Americans, We Better Vote
As If Our Lives Depend On It
By D.B. Pacini-Christensen
(Portions of this essay are from Wikipedia, news articles, and news sources.)
06-03-20 - 06-07-20: COVID-19 has not been side barred during the national (and global) demonstrations associated with George Floyd's murder. I appreciate that many of the protestors are young people, and if they get COVID-19 they will likely not become seriously ill or die, but some have parents, grandparents, and family members with compromised health conditions. They can take COVID-19 home to their relatives.
As of this date (06-03-20), the lethal virus has marched shoulder-to-shoulder with the demonstrators every single moment for nine days. It will continue to march shoulder-to-shoulder with them until the demonstrations cease. In 2-3 weeks we will see the beginning impact COVID-19 will have on these demonstrators, their families, and their home communities. Hopefully, many of the demonstrators may develop herd immunity - time will tell.
I am happy to see numerous demonstrators wearing masks, but even though they are outside, they are gathered together in close proximity for extended periods of time. Most are not wearing face shields or proper eye gear to protect their eyes from COVID-19. Regular eyeglasses and regular sunglasses do little to shield from COVID-19.
These demonstrators are physically exhausting themselves. Their bodies are being weakened by the emotional stress and the genuine devastation that they feel because of Mr. Floyd's murder. Some probably are not getting much sleep, some probably are not eating well or keeping adequately hydrated, many are taking their masks off to talk and sing, and many probably are not effectively washing their hands and their masks. Plus, some are being tear-gassed, hit with batons, and shot with pepper balls and rubber bullets. Some are enduring rain, hot days, and police brutality.
It is important to remember that the majority of these demonstrators are peacefully protesting. That is a right I defend and a right I have exercised many times starting in the 1960s. In my younger years I passionately marched for social justice, racial rights, women's rights, animal rights, science, and for the environment.
Criminals and destructive individuals are not infiltrating these peaceful demonstrations because of George Floyd's murder. They don't give a damn about Mr. Floyd or any other person who has suffered police brutality. Most are an insurgence of outside agitators, and they come with a prepared strategy. They come to be chaotic, to distract from the justified message of the demonstrators. They strive to burn and destroy, to loot, and to obliterate communities, especially poor communities.
Forceful police procedures against demonstrators escalate tension and usually make things violent. An aggressive police presence reduces constructive opportunities for productive communication between demonstrators and the police.
The leaders of these demonstrations, and the young people marching, are not wrong to do what they are doing. They should not be blamed for the actions of the criminals. Their purpose is warranted. They have the right to peacefully demand justice for Mr. Floyd and to call out for long overdue change. It is not their responsibility to battle with these bad actors.
Some have tried to take this responsibility. I have seen on TV demonstrators trying to get others to stop damaging property and trying to get others to stop looting. Many peaceful demonstrators are out there trying to help clean up damaged stores and buildings.
I have seen the family of George Floyd and countless leaders earnestly calling for peace and calling for an end to the looting, the fires, and the destruction. I don't think the demonstrators or the police comprehended that these criminals would arrive with such an organized and prolonged plan for destruction.
Property owners have a right to protect their property, but I don't think most of the property owners comprehended that these criminals would arrive with such a prearranged plan to loot and destroy. These criminals arrived with specific tools to remove boards that were nailed on business doors and windows in order to break inside to loot, burn, and demolish property. They came armed with hammers, shovels, bats, jugs of gasoline, and tools they could use as weapons. Attacks were executed to maximize damage.
I do not believe these individuals merely saw looting being broadcasted on TV and then decided to also come loot. I believe the majority of these individuals swiftly descended on communities with a planned strategy, with particular targets selected, and with designated roles. They had people chosen to be drivers and people chosen to be looting/demolition crews. They brought tools of destruction.
Our government's dictatorial decision to have police in full riot gear aggressively tear-gas and attack innocent demonstrators for a "bible in front of a church" political publicity photo opportunity at St. John's Episcopal Church was an act that should scare Americans to their core regardless of their political party.
