—After that, everything else is easy.
Some will say the that the naming of yet another conservative justice to the Supreme Court is the straw that broke the camel's back, but let's face it liberals and progressives and the rest who prize personal freedom—that back has been slowly fracturing for a half century. We had a good ride on that camel, but now it's over. And not even a win by Joe Biden in November will undo the damage, but it would be a little victory. And if we think of our lives the way medieval scholars and writers did—that we have indeed hit bottom on the wheel of fortune—then we'll be conscious of more little victories on the way back up.
But during that recent half century of reverence for liberal ideals, not everyone benefited. And we saw yesterday, once again, when a grand jury refused to indict three policemen who recklessly took the life of an innocent woman, Breonna Taylor, that Black Americans got short shrift in the five decades since Martin Luther King, Jr.'s murder—just as they did in the thirty-five decades before that. And the future for Black Americans does not look brighter, for not only are racism and bigotry inherent in much of our daily lives, but our president—with fifty years of overt prejudice behind him—has seen fit to empower white thugs with guns to make sure beyond any doubt that black lives do not, never did, and never will matter.
White thugs with guns—rolls gently off the tongue, doesn't it? White thugs with guns—or as Trump calls them, a well-regulated militia.
And the president has found in Kentucky's attorney general, Daniel Cameron, a kindred spirit who blithely stated yesterday that the facts do not support a charge of murder or manslaughter, but only one of wanton recklessness. And his remorseless and callous account of why the police were within their rights was as chilling as anything Donald Trump has said since Charlottesville.
If you're looking for clues about why Mr. Cameron was so glib and why his failure to empathize was so blatant, here's a snippet of his bio from the ky.gov page:
As legal counsel to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Cameron successfully spearheaded the confirmation processes for conservative federal judges, including Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch. Cameron has served as spokesman for the Kentucky Smart on Crime Coalition, and in 2017, the Kentucky Narcotics Officers Association named him “Legislative Staffer of the Year.” His commitment to working with law enforcement was further acknowledged by the endorsement of the Kentucky Fraternal Order of Police.
To no one's surprise Trump did not comment on Breonna Taylor's murder, but did refer to Mr. Cameron as "a star."
As this new decade begins, all of us—regardless of race, gender, or cultural heritage— face the prospect of an illiberal government imposing its will on a nation with liberal tendencies. The ensuing struggle of wills and philosophies will last not for months or years, but for decades. We better be ready to present and defend an organized opposition, and to accept failure with equanimity and resolve. Bill Barr's recent comparison of mask-wearing to slavery can, in its utter fatuousness, compete with any statement ever made by a public official, so I won't compare living under the thumb of an arch-conservative quasi-dictatorship to slavery; but progressives may soon learn what it's like to be "the other" in their own country. On this September day in the plague year, we are all Breonna Taylor; and if white progressives haven't realized it yet, they should.
In Paradise Lost John Milton told us in words more eloquent than these: You can't beat the big guy, but you can make his life miserable. If that's the progressives' lot from now on—if the freedoms of a liberal society are going to be stripped away one after another—our counterattacks must be ongoing. We have to play the same long game Republicans began fifty-odd years ago, not with violence and mayhem, but with reasoning and persistence.
The line between democracy and dictatorship is thinning, and when we witness government exercised with the rigidity we saw in Kentucky yesterday—with a Trumpian lack of empathy and humanity—we know that the country we once knew is disappearing—that America, which was always more an idea than a place, is now the latter only. The tragedy of Breonna Taylor is that she epitomized that idea of America, where lives comprised failures and successes, but hope for a brighter future remained. She was a Black American, but more important, she was an American. Period. The sooner we recognize that, the sooner we can begin to create misery for those who would have us believe otherwise.