Museum of America in the Pandemic Year, 2020

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Jun 5: Washington, D.C., prepares for a massive demonstration on Saturday, as protests continue across the United States and around the world in response to the death of George Floyd. Joe Biden secures the Democratic Presidential Nomination.  Buffalo, New York’s entire police emergency response team resigns in “disgust,” in a show of support for two officers who were suspended after pushing over a 75-year-old man on Thursday.

From the cutting room floor...

The power of the absurd should not be underestimated. The president claims through a televised phone call to Fox News that he did not go down into the bunker to hide on the night of May 31, but to “inspect” it, despite the fact that the Secret Service already said that they took #BunkerBoy there for his safety.[1] The fabrication unleashes a torrent of mockery. Sarah Cooper, an African American woman who performs impeccable lip synchs of Trump’s nonsensical rhetoric, has made a parody of this absurd moment. Her rendition of his call to Fox News pulls the curtain back on an emperor desperately trying to stitch up his invisible clothes.

The playwright, Eugene Ionesco, noted in the 1960s that when the world stops making sense, when it becomes terrifying and ridiculous, simply bringing attention to its absurdity can be a powerful form of resistance.[2]

On the streets, things are shifting as well. DC’s Mayor Bowser … had city street crews paint “Black Lives Matter” on 16th Street leading up to the White House. Street signs now also proclaim “Black Lives Matter.”[3]

The president responds by building a wall–well, a fence really, around the White House—channeling his inner dictator, perhaps. It reminds me of when Pope Pius IX locked himself inside the Vatican in 1870 after the rest of Italy had unified. The popes stayed in the Vatican walls for the next sixty years in a self-imposed incarceration.  The allegory is not lost here, as people on the political left seem delighted that the President might do less damage if he stays behind his new wall, or even better, inside his bunker.

I have been wondering how long it would take before the corporations and advertisers start monetizing the BLM movement to sell goods and make profit. Americans define themselves and their citizenship by what they buy. During the Cold War, advertisers argued that you could insure your freedom through the purchase of cars, savings bonds, household appliances, and even baseball cards.[4] Now, we exhibit our political and personal identity by buying either an electric car or a coal roller for our pickup truck.

Nike was the first company to support the BLM movement explicitly when it signed Colin Kaepernick as a spokesperson in 2018. The National Football League blackballed him for taking a knee during the playing of the national anthem before football games. It was a small but brave protest against racial injustice and police brutality. “Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything.” This is the slogan Nike gave him. With protests now happening on the streets of smaller cities and towns across America, more companies are realizing that there is profit to be made in BLM identity politics. Netflix, Twitter, Citigroup, Starbucks, HBO, and the Crimson Tide football team at the University of Alabama are all mobilizing the “Black Lives Matter” slogan to cultivate brand loyalty.[5] Even the NFL has apologized for its past intolerance. By in large, these companies do not have records of investing in poor neighborhoods, of affirmative action, or of sacrificing profits to promote civil rights. This is capitalist sloganeering. Whether it helps or dilutes the cause is debatable. On the one hand, these companies “mainstream” the BLM movement so that people like Kaepernick are no longer pariahs. They make it acceptable to support BLM. On the other hand, they provide a conduit for empty virtue signaling. This movement needs real, sustained sacrifice and action, not people who think that buying a Starbucks frapaccino absolves them of obligation so that they can go back to life-as-usual.

If the corporations really wanted to help, one thing they could do would be to address the internet access crisis. Millions of people don’t have access to internet, almost all of whom are the poor and in rural communities. In February of this year, the FCC reported that 23 million Americans didn’t have internet access. The company Broadband Now looked closer at the FCC’s research methodology and concluded that, in fact, the number is closer to 42 million.[6] That is about 13% of the population. Internet access is quickly becoming one of the ways that structural systems of power are reinforced in this country. Money and infrastructure would solve this problem. We have the money, but as with healthcare, we have to see it as something that everyone has a right to access. Pew Research shows that Black and Hispanic populations have significantly less access to internet at home and are markedly more smartphone dependent.[7] You can’t do school or work on a smartphone with a limited data plan and a lousy cellular signal. This would be a way to show that Black Lives Matter, that poor lives matter. It is an absurd idea, I know.[8]