No American should want a government that will do this to American citizens who are exercising their right to gather for peaceful protest on American soil. Our government has once again revealed its colossal level of disconnect with our country's reality and with the rights of American people.
Rev. Gini Gerbasi and other clergy members of St. John's Episcopal Church were at the church giving the demonstrators water, granola bars, and fruit. Rev. Gerbasi and clergy members, without advanced notification, were physically forced to leave their church's patio with tear-gas and concussion grenades. They were not told a political publicity photo stunt was being planned at their church, they were not asked if this would be acceptable, and they were not invited to be there in prayer.
Clearly, prayer had nothing to do with this blatant display of political abuse.
The bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, Mariann E. Budde, immediately expressed her displeasure with the ill-conceived publicity stunt. She said, "He (Trump) did not pray. 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. We need a president who can unify and heal. He has done the opposite of that, and we are left to pick up the pieces."
Rev. Glenna Huber, who serves at the nearby Church of the Epiphany, expressed that she was "horrified" by what transpired. She said some protesters were singing before the National Guard tear-gassed them. She left before the rubber bullets were shot at the demonstrators. The demonstrators were also pushed and hit with batons.
Yes, this happened in America for a ridiculous and unimportant photo-op. Lafayette Park has long been protected as an area for demonstrations and free speech. But, it is protected no more.
I read in a recent article that numerous scholars have long said that Trump has authoritarian tendencies, and these scholars are alarmed by the ways in which Trump has sought to exploit, for his political benefit, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the nationwide protests over the brutal murder of George Floyd.
I read in another recent article that top experts on authoritarianism and fascism said this St. John's Episcopal Church confrontation on live TV was "frightening," and these experts warn that Trump could continue to escalate the situation if left unchallenged.
Some experts say it's too generous to label Trump an authoritarian or fascist, in the sense he doesn't have a coherent political philosophy, but they also say this doesn't make him "any less dangerous."
Human rights violations and suppressed media coverage in other countries (such as Russian, Iran, and China) helped secure dictatorships in those countries. Trump is suggesting that our American demonstrators are "terrorists," and he is calling on governors to "dominate" them. His threat to deploy U.S. troops against American demonstrators is a step toward a dictatorship in America.
I read in another recent article that Defense Secretary Mark Esper said he opposes using the U.S. military to quiet domestic unrest.
Esper also said, "I say this not only as secretary of defense, but also as a former soldier, and a former member of the National Guard. The option to use active-duty forces in a law enforcement role should only be used as a matter of last resort and only in the most urgent and dire of situations. We are not in one of those situations now. I do not support invoking the Insurrection Act."
Also, Esper disputed reports that COVID-19 originated from a Chinese laboratory where it was (allegedly) artificially engineered or artificially strengthened. He said, "A majority of the views now is that it (COVID-19) was natural, it was organic."
Two administration officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, recently said Trump was angry over Esper's comments. Trump's press secretary said, "As of right now, Secretary Esper is still Secretary Esper. Trump will let the public know if he loses faith in Esper."
Everyone, we have seen this predictable dance before with Trump. None of us need to be rocket scientists to know that Esper's days are numbered. He will probably be fired on a Friday evening, Trump's favorite time to fire many people, likely with a tweet.
06-11-20 Addition: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley apologizes for accompanying Trump (while wearing his combat fatigues) on June 1st across Lafayette Park to St. John's Episcopal Church for a controversial photo-op. His presence was appalling and it did politicize the military.
Milley says he was wrong to create a perception of military involvement in politics. He acknowledged his mistake in a commencement speech to the National Defense University on Thursday, 06-11-20.
"My presence in that moment and in that environment created an impression of the military involved in domestic politics. I should not have been there. As a commissioned uniformed officer, it was a mistake that I have learned from, and I sincerely hope we can all learn from it," Milley said.
Milley also said he was angry about the senseless and brutal killing of George Floyd.
Young people, people of color, women, and everyone who has seen what has happened to America and to the world under Trump's incompetence and his dangerous impulsivity, we must vote him out of office this coming November.
