In my uneasy dream, Jerry Lewis — not the Last Man Standing, the roots artist with Lee as his middle name, but the late movie comic, the rubber-faced man of exaggerated whines and pratfalls — is at the Oval Office desk and seems to be in charge. I have no idea what this means, but it begins to make me feel strangely hopeful. Perhaps this is because I am still close enough to wakefulness to know that I am dreaming and to remember the reality of which showman it is who actually is the President.
And, as a I mull this over, I realize that I have fully awakened and am, in a strict sense, thinking, not dreaming any longer. And what I am thinking is summed up in the words “martial law.” And that is no joke. It is what Donald Trump had announced is in our future, courtesy of the 1807 “Insurrection Act,” and it is what we had gotten a strong precursory whiff of Monday evening when the president organized a massive clearing out of a harmless crowd demonstrating at a dutifully safe remove in Lafayette Park, across the street from the White House.
Suddenly there were roaring motors, tear gas. Flash-bangs, rubber bullets, rampaging horsemen, and ranks of armed men advancing in as no-nonsense a way as you could imagine. Masses of bodies flying, fleeing, flung out of the way. All so the president, well known to be a man of no religion, could walk across the cleared space and hold up a prop Bible in front of a nearby church.
Where is Jerry Lewis when you need him? Or Jerry Lee, for that matter? Or anyone, anyone at all, living or dead, real or imaginary, who can offset this very real vision of soulless monomania, of pointless presumption, writ large?
Meanwhile, the coronavirus is still with us, with its ever-rising death toll and capacity to spike back into an uncontrollable health threat, especially when the tide of public anger has effectively abolished the concept of safe social distancing, which was already in rapid decline, on the streets of every major American city.
- George Floyd
Now consider what Floyd had done: He apparently tried to pass off a piece of amateurishly counterfeited paper as a $20 bill for some desired item at a sundry store. Which of us, in this age of an evaporating economy, might not at least fantasize performing such an act, although at a more substantial level for more substantial goods?
And consider the other racial homicide that had already outraged civilized opinion and frayed the historically heroic patience of African Americans — the assassination in Georgia by a trio of self-appointed vigilantes of the black jogger Ahmaud Arbery. And his crime? The only thing that has come to light is that he wandered onto a construction site and looked around for a minute or two.
Now, with those two horrors in mind, along with the ongoing urban disorders in progress from coast to coast, reflect on the fact of a piece of priority legislation before the newly reconvened Tennessee legislature — a bill, favored by our Governor Bill Lee, to allow the open carry of firearms in Tennessee without need of permit. Just what we need to cool tempers and restore peace and harmony, right?
Opposed by every law enforcement institution in the state, it’s already passed Judiciary and is advancing in the state House to the Finance, Ways and Means committee on Wednesday of this week. Something to look forward to.
Also scheduled for Wednesday, closer to home. The Shelby County Commission will make yet another attempt, in its third consecutive special called meeting, to reach agreement on a budget for fiscal 2021-22. In two previous orgies of number-crunching, Mayor Lee Harris and the county’s chief legislative body haven’t come close to agreeing.
Cheer up. For better or for worse, things do get done on Wednesdays. Or, at least, this week they’ll have a chance to. Also scheduled for possible resolution this Wednesday are two suits on behalf of expanding absentee ballot opportunities for this year’s elections, one from the local group Up the Vote 901, another from the ACLU. Those suits will be heard in Chancery Court in Nashville.
And on Thursday, in yet another suit — this one seeking release of prisoners afflicted by or vulnerable to COVID-19 — the Shelby County Sheriff’s Department has the opportunity to file its defense brief before presiding federal Judge Sheryl Lipman.
We’ll try to keep you posted on the outcomes in these matters, at memphisflyer.com. Meanwhile, do your best to stay awake — and in good health.