Emil Guillermo: Trump’s autocratic Asian fantasy through Lafayette Park
I’m crying. And it’s not from tear gas. I was watching cable news. Just like the president.
On my screen, a young Asian American woman, blonde streaks in her hair, desperately helps her distressed Asian American male companion. He’s squinting in anguish as if mocking Mickey Rooney in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”
But it’s no joke as the woman douses his bawling eyes, then takes the water bottle to flush her own, all before bending over, her mouth open gasping for air.
None of us can breathe easy anymore in this America.
As I am socially distanced in California, I saw them both as my proxies, all of us outraged by the killing of George Floyd, an innocent, unarmed black man, under the knee of a white police officer in Minneapolis.
The two tear-gassed Asian Americans were captured on cable news among the crowd of peaceful diverse protestors in the path between the White House and Lafayette Park in Washington, DC. just before a 7 p.m. EDT curfew.
They were among the victims of our insecure, narcissistic leader, Donald Trump, who reports say was upset as being seen as retreating to a bunker during the weekend of riots when a part of the nearby St. John’s Church burned down.
Trump needed a photo op, and our Asian American protestors and others expressing their First Amendment rights inconveniently got in the way. “It was just to win the news cycle,” said a Trump advisor to the Washington Post.
It may have done more than that. After all, the president has done in his tenure from travel bans, to jailing and separating immigrants at the border, to saying he’s not taking responsibility for pandemic delays that have resulted in tens of thousands more deaths than necessary, the gassing of the innocents at Lafayette Park on Trumpian whimsy may be the unforgettable act that dooms his presidency.
Or just add it to the list of ignominious Trump actions. It will be a long list.
I had the news on while finishing a piece on the cruel and vicious ways alpacas are treated when shorn for their wool. Normally docile, alpacas react by screaming, crying, and vomiting.
Sort of like protestors when gassed.
That’s how I saw what happened as police with shields physically swept through the peaceful crowd.
And all because the president wanted the path cleared.
TV was the only way to appreciate yet another Orwellian moment of the Trump administration. As cameras were fixed on the Rose Garden for a Trump statement, you could hear the flash-bang grenades and the commotion of the police harassing the protestors a few blocks away.
Then the president appeared. In split screen, as the peaceful protestors were attacked, the president declared himself our “law and order president,” a flashback to Nixon, who used it to repel the stink of Watergate.
In his statement, Trump claimed to be for justice for George Floyd and his family, but couldn’t take the time to distinguish between violent instigators and looters and peaceful protestors. Said Trump: “We cannot allow the righteous cries and peaceful protesters to be drowned out by an angry mob.”
But perhaps an angry insecure politician can drown them all out indiscriminately as the president did on Monday. With a broad brush, he seemed to call it all an “act of domestic terror.”
“That is why I am taking immediate presidential action to stop the violence and restore security and safety in America,” the president said. “I am mobilizing all available federal resources civilian and military to stop the rioting and looting to end the destruction and arson and to protect the rights of law abiding Americans, including your Second Amendment rights. Therefore, the following measures are going into effect immediately. First, we are ending the riots and lawlessness that has spread throughout our country. We will end it now.”
The president said he’d deploy the U.S. military to states and cities. Under a 1807 law, he can do so. But not if the courts and Congress have a say. And note the wink to gun nuts by mentioning the Second Amendment, essentially giving the OK to MAGA vigilantes everywhere to protect America on their own. You mean like the guys who killed Ahmaud Arbery?
The presidential muscle-flex was really Trump’s Asian Fantasy. He has long marveled at how China’s President Xi could be president for life. Or how the Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte could order extra-judicial killings of suspected drug dealers. Or his professed love of North Korea’s Kim Jong Un.
Starting with the rolling in of nearly a dozen military trucks with armed soldiers into the White House (that continues today), and then with the police advancing through the crowd, Trump was being his true autocratic self.
When the statement was done, the photo op continued. First, a stroll from the Rose Garden to Lafayette Park.
Led by his main enabler, Attorney General William Barr, from a reporter’s eye view it could have been the Trump version of a perp walk.
The path clear of protestors, Trump went directly to St. John’s and held up a prop, a Bible, as if the book means something to him. It was just a symbol signifying his love of Christian voters. And then he called his aides–all white–to stand by him for another picture that glaringly revealed why Trump is out of synch with our country.
After last week, all we wanted was calm reassurance that our nation and our democracy would be safe. And that the travesty of the Floyd death was not going to unravel us. We wanted to hear from a president.
Instead, the president once again was unable to show adequate comfort, care, or empathy for the people. He used the moment not to bring the country together, but to hasten the unraveling of the country. He used us. Our anger. Our rage. He turned it conveniently into his “law and order” playbook to victory.
Trump seems to be preparing for an anarchy he’s sowing.
If so, it’s going to be a long hot summer of tear gas and rubber bullets, as he looks to extend a clearly abusive and immoral presidency.
Just don’t forget those two Asian Americans fighting off their Trump induced tears. We are all innocent victims of the apprentice autocrat.
Emil Guillermo is an independent journalist/commentator. Updates at www.amok.com. Follow Emil on Twitter, and like his Facebook page. The views expressed in his blog do not necessarily represent AALDEF’s views or policies.