Opinion | Susan Knopf: COVID-19 and Black Lives Matter
For The Record
What a weird Fourth of July! Persistent vacationers look like angels of mercy to struggling business owners trying to survive COVID-19. Public health officials speak to deaf ears: stay home, wear masks, socially distance, wash your hands.
The president succeeds in politicizing these ominous warnings. He addressed a rally July 3 at Mount Rushmore and a private party July 4 on the White House lawn. No one wore masks. No one socially distanced at either event. I guess he’s trying to kill his base.
In speeches at both events, he spoke of cultural revolution, pitting Americans against one another. Have you ever in your life heard a president speak like that on Independence Day? We the people must unite and understand there are those who would divide us for their own political gain. We can disagree politically without denigrating each other.
Former Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson told “Meet the Press,” “I have faith in the American people to see through the effort to demonize and divide us. Our president underestimates the wisdom of the American people.” I wish I had as much faith as Johnson. I’m afraid the president found just the right words to move voters to act emotionally, irrationally, against our best interests. That’s exactly how con artists manage to dupe their victims. Right-wingers are saying the Rushmore speech will be recorded as the one that won Trump reelection!
The president told the Mount Rushmore audience, “Our nation is witnessing a merciless campaign to wipe out our history, defame our heroes, erase our values and indoctrinate our children.” Wow. That’s not the Black Lives Matter movement I’ve been witnessing.
In June, peaceful protesters marched in Breckenridge and Steamboat Springs and across the country and around the globe. For the record, The New York Times declares it to be the biggest political movement in U.S. history with an estimated 28 million people demonstrating in the streets.
The movement seeks to memorialize the killing of George Floyd and to stop the senseless killing we have witnessed of so many Black men and women. We say enough. We all watched in horror as a Minneapolis police officer, a man sworn to protect our citizens, instead became the executioner of a citizen.
The issue is, how to take this protest and turn it into change? Colorado became the first state in the nation to pass a bill to address the issue, Senate Bill 20-217. The bill requires all Colorado law enforcement officers to wear body cameras and to activate those cameras when responding to a call, among other things. That’s a good start. We’ll talk about it more and the unintended consequences next week.
What else is the movement looking for? Equity. I don’t think I got it until I saw a drawing depicting equality, equity and liberation. Check it out online. I think you’ll get an aha moment.
Some protesters are making it more difficult for the message to be heard with their broad brush destruction of historic monuments. We get it. Washington and Jefferson were slaveholders. So how can they be our heroes?
Heroes are flawed. I think we’d all like to see those flaws depicted, alongside their accomplishments, when we tell the history of our country. As Johnson, a man of color, told America, he has family members who proudly bear the name of Washington, and they aren’t changing their names.
There’s a big difference between erasing history and how we honor history. It took us years to forgive ourselves for Vietnam. Vets bore the brunt of our shame. Now they are honored. For years, we have honored those who foisted divisive civil war upon our nation so they could continue to enslave Black people and reap profits from slave labor. It’s high time we stopped honoring those who did not believe in the Declaration of Independence, “all men (and women) are created equal.”
It’s high time our history reflected truth, context and balance. No one is trying to erase history. But most of us would like to see the statues in the public square reflect truth and dignity for all citizens, not just white citizens.
Susan Knopf’s column “For The Record” publishes Fridays in the Summit Daily News. Knopf has worn many hats in her career, including working as an award-winning journalist and certified ski instructor. She moved to Silverthorne in 2013 after vacationing in Summit County since the 1970s. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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