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Word on the Street: Black Lives

Steve Campbell

Back when Presidents were Presidents, John F. Kennedy said: “If you suppress peaceful revolution, you are guaranteed to have violent revolution.”
By the time this appears, the riots in the United States will have lessened in force. This makes no difference in the fight that lies ahead for our southern neighbours. I call them neighbours, but they are not remotely like us, which can happen with neighbours.
There’s not much I can add to the outrage and shock that the brutal death of an unarmed black man by a white policeman can bring. Except my own outrage.
I have never seen a situation so bungled by a U.S. president in my lifetime and, yes, I’ve been following it for a long time. No words of sympathy, no words of calm … in any of the clips I’ve seen the President has not even mentioned the name of the victim … he’s just some black guy. But he sure knows how to mishandle a Bible. Thank God he didn’t open it, or he might have been consumed by fire!

A lot of news sources, and late night (socially distanced) comedy hosts have been burrowing through the archives, citing name after name of unarmed black people being killed by police. Of course, we all know that not all police are bad, except for that bastard who nailed me for a full fine while I was speeding up toward the ‘80 km/h’ sign coming out of Bloomfield.
Mind you. That was back in 1972 when I was a long-haired freak driving a 1970 TR6 convertible (which I termed a ‘cop magnet’) working as a cub reporter for The Picton Gazette. I mention this because, that afternoon, the same cop came in and asked me to do a promotional favour for him, and I told him to “something off”. That’s what we do in the County, and clearly I’m almost over it.
But that egregious crime does not remotely relate to the severe racial problems faced by the U.S. These things come and go, riots here, riots there, riots, riots everywhere. That’s a part of American history, except nobody is reading the history book.

I came of age, politically, at the age of 18 in 1968. A horrible year. The Vietnam War was raging, anti-war people in the streets. National Guard, tear gas, bullets. Lyndon Johnson stepping down. Bobby Kennedy, the great hope for a better America, dead. Martin Luther King, the great hope for a better America, dead. It looked like the world, America-wise, was dead.
At that time, I was tasked by Nancy Sutton, my English teacher, to do a 15-page essay on a subject of my choice. I chose the Civil Rights Movement in the U.S. I figured that was a breeze, because the fight for black civil rights went all the way back to 1960. But no.
As I researched, I got into the 1950s: white-only water fountains, white-only bathrooms, white-only restaurants? What the hell? Black people were taking it to the streets then, but did anybody care? Not the national press for sure. Until the burning and looting started. Then the 1940s, black-only regiments? Because we can’t have our WW2 white soldiers mixed up with our black soldiers? Probably afraid that the black jazz music would infect the Vera Lynn white folks, and instead of fighting they would just lay back and chill with the cool vibes.
Needless to say, my essay was 75 pages long, and a weary Ms. Sutton wrote: “OK, it’s an A, but I don’t have the time to read the rest.”

So back to the job at hand. As Canadians, we get the picture, but I apologize for venting a mild degree of outrage. I feel for PM Trudeau for his famous ‘20-second pause’ when asked about the current situation in the U.S. I know exactly what was running through his mind, as a statesman. He needed to be diplomatic, and I don’t, so he sent me a personal e-mail asking me to be his voice.
So if you are a big Trump fan, set down your beer, put away your collection of handguns, roll up your nazi flag and put it in your ‘love box’ with your arm bands, and remember that this is what Trudeau would want me to say:
Donald Trump is inciting civil war in his own country – a race war, and a right vs. left war. Two wars for the price of one! If the left hand don’t getya the other hand will. He is an autocrat, like the global dictators he admires, who use an iron hand to keep everything in order. “Oh, if only …” is running through his mind all the time.
This is why he responds to peaceful protests by hiding in a bunker and threatening guns and incredible weapons (surprised he didn’t say “the biggest of the biggyest”) and, of course, military action and tanks.
This is a guy who has been against controlling coronavirus from the start, because the economy is more important than the people. Of course, it was getting worse, so he downloaded the problem on the governors of each state, and then dumped on them for not doing the job he refused to do. This is so the opposite of what we did here in Canada – removing party politics in the interest of the greater good.
What does it take for Americans to realize their President is a moron? Hell, Obama would have been impeached at the ‘pussy-grabbing’ stage of this surreal fiasco! Every day, since Trump took office, I’ve been horrified by every single tweet, every ridiculous lie, which is always followed by someone in his crew scrambling to say what he really meant, if he were a genuinely human being, with something we might marginally call ‘caring about people’.

Another rule of autocracy: Stifle the press. Fake News has entered our lexicon, and will likely end up in the New Oxford Dictionary soon. Brilliant move! I take back the part about him being a moron. He surgically removed everyone who gave him ‘bad press’ and at the same time solidified his ‘base’, which is comprised of people who think that ‘The Press’ and perhaps ‘aliens’ or ‘illegal immigrants’ are messing with their minds. That’s why they all watch Fox News, which often strains to put happy smiley-face spins on Trump’s often incoherent babblings. While still desperately trying to look adoringly, just like the rest of the faithful Republicans who can’t get their lips off the butt long enough to look around and see what’s happening to their country.

When we look back on this, assuming there’s still an America south of us after the coming election, I think Trump is a giant ‘Reset’ button. Like COVID, he may have taught us what NOT to do.
Perhaps, like the virus, Trump is an awakening to all of the things we have done wrong, and we may all, across the continent, find a new way. If Americans start to see the light about how they’ve oppressed blacks for centuries, maybe more people of every colour will join a fight that (as I found out) started long before I was born.
And if they make it, don’t worry. Americans always revise their history, so maybe in a couple of years, slavery and abuse didn’t really happen at all.

  • Steve Campbell is editor and publisher of County Magazine, and the author of several books, including The County Handbook: How to Survive in Prince Edward County.

Filed Under: News from Everywhere ElseSteve Campbell

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  1. Doug & Micheline Mallory says:

    It’s good to see tell-it-like-it-isness still exists in “The County”. Your well-presented serious message was tempered with the makings of a good belly laugh you might have heard all the way from out here on the Pacific Coast. Well done.

  2. Eric Pierce says:

    IMHO, one of the best things you have ever penned, Steve.

  3. Vic Alyea says:

    Steve – Thanks for a brilliant column! Hopefully the upcoming American election in November will restore sanity and respect in the USA. My numerous American cousins are embarrassed and fed up with Trump and his narcissistic, autocratic behaviours.

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