How is it that Trump is designated to be in a position of judging the perpetrators of violence? The U.S. government is regularly bombing a number of countries. Just last week, Trump threatened North Korea with nuclear destruction in unusually blunt language -- "fire and fury" rather than the typical Obama administration veiled nuclear attack code lingo "all options are on the table".
You'd be hard pressed to find a "news" story about them. That's the concern with the effects of "violence" when it emanates from the U.S. government.
But the threats and use of violence are not new, nor is the hypocrisy. As he was ordering the ongoing bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999, President Bill Clinton took time out of his schedule to address the shooting at Columbine High School: “We must do more to reach out to our children and teach them to express their anger and to resolve their conflicts with words, not weapons.”
Such outbreaks of domestic political violence are used not as openings for introspection about longstanding violence in U.S. society, but for rallying cries to uphold alleged virtues of the nation. The recent attacks are "repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans" Trump claims.
Since we live "under law and under the Constitution...responding to hate with love, division with unity, and violence with an unwavering resolve for justice. No matter the color of our skin, we all live under the same laws, we all salute the same great flag, and we are all made by the same almighty God."
The words Trump uttered seemed to echo Saint Augustine. Charles Avila in Ownership: Early Christian Teaching, outlines Augustine's beliefs: "The Creator, who alone is Absolute Owner, did not make us human beings so many 'islands,' without any relation to each other, but one human family, 'made from one mud' and sustained 'on one earth.'...We enjoy the same natural conditions: 'born under one law, living by one light, breathing one air and dying one death.'"
Nor is this new, either. during the presidency of Bill Clinton, he ordered up an "Initiative on Race". It's largely forgotten because its primary goal wasn't actually improving relations between different ethnic groups. Its goal was noted in its title: "One America in the 21st Century”. Not “Finally Overcoming Racism.” Not “Towards an America of Equality.”
National cohesion is the driving concern here. How can we make these differing ethnicities get along well enough to ensure that this stays one nation is a question elites must ask themselves. See my piece at the time: "'One America' -- To what Ends?"
There's a tightrope being walked here. There's a functionality to the "debate" between "both sides". The system requires a great deal of tension to keep people in their partisan boxes. The main thing that each political faction has going for it is the hatred towards the other.
The Democratic Party has to offer people something more than Russia-bashing, and that something seems to be opposition to a war that the party of Jefferson was on the losing side of.
Many were aghast at Trump's remarks about Washington and Jefferson: "So this week, it is Robert E. Lee. I noticed that Stonewall Jackson is coming down. I wonder, is it George Washington next week? And is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You know, you really do have to ask yourself, where does it stop?"
As historian Gerald Horne has argued, the U.S. Revolutionary War was largely a war to ensure the continuation of slavery. Part of the "genius" of the U.S. was the "unification" of many non-black and non-native people as "white", including southern and eastern Europeans and some Arabs. So you have a large immigration pool to forge the nation.
Nor of course is slavery the only crime. It's perhaps focused on to at least some extent in our current political discourse because it's the main aspect of the imperial project that created, rather than destroyed, a major domestic constituency that was a victim of it. Native Americans are not a major domestic constituency because, unlike black folks in the U.S., their ancestors were not chained and brought to U.S. shores as slaves, but were driven out, killed en mass or made to die or be confined and marginalized.
And that project predated the formal creation of the United States. Kent A. MacDougall notes in "Empire—American as Apple Pie" in Monthly Review that "George Washington called the nascent nation 'a rising empire.' John Adams said it was 'destined' to overspread all North America. And Thomas Jefferson viewed it as 'the nest from which all America, North and South, is to be peopled.'"
Trump's statements, understated as they were, about current U.S. government violence were roundly condemned by most of the political class. CNN's "chief national security correspondent" Jim Sciutto called them "relativistic" -- when they were they are the exact opposite. What's relativistic is condemning the actions of others while approving of similar actions by one's "own side". Of course, Trump is relativistic when he condemns the violence from "many sides" in Charlottesville.
So we have two relativistic dead ends: Trump "vs" the rest of the establishment. One victim for the time being is people's brain cells who have to endure and try to parse through the constant machinations.
Comments like those about U.S. violence or the history of Washington give Trump a legitimacy of sorts. The establishment media effectively keep the microphone away from anyone else who would note such defining facts, while giving reams of coverage to Trump. He effectively becomes the leading "dissident" while also being the head inquisitor. This discourse effectively immunizes the establishment from meaningful change or even dialogue.
Both sides limit who they mean by “lives.” They effectively exclude the victims of the U.S.’s highest officials. When most people use #BlackLivesMatter, they seem to be saying that all black U.S. lives matter when taken unlawfully by the government. And when most people who use #AllLivesMatter use it, they seem to be saying all U.S. lives matter when taken at the hands of police authorities — not just black U.S. lives. But the formulation effectively excludes the lives of millions of people who U.S. officials have deemed expendable for reasons of state.