Let Justice Breathe

The author at March for Justice, San Luis Obispo, June 1, 2020.

“Take that down off your Facebook page!!!”

That’s the admonishment I received from a friend of mine the other day after I posted a graphic informing people about the March for Justice taking place near my home today. She told me how unsafe she felt in her own city in the midst of all the protests and accompanying police presence.

The violence is, of course, horrible. But it is temporary… it shall pass. The racism and the injustice, however, will not pass so quickly. It is pervasive, and has been broadly emboldened by a President who seems to enjoy exacerbating it, along with white nationalists and other outsiders who have infiltrated the protests in a deliberate effort to exploit them, turn them violent and incite racial division. I was pleased that the protest I participated in today was a peaceful outpouring of love and passion from hundreds of people who were dedicated to making their community a better place for themselves and their families.

There is a quote circulating now, origin unknown but often misattributed to Ben Franklin, “Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.

It saddens and distresses me that my white friend feels unsafe, and may actually be unsafe. But it is also hard not to hear her cry of distress as an expression of white privilege. News flash… black people in America feel just as scared and unsafe every time a law enforcement officer or white nationalist comes near them. I don’t want my friend to be unsafe, but it isn’t a bad thing for her to understand the terror that so many of her fellow citizens live with *every* *freaking* *day*. I hope that there is a chance that she will start applying her own time and talent to end the terror itself, rather than focusing on being fearful of those who peacefully protest against it, and the few bad actors who sometimes join them.

Last Friday, four days after George Floyd’s murder was witnessed by the world on video, one of the four police officers responsible for his murder was finally arrested, in a slow motion process only afforded to white people. That isn’t justice for George Floyd. Or Ahmaud Arbery. Or Breonna Taylor. Or so many others. This kind of injustice happens all the time… the only thing unusual about this instance is that it was all caught on video. Even if all four police officers responsible are ultimately arrested, tried and convicted, justice doesn’t come until racism, white privilege and white entitlement are removed from being fixtures of American culture.

Welcome to Season 4 of “Trump — The End of the World”

“The old world is dying, and the new world struggles to be born: now is the time of monsters.”

“The news is overwhelming. It is designed to be overwhelming.

This sort of chaos and confusion destabilizes society. In that confusion, as tempers run hot, people who are desperate for certainty return to old patterns and divide along traditional lines. Many are willing to accept a strong leader who promises to restore order, or simply are so distracted and discouraged they stop caring what their leaders do. They simply hunker down and try to survive.”

“But there is another possibility. Chaos does not have to destroy us. The leaders creating it are doing so precisely because they know they are not in control, and the same uncertainty they are trying to leverage can just as easily be used by their opponents. At this crazy, frightening, chaotic moment, it is possible to reach across old lines and create new alliances, to reemphasize that most Americans really do share the same values of economic fairness and equality before the law, and to rebuild a “government of the people, by the people, and for the people.”

The old world is certainly dying, but the shape of the new world struggling to be born is not yet determined.”
–Heather Cox Richardson in Letters from an American, May 29, 2020

The words I wrote in “Really Bad Things Are Going To Happen Now” back in November of 2018 were, unfortunately, prophetic and bear updating and additional emphasis as we now enter a timeframe that comedian J-L Cauvin has aptly named “Season 4 of Trump — The End of the World“. If you think the past three and half years have been a nightmare, then you’d best buckle up tight, because we ain’t seen nothing yet compared to what is coming between now and Wednesday, January 20, 2021. Trump will do everything he possibly can to loot our country and tear America apart in the death throes of his administration (See: Trump Is the Looter).

So a reality check and spoiler alert, in case you have any doubt: Trump can make things even worse than living through a global viral pandemic leaving 100,000+ Americans dead, having 40 million Americans out of work, being in the midst of a devastating economic recession, and having people protest in the streets of most of our major cities. Much worse. And he will.

He will strangle the lifeblood out of America and suffocate its vitality in the same way that Derek Chauvin snuffed out the life of George Floyd. And amidst the writhing and the screams of the agony inflicted, the casualties are our dignity and our honor and our pride; along with truth, justice, and the American way, all of which he makes a mockery of in the very worst ways imaginable.

