The Summer of our Discontent

By Dr David Laing Dawson

I don’t think it is that hard to imagine the evolution of a fascist leader, a cruel omnipotent dictator. It has happened often enough historically and recently, and we can each find within ourselves just such a potential if we remember those moments in our own lives when such an instinct tickled the surface of our consciousness. Most of us, I think, recoil from it. Most of us never get the opportunity to scratch that itch. But a few of us have sufficient grandiosity, narcissism, and sociopathy to let that tickle embrace us if the circumstances allow, and if our rules and laws and norms do not prevent it.

And here we have Trump and his people at the precipice. They have had three and a half years to undermine the norms and expectations of their democracy, to undermine the fourth estate, to muddy the boundary between government and judiciary, to stack the decks, and to sow fear and discord among the people. And now they have been given a disrupting crisis in the form of a pandemic, and one that affects the poor more viciously than the rich, heightening both fear and poverty all round.

Crowds of peaceful protesters in the day unleash vandals and looters after dark. It doesn’t really matter if those night time looters were the same peaceful protesters during the day, or opportunists, or outside provocateurs, or just young males with no adult supervision; it is setting the stage for the next step toward the destruction of American Democracy – which by the way, Donald Trump has said he will take – the unleashing of the military on its own people.

So America (and the world for that matter) is at an inflexion point, a tipping point. I say the world as well as America, for these nationalist evolutions are the antithesis of international peace and cooperation.

The image of a white police officer kneeling on the neck of George Lloyd could not have been a clearer, more potent symbol of the racism that has been allowed to fester and worsen. (I had not realized that the progress from the civil rights movement of integrating schools and neighbourhoods was reversed over the last few years in Minnesota and many other states.)

Now as I write this the American Secretary of Defence Esper has just made a speech against using military force. So perhaps we will muddle through.

But at the top of this article I wrote that “it is not hard to imagine the evolution of a fascist leader”. Harder to understand is when and at what point do people like myself look away – liberal, thoughtful, educated, but white and privileged people. So I ask myself that if the rioting came to my neighbourhood (which is downtown and racially mixed), the looting and vandalism, and if our windows were smashed, our gallery looted, would I then welcome troops in my street and the re-election of Donald Trump? Or even just kid myself that troops in my street are necessary and only temporary?

Five months to go before the American election. Five summer months, including the mean month of August.

I sincerely hope Biden is up to the task of providing some alternative vision and leadership during these months. And then putting in four hard years of repairing the inequities within America.

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