The presidential election in November will be the most important election in your lifetime regardless of your age.
Even if you do not believe Joe Biden is the ideal candidate, I believe most Americans can agree that Joe Biden will strive to unite our citizens, he will repair our relationships with other countries, and he will consult with, listen to, and respect experts. He will try to heal America. Joe Biden has moral integrity, compassion, and a genuine love for America. Also, we can trust his ability to lead, read, listen, and communicate.
My wonderful Italian grandfather was an immigrant. He came to America when he was nineteen. I live in California, and for most of my life, I lived in the greater Bay Area. As a Californian I have voted by mail for many years just because I find it more convenient.
I urge you to fight to vote by mail for many reasons, but especially because of COVID-19. I urge you to fight for racial reform and equal rights for people of color. I urge you to demand that our police serve and protect all Americans, including people of color.
Many people are saying the brutal murder of George Floyd is the racist straw that has finally broken the camel's back in America. His murder was beyond horrific. We must not allow George Floyd to die in vain. We must not allow his six-year-old daughter to grow up in an America that will tolerate what was done to her father. In George Floyd's memory and in his honor we must change America. We must do it now. I trust young Americans to do this more than I trust us older Americans - but us older Americans must stand beside our children and grandchildren as they lead America forward to a better tomorrow.
Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators are marching in America right now. I hope all of them will register to vote and will encourage everyone they know to vote. Americans, in the November 2020 election we must get out and vote for Joe Biden as if our lives depend on it. We must fight for our country and for the rights of all Americans. We must fight for humanity. There are many ways we can execute positive and effective change, but the most important way is with our vote.
I have several friends who are lifelong Republicans. Some admit (many with horror) that the Republican Party no longer represents the beliefs and values that they hold as Republicans. They do not recognize their party under Trump's leadership.
I think many of us know what John McCain would have to say right now. Former President George W. Bush and Senator Mitt Romney won't support Trump's re-election. Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska is "struggling" with whether to vote for Trump. Other Republican leaders are starting to peel away from Trump and say they believe he is unfit for office. A number of current GOP lawmakers and governors are very concerned about Trump. "Republicans for Biden" is increasing by the day.
Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware recently said, "I've had five conversations with senators who tell me they are really struggling with supporting Trump."
Former governor of South Carolina and a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives Mark Sanford said Trump is threatening the stability of the country. Sanford is engaged in frequent conversations with other Republicans about how to proceed.
Kori Schake, who worked at the National Security Council and State Department under Bush, and was an editor for Former Defense Secretary Mattis' book, "Warriors and Citizens," says a number of officials who worked for both Presidents Bush and Ronald Reagan, are on Zoom chats and in group emails trying to determine how to express their (Trump) opposition and whether it should come with an endorsement for Joe Biden.
The effort to gather more anti-Trump Republicans to speak out is being spearheaded by John B. Bellinger III, who also worked in Bush's NSC and State Department.
Some Republicans believe James Mattis made their task easier. "It laid the cornerstone of fighting back against Trump," said former Sen. John W. Warner of Virginia.
Even retired four-star general and former Republican Secretary of State Colin Powell is planning to vote for Joe Biden. Powell has labeled Trump a national disgrace and an international pariah. He says Trump "lies about things" and Republicans in Congress won't hold him accountable. He says the widespread protests over the police killing of George Floyd, and Trump's strongman approach to the national unrest, is evidence of a growing opposition to Trump's presidency. Powell shared that he is deeply troubled by the way Trump insults everybody. He suggests the immense size of the current protests might be a signal that the American people may be more aware of Trump's incompetence and are fed up with him.
Former Defense Secretary Mattis
Statement Released 06-03-20
I have watched this week's unfolding events, angry and appalled. The words "Equal Justice Under Law" are carved in the pediment of the United States Supreme Court. This is precisely what protesters are rightly demanding. It is a wholesome and unifying demand - one that all of us should be able to get behind. We must not be distracted by a small number of lawbreakers. The protests are defined by tens of thousands of people of conscience who are insisting that we live up to our values - our values as people and our values as a nation.
