When there were “very fine people on both sides”

Anyone who caught President Trump’s speech Friday night at Mt. Rushmore, celebrating our nation’s birthday under the stoney gaze of four of America’s greatest presidents, might have wondered what happened to the “very fine people on both sides” he praised after white supremacists and antisemites took to the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017, killing one peaceful counter-protester.  When Joe Biden announced his 2020 presidential candidacy, he recalled this low moment in the Trump presidency, and Trump, ever the revisionist-in-chief, responded, “I was talking about people that went because they felt very strongly about the monument to Robert E. Lee, a great general.”

Trump-Mt. Rushmore

Setting aside, for the moment, that he was praising a general who led an armed insurrection against the United States of America, this issue of statues, or of military base names, or of what Donald Trump touts as our American heritage is his bright, shiny new cause célèbre.

In 2016, Trump appealed to voters by defining a boogeyman —  immigrants — and promising to put “America first” by building a wall to keep them out.  Now, his new boogeyman is “angry mobs” pursuing “far-Left fascism” and a “Left-wing cultural revolution.”  Trump is a snake oil salesman; since he has nothing of value to offer in the realm of ideas or vision (and probably can’t spell either of those words), he barks out his bigotry and racism using symbols:  in 2016, it was this ludicrous wall he said he wants to build, and in 2020 it’s statues and monuments celebrating Confederate leaders from America’s Civil War.

In his inaugural address, President Trump sketched what he called a picture of “American carnage” — a nation overrun by foreigners who breached US borders to steal American jobs and commit crime.  Now, three and a half years later, the carnage is still underway but this time the enemy is, according to him, Americans whose racial identity and cultural beliefs threaten our nation’s heritage and founding ideals.

“Their goal is not a better America; their goal is the end of America,” the President declared Saturday during a July 4th celebration on the South Lawn of the White House.  “We are now in the process of defeating the radical left — the Marxists, the anarchists, the agitators, the looters,” Trump told a crowd of non-mask-wearing, not socially distanced guests ignoring his own administration’s guidelines for public safety in the midst of an existential health crisis going from bad to worse because of his incompetence and complete lack of leadership.

If the incompetent coordination of the US response to the pandemic weren’t bad enough, the misinformation he spews from his mouth is as deadly as the virus itself:

Now we have tested almost 40 million people. By so doing, we show cases, 99% of which are totally harmless. Results that no other country can show because no other country has the testing that we have, not in terms of the numbers or in terms of quality.

That is, of course, false.  99% of cases are not totally harmless.

But Trump will say anything to distract from his failed presidency.  We got the American carnage he described, but in the form of 2.8 million cases of COVID-19 and 130,000 deaths in the United States as of this writing according to Johns Hopkins University.  Tens of millions have lost their jobs, and despite a six-week shutdown across the country, infection rates this past week spiked to a record high of more than 50,000 new cases per day.  Rather than address that, he warned of a “growing danger” to the values of the nation’s founders, a “merciless campaign to wipe out our history, defame our heroes, erase our values, and indoctrinate our children,” on Friday in South Dakota.

Instead of addressing the ongoing national health crisis, President Trump boasted about Federal authorities apprehending hundreds of looters and vandals, warned of “violent mayhem” in streets of cities run by “liberal Democrats,” and crowed about the arrest of a “ringleader” in the unsuccessful attempt by demonstrators to topple a statue of President Andrew Jackson in Lafayette Square across from the White House.  But he didn’t stop there thoughtful reader; he suggested, ahem… no, he stated that America’s children were being taught to “hate their own country.”

Which brings me to my question thoughtful reader.  If, in Charlottesville, there were “very fine people on both sides,” and, according to him, in his own words, “I was talking about people that went because they felt very strongly about the monument to Robert E. Lee,” can we not conclude, again, based on his own representation, that perhaps some very fine people were on the side of wanting to topple the statue of Andrew Jackson?

Can we believe him now, should we have believed him then?

President Trump, when there were 15 cases of COVID-19 in the entire United States, said the virus would just go away when it got warmer.  It is 12:02 PM Pacific Time where I am as I type this sentence — and it is currently 108 degrees out.  Riverside County, where I live, has 19,450 cases of COVID-19 presently, and 479 people have died, in this county alone.

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