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America’s Calamity

Summary:
Many now protesting against racism and police brutality in the US won’t be satisfied unless the result of this national spasm is improved schools, health care, and job opportunities for minorities – a fair shake for black people. What will happen when America once again falls short of honoring its professed values? WASHINGTON, DC – It has been a calamity for the United States that, when two national tragedies – the COVID-19 crisis and the country’s legacy of racism – collided this spring, the occupant of the White House was an unstable person, totally unfit to govern. A Sustainable Recovery Must Be More Than Green PS OnPoint Attila Kisbenedek/AFP via

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Many now protesting against racism and police brutality in the US won’t be satisfied unless the result of this national spasm is improved schools, health care, and job opportunities for minorities – a fair shake for black people. What will happen when America once again falls short of honoring its professed values?

WASHINGTON, DC – It has been a calamity for the United States that, when two national tragedies – the COVID-19 crisis and the country’s legacy of racism – collided this spring, the occupant of the White House was an unstable person, totally unfit to govern.

President Donald Trump’s inability to cope with the pandemic has so far led to more than 112,000 deaths, one of the world’s highest per capita mortality rates for COVID-19, with the coronavirus still spreading to areas not previously hit. The public-health crisis has also triggered the worst economic downturn in the US since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

As subsequent events have unfolded, it is no exaggeration to say that the American experiment – 244 years old next month – is in serious danger, even more so than during the constitutional crisis caused by the Watergate scandal of the 1970s. The pandemic coincided with the latest in a long series of race-related outrages, and it has caused the country to explode.

Millions of cooped-up Americans watched, over and over, the cold-blooded killing of an unarmed, handcuffed black man, George Floyd, by four Minneapolis police officers. One, Derek Chauvin, casually kneeled on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes until he lost consciousness; two others sat on Floyd’s back, further depriving him of oxygen; the fourth looked on, keeping appalled bystanders at bay as Floyd, struggling to live, cried out, “Please, I can’t breathe.”

Floyd’s killing shocked the country’s conscience. It provided Americans with an unambiguous picture of the true meaning of “police brutality.” After being shut in for weeks by lockdowns and social-distancing rules, people had considerable pent-up...

Elizabeth Drew
Contributor to New Republic, Daily Beast, Project Syndicate, Nation (book reviews). Fifteen books, including reissue of Washington Journal, Nixon & Watergate.

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