Scenes from America

Here’s a small slice of life from America in late August 2020.

Illegal political propaganda at the White House

The Republican convention wound up with a large political rally at the White House—a blatant violation of the law and of political norms and traditions.

New England holds the virus at bay

Gov. Charles Baker

New England and the mid-Atlantic states continue to make good progress against the virus. Massachusetts was hit hard early in the pandemic, but through (mostly) good governance and (mostly) strong social solidarity, we have kept the seven-day average of positive test results very low: it is now at 1.0%, the lowest so far. Some Massachusetts companies continue to be at the forefront of research into a vaccine. The governor has instituted travel restrictions requiring people visiting Massachusetts, except from the neighboring states where the virus is well-controlled, to quarantine for fourteen days upon arrival unless they test negative for the disease. Massachusetts has dozens of colleges and universities, and we do have concerns about the arrival of students from around the country. Our Republican governor, Charles Baker, is the most popular governor in the country, and his existence is a rebuke to the Trump Administration—he had no speaking role at the Republican Convention, no doubt to the party’s satisfaction and to his.

Violence continues

Kyle Rittenhouse was arrested on charges of murder after allegedly firing on protesters in Kenosha, Wisconsin with a semiautomatic rifle, killing two. Rittenhouse immediately attracted support from a Fox commentator and sparked a fundraising effort for his defense. Earlier, Jacob Blake was shot by police in front of his children.

On the left, there has been rioting and looting followed by condemnation by figures including Joe Biden but then, confoundingly, with a bizzare full-throated defense by others.

Canaries in the coal mine

The dangers of fascism and authoritarianism in America now are plain for all to see, which is why it’s important that the Republicans should suffer a nationwide electoral shellacking. But here are a couple of other canaries in the coal mine to keep your eyes on, which illustrate to me that fascism and authoritarianism are especially bad and important to fight when matched with political power, but also bad and important to fight before they are married to political power.

In Washington, a mob surrounded and screamed at a woman who refused to give the “Black power” raised fist salute when challenged. “I felt I was under attack,” the woman said, “adding that she felt there was something wrong about being coerced to show support.” “In the moment, it didn’t feel right,” she said, adding that she also could understand their anger. “I wasn’t actually frightened. I didn’t think they’d do anything to me,” she said. “I’m very much with them. I’ve been marching with them for weeks and weeks and weeks.” That’s a brave woman, and there’s nothing more American than saying “I refuse to be bullied.”

Fire at the University of Delaware Chabad House

The Jews throughout history have often been a good canary in the coal mine, so pay attention to this as well. A synagogue was defaced in Kenosha, and a far-left Jewish group, If Not Now, initially condemned the crime, rightly calling it antisemitic. But “after hearing from friends in and outside the movement,” it announced it would “do teshuvah [repent] for the ways in which our tweet’s phrasing fell short and contributed to distracting from the most urgent issues facing our country today: police violence and anti-Black racism.” Meanwhile, a Jewish community center at the University of Delaware was burned in what investigators have called arson, and an antisemite hung a banner from a bridge over a California highway asking drivers to honk to support his view: “the Jews want a race war.”

1 thought on “Scenes from America”

  1. Antonio Fiorentino Di Stefano

    We live in crazy times, difficult to tell what is going on in reality. Difficult to fully agree with movements that in chasing monsters risk to become monsters themselves, as Nietzsche would put it. Come November we may find ourselves staring into the abyss.

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