Here is a prediction about the November election: If Donald Trump wins, in a trustworthy vote, what’s happening this week in Kenosha, Wisconsin, will be one reason. Maybe the reason. And yet Joe Biden has it in his power to spare the country a second Trump term.
Events are unfolding with the inevitable logic of a nightmare. A white police officer shoots a Black man as he’s leaning into a car with his three sons inside—shoots him point-blank in the back, seven times, “as if he didn’t matter,” the victim’s father later says. If George Floyd was crushed to death by depraved indifference, Jacob Blake is the object of an attempted execution. Somehow, he survives—but his body is shattered, paralyzed from the waist down, maybe for life. Kenosha explodes in rage, the same rage that’s been igniting around the country all summer long, fading in Minneapolis only to flare up in Portland. In Kenosha, as elsewhere, what starts in peaceful protest soon leads to violence: cars burned, shops smashed, local businesses destroyed. Police and rioters incite one another to escalate; armed vigilantes take matters into their own hands; and a teenager from out of state kills two local men with an AR-15-style rifle. The authorities are overwhelmed and ineffectual, offering little in the way of information or protection. Within a couple of days, much of the small city is a ruined landscape.
The victim’s family demands justice. His mother, Julia Jackson, calls for something else, too. Two days after the shooting, with her son fighting for his life, she begins her public remarks softly, almost inaudibly, but her own words seem to give her growing strength, and finally a profound resonance. She says that her son would not be happy with the damage to his community. “As I have prayed for my son’s healing, physically, emotionally, and spiritually, I also have been praying, even before this, for the healing of our country,” Jackson says, and she goes on: “We are the United States. Have we been united? Do you understand what’s going to happen when we fall? Because a house that is against each other cannot stand. To all of the police officers, I’m praying for you and your families. To all of the citizens, my Black and brown sisters and brothers, I’m praying for you. I believe that you are an intelligent being just like the rest of us. Everybody, let’s use our hearts, our love, and our intelligence to work together to show the rest of the world how humans are supposed to treat each other. America is great when we behave greatly.”