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By John Murphy

What does a governor of California at the height of the Great Depression have in common with President Donald J. Trump in engendering the Covid-19 Pandemic just prior to the most consequential election in modern American history?

California Governor James “Sunny Jim” Rolph, its Chief Constitutional Officer in 1933, not only refused to call out the National Guard to prevent the lynching of two men in what is now known as Silicon Valley, but promised to pardon anyone convicted of carrying out one of the most notoriously self-deluded manifestations of citizen justice in the United States.

Donald J. Trump, America’s Chief Constitutional Officer, consciously and cynically concealed his informed knowledge of the most deadly virus since 1918 from the American public, refused to employ his authority to mount a comprehensively uniform national campaign to prevent the virus from spreading, and now hideously exploits the avoidable deaths of 200,000 Americans to scare voters away from the polls while spewing propaganda echoed by both the Russians and the Chinese about the integrity of voting by mail.

American citizens regularly look toward the leaders of their respective states and the nation for both moral and civic judgment and inspiration. Governor Rolph’s pardon promise gilding his refusal to call out the National Guard to prevent the lynching of two men accused of kidnapping and murder, resulted in a press-estimated five to ten thousand men, women, and children crowded into a city park to carry out a Sabbath lynching four days before Thanksgiving in 1933.

The following morning, Governor Rolph praised the otherwise upstanding God-fearing citizens who he claimed just momentarily lost their minds, then reaffirmed his pardon pledge. Citizens who participated in the lynching doggedly refused to talk about it the rest of their lives.

President Trump just awarded himself an A-plus for his Covid-19 response he claims kept the Covid-19 casualties to only 200,000 when it could have been in the millions. It doesn’t matter the size of the match, spark, or ember that ignites a wildfire, it is solely measured by the number of human lives lost, homes and businesses destroyed, and acres burned. President Trump, like his role model eighty-seven years ago, has no capacity to understand or appreciate what the loss of a loved one means to each American, and only offers risible respect for the credulous who accept his toxic leadership as gospel because he is President of the United States.

President Trump’s minions—their lush political paranoia nourished by his chronic inversion of facts—consciously and deliberately distorted and manipulated scientific judgment inextricably tied to the gruesomely heartbreaking Covid-19 death toll, and are complicit with President Trump in causing the deaths of our 200,000 fellow Americans. In any other circumstance, such behavior would constitute depraved indifference that arguably would be used as material evidence for a manslaughter indictment.

Just like once respected Republicans rendered mute in the face of human, economic, and political devastation by the dark money generated by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling—granting corporations the same free speech rights as individuals while guaranteeing anonymity, the inquiry into the lynching overseen by subsequent Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, then Alameda County District Attorney, Earl Warren, excluded both Governor Rolph and the allegedly anonymous members of the local vigilance committee comprised of well-known civic and business leaders, falsely attributing the lynching to otherwise God-fearing citizens who forgiveably lost their minds for a moment in the face of the evil contempt for human life by the accused kidnappers and murderers and what they were led to believe was a legal system benefiting criminals rather than victims.

President Trump, obdurately dismissing the 200,000 Covid-19 American deaths, gleefully conducts serial political sideshows emblazoned in history by the shameless merchandising of treasured symbols of American democracy, while contemptuously flouting scientific fact by shaming mask-wearing and social distancing that encourages increasingly deadly exposure to the virus by his true believers and all those with whom they subsequently come into contact.

Most concerning of all is President Trump’s and his appointees’ promotion and endorsement of armed citizen retaliation against people exercising free speech rights—free speech which categorically does not include violence, arson, or looting—and the ominous specter of the election of Joe Biden resulting from the rigging of voting. Like the lynching endorsed and pardoned by Governor Rolph, the potential for horrific and tragically misplaced political violence is ominously extant.

It is the enemy defined by human imagination that most often results in the most lethal and perpetually damaging consequences. President Trump, by exploiting, rather than condemning, the outlandish and factually baseless conspiracy theories about the virus and his political opposition, provides the emotional gunpowder to wreak havoc on the long-proven, and highly regarded American electoral process solely for the narcissistic purposes of being re-elected.

American democracy survived and became the symbol and reality of freedom in the world because of its capacity to accommodate the most questionable manifestations of free speech while retaining the composure to eventually come to its senses. It is now time for our weathered, but resilient sense of justice to again exercise its enduring power and prevail over the worst presidency since the founding of this nation.

Murphy,  a founder of the University of Phoenix authored an insider account of its formation and what transpired at the nation’s first accredited for-profit university after he resigned in 1997: “Mission Forsaken: The University of Phoenix Affair with Wall Street.”Subsequently, he wrote and produced the award-winning feature film, Valley of the Heart’s Delight based on the Republican politics of the 1933 San Jose lynching starring Pete Postlethwaite, Bruce McGill, and Gabriel Mann.