When I joined the military, some 50 years ago, I swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution. Never did I dream that troops taking that same oath would be ordered under any circumstance to violate the Constitutional rights of their fellow citizens - much less to provide a bizarre photo op for the elected commander-in-chief, with military leadership standing alongside.
We must reject any thinking of our cities as a "battlespace" that our uniformed military is called upon to "dominate." At home, we should use our military only when requested to do so, on very rare occasions, by state governors.
Militarizing our response, as witnessed in Washington, D.C., sets up a conflict - a false conflict - between the military and civilian society. It erodes the moral ground that ensures a trusted bond between men and women in uniform and the society they are sworn to protect, and of which they themselves are a part.
Keeping public order rests with civilian state and local leaders who best understand their communities and are answerable to them.
James Madison wrote in Federalist 14 that "America united with a handful of troops, or without a single soldier, exhibits a more forbidding posture to foreign ambition than America disunited, with a hundred thousand veterans ready for combat."
We do not need to militarize our response to protests. We need to unite around a common purpose. And it starts by guaranteeing that all of us are equal before the law.
Instructions given by the military departments to our troops before the Normandy invasion reminded soldiers that, "The Nazi slogan for destroying us was 'Divide and Conquer.' Our American answer is 'In Union there is Strength.'" We must summon that unity to surmount this crisis - confident that we are better than our politics.
Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people - does not even pretend to try. Instead he tries to divide us. We are witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort. We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership. We can unite without him, drawing on the strengths inherent in our civil society. This will not be easy, as the past few days have shown, but we owe it to our fellow citizens; to past generations that bled to defend our promise; and to our children.
We can come through this trying time stronger, and with a renewed sense of purpose and respect for one another. The pandemic has shown us that it is not only our troops who are willing to offer the ultimate sacrifice for the safety of the community. Americans in hospitals, grocery stores, post offices, and elsewhere have put their lives on the line in order to serve their fellow citizens and their country. We know that we are better than the abuse of executive authority that we witnessed in Lafayette Square. We must reject and hold accountable those in office who would make a mockery of our Constitution. At the same time, we must remember Lincoln's "better angels," and listen to them, as we work to unite.
Only by adopting a new path - which means, in truth, returning to the original path of our founding ideals - will we again be a country admired and respected at home and abroad.
Several current and former military leaders and members of the military have spoken out against police brutality and racial injustice since George Floyd's murder.
On June 5, the United States Marine Corps announced it would no longer authorize any public display of a Confederate Flag on any facility or installation. "Current events are a stark reminder that it is not enough for us to remove symbols that cause division - rather, we also must strive to eliminate division itself," said Gen. David H. Berger, Commandant of the Marine Corps.
George Floyd's murder is leading to some city leaders choosing to finally remove deplorable racist statues and monuments, especially Confederate monuments, from American communities. While some have been removed, dozens remain. We must strive to ensure that they are all removed.
The section of 16th Street (in front of the White House) is now officially renamed Black Lives Matter Plaza. Officials have installed a new street sign above the intersection outside of St. John's Episcopal Church. Muriel Bowser, mayor of Washington, D.C. was present for the sign's installation.
Mayor Bowser commissioned artists and volunteers to paint "BLACK LIVES MATTER" in enormous yellow letters down a two-block stretch across Lafayette Square. Satellite images show the remarkable yellow message leading to the White House.
All living former United States Presidents have released statements in reaction to the killing of George Floyd.
On May 29, Barack Obama published a lengthy statement calling for a "new normal" that ends the legacy of bigotry
and unequal treatment.
On June 3, Obama addressed Americans in a Zoom video-conference organized by My Brother's Keeper Alliance, a part of the Obama Foundation. The conference was titled, "Reimagining Policing in the Wake of Continued Police Violence." In the address he stated, "This country was founded on protest: it is called the American Revolution, and every step of progress in this country, every expansion of freedom, every expression of our deepest ideals has been won through efforts that made the status quo uncomfortable."
