Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Will George Floyd’s Death Move The Needle On Racism In America?

A confluence of elements in the murder of George Floyd is moving America and even other countries into a deeper and most serious confrontation with race issues. We have been witness to a number of murders of African Americans thanks to the ubiquitous presence of cell phones, but several things came together in Floyd’s death that may finally wake up white culture to the horror’s of police brutality and the bullying African Americans have experienced as an extension of the ghoulish history of slavery in America.

The killing occurred in broad daylight on the streets of a major city witnessed by several bystanders, not in the cover of darkness between police and a terrorized black man or woman nor filmed only by a policeman or police dash cam. This was not a sudden and violent death from gunshot but a slow and deliberate killing of another human being as others pleaded for his life. It did not involve a struggle between a young black jogger and armed white men as in the murder of Ahmaud Arbery on February 25, 2020 or a crazed teen marching down a Chicago street threatening police with a knife as in the Laquan McDonald murder in 2014. (1, 2) Floyd was handcuffed behind his back lying face down with officer Derek Chauvin’s knee on his neck for eight minutes and forty six seconds while two other policemen helped to hold him down and a fourth kept bystanders at bay. We looked directly into the face of Chauvin, aghast to see a human being so utterly unmoved by the cries of a helpless man gasping for breath repeatedly saying “I can’t breath” and crying out for—his mother, who died two years prior. (3) The whole world would soon be able to watch and bear witness.

A policeman’s life was not being threatened nor was this an angry or panicky response by an officer or a trigger-happy racist. It was a statement about a whole system personified by four policemen unable to see or feel an African American man as a human being; unable to hear and feel the cries of a man dying under the weigh of that system on its neck. To do this while hearing the shouts of anger and disbelief and knowing they were being filmed seemed to say this is not extraordinary; this is how it is—get used to it.

And in Minneapolis, a progressive, prosperous mid-Western city—“Minnesota nice”; home state of Eugene McCarthy, Hubert Humphrey, and Walter Mondale; Prince, and Garrison Keiller—this is not Lake Woebegone. America has no excuses now; the video images will forever float around in the cloud to remind us least we forget again, or perhaps see for the first time, what a long nightmare it has been for African Americans, especially African American men.

The perfect storm was completed by president Trump’s response. Trump has been the Divider-in-Chief since announcing his candidacy for president having been a “leader” in insisting Obama was not an American citizen and basing his campaign on race-baiting Latinos as drug dealers and murderers. He is a genius in his ability to maintain the allegiance of a zenophobic, racist, right wing base and Christian conservatives. His malignant narcissism makes it impossible to accept even the slightest criticism that he responds to with brutal attacks on the character of his opponents. He has accomplished the amazing feat of bending the entire federal government to his whims and insecurities, locking in the Senate with re-election threats to any Republican that doesn’t toe the Trump line. (4)

The “beauty” of Trump is he reveals how vulnerable and manipulatable our American systems are and how serious are the divisions and inequities in American society. It took the crisis of the pandemic to begin to change the course of his presidency. Trump is so inept as a leader and so locked into the decay of Neo-liberalism plus in dread fear that his one hope for re-election, the economy, will collapse that he has been incapable of a humane response to the virus. His support of gun-toting men rallying in front of stage capitols to force governors to prematurely open state economies is a disturbing reminder of the lengths he will go to get re-elected. (5) Many “believers” are realizing the death numbers from the virus cannot be construed as “fake news” promulgated by the “enemy” Democrats.

George Floyd’s murder within the context of Trump’s behavior in the pandemic set the stage for a surreal scene at the White House on June 1, 2020. Rather than recognizing the horrors of Floyd’s murder and the long-standing suffering of the African American community, Trump resorted to the law-and-order staple of his presidency. He had accused the governors of being weak if they wouldn’t dominate the demonstrations and he would send in the military if he deemed it necessary to restore order. Peaceful demonstrators were forcibly removed so Trump could triumphfully parade his cadre of followers, including Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and Mark Milley, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in his military fatigues, to a nearby church for a photo op of him holding up a Bible. (6) The grotesque message is that Trump is aligning with the will of God to use the military if necessary to do what he deemed most important at this time—establish law and order in America. A few days later Trump had the audacity to channel the spirit of George Floyd to approve the type of economy Trump was hoping to resurrect.

