What Americans did and defended this summer will be inscribed into history forever. The summer began before the summer officially began. The summer ended before the summer officially ended.
The summer began on May 25, when the police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on George Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds in Minneapolis, Minnesota, suffocating his pleas for life. Largely peaceful demonstrations followed, and Trump tweeted: “These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen.” He added, “When the looting starts, the shooting starts.”
The summer ended on August 25, when Kyle Rittenhouse borrowed an AR-15-style assault rifle from a friend and allegedly fatally shot Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony M. Huber and injured Gaige Grosskreutz. These three people had been demonstrating in Kenosha, Wisconsin, against the police shooting of Jacob Blake two days earlier. Trump suggested that Rittenhouse acted in self-defense. “He was trying to get away from them,” Trump said. “And he fell and then they very violently attacked him … He probably would have been killed” if he didn’t defend himself with lethal force.
The violence of Chauvin and Rittenhouse bookended the summer of Trumpism. The three long, hot months from May 25 to August 25 compressed 413 years of American history into a cellphone video in which anyone could easily see the history for what it has always been: the violent “self-defense” of white male supremacy. Colonialism, capitalism, slavery and slave trading, Indian removal, manifest destiny, colonization, the Ku Klux Klan, Chinese exclusion, disenfranchisement, Jim Crow, eugenics, massive resistance, “law and order,” Islamophobia, family separation—all were done in the name of defending life or civilization or freedom.