He shook it like a kid shakes a card from grandma — rattling the envelope, praying there’s more than just wishes inside. He hefted it and turned it. He looked down and read the spine. “Is that your Bible?” someone asked him. “It’s a Bible,” he replied.
In Atlanta, they dragged two college students from a car. They smashed their windows. They shocked them with Tasers. They threw them to the ground and beat them. Six men, fully armed and armoured. Their faces covered, like the shock troops from a junta, all for a couple of unarmed kids.
“We have a great country,” he said. “That’s my thoughts. Greatest country in the world.”
In Fort Lauderdale, they shot a woman in the face with a foam rubber bullet. The “less-than-lethal” round broke her eye socket and left her wailing on the ground. She was on her knees when they gassed her. She was stumbling away when they fired the round. She writes grants for a living, for non-profits. She’s 34-years-old.
“We will make it even greater,” he said. He wore a hangdog expression, lips downturned, like a child aping an emotion he doesn’t really understand. “And it won’t take long.”
In Buffalo, they shoved a 75-year-old peace activist to the ground. They left him unmoving on the concrete, bleeding from his ears.
“You see what’s going on,” he said. “It’s coming back. It’s coming back strong.”
In Austin, they fractured a 20-year-old student’s skull. In New York, they drove SUVs into crowds. In Washington, they used tear gas, smoke bombs and violence to clear a path for a photo op in front of a church. They battered an Australian news crew live on air, beating them with shields and batons. “You heard us yelling there that we were media,” the reporter said. “But they don’t care.”
He held the Holy Bible up like a ribbon in a track meet. He posed, then shuffled a few feet to his left and posed again on a church patio where police had, just minutes before, chased away a rector handing out granola bars to protesters on her own holy ground.
“It will be greater,” he said, “than it ever has been before.”
All week, in the United States, protests against racism and police violence sparked more racism and police violence. Reporters were attacked and arrested. Peaceful demonstrators were beaten, shot at, gassed, and trampled. In the middle of a global pandemic, with the economy in ruins, the agents of the American state turned against the American people. And the President of the United States cheered them on.
After the photo op, he shuffled back through the park to the White House, back through the grounds cleared for him by a rush of armoured men. “D.C. had no problems last night,” he wrote later on Twitter. “Great job done by all. Overwhelming force. Domination.”
What’s happening in the United States is a travesty. And it couldn’t be happening at a worse time, under a worse president — a man who has spent more than three years now walking the line between a fascist and a clown.
It would be easy enough to look at all that, from Canada, and feel smug. There is nothing we do better in this country, after all, than look down. But this is still the country of starlight tours. It’s the country of residential schools. It’s the country of the Airborne Regiment, of Andrew Loku, of Dafonte Miller, of Dale Culver, of Frank Paul.
It’s a country where police violence rarely gets checked. It’s a country where racism is very much alive. And it’s a country where you can act like all that isn’t true, against all available evidence, and still be published in the national news.
We love to say that we’re better than America in this country. But better than America is too low a bar. Better than America doesn’t make us good. Better than America is no excuse for not being better than we are.