and much else) is that the dream which has been deferred for African Americans since 1789 (or 1776) can now be deferred no longer.

Protesters down the street from the White House in Washington, DC June 1, 2020. PHOTO : Mandel Ngan, AFP Via Getty Images.

In the first instance of course deferring the dream no longer will and should most directly benefit African Americans.

Yet one of the great forward-looking sides of the 2020 actions across the USA and beyond is how culturally diverse the peaceful protesters have been. There have been many “Whites” on the streets as well as “Blacks” – and “Asians” and “Hispanics.” (And in Canada we are also underlining Indigenous Canadians or Native Americans.)

This is in fact like the “black and white together” that marked the best moments of the 1960s.

And white people are involved in the 2020 protests as well, I’d submit, not just because they believe that black people must finally be recognized as the equal (and indispensable) participants in the American Dream they clearly are.

Langston Hughes, “The People’s Poet,” on the steps in front of his house in Harlem, New York City, June 1958. LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images.

It is also because this kind of diverse “free and democratic society”of the 21st century will be better for the white, “Asian” and “Hispanic” people who live and work within it too.

(See, eg, Norman Mailer’s imperfect but still interesting 1957 essay “The White Negro: Superficial Reflections on the Hipster.”)

They (a Canadian can’t quite say we) will all achieve new freedoms in a new era of Democracy in America that includes everyone – and that finally lives up to Thomas Jefferson’s promises in the Declaration of Independence.

(And that President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden gave us all a first look at for eight remarkable years after the 2008 US election.)

As some ultimate irony, in the very end this is also what will really make America great again, at last.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave Comment