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It’s not an easy time to be American.

Our country, like many others, has been ravaged by Coronavirus, with over 106,000 deaths. Unemployment is at all time record highs. The economy is devastated. And to those flash-dry timbers, the videos showing the last words of an unarmed black man gasping, “I can’t breathe” as four police officers knelt on him were the match.

America is in flames. People I know talk about joining what they insist were peaceful protests only to have police shoot rubber bullets and tear gas. Small business owners tell how everything they own has been looted, burned, destroyed. A friend said he and his family huddled in their apartment in Washington DC as people ran down their street randomly setting buildings on fire.

Instead of offering leadership and trying for communication, reconciliation, or at least understanding, our president’s immediate knee-jerk reaction is to tweet threats that “… when the looting starts, the shooting starts.” Or to lambaste governors in a tirade warning them not risk appearing “weak” by failing to use force.

‘You have to dominate,’ Mr. Trump told the governors. If governors failed to take a strong hand, he said, the protesters were ‘going to run over you, you’re going to look like a bunch of jerks.’ In blunt remarks rarely heard from an American president, he prodded the chief executives not to be ‘too careful.’—New York Times

Somehow, Donald Trump has decided that America has a ruler instead of a leader. So rather than trying to unify the country or remind us of the beliefs we share, the President of the United States went into his underground bunker and turned off the lights while our capitol burned around him.

Nobody home? Lights out at the White House. [image credit: Photo: @tencents77/Twitter]

But maybe there could be another way. In Genesee County Michigan, Sheriff Chris Swanson took off his helmet and put down his weapon to walk with protestors.

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In other cities and towns across the country, police officers are taking a knee in solidarity or at least acknowledgement of protestors. 

So maybe Donald Trump is wrong. Maybe we don’t need to give up what it means to be Americans. Maybe we could still be the country with a Lady who raises a lamp against the darkness. 

Statue of Liberty at night [image credit: Guide TravelTourism http://guidetraveltourism.com/?attachment_id=2846]

Statue of Liberty at night
[image credit: Guide TravelTourism]

Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

–Emma Lazarus, 1883

Are we really ready to turn off her lamp?