On May 30, Bill Clinton released a statement via the Clinton Foundation saying, "In the days since George Floyd's death, it is impossible not to feel grief for his family - and anger, revulsion, and frustration that his death is the latest in a long line of tragedy and injustice, and a painful reminder that a person's race still determines how they will be treated in nearly every aspect of American life."
On June 2, George W. Bush and former First Lady Laura Bush issued a statement, that read in part, that they are anguished by the brutal suffocation of George Floyd and disturbed by the injustice and fear that suffocates our country. They said, "It is time for America to examine our tragic failures. Many doubt the justice of our country, and with good reason. Black people see the repeated violation of their rights without an urgent and adequate response
from American institutions. We know that lasting justice will only come by peaceful means."
On June 3, Jimmy Carter and former First Lady Rosalynn Carter released a statement, which read in part, "People of power, privilege, and moral conscience must stand up and say 'no more' to a racially discriminatory police and justice system, immoral economic disparities between whites and blacks, and government actions that undermine our unified democracy."
Police chief associations from across the country are expressing alarm over George Floyd's murder. They are speaking out against police brutality and racial injustice.
Canada: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that racism is real and exists in both the United States and Canada. He urges Canadians to stand up against it.
China: The Foreign Ministry of China denounces the killing of George Floyd with the statement, "The death of George Floyd reflects the severity of racial discrimination and police brutality in the United States." They urge the United States to "eliminate racial discrimination and protect the lawful rights of minorities."
Germany: Chancellor Angela Merkel described the police operation as murder saying: "This murder of George Floyd is something very, very terrible."
Iran: Iran's Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, retweeted a tweet saying people with dark skin faced being killed "in the next few minutes" if they walked out on American streets.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi called on the United States to stop oppression and aggressive conducts against its people and let them breathe.
Ireland: Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said that there is an absence of moral leadership in the United States following the death of George Floyd.
Peru: Peruvian President Martín Vizcarra expressed that the killing of Floyd is "a sign of racism and discrimination" that must be rejected. He said that according to what was answered in the last national census, more than 50% of Peruvians felt discriminated at some time in their lives. He congratulated the Afro-Peruvian community on the Day of Afro-Peruvian Culture.
Russia: The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the United States has a history of systematic human rights abuses.
South Africa: The African National Congress, the governing party in South Africa, released a statement calling for calm in the United States. They are criticized for not mentioning similar deaths due to police action in South Africa.
Turkey: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan blames George Floyd's death on a "racist and fascist approach" by the United States and said Turkey will be monitoring the issue, while extending condolences to Floyd's family and loved ones.
United Kingdom: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that racist violence has no place in our society. He is appalled and sickened by the (George Floyd) footage. He urges people to protest peacefully and in accordance with the rules on social distancing.
Venezuela: Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro accuses Trump of using the United States military against his own (American) people and says demonstrators are taking to the streets demanding an end to racism and police violence.
African Union: African Union officials, including Moussa Faki Mahamat, the chairperson of the African Union Commission, criticizes the Floyd killing.
United States embassies in Africa condemn Floyd's killing, in a move that is described by the media as unusual.
European Union: Josep Borrell, the EU's foreign policy chief, is "shocked and appalled" by the death of black American George Floyd in police custody, calling it "an abuse of power" and he warns against further excessive use of force.
United Nations: Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, condemned it (the Floyd murder) as yet another killing of an unarmed African American, and called on the United States to take "serious action" and end the repeat of such killings. She urges protestors to "express their demands for justice peacefully" and for police to refrain from further use of excessive force.
The Dalai Lama, in India while teaching students, condemned the killing of George Floyd by saying that there are some who even take it as a pride to be able to kill somebody.
Pope Francis addressed Floyd's death during his weekly prayer at the Vatican on June 3: "Dear brothers and sisters in the United States, I have witnessed with great concern the disturbing social unrest in your nation in these past days, following the tragic death of Mr. George Floyd. We cannot tolerate or turn a blind eye to racism and exclusion in any form and yet claim to defend the sacredness of every human life."