As the clock ticks away on the Trump presidency, our country faces some critical decisions: will America continue on the trajectory of the past three years — one that emboldens racism and pursues fascism and illiberalism, or will America embrace real fundamental progressive social change? If there is to be change, will it come through burning everything down followed by rampant anarchy, or will change come through peaceful and constructive reform?

Putting it another way… You can be defeated by the enemy. You can become the enemy. Or you can overcome the enemy.

In this case, change through violence and destruction is a pathway to becoming the enemy. The only way to truly overcome this enemy is through constructive reform. Extensive examples from American history prove that such is possible. As Trump attacks and defiles the principles and institutions of the American republic, we must embrace and strengthen them (See: What Effective Protest Could Look Like).

The path to constructive peaceful reform is complex, but in this instance we are fortunate that the first steps are extraordinarily clear and simple. In order for it to happen, Donald Trump must not be re-elected President in November, and the political party that supports him must lose control of the US Senate.

To gain a deeper understanding what must happen beyond these initial steps, I strongly recommend David Frum’s wonderful new book, Trumpocalypse: Restoring American Democracy, along with the daily “Letters from an American” by Heather Cox Richardson.

Time, Talent and Treasure

Last Thanksgiving, Walter Shaub, former director of the Office of Government Ethics, posted the following challenge on his Twitter feed. I invite you to join me in using Walt’s challenge as a road map for making a positive difference over the next five months. Walt wrote:

“I am convinced of two things: (1) our republic faces an existential threat and (2) the forces that threaten it will succeed unless enough of us make sacrifices. I think it’s that simple. Just as in World War II, the outcome will depend on what we put into the fight.”

“I invite you to join me in reflecting on these questions this week. You don’t need to share your answers, but maybe you could talk them over with loved ones. Here they are:
1. What makes me thankful that I live in a republic?
2. How serious is the threat facing our republic?
3. Over the next year, what are some ways that I could contribute time to defending democracy?
4. Over the next year, what are some ways I could contribute my talent to defending democracy?
5. Over the next year, how much money could I afford to give to defend democracy?
6. What will happen if enough people don’t give time, talent and treasury to defend democracy?

I think every last one of us needs to give time, talent and treasure to this fight. How much depends on our circumstances, but none in any category is too little.”

“A one-cent donation isn’t much, but can you imagine if every last one of us gave something? Your one-cent would help build momentum that might inspire others who can give more than one cent. For my part, I’m going to spend time this holiday reflecting on a series of questions.

The dark reality of our flawed republic is that most things, including elections and lawsuits, take money. That’s why 1 cent has to be the minimum for all of us Twitter enthusiasts.

Of course, it takes more than money. It also takes time and talent. I’d love to hear of some ways folks have already contributed time and talent to defending democracy, if you’d care to share them in response to this thread.”

In response to Walt’s challenge, I am launching a series of “Time, Talent and Treasure” posts on The Domino Principle’s Facebook page, that will run between now and this coming November. In these postings, I will cover 30+ critical races in the upcoming election (primarily the presidential race and the US Senate races) and how each of us can make a contribution of resources, time and talent to help bring meaningful reform to America.

I will personally be donating to each race. I know how financially difficult these times are for so many. Donating as little as one cent will help. Whether or not you are able to donate financially, you can also help by using your talent to share these “Time, Talent and Treasure” Facebook posts on your own Facebook feed so others will know how they can help make a difference too — “liking” a post is nice, but actually “sharing” it to your own page it is orders of magnitude more beneficial and productive. Feel free to share this column, too!

We can do this, together.

🎶It’s gonna take a lotta love
To change the way things are
It’s gonna take a lotta love
Or we won’t get too far🎶

Note: If you purchase Trumpocalypse: Restoring American Democracy using the links in this column, The Domino Prinicple will be paid a small commission by Amazon. Any such commissions earned will be donated to the campaigns as described in this column.

Note added June 17, 2021: A typo in the spelling of Walt Shaub’s name was corrected post-publication. 

Cliff Kurtzman
Follow me
Latest posts by Cliff Kurtzman (see all)

One thought on “Let Justice Breathe”

Leave a Reply