His ignorance of the Constitution, narcissism, and total arrogance forced Greg Mattox, his former Defense Secretary, to finally come out against him as did Collin Powell and a host of other military brass. (7) Trump has accomplished the important task of literally showing us the dead end faith in a corporate economic system and the ugly racism in America and much of the world.

Trump is a modern day McCarthy thriving on lies and innuendos. On June 9 he tweeted (!) that Martin Gugino, the 75 year old man who fell on his head and started bleeding from his ear after being pushed by a policeman, “could be an ANTIFA provocateur” trying to block out police communications and had fallen harder than he was pushed as a “set up”. Trump got this totally baseless conspiracy theory from a far-right cable news channel that had aired false information in the past. This is how the president of the United States communicates to an agitated and frightened public?! Gugino is a long-time peace activist “involved in a range of political issues, including immigration, climate justice, prisoners' rights, economic justice, and homelessness”. (8)

Jelani Cobb, historian and professor of Journalism at Columbia University, calls for a “gigantic, systemic overhaul” in much of our country, saying “you’re never going to have a time when you have bad housing, bad education, poor quality of employment, low wage work and pristine policing”. He sees the relationship between police and the African American communities as a gauge for race relations in general. “Police departments bear a disportinate burden because whenever something is happening overwhelmingly its in response to police use of force. People react and it detonates racial tensions that were there before”. Cobb was surprised when he went into Ferguson, Missouri in 2014 after the riots following the murder of Michael Brown: people wanted to talk about schools, excessive teen suspensions, unemployment, poor housing and institutional disparities. He went on to say you can’t understand Floyd outside of Covid-19 and the disportinate number of people of color succumbing to the virus; a deadly consequence of the cumulative effect of racial biases. (9)

This dovetails into my recent article, “Covid-19: Inflection Point in the Anthropocene Era and the Paradigm Shift of Jung’s New Age”. (10) I describe how the pandemic has performed the invaluable task of halting our species race towards an abyss as we destroy the environment and sow the seeds for the apocalyptic conditions of human generated climate change, taking down up to 50% of the species on the planet. I use Jungian ecopsychology to understand at the deep, archetypal levels how we got into such a dysfunctional relationship with each other and the environment and offer archetypal guidance on how to move forward. Jung said we need more psychology because “We are the origin of all coming evil”. (11) In a Jungian manner, we can begin a paradigm shift within our own psyches by taking an ecological approach to the world of our dreams and extend it like a fractal through culture and societies and into our relationship with the natural world. The fear, confusion and massive upheavals caused by the virus has loosened up rigid social and economic systems offering a rare opportunity for swift and major change. The devastating impact on so many people from George Floyd’s murder can propel us to finally start on the path toward a “gigantic, systemic overhaul” in the paradigm shift Jung saw coming back in 1940 when he coined the terms “new age” and “age of Aquarius”. (12) Floyd’s death, all eight minutes and forty six seconds of it, will be a significant moment in the inflection point.

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5. In my article “Guns and the American Psyche” I discuss how American gun culture as a product of an interpretation of the Second Amendment has led to paramilitary organizations and a vigilante mentality that perverts the law and justice because a person with a gun can be a one person judge and jury.
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McGuire, William and R. F. C. Hull, eds. 1977/1993. C. G. Jung Speaking: Interviews and Encounters. Princeton: Princeton University Press. p. 436.

12.  Jung, Carl. 1973. Letters. Vol. 1. 1906-1950. Gerhard Adler and Aniella Jaffe, eds. R. F. C. Hull, trans. Princeton: Princeton University Press, p. 285.

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