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Divide and rule by Trump is shameful - and a tragedy

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U.S. President Donald Trump. Photo: Tom Brenner/Reuters

U.S. President Donald Trump. Photo: Tom Brenner/Reuters

REUTERS

U.S. President Donald Trump. Photo: Tom Brenner/Reuters

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has joined other world leaders in expressing revulsion at the killing of George Floyd in the US and subsequent events.

He pointedly decried "the absence of moral leadership or words of understanding, comfort or healing from whence they should have come".

A démarche of such vehemence, veiled though it was, says much.

But Mr Varadkar was merely speaking to the global dismay and anxiety at the alarming turn of events in America.

President Trump should he take heed - which is unlikely given his insouciance concerning international criticism - he might appreciate the critique comes as much from concern as censure.

As Mr Varadkar said: "It is right to be angered by injustice." He also rightly drew attention to the real problem of racism on our own shores, and the continuing need to root it out.

This week we have seen both the ugly and the hopeful faces of the United States.

While many were angry and scared, the majority acted with dignity, taking trouble to defuse, not stoke tension.

For instance, in Fayetteville, North Carolina, a line of 60 police officers knelt before a group of protesters "as a show of understanding the pain that is in our community and our nation regarding equality", according to the police department.

Protesters, at first furious at the show of force, then hugged and shook hands with officers, witnesses said. Of course policemen taking a knee, or walking in solidarity, will not give George Floyd his life back. But such gestures are far from empty. They prevented tense situations from escalating further. They also stand in stark contrast to Mr Trump's view that his country is engaged in a war with its own factions.

A war he is desperate to convince only he, and his followers, can win. The prospects for a more pluralistic democracy have never looked more in peril.

As former president Barack Obama put it: "The waves of protests across the country represent a genuine and legitimate frustration over a decades-long failure to reform police practices and the broader criminal justice system in the US."

Mr Trump presides over a disunited states. A divide and conquer agenda split the political landscape. Throughout, Mr Trump favoured one particular fragment whom he sees as "the base".

American presidents, through good times and bad, traditionally focused on more than one group. They also saw the benefit of embracing global relationships. But not this one.

Commenting on the leadership vacuum, the 'Washington Post' wrote: "In a crisis demanding resolve and competence, the commander in chief sits at home, feebly tapping on his phone. It's a potent metaphor - and a national shame."

It's also something of a tragedy.

To date the US has lost more than 105,000 people to Covid-19. Its economy is in free fall and 40 million are out of work. People had reason to anticipate more than inflammatory tweets in response.

Irish Independent