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America has never felt so divided or dangerous, says Caroline Graham


I've lived in Los Angeles for almost 30 years and got used to weird bumps at night.

They usually signify a seismic rumble from the San Andreas Fault that all Californians learn to live with.

But last week it was different because the thuds over my head were the sound of two intruders walking over the roof of my bungalow before climbing to a waiting car.

It has never happened before and I hope it won't be repeated. But for the first time in three decades, I've installed security cameras.

Something has turned bad in America. My brush of fear was mercifully short. Nobody was hurt.

But the mood of conflict spreads far beyond the televised violence scenes in Portland or Wisconsin and feels more personal every day.

BLM protesters outside a Washington DC restaurant on Monday as part of protests following the shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin

Even for me, after years of reporting, it was hard to believe – just as hard as it was to take my eyes off the surreal events on screen.

For weeks, the nightly news has been filled with riot police and – increasingly – armed militiamen who oppose demonstrators in cities in the middle of the largest democracy in the western world.

The youth vigilante group reportedly killed two men in Kenosha, Wisconsin

The youth vigilante group reportedly killed two men in Kenosha, Wisconsin

What can a normal person think of the 17-year-old vigilante who allegedly shot and killed two men armed with a semi-automatic rifle during protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin?

These protests were again provoked by inexplicable acts of violence when another unarmed black man, Jacob Blake, was shot and paralyzed by police in front of his three children.

There were bizarre scenes outside a Washington DC restaurant when a mob was filmed yelling at diner Lauren Victor for refusing to raise her fist in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.

It is particularly ironic that Victor, a 49-year-old city planner, is a staunch supporter of the BLM movement. But she felt “attacked” and no wonder when she declared: “I've been marching with them for weeks and weeks and weeks.

“It just felt overwhelming to let all these people come up to you. To have a crowd … request you do this thing. It didn't feel right at the moment. "

With just 64 days to go before the November presidential election, this country has never felt so divided – or dangerous.

I've seen some terrible things over the years. Too many school shootings to count.

Mark and Patricia N McCloskey stand outside their home confronting protesters who are marching to the home of St. Louis Mayoress Lyda Krewson, in the Central West End of St. Louis

Mark and Patricia N McCloskey stand outside their home confronting protesters who are marching to the home of St. Louis Mayoress Lyda Krewson, in the Central West End of St. Louis

The sight of tiny shoes and teddy bears under a Christmas tree following the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre, which killed 20 elementary school children, sparked anti-gun demonstrations across the country.

I was the first reporter at the Superdome after Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans in 2005 and heard the tortured screams of those who were dying.

There were plane crashes, tornadoes, bombings in Oklahoma and the Atlanta Olympics and of course September 11th.

But after all these events, America came together and rose again in the defiant “America only” way that embodies the courage, resilience, and optimism of that nation.

But that feels different. When riots broke out after George Floyd's murder, my city was set on fire.

I could see shops on Melrose Avenue in flames from my living room as police helicopters circled low overhead night after night looking for looters.

Black Lives Matter protesters clash with Los Angeles Police Department police in Los Angeles, California this month

Black Lives Matter protesters clash with Los Angeles Police Department police in Los Angeles, California this month

It got so bad that a group of neighbors worked out a plan to barricade the end of our street with cars to prevent rioters from coming up the hill.

I still love this country enough to become an American citizen ten years ago. But there has been a seismic shift.

Americans no longer feel optimistic or hopeful. The American dream is dead. I am not alone when I feel this way.

Friends of mine are fleeing big cities like LA and New York to keep rural areas like Montana and the South Dakota hills safe.

A friend's gold chain was torn from her neck as she jogged the once safe streets of Santa Monica. She has since built a £ 10,000 "panic room" in her home.

My own nightly encounter was enough to cause me to spend £ 3,500 on a steel ring security system, including night vision cameras and a monthly armed response fee if the alarm goes off

The woman who sold it to me confessed, "Business is booming." Meanwhile, arms dealers from coast to coast have reported a dramatic increase in sales as people seek to protect themselves and exercise their right to take over arms under the Second Amendment .

