After a weekend of demonstrations and protests, President Trump made a conference call to the nation’s governors on Monday. He told them to get tough and overwhelm the protestors with force, otherwise they would “look like jerks.” He tweeted, “These people are ANARCHISTS. Call in our National Guard NOW. The world is watching and laughing at you and Sleepy Joe. Is this what America wants? NO!!!”
Trump then addressed the nation from the White House Rose Garden and declared that he is our “president of law and order.” He called the protests “acts of domestic terror… If a city or state refuses to take actions necessary to defend the life and property of residents, then I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them.”
Tear Gas, Flash-Bangs and a Bible
Then, after the talk Trump set out for a visit to St. John’s Episcopal Church in Lafayette Park, just across from the White House. But first a cadre of police officers and National Guard troops cleared the way, using tear gas and flash-bang explosions to remove peaceful protesters from the park. One of the priests at St. John’s was tear-gassed while trying to help escaping protesters. The president then stood in front of the church, holding a Bible for a photo shoot, and returned to the White House.
The Rt. Reverend Mariann Budde, the Episcopal Bishop of Washington, said in an interview that 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.”
Where is Joe?
What about Joe Biden? Where was he and what did he have to say? In a Friday video talk Biden said that protesting against brutality “is right and necessary. It’s an utterly American response. But burning down communities and needless destruction is not. Violence that endangers lives is not. Violence that guts and shutters businesses that serve the community is not. The act of protesting should never be allowed to overshadow the reason we protest. It should not drive people away from the just cause that protest is meant to advance.”
The former vice president added, “We are a nation enraged, but we cannot allow our rage to consume us. We are a nation exhausted but will not let our exhaustion defeat us. The very soul of America is at stake.” He said that the country’s long history of racism remains a “deep, open wound…I believe it’s the duty of every American to grapple with it, and to grapple with it now. With our complacency, our silence, we are complicit in perpetuating these cycles of violence.”
On Sunday Biden visited a protest site and toured damaged businesses in Wilmington, Delaware. He said, “The only way to bear this pain is to turn all that anguish to purpose. And as President, I will help lead this conversation — and more importantly, I will listen, just as I did today.”
Hate Doesn’t Go Away
On Monday he met with faith leaders at Bethel African Episcopal Church in Wilmington. For an hour Biden listened to members of the congregation and community leaders talk about their fears, frustrations and hopes. Then he told the group that “Hate just hides. It doesn’t go away. And when you have somebody in power who breathes oxygen to the hate under the rocks, it comes out from under the rocks.”
On Tuesday Biden gave a speech in Philadelphia and said, “I won’t traffic in fear and division. I won’t fan the flames of hate. I’ll seek to heal the racial wounds that have long plagued our country, not use them for political gain. I’ll do my job and I’ll take responsibility…I won’t blame others.”
He urged the people to “Look at where we are now, and think anew: Is this who we are? Is this who we want to be? Is this what we want to pass on to our children and grandchildren — fear, anger, finger-pointing, rather than the pursuit of happiness? Incompetence and anxiety, self-absorption, selfishness? Or do we want to be the America we know we can be, the America we know in our hearts we could be and should be?”
We have two men and two approaches for emerging from a crisis. Now the choice is ours on November 3
Bill Jamieson’s career has included leadership positions in business, government, and education. He was also an ordained deacon in the Episcopal Church and his ministry centered around advocacy for low-income families and children.