Things in the news that trouble me

There’s so much happening in our country.

There has been much to trouble me in the news of late: The senseless death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the resultant demonstrations across the nation, the creation of CHAZ/CHOP on Capitol Hill in Seattle, our president weaponizing the wearing of masks in the face of an increasing wave of infections in the country, the Supreme Court making two surprising decisions, one dealing with the LGBTQ community, and one dealing with abortions. Rather than picking just one of these to write about, all will receive my comments.

The argument about systemic racism in police departments across the nation versus “a few bad apples” should be a slam dunk by now. After watching the Minneapolis police officer unconcernedly murder George Floyd, his knee pressed against Floyd’s neck, I am convinced that racism is systemic. I rejoice that Confederate flags are being banned at NASCAR and in state capitols, and that monuments to slavery and defeated southern generals are being torn down. I marvel that such mementos could still exist 150 years after the end of the Civil War.

I’m appalled that statues of presidents Washington, Jefferson and Grant were vandalized. Washington and Jefferson lived in a culture where slavery was legal. They shouldn’t be judged by the 21st century standards. It really irritates me that a statue of Grant was vandalized. He did own a few slaves because his southern father-in-law gave them as a present. Grant himself was in full agreement with the Emancipation Proclamation as general of the Union Army and acted to protect former slaves while president after the war. Such intolerance and ignorance on the part of protestors deeply troubles me.

I have two Black grandchildren that my daughter and her husband adopted while living in South Africa. I fear for my grandson’s life if he stays in the U.S. into teenage and adulthood. I sent my daughter a video about teaching Black boys how to react if stopped by police in America. I don’t have to worry about my white grandsons in the same way. That’s reality in America.

I sympathize with the “Black Lives Matter” demonstrations. Black Americans deserve to be angry. It’s time for racial injustice to end.

However, I’m deeply troubled by the anarchic creation of CHAZ/CHOP on Capitol Hill in Seattle and the weak response by the mayor and police to allow it to continue. The lack of perspective on the far left troubles me nearly as much as systemic racism.

(It should be noted the Black Lives Matter Seattle-King County organization was in no way involved with CHOP.)

It also troubles me that avoiding gathering in large groups is good to prevent the spread of COVID-19 but okay if it’s to protest racial injustice.

I’m also troubled that neither the Tacoma News Tribune nor NPR made any mention about CHOP for at least a week after it began. They had to be shamed into reporting on it. Even then the reporting has been half-hearted and cursory.

Our president is a terrible role model. He refuses to wear a mask, which COVID-19 experts say is necessary to curb the spread of the virus. Then he demands to hold a big rally—a danger to all who attend. This president doesn’t unite the nation in time of crisis, he divides it even more. Thousands will die due to his narcissistic desire for attention and acclamation. Words and actions matter.

Conservative justices Chief Justice Glover Roberts and Justice Neil Gorsuch startled the nation by siding with the progressives on the Court in a 6-3 decision that protected the rights of LGBTQ employees from discrimination. The second decision had a 5-4 for abortion to continue in Texas. In both cases, the reasoning was more subtle than appeared on the surface.

LGBTQ employees should not be fired based on their sexual orientation. That is discriminatory and unconstitutional under the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment.

The state of Texas tried to end abortions by requiring abortion doctors to have hospital admitting rights in order to perform abortions. This would effectively have closed down half the abortion clinics in the state. Roberts voted in favor of abortions, not because he approves of them, but because the law broke precedent from a previous Supreme Court ruling that was almost exactly the same.

I admire that principle took the place of politics in Roberts’ decision. Principle has become a rare commodity in Washington D.C. and should be applauded whenever it appears.

Both sides of the political spectrum have valuable and stupid views. Unfortunately, we are living in a nation that is intolerant of anyone who holds an opposing position, no matter how reasoned. Making America great again should entail the return of tolerance and justice for all.

Richard Elfers is a columnist, a former Enumclaw City Council member and a Green River College professor.

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