And of course, all of this could be good news for President Trump.

When he officially accepted the Republican nomination on the White House grounds on Thursday evening, Trump, a former TV reality star who formulated his political ideologies in snappy slogans ("Make America Great Again"), made law and order clear – Far more than Covid-19, jobs, healthcare or business – is the focus of his re-election campaign.

Denouncing Democratic rival Joe Biden as a member of the "radical left that will disappoint police forces across America", Trump said, "Nobody will be safe in Biden's America." There is violence and danger in the streets of democratic cities across America.

Donald Trump listens during a briefing on the response to Hurricane Laura on Saturday

Democratic presidential candidate, former Vice President Joe Biden, speaks to community faith leaders during a visit to Dulan's Soul Food on Crenshaw, Los Angeles

Donald Trump and Joe Biden are currently fighting in the US 2020 election

"Your vote will determine whether we protect law-abiding Americans or whether we let violent anarchists, agitators and criminals run wild."

Trump's 2016 election victory was largely due to his approaching white American workers by pledging to restore jobs lost in countries like China and Mexico.

This time he brazenly targets increasingly anxious women like me.

Night after night during this week's Republican Convention, the president trotted immaculately coiffed women – called "trumpets" – from all walks of life to reinforce his message that if he is not elected for a second term, fear and anarchy will haunt the streets.

There were nurses, teachers, his own daughters Tiffany and Ivanka, and a heartbreaking procession of victims of violence.

Widow Ann Dorn recounted how her policeman was shot and killed by looters during a night of rioting following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May.

A tearful woman Dorn cried when she told how her husband David, who was black, had broadcast his murder live on Facebook.

"How did we get to a point where so many young people are so numb and indifferent to human life?" She said.

"This isn't a video game where you can wreak havoc and then hit the reset button to bring all of the characters back to life." David never comes back. "

Cissie Graham Lynch, granddaughter of Rev. Billy Graham, speaks from Washington on the second night of the Republican National Convention Tuesday

Cissie Graham Lynch, granddaughter of Rev. Billy Graham, speaks from Washington on the second night of the Republican National Convention Tuesday

Cissie Graham, the granddaughter of evangelist Billy Graham – a powerful figure in right-wing Christian America – was just as adamant. Trump was the only one who would protect "Faith and Family".

Patricia McCloskey, a St. Louis attorney who was photographed next to her husband waving guns at protesters walking through her apartment building, said, “It seems like the Democrats are no longer the government's job of protecting honest citizens Criminals, rather than protection from criminals by honest citizens.

"They want to do away with the suburbs altogether by ending the zoning of single-family homes – by bringing crime, lawlessness and substandard housing to thriving suburbs."

Democratic voters already understand how widely these sentiments are shared – especially among swing voters.

A friend of mine, a staunch Democrat who last ran Hollywood fundraisers for Trump's opponent Hillary Clinton, worries that the trumpets might be as effective as the Make America Great slogan and Hillary's crooked barbs in the last election.

Then as now, the Democrats led the elections for months – but had to watch Trump sail into the White House.

"By rolling out all these attractive women – nurses, teachers, mothers, housewives – and letting them speak on the streets with fear of violence and anarchy if the Democrats win, this could really resonate with indecisive female voters who are voting this election possibly decide. " She said to me.

"It's a clever tactic by Trump. The irony is that his policies have caused many of the social injustice issues America faces today. But the protests and riots are good for Trump because he's targeting cities like LA and New York can reference, who are Democratic controlled, arguing that years of Democratic leadership has created chaos in the streets.

"And of course his message speaks to his base of white conservative Christians who love to talk about God and weapons."

In Texas last week, rival groups attacked each other with makeshift weapons, including American flags with poles still attached.

More than 68 people were arrested Tuesday during protests in Louisville, Kentucky. Demonstrators, some of which were fatal, were shot dead in Austin, Portland, Albuquerque and Dallas.