[1] Julia Musto, “Trump Says He Went to White House Bunker for ‘Inspection,’ Hits Back at Criticism of Church Visit,” Fox News, June 3, 2020,; David Moye, “Trump Brutally Mocked For Saying He Went To Bunker Just To Inspect It,” HuffPost, June 3, 2020,

[2] Pedro Querido, “From Kharms to Camus: Towards a Definition of the Absurd as Resistance,” The Modern Language Review 112, no. 4 (October 2017): 765–92.

[3] Alisa Gumbs, “Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser Trolls Trump in the Blackest Way,” Black Enterprise, June 5, 2020,

[4] Margaret Peacock, “Cold War Consumption and the Marketing of Childhood in the Soviet Union and the United States, 1950-1960,” ed. Mark Tadajewski, Journal of Historical Research in Marketing 8, no. 1 (January 1, 2016): 83–98,

[5] Mitchell Hartman, “Marketers Are Embracing Black Lives Matter,” Marketplace, June 2, 2020,; Cedric Thornton, “NFL Commissioner: ‘We, The NFL Admit, We Were Wrong for Not Listening to NFL Players Earlier,’” Black Enterprise, June 6, 2020,

[6] John Busby and Julia Tanberk, “FCC Underestimates Americans Unserved by Broadband Internet by 50%,” BroadbandNow, February 3, 2020,

[7] Pew Research Center, “Demographics of Internet and Home Broadband Usage in the United States,” June 12, 2019,

[8] Linda Poon, “There Are Far More Americans Without Broadband Access than Previously Thought,” Bloomberg.Com, February 19, 2020,

Read more
Donald Trump: “This Is a Great Day” for George Floyd – Video, 2020.

WCCO 4 Minnesota, “Minneapolis Agrees To Ban Chokeholds & Require Officers To Intervene Against Unauthorized Use Of Force,” June 5, 2020.

Stephen Colbert, “Sen. Cory Booker Talks Race, Empathy, And His Legislation To Stop Abuses Of Power By Law Enforcement,” The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, June 5, 2020.

“Breonna Taylor’s Sister Tells Us What It’s Like to Hear People Chant Her Name,” Vice News, June 5, 2020.

Chris Hayes, “Chris Hayes Reads ‘Incoherent’ Transcript Of Trump On Radio Show,” All In, MSNBC, June 5, 2020.

“All members of Buffalo PD’s emergency response team resign in protest (GRAPHIC VIDEO),” Fox News, June 5, 2020.

Additional social media
Sarah Cooper, @sarahcpr, How to bible, June 3, 2020.

*If the pdf thumbnails are not appearing, please reload the page.

Musto, Julia. “Trump Says He Went to White House Bunker for ‘inspection,’ Hits Back at Criticism of Church Visit.” Fox News, June 3, 2020.
Eshoo, Anna G. “H.R.6814 – 116th Congress (2019-2020): Supporting Con­nec­tiv­ity for Higher Education Students in Need Act.” Legislation, May 12, 2020.
Gonzalez Van Cleve, Nicole, and Somil Trivedi. “Why Prosecutors Keep Letting Police Get Away With Murder.” Slate Magazine, June 5, 2020.
Metzger, Jen. “Senator Metzger’s Community Conversations Series Examines the Opioid Epidemic during COVID-19 with Catholic Charities CEO, Middletown Police Chief, and Ulster County Sheriff.” NY State Senate, June 5, 2020.
Trivedi, Somil, and Nicole Gonzalez Van Cleve. “To Serve and Protect Each Other: How Police-Prosecutor Codependence Enables Police Misconduct.” Boston University Law Review 100, no. 3 (May 2020): 895–933.
Additional Links

* Timeline summaries at the top of the page come from a variety of sources:, including The American Journal of Managed Care COVID-19 Timeline (, the Just Security Group at the NYU School of Law (, the “10 Things,” daily entries from The Week (, as well as a variety of newspapers and television programs.