Has anything ever encapsulated US history better than the sight of Donald Trump fomenting violence while holding an upside-down Bible against a backdrop of flash grenades and assault troops?
The Bible, which had been carefully nestled within Ivanka Trump's $1500 designer handbag for the fascistic fashion parade from the Rose Garden to St. John's Episcopal Church on Monday night, amazingly did not erupt into flames once it became weaponized in Trump's hammy fist.
Nor did Washington's Pius XII shrine spontaneously combust in outrage when Trump desecrated that site the following day in an oafish appeal to the Opus Dei Catholic side of his reactionary base. Perhaps it's because, as just-released Vatican documents disclose, the pope was both aware of and complicit in Hitler's extermination of the Jews. The pope learned of the Holocaust fully three years before the rest of the world, but kept silent.
Not to be outdone by Trump in the great American tradition of complicity and the co-optation of religion to hide the Seven Deadly Sins that define our brutal and oligarchic form of government, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wielded her own Bible in response to the president's serial heresies, lamely chiding him to start acting out the traditional presidential role of Healer in Chief.
Seeming to channel children's author and fellow San Franciscan Lemony Snicket, Pelosi bemoaned the series of unfortunate events which, for her, culminated in the atrocity of Trump holding a Bible. She advised him to tone down the divisive rhetoric. But she herself was as silent as a Pope in World War Two about the ongoing protests and police brutality in the streets of America. She would not be cowed into finally advocating Medicare for All and a universal basic income as a way of quelling the near-universal public anger against the establishment of which she is an all-powerful part.
She noted, quoting Ecclesiastes, that there is a time to love and a time to heal. You could almost hear the refrains of Turn, Turn, Turn wafting in the air. But combined with her utter lack of response to the economic and social pain of the protesters themselves, it was just more of the same Turn of the Screw.
Not to be outdone in the religious co-optation department, presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden followed up his own churchy advice that rioting, stressed-out cops should aim to shoot those hordes of mythical knife-branding criminals in the legs rather than the hearts. He virtuously suggested that next time, Trump should actually open the Bible and learn something. He did not suggest that US police departments open up the Bill of Rights for their own refresher courses in law and morality.
That's because Joe Biden, author of the 1994 Crime Bill, has always been totally copacetic with cops. Barack Obama himself gushed on more than one occasion that Cop-dom has never had a better or truer friend than Joe Biden. It was Biden who restored billions of dollars of funding to the federal COPS (Community Oriented Policing Services) program as part of the 2009 stimulus package - at the very same time that the administration was helping Wall Street to throw five million citizens out of their homes. It was Biden who spearheaded the 2012 policy requiring that grants must be used by police departments to hire military veterans - to give them a chance to continue "serving our country" - rather than, say, to protect the citizenry - once they're done fighting "over there."
The COPS legislation, written by Biden in tandem with the crime bill, began funneling billions of dollars to police departments to hire more cops under the rubric of "community policing" and "proactive community engagement." But as Radley Balko writes in Rise of the Warrior Cop:
"The problem was that there was no universal definition of community policing.... Street sweeps, occupation-like control of neighborhoods, SWAT raids and aggressive anti-gang policies. These police activities are aggressive, often violent, and usually a net loss for civil liberties, but they are proactive.
When (President) Clinton, Biden and other politicians touted the COPs program, they did so with language that evoked the Peace Corps (though both Clinton and Biden supported policies that promoted militarization.) Although Clinton described the goal of COPS as '(building) bonds of trust and understanding, it wasn't clear if he or any other politician really believed this. The majority of the COPS grants was given to simply hire more police officers. The program said little about how those officers would be used, or what sort of attitude they should bring to the job....
"And so as the COPS program threw billions at police departments under the pretense of hiring whistling, baton-twirling Officer Friendlies to walk neighborhood beats, rescue kittens, and maybe guest-umpire the occasional Little League game, many police agencies were actually using the money to militarize."The difference between Democrats and Republicans is largely one of style over substance, The George W. Bush administration drastically cut funding to the COPS program, because its language wasn't as tough and brutal as they liked. When Obama came into office, the funding was duly restored. When Trump came into the office, the funding was duly slashed once again. If Biden comes into office in 2021, watch for the language of touchy-feely community to gloss over more cop killings of minorities, more deadly no-knock raids, more hiring of PTSD-riddled veterans of our endless wars. He'll sell it as a vast improvement over Trump's calling out the troops before they even get a chance to jump seamlessly from the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines to trade their fatigues for a blue uniform and a badge.
As a senator, Biden was actually to the right of the Bush administration, never resting from his one-man crusade for COPS. From a 2007 press release from his Senate office:
My colleagues on the Judiciary Committee have unanimously approved this bill. Recently, the Brookings Institution strongly advocated for a reauthorization of the COPS program, calling it one of the most cost-effective options available for fighting crime. They can see what is plainly obvious crime is like cutting grass and if you stop mowing the lawn, one day you'll look outside and see a jungle. We're seeing very tall grass in our communities now, and we need to move this bill to the full Senate quickly, so can get local police agencies the help they so desperately need.Biden effectively compared poor minority communities to wild overgrown jungles needing a severe mow-down. It is a prime example of the racist dog-whistle.
Not to be outdone, his Democratic primary challenger at the time, Barack Obama, traveled to New Orleans to advocate for his own "Katrina COPS" program to "empower" poor black residents of that destroyed city to install more police to occupy their neighborhoods. Not for nothing did he eventually choose Biden to be his vice president, a dog-whistle of reassurance to paranoid white voters in its own right. Like any other liberal God-sider worth his salt, Obama preached from within the sanctuary of a church for the hiring more cops to "restore the bonds of trust" between an occupying force and its targets.
More blatantly militant language and practice did eventually find their way into the COPS program, particularly the 2012 directive mandating that departments use the grant money to hire military veterans over even graduates with criminal justice degrees from four year universities.
By the time Donald Trump assumed control of the government, one out of every five American cops was a true warrior, a veteran of Iraq, Afghanistan and any number of other battlefields and occupation zones both acknowledged and secret.
So even as a "bipartisan" Congress is currently going through the motions of taking away some of the tanks and grenade launchers and other surplus military hardware from the nations's police departments, they are not addressing the proliferation of trained killers in these departments.
A 2017 investigation by the Marshall Project revealed that veterans who work as police officers are more vulnerable to self-destructive behavior, including using alcohol and drugs, and attempting suicide.
Nearly all of the 33 police departments contacted by The Marshall Project declined to provide a list of officers who had served in the military, citing laws protecting personnel records, or saying the information was not stored in any central place. The Justice Department office that dispenses grants to hire cops and study policing said it has no interest in funding research into how military experience might influence police behavior.
“I reject the notion that a returning veteran, who has seen combat, should cause concern for a police chief,” said Ronald L. Davis, who headed that office in the Obama administration. “I would even hire more if I could.”Take a look out on the streets of America. It's a Hieronymus Bosch mural of a uniformed, untreated culture of PTSD sufferers with clubs on steroids in military Humvees.
And all our esteemed alleged leaders can do is praise the lord and pass the ammunition and place trillions of public dollars into the collection baskets of their oligarchic friends and donors.
Trump is far from the only miscreant who, wrapped in the flag and thumping a Bible, is bringing fascism to America. That process started a long time ago.