The American empire is falling apart. But things can always get worse


US President Donald Trump walks back to the White House after appearing outside of St John’s Episcopal church across Lafayette Park in Washington, DC, on 1 June PHOTO/AFP

As protests rage over the police killing of George Floyd, inequality and injustice are brutally exposed

The American empire is in decay, but that doesn’t mean things can’t get worse. Protests that erupted over the police killing of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, continue to rage across the United States. 

Each new day sees another chunk of flesh torn from the face the nation shows the world, revealing the bone and blood underneath. The inequalities and injustices of the world’s richest country are being brutally exposed. 

The capital is literally on fire, but the responses of both the president and the liberal establishment suggest that things will likely get worse before – or if – they get better. If optimistic Americans were hoping that relief could come at the ballot box, they may be disappointed: November’s election offers voters a choice between an old, white neo-fascist and an old, white neoliberal. 

Fantasies of redemption are ever present, but there is no easy solution to the problem of Donald Trump, just as there is no easy solution to the coronavirus pandemic or to structural racism. In a world in which the stock markets go up while ordinary people’s wealth goes down, the markets have always been happy with the US president. That’s the intractable problem. What former President Barack Obama did nothing to reverse, Trump has only accelerated.   

Trump tweets while Washington burns

For now, the president lurches further into fascist territory. There are new demonstrations of this almost every hour; whatever I write here will likely be out of date by the time you read it. 

Tear gas was recently used to clear protesters from outside the White House, so that the president could stage a photo opportunity in front of a church, a bible in his hand raised high. Priests and others were reportedly forced off church grounds by law enforcement officers, turning, in the words of one rector, “holy ground… into a battle ground”.

Jesus used force to cleanse the temple of moneymen. Trump and his acolytes, men of money, use force to cleanse the temple of the people. If Nero fiddled while Rome burned, then Trump tweets while Washington suffers the same fate. He smears the protesters. He threatens them and emboldens police. 

In a few notable, moving exceptions, police have communed with protestors. For the most part, though, tear gas and rubber bullets are fired into crowds of people. They have been fired at people sitting on their porches. Police vehicles have been driven into protesters. Tasers have been utilised, women have been thrown to the ground and young couples dragged from their cars. 

These are just some of many incidents recorded. Many more were not. Each new day brings images of US police forces that could come straight out of a comic-book blockbuster depicting an authoritarian dystopia. 

Devoured by capitalism

Put another way, these images could have come straight out of Middle Eastern countries recently occupied by the US military, such as Iraq, or those in which bountiful US support enables the brutal repression of internal dissent, such as Israel/Palestine, Egypt and the Gulf. The imperial war machine, seen before on US streets and well known particularly to the nation’s black population, has come back home. 

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