The events of this past week in Minneapolis, where I spent part of my childhood, have been very upsetting and disturbing to me.
First, the horrible acts in the video we all saw, from many angles: In the course of an arrest for a petty crime, a white policeman, aided by his fellow officers, kneeled on the neck of a black man, long enough to end his life.
Second, the protests, which have spread like wildfire across this nation. These protests affirm the value of all black lives, especially those unjustifiably ended, at the hands of the police. Though unusual, in a largely apathetic and politically passive nation, these protests show, that people are sick of the same old, same old.
That encourages me. There is a caring populace, willing to at least raise their voices and march in the streets, to demand reasonable and long-awaited change. At the same time, I worry about the opportunists, the looters and the fire-setters, who deflate the credibility of the peaceful protesters, and play into the hands of those who oppose them, and would try to crush them, like sitting ducks.
I wrote this poem in response to what happened in Lafayette Square Park, across from the White House, in Washington, DC on June 2, 2020. The events, in case you are unfamiliar, are these: Protesters filled the park during daylight hours. Then US Attorney General WIlliam Barr toured the park with a security detail. Then a group of policemen on horses batoned and tear-gassed the protesters out of the park. Then, with an entourage of various officials and cameramen, the President toured the empty park, surveying the damage from the previous night’s fires, and at last, walked across the street to St John’s Episcopal church, for a pious and self-serving photo-op, with a Bible.
All of this time, the airwaves and Twittersphere have been splattered, with the venom of the President’s threat, of military force against his own people. This, I find most disturbing of all. It calls to mind parades of armed horsemen, by Charles I of England around the time of the Grand Remonstrance, or the Czar’s show of force against peasant protesters, immediately before the Russian revolution. Lots of movies and documentaries recount such scenes. And they are especially powerful to us, because we know, that they could never happen here.
Thank you for coming by to read.
Dominate the battlespace,
Once said the military.
No matter, that the space is here,
And we, the Enemy.
Dominate the battlespace.
Don’t give an inch, not ever.
No matter, that you spill our blood,
To earn your victory.
And look! Your owly sidekick
Walks the crowded park, before you.
He notes the many obstacles.
And writes them, in his book:
The mothers, pushing strollers
Past the chanters, of all backgrounds,
Who bow and kneel and raise their fists,
With anger in their look.
In camera-friendly daylight,
Cavaliers are swiftly riding,
Like czarist troops, on horseback,
In this age of cars and planes.
But no less effective, for it.
Their rubber bullets, tear gas,
Strong batons shall dominate.
Voila! The park is empty!
Picture-perfect for a selfie,
Your proof, you dared to leave the bunker,
Take a Tuesday stroll.
Observe the burnt-out restroom,
Shake your head, in solemn sorrow
A sudden urge comes on, to pray:
Across the street you go.
St John’s is waiting for you,
Sanctuary to the nation.
Its pews held bygone presidents,
Whose tears, their prayers drowned.
Our sacred space, and yours, collide.
But what’s this, in your pocket?
We watch you pose, your Holy Book,
So fresh, un-opened, upside-down.
It’s not enough, you dominate
Our airwaves, conversation.
Absurd distractions mock us.
Every act, our mourning, slights.
Don’t bother, guessing motives.
We’ll archive this falsest moment,
Like Bush’s cruiser “triumph”, or
The “V” of Nixon’s flight.
A law-and-order president?
Such actions, indefensible?
Such crimes, you cannot hide.
Look out! The camera’s rolling,
Every cell phone trained upon you.
As clouds of tear gas melt away,
The tears roll from our eyes.
Copyright 2020 Andrea LeDew
Please enjoy more in the series at Sixty Days. For a silly poem about social media, take a look at Like.
The Episcopal Church played a role in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, taking to the streets to peacefully protest and participating in voter registration drives in Mississippi. My dad, a parish priest at the time, was among them. To see the Church desecrated in this way by that abomination of a president makes me sick. I’m glad my dad’s not alive to see this.
That’s a fabulous legacy. Good people doing the right thing –even though people at the time might not recognize it as such–is the best we can hope for. And yes, to say that my own father, a staunch Republican for decades, was disappointed in our current president would indeed be putting it mildly. He,too, no longer needs to suffer the insufferable.
Tokens of Companionship
Bishop Mariann Budde had a very good op-ed in the New York Times online yesterday: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/04/opinion/trump-st-johns-church-protests.html?action=click&module=Opinion&pgtype=Homepage
I just read it. It is very good. Thank you for passing it along, Brad.
That was a good piece, thanks for the link Brad!
Tokens of Companionship
It was in the print version of the paper today. The photo-op is still very much on people’s minds. One analyst said on TV a couple of nights ago that it will undoubtedly be one of the defining moments of the current presidency.
I can’t bear to look at it.