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America Burns? Long Live America, Its Cyclical History Remains in Motion

We would fear more for the American Dream if instead of protesting the racist homicide of George Floyd, young people stayed away because of COVID-19

Nel 2021 si sono registrate tensioni record fra i newyorkesi e la NYPD. (Photo: Chiara Trincia)

Shattered windows and stores looted even in New York? These acts of violence of a small group of people certainly don’t represent the entire protest movement, but we prefer to reserve most of our anger and outrage for George Floyd’s final words, “I can’t breathe, Mama help me!”: it is the echo of his final words that should make us nervous, not the sounds of shattered windows.

In Italiano

Let me begin right away by expressing an opinion that for me remains fundamental: following the video that showed George Floyd die in that manner, literally crushed by the racism of a few police officers in Minneapolis, just as had already happened to African Americans in New York, Florida,California, and Missouri – in other words, everywhere and always in the US — we’d be much more worried today for America’s future if after this umpteenth assassination filmed live, nothing was happening. We’d be much more worried for America if instead of taking part in the protests and clashes across its cities, young people of all colors, religions and cultures in this vast country–maybe with the excuse of the Coronavirus–opted instead to stay “distant” while having a mojito on a beach somewhere that just reopened.

Young people instead are fighting on the streets and online (on Instagram it’s nice to see the messages of solidarity and the battle against racism), and they are teaching everyone to rebel against intolerance. Instead of being apathetic, thankfully, America is burning with pain and anger for that racist cancer that has always flowed in its veins; but today antibodies of its great democracy are at this moment battling it without succumbing to this innate evil. Let it be clear to whoever still has any doubt: if apathy were to prevail and no longer incite any type of reaction, it would kill the United States more effectively than the Coronavirus. Apathy would represent an even greater danger to the American Dream.

An NYPD vehicle destroyed during the clashes with protestors (Photo: Chiara Trincia)

In these dramatic hours – and in response to our friends who have written us from Italy, worried, asking us what we’re still doing here — we are relieved to observe how America’s antibodies are instead reacting. This very experiment, born from the idea that all men are created free and equal, a strong value — while still not fully achieved — has been progressing for three centuries. How is it achieved? With an ongoing fight between those who push towards the pursuit of this dream and against those cancer cells nestled within its same democratic body, always wanting to suppress it, allowing it to become a nightmare with a theory so extravagant as much as it is dangerous: that the American Dream belongs only to “those who are already here” (nativism or white supremacy) and no longer to immigrants.

The first protest march in Minneapolis on May 26th for the death of George Floyd at the hands of the police (Photo: Wikimedia/Fibonacci Blue)

Therefore, America is burning, but it’s alive, dear friends around the world that are watching her. You should have been more concerned, if anything, if after that terrible video of George Floyd’s torture America was still debating about Donald Trump’s tweets. Posing as a brazen little Duce, after denying any responsibility for the deaths of over one hundred thousand people caused by the pandemic, he is now flaunting the supremacist sneer of “we’re ready to shoot” — the message of a dog who is summoning together his pack.

We’d be more anxious for America if in every city we didn’t see its young people burn with anger for this umpteenth act of racism at the hands of men in uniform. Precisely those that should be helping each other more, and be more in need of help, instead of remaining stone cold without even reacting to a fellow colleague’s racism. Let us be reminded that they are paid by all of us to protect us from the crime of racism that still flows and poisons the blood of this great democracy.

Long live America? And what about the police cars that were set on fire in Brooklyn? And the upscale Manhattan stores that were looted? And even the smashed window at the Pizzeria Ribalta in the West Village, that we Italians in New York adore? Perhaps some readers — not only worried ones in Italy, but also outraged ones here in the US while they read our Voce — are asking why we’re not cursing this out of control revolt.

Certainly, these acts of violence sadden us, but we prefer to reserve most of our anger and outrage for George Floyd’s final words, “I can’t breathe. Mama help me”: it is the echo of his final words that should make us nervous, not the sounds of shattered windows.

Of course, watching fires being set upsets and outrages us, but in all sincerity, not with the same intensity — and they certainly cannot cause the same hurt inside as the echo of Floyd’s final gasps do to civilized people.

Washington Square Park, New York City: a vandalized monument being cleaned (Photo: Chiara Trincia)

While we express our solidarity for those who have had their businesses attacked in these hours by a few violent people (a minority with respect to the overwhelming majority of protesters), we also remind them that the American Dream that they themselves have already attained will continue to thrive thanks to those young people carrying the “Fuck Racism” signs, breathing air into an America that would have otherwise seemed comatose.

We should all be proud of how they are challenging the batons, the tear gas, and what are for now still rubber pellets — although it seems that Trump can’t wait for them to become lead– of those police officers that we’ve noticed, don’t always seem to have the right preparation and nerves of steel to perform their extremely difficult and delicate task. We remain hopeful that the NYPD will know how to distinguish real demonstrators — those that are saving the dignity and freedom of everyone — from those few that deserve to be thrown to jail.

The Giuseppe Garibaldi monument defaced by protestors at Washington Square Park (Photo: Chiara Trincia)

We conclude this editorial by reaffirming to all of our concerned friends to not worry about America – its dream is alive and strong. One only needs to remember the historic interpretation of this unique American experiment that has been in existence for only three centuries. Of course, we remain vigilant, but we’ll never be existentially anxious for America, because as its great historians have revealed, from the first “pendulum” theory by Henry Adams, to the more sophisticated “cycles” by the Schlesinger father and son team, the progress of America’s democracy expresses itself through the alternating power of its diverse and contrasting forces.

The experiment has worked so far, thanks to the cycle of those ideas put into practice that many label as “right” and “left”, but that here in the United States will never belong to rigid party affiliations. Do you think that Lincoln still has relevance with today’s Republican Party? But both forces are an integral part of the nature of American politics, that in their constant race to maintain the directional reins of this great country, they knew how to wait their turn, but without remaining silent. They are ready, therefore, to push when someone stops, to be receptive to rights against those that would shut them out.

This confirms the idea-action that America will always remain in movement towards progress, against those who have always been afraid of this progress. Each of these cycles, as Arthur Sr. and Jr. tell us, has lasted on average about 12 years.


Donald Trump (by Antonio Giambanco/VNY).

America has gone through very hard periods in which these cycles have alternated, such as during the Civil War or the Great Depression of the 1930s. And yet, in the end, it has always overcome them, coming back even better than before. We are sure that even this time, despite the profound damage caused by the pandemic, despite this virus of racism that still flows strongly — but that finds still yet other antibodies — all of us Americans will get through this. “We shall overcome, we shall overcome”, as Martin Luther King chanted.

Long live America, therefore, despite Donald Trump and the forces that he represents. We hope that he will not have the time to belong to any one of these cycles. We really hope that in the end he will only be a small, small president, only an accident — even though a serious one — part of the great American path of democracy, without having any more time to cause other damage and slow down the progress of the next cycle.

Translated by Emmelina De Feo

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