There is a situation in Kenosha, Wisconsin, that needs to be calmed down and we’re sending in Donald Trump? Really? That guy? Of all the people in all the country, President Trump thinks that he is the one who can calm things down?
Donald Trump has some skills; bringing calm is not one of them. He does not do calm. Donald Trump does chaos. From everything that we know about the White House, it is always in chaos. He thrives on it. If it does not exist, he starts it.
The most charitable view of Donald Trump is that he breaks things so that he can build something better in their place, a kind of creative destruction. The more plausible view of Donald Trump is that he just likes to break things.
Yet, for some reason, he thinks he is the guy who can bring peace to Kenosha.
There are lots of different groups in Kenosha, some of which overlap. By far the biggest is the group with a legitimate grievance about how Black people are treated by the police and by society in general. There may be disagreement about the extent of the problem or what should be done, but there is just too much evidence for anyone to say that there is no problem.
I do not really make an effort to catalogue questionable police violence. Even with my casual knowledge, I can tick off a list: Jacob Blake, shot seven times in the back; George Floyd, died while the police knelt on his neck; Ahmaud Arbery, hunted down and shot while jogging; Philando Castile, shot during a traffic stop while reaching for his wallet; Tamir Rice, a boy shot for playing with a toy gun. The list goes on and on. Anybody who is paying close attention could fill at least a page.
If we look beyond the police, consider the demographics. Black people have less wealth than white people. They are more likely to be unemployed. They have worse health outcomes. They are more likely to be in prison. Why these things are true is complicated and the causes may not all be related to race. At the same time, nobody can say with a straight face that there is no problem here. People in the streets marching have a legitimate grievance.
Nobody can say for sure what other people are doing there. It is likely that there are some who are out there causing trouble just to delegitimize those with a valid grievance. There are probably some who just like the excitement, the sound of glass breaking. Since there are opportunists who will take advantage of any situation, there may be people who are out there because they see a chance to pick up a free TV. There are those who just like to brandish their weapons, looking for trouble.
In the background, if not at the marches, there are people who just want things to calm down.
When President Trump visited Kenosha, he addressed the concerns of those who just want to be safe. While he didn’t, and probably won’t, do much to correct the problem, he acknowledged that those who want to be safe have a legitimate concern. He condemned those who like to hear glass break.
As for would-be vigilantes who just like to wave their guns around, looking for trouble, his response was worse than nothing. As the disturbances have gone on, gangs of young men have started to show up armed to the teeth, pretending they are there to protect property. They are not there to help law enforcement; they are accountable to nobody. Already a 17-year-old from out of state shot three people, killing two of them.
President Trump defended these people. He did not explain how roaming gangs of vigilantes could possibly bring peace and order to Kenosha.
He didn’t say a word about the legitimate grievances of the marchers. He didn’t say he was sorry that Jacob Blake was shot. He didn’t even acknowledge that there is a very large group of people with legitimate concerns, concerns which — in a democracy — would be addressed.
In a democracy, everybody matters. Everybody’s point of view is taken into account. We can’t always do what every person wants done, but we always have to consider what others want and what would benefit them. If some people don’t get what they want this time, they may next time. If people don’t get everything they want, maybe they get part of it. Even if we don’t accomplish it, the goal is to make the system work for everybody
This is not, however, a functioning democracy. This is an America where the legitimate grievances of a large group of citizens are ignored.
Those marching in Kenosha do so under the slogan Black Lives Matter. On one level, the slogan is so obviously true that it seems pointless to say it. Puppies are cute; the sky is blue; all lives matter; Black lives matter. At the same time, our society has often behaved as if Black lives do not matter, or at least not as much as white lives. That is the thing we have to fix.
Donald Trump does not recognize that Black lives matter. Until he can recognize that Black lives matter and that there are legitimate grievances to be addressed, he is not the guy to bring a lasting peace to Kenosha, or anywhere else.