The end of the Hebrew year 5780 (the year 2020 by the Gregorian calendar) packed a wallop.
We experienced life constricted by the spread of the novel coronavirus, a business shutdown that led to mass unemployment and economic collapse, and civil unrest following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Areas of East Lake Street are still blighted, marred by piles of rubble from buildings that were torched during several nights of rioting.
Our compatriots are stressed and a little meshuga in the midst of these tumultuous times. While many of us have a home, food and some money, others are unemployed, unhoused and becoming increasingly desperate. In Minneapolis and other cities, there has been a marked increase in shootings and other crimes. There’s been a spike in domestic abuse, too. A fraction of the citizenry is agitating to overthrow the governmental lockdown regime that seeks to stem infections from the deadly virus. Not everyone is experiencing a happy time in quarantine.
Minneapolis, where I live and work, is different now. On Aug. 26, there was another spate of vandalism and looting that was fueled by false rumors of a cop shooting a Black man downtown. As in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death, a curfew was imposed for two nights. Likely, the Kenosha police shooting of Jacob Blake, who was paralyzed after seven bullets were fired into his back, contributed to the sour mood in downtown Minneapolis.
Driving home from work on the Friday after the recent untoward events, I encountered an MRAP, a military vehicle from the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, parked on the corner of Lake Street and Hennepin Avenue. Activists have noted that the popular mood is still volatile — a “tinderbox” that can be ignited by rumors of police violence — or by the next real outrage.
In recent months, I’ve written about the George Floyd killing and the Minneapolis uprising, homelessness that has become very visible with encampments in numerous city parks, and the issue of abolishing the police. I wonder from time to time about the fecklessness of the political class that doesn’t seem equipped to deal with the myriad problems besetting society. The Republicans are ready with solutions to problems that don’t exist, or they simply deny that there are problems; the Democrats kick the can down the road or propose remedies that are simply inadequate.
In October, the Jewish World will feature a special section, “Elections 2020: Election Day.” There will be political stories and, hopefully, a slug of ads from elected officials and candidates for elective office. (If you’d like to promote your favored candidate to the Jewish community, please contact me.)
I will write more in October, but the Jewish community, and the larger community, needs to put an end to the misrule of the Trump administration. It was a mistake to elevate a nincompoop, a failed businessman and TV reality show host, to the position of commander-in-chief. Trump’s incompetent and corrupt reign has diminished our democracy. In recent weeks, Trump has admitted to sabotaging the U.S. Postal Service, in the interest of hindering vote-by-mail, which he sees as a threat to his reelection. And in the face of clashes between protesters and police (and federal agents) in Portland, Ore., Kenosha and other cities, the president is promoting civil war.
There have been deadly shootings recently amid demonstrations in Portland and Kenosha, and Trump has rhetorically weaponized this violence to his ostensible political advantage. His statements make no sense, if you think about it for 10 seconds: He’s saying that if Joe Biden is elected president, we’ll see violence in urban areas like that now occurring in Trump’s America. Trump is a profligate liar and he’s increasingly unhinged — this looks like his cornered rat phase.
Why would anyone vote for the incumbent president who has presided over a bungled federal response to the COVID-19 pandemic? Trump hasn’t started a major foreign war, unlike George W. Bush, but we now have more than six million cases of coronavirus infection and 183,000 dead Americans from COVID-19. Trump repeatedly minimized the threat from the coronavirus; he said that it would disappear “like a miracle.” He mocked those who wore face masks, until he urged people to mask up. (UPDATE: We now know from Bob Woodward’s new book, Rage, that Trump was aware of the threat from the novel coronavirus in late January, but he kept the facts from the American people.)
If Trump wins reelection in 2020, which could happen, we will see a push for greater authoritarian rule and heightened frustration and pain for working people and those on the margins.
Our votes in November are one way to effect change. And in the meantime, we can be openhearted and compassionate to those who are struggling to survive in hard times.
The partners of Minnesota Jewish Media, LLC, and the editors and staff of the American Jewish World wish all of our readers and friends a good and sweet New Year, Shana Tova u’Metuka.
Mordecai Specktor / editor [at] ajwnews [dot] com