American Cities On The Edge Of Asphyxia

From lockdown in response to one pandemic to rioting in response to another, in the blink of an eye the streets are filled with protesters and unrest. We are a long way away from days of healing, healthy debates and solution-driven planning.

Asphyxia: that is what America is seriously suffering from. Asphyxia born from racism. Protests around the US and the world are sucking up the oxygen of yesterday’s “global leader” as we realize the price of racism. America is becoming a struggling nation that needs to walk the talk toward liberty and justice for all.

Armed with bulletproof vests, helmets and handcuffs, in Darth Vader uniforms, the forces of law and order line up to contain marchers and strangulate the peaceful and the angry, the looters and the arsonists. Television screens broadcast scenes of peaceful protests, speech-making, police scuffles and violence. Black organizers’ voices are lost when anarchists blend in with the crowd. A riotous, explosive humanity pours into the streets, ignoring curfews, challenging the status quo, demanding to be heard. The asphyxia of one man has turned a spotlight on the larger asphyxia strangling this nation.

The pain of the black community has been ignored and systematically repressed by the judicial and financial powers of this country. It is amazing that black people have tolerated these conditions this long. Asphyxia that has been building up and choking the culture. Local leadership recognizes that destruction, arson and opportunistic looting have gone too far. It divides this country. It misses the point of grieving for George Floyd’s death. His family points the way to justice, calling for peaceful protests.

Meanwhile, in his Rose Garden speech on June 1, the president declares: “If a city or state refuses to take the actions necessary to defend the life and property of their residents, then I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them.” This president of dominance and unlawful order pretends to be “an ally of all peaceful protesters.”

After demeaning governors and escalating the stakes, unable to acknowledge the agony of black people, an out-of-touch Trump walks to St. John’s Church, a house of worship that American presidents have used for more than a century, for a photo op! Uninvited, he walks, raises a Bible and has his picture taken in front of the church’s message board. What message on earth did this puzzling man mean to deliver, after his security cleared the area using tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse peaceful, law-abiding citizens? Religiosity, faith, or a confusing tableau vivant that was an attempt to coax the god-fearing Americans to his politics? People are not that naïve. His fake veil has been lifted, revealing an incompetent man who lacks moral authority.

The fires of passionate resistance are inflamed. Absent federal leadership, we need initiatives that will double-down on efforts to improve community relationships. We need governors, mayors and police chiefs who are able to engage with protesters in dialogue and plan for the future of a country that dominates over racism. In a democracy, Black Lives Matter! All lives matter. Free speech matters. The right to assemble and vote matters.

We are a few months away from the November election and need to stay mindful of what the goals and future of this country demand … if we are to breathe.

About the contributor

Sophia Kouidou-Giles, born in Greece, resides in the USA. She has published in "Voices," "Persimmon Tree," "Assay," "The Raven's Perch" and in an anthology entitled The Time Collection. "Transitions and Passages" is her poetry chapbook. She published "Return to Thessaloniki" a memoir written in Greek and forthcoming in English by She Writes Press

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