President Trump has really done it this time.
Can you believe it? The man stood in front of a church with a Bible in his hand! Takes gall to do something like that, doesn’t it?
The clergy was outraged:
“They turned holy ground into a battleground,” said the Rev. Gini Gerbasi, who had come to historic St. John’s which had been burned by “protesters” the night before.
The Reverend Ms. Gergasi was referring, as far as I can tell from the story, not to the rioters who burned a portion of the church complex, but to the officers who cleared the way so that President Trump could walk across Lafayette Square to St. John’s.
In fact, the church has been solicitous of the arsonists/rioters, practically thanking them for not destroying more of the historic church, attended at one time or another by every president since James Monroe. The Rector put out a letter to parishioners, which I have filed in my Annals of Cluelessness folder.
The Bishop of Washington was likewise appalled at the President’s behavior:
The Rev. Mariann Budde, bishop of the Washington diocese, said Tuesday that Trump held up the Bible in front of St. John’s “as if it were a prop or an extension of his military and authoritarian position.”
Budde, in an interview with Craig Melvin on NBC’s “TODAY” show, said that what Trump did in front of the church she oversees “was an abuse of the spiritual tools and symbols of our traditions and of our sacred space.”
“He didn’t come to church to pray, he didn’t come to church to offer condolences to those who are grieving,” she said. “He didn’t come to commit to healing our nation, all the things that we would expect and long for from the highest leader in the land.”
No, the church isn’t a prop, Bishop Budde, but it was a target of mob violence and arson and President Trump stood in front of the church, saying in effect that that won’t do. (Note to copyeditor: a bishop in the Episcopal Church is not a Reverend. She or he is a Rt. Rev. Get it right, especially for a politically naïve Right Reverent.)
I found President Trump’s standing in front of St. John’s moving. It was a brave thing to do. No doubt, there are many who wish him ill who were in the vicinity of St. John’s and Lafayette Square. He was taking a stand for order and courage in a place redolent of history.
Before the President walked to St. John’s, he made a terrific speech. Like all of us, he is outraged by the death of George Floyd and supports the First Amendment right to peaceful protest. He said the Trump Administration is “fully committed to George Floyd and his family.” More committed, I imagine, than those who have turned his name into a synonym for mob violence.
Unlike the Rector of a historic church, the President knows what is at stake when you let rioters take control. He said:
Small-business owners have seen their dreams utterly destroyed. New York’s Finest have been hit in the face with bricks. Brave nurses, who have battled the virus, are afraid to leave their homes. A police precinct station has been overrun. Here in the nation’s capital, the Lincoln Memorial and the World War Two Memorial have been vandalized. One of our most historic churches was set ablaze. A federal officer in California, an African American enforcement hero, was shot and killed.
These are not acts of peaceful protest. These are acts of domestic terror. The destruction of innocent life and the spilling of innocent blood is an offense to humanity and a crime against God.
America needs creation, not destruction; cooperation, not contempt; security, not anarchy; healing, not hatred; justice, not chaos. This is our mission, and we will succeed. One hundred percent, we will succeed. Our country always wins.
I suspect that one reason the President made the walk to St. John’s is that there were news reports that the Secret Service rushed him into the White House bunker one of the nights of rioting. He knew that this was a terrible image, implying that the rioters are in charge.
Others around the country seem to succumb to the idea of the mob as in charge, and, indeed, have decided that it behooves them to show respect for the mob.
“Protesters” in Philadelphia, for example, confronted the cops demanding that they “take a knee” like NFL players. Some did.
As an incredulous Tucker Carlson said, listening to a giddy reporter who somehow thought this was wonderful, “Well, we know who is in charge.”
The frustrated LAPD police chief said this:
“We didn’t have protests last night, we had criminal acts. We didn’t have people mourning the death of this man, George Floyd. We had people capitalizing,” Chief Michel Moore said.
“His death is on their hands as much as it is those officers,” the chief added. “And that is a strong statement but I must say that this civil unrest that we are in the midst of, we must turn a corner from people who are involved in violence, people who are involved in preying on others.”
He quickly apologized. The police chief knows who’s in charge. And you know how unduly harsh words can hurt the delicate feelings of a rioter.
President Trump’s speech and actions yesterday conveyed a different message. The President says that the forces of law and order will prevail and that he will use all available resources to ensure that this is the case.
We don’t know how this will end, but I sure as hell hope President Trump is right, that barbarity doesn’t win.