When pro-Trump protesters descended on state capitals to demand reopening, nobody shot at them, not even when they endangered police lives by screaming into their faces, unmasked, during a pandemic. Nobody shot at them when they carried weapons into state legislative buildings to intimidate state legislators and governors. And of course, those protesters received the full-throated endorsement of President Trump. “Liberate Minnesota!” Trump tweeted on April 17.
Threats of armed violence by pro-Trump demonstrators forced the shutdown of the Michigan legislature in mid-May. But about that militancy, Trump was indulgent. He tweeted May 1: “The Governor of Michigan should give a little, and put out the fire. These are very good people, but they are angry. They want their lives back again, safely! See them, talk to them, make a deal.”
An armed intruder is not a peaceful protester. If the targets yield before the intruder discharges his weapon at them, they have still been coerced. The threat of violence works only to the extent that the imminence of violence is credible. And it was imminent violence that pro-Trump protesters displayed in Minnesota, in Michigan, in the state of Washington. But no federalizing of the National Guard there, no threats of indiscriminate shooting, only gentle understanding of people who gridlocked state capitals in service of their abject lunatic theory that Bill Gates wanted to inject microchips into their bums.
The Trump presidency has shown America aspects of itself that few of us wished to see. Even having been forced to watch them up close through three shameful years of presidential corruption, those aspects are still hard for many of us to accept. But along with the monuments of law, along with the rhetoric of liberty, along with the proud achievements of American history, there also exists the realities that Trump daily exposes: impunity for some forms of looting, impunity for some forms of violence, impunity for some forms of lawbreaking. [Continue reading…]