Bob Franken




As the country pauses for the Independence Day break, perhaps it’s time not for celebration but for introspection. Specifically, we can ponder the question of where we went wrong and how. Perhaps it really started on that first July 4 in 1776, when the Declaration of Independence — with its inspiring words “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal …” — was signed by blatant hypocrites, many of them slave owners.
In the 244 years since then, we have made some progress, certainly. We’ve moved from slavery, which took a devastating civil war to undo, through Jim Crow, which took dangerous protests in the South, to “I can’t breathe” today. Once again, it took a mass turnout of demonstrators and sometimes violent actions to make a statement against police state brutality that disproportionally targets minorities.
The lingering toxic racial prejudice contributed to Donald Trump’s election as president, and it gives him a fighting chance to win re-election to a second term. But Donald Trump is a symptom of our national illness, not the disease itself. In addition to the racism that saturates our society, our history has bred a suspicion of institutions that have been built over centuries of political leadership, where the rich seemed to benefit at the expense of everyone else. It’s to the point that expertise is turned away and worthy endeavors are met with justified skepticism. It so often turns out to be self-enriching.
Donald Trump has taken full advantage of that national suspicion. Every failure his administration makes, he peddles as a victory. His and their handling of the deadly pandemic is only the latest example. From the get-go his people screwed up the national response to the coronavirus. The result? The United States is now the world leader in COVID cases and deaths. The scourge shows no sign of abating, due in large part to a financial reopening championed by Trump that is still killing our citizens at a dizzying rate. Even governors of states that heeded Trump’s siren song have had to back off and restart a shutdown of the economy.

Meanwhile, in the wake of mass outpouring of anger over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and others at the hands of police, the president has consistently taken the side of the racists. He called the protestors “thugs” early on, before unleashing federal cops against demonstrators. Trump has been overtly supportive of bigots by opposing efforts to meaningfully reform law enforcement and consistently agreeing with those who value symbols like the Confederate flag and statues of Dixie leaders that stood as a monument to their treason.
He even uses Twitter to commend the bigots. Case in point, the guy in Florida who screamed “white power” at protestors. But then he plays a passive-aggressive game when he is caught, implausibly denying that he had heard the guy yelling “white power” before he retweeted the video.
He’s playing the same sort of game with the startling news that Russia was paying a bounty to the Taliban to kill off American troops in Afghanistan. Trump claims he was never briefed on these allegations. How could he not be briefed about something so vital? Was he groveling before Vladimir Putin again? Is it possible he was informed in writing, as The Associated Press reports, but was distracted and didn’t read the daily briefing? To coin a phrase, Was it collusion or confusion on his part?
The presidency of Donald Trump provides ample reason to examine the enfeeblement of the United States of America. Or is it really a decline from the days of the Declaration of Independence, an example of gross insincerity?
© 2020 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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