Federal law enforcement officers confront Black Lives Matter supporters outside the U.S. Immigration and Customs building in Portland this week

Federal law enforcement officers confront Black Lives Matter supporters outside the U.S. Immigration and Customs building in Portland this week

In Dallas, a shopkeeper was so brutally beaten while trying to defend his business that he suffered permanent brain damage.

And the stress of the pandemic coupled with a sharp presidential election is likely to only exacerbate the violence.

Lance Arnold, the chief of police in Weatherford, Texas, where right-wing militias clashed with protesters trying to tear down a Confederate statue, said, "It seems like as a country we have left the debating stage and now we are are in a state of conflict, disagreement, suspicious and disbelieving. This is not who we are as Americans. "

Social media has fueled the flames of discord. The 17-year-old vigilante allegedly shot and killed two men in Wisconsin was a member of an online police support group called Blue Lives Matter.

A new protest group called Take America Back Texas has had 10,000 membership in two months. One of its members is Wendi Rees, a suburban mother from Tyler, Texas, who said, “Our constitutional rights are being threatened.

"Well people like me, we've had enough and we won't sit back and let it go anymore."

Members are encouraged to wear patriotic red, white, and blue clothing during protests and to wrap orange tape around their arms to help police identify them as patriots.

The Trump camp has admitted that the chaos is in their favor.

Trump's retired special adviser and proud Trumpette Kellyanne Conway said, "The more chaos and anarchy, as well as vandalism and violence, the better it is for making very clear decisions about who is best in terms of public safety and law and order."

Trump's retired special adviser and proud Trumpette Kellyanne Conway said, "The more chaos and anarchy, as well as vandalism and violence, the better it is for making very clear decisions about who is best in terms of public safety and law and order."

Trump's retired special adviser and proud Trumpette Kellyanne Conway said, "The more chaos and anarchy, as well as vandalism and violence, the better it is for making very clear decisions about who is best in terms of public safety and law and order."

However, the president's political rival has accused him of "using violence" to win votes.

Biden, whose Democratic National Convention drew a famous group of speakers including former President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle two weeks ago, claims Trump is trying to divert attention from his "appalling" handling of the Covid-19 crisis, which is already happening It cost 180,000 Americans lives.

Biden has made a choice as a choice between his promise of calm, experienced leadership and Trump's desire to ignite an America that is already on the brink.

Biden's colleague, Senator Kamala Harris, who could be the first black female vice president, argued that peaceful protesters should not be confused with "looting and violence".

Biden's colleague, Senator Kamala Harris, who could be the black woman's first female vice-president, argued that peaceful protesters should not be confused with "looting and violence".

Biden's fellow campaigner, Senator Kamala Harris, who could be the black woman's first female vice president, argued that peaceful protesters should not be confused with "looting and violence".

"We will not allow these vigilante groups and extremists to derail the path to justice," said the former federal prosecutor. But they could still derail democratic hopes.

While polls put Biden up to 15 percent ahead of Trump earlier this year, the violence appears to be working in the president's favor – as has declining rates of coronavirus infections and deaths.

The gap has now fallen to 7.1 percent on average in national polls, from 7.6 percent last week. On Wednesday, a poll by CNBC / Change Research of voters in six key swing states found that Trump's approval rating rose to 48 percent.

Pollster Frank Luntz graduated from Oxford University and is a close friend of Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

He helped Johnson be elected President of the Oxford Union Debating Society and served in every UK election from 1997 to 2015. Today he is considered to be one of the most accurate political pollsters in the world.

Luntz says the election is too short to call, but cautioned Trump's speech this week which introduced "new and effective angles of attack".

"He (Trump) was talking about anarchy and anarchism versus socialism, and this is the first time I've heard him try to define Biden in another word and language," he said. "His best line was," How can the Democratic Party run our country when they spend so much time tearing our country down? "

“I say this emphatically, this election is far too close to hold. The debates will play a role. "

Trump and Biden will debate three times – in late September and twice in October.

Like most Americans, I'll be glued to my TV, just like I was when Trump debated Hillary Clinton in 2016. This time, however, my house will be surrounded by surveillance cameras – a large sign that reads "Armed Response" on the front door.

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