That hot Saturday in July started with Trump’s ugly tweet-storm about Baltimore and rats. It ended with a standing ovation for Elijah Cummings.
The story by now is familiar: Trump saw a typically distorted and simplistic FOX report that included video of trash and rats in Baltimore, so he decided that the nation needed to hear from him about the city’s problems. That the majority of its citizens are black, and that it’s leading representative in Congress was black, must have been too much for Trump to resist.
So he tweeted that Cummings had no business criticizing conditions for migrants at our southwestern border when his district in Baltimore was a “disgusting rat and rodent infested mess” where “no human being would want to live.”
The rest of the day brought a social media storm, with people criticizing Trump and defending the city, with others saying Trump was right and blunting accusations of racism. The highlight of counter commentary was The Sun’s editorial, “Better to have a few rats than to be one.” It went viral and its deadline author, editorial writer Peter Jensen, received many tributes from readers throughout the country.
Most decent people recognized Trump’s tweets as racist cheap shots, criticism offered without any solutions, typical of this president. And, more than anything, the attack on Cummings was particularly offensive. As I state in my column, he was a man of deep integrity who recognized his city’s many complex problems and had spent years trying to fix them, as a community leader, member of the Maryland General Assembly and Congress. “We are better than this,” he said so many times.
That Saturday night, Cummings went to Gertrude’s restaurant at the Baltimore Museum of Art. He was one of about 400 guests.
“Elijah came to a jazz concert by the Wendel Patrick Quartet and was seated on the terrace with the BMA Director, Christopher Bedford, and some trustees from the museum,” says John Shields, proprietor of Gertrude’s. “Before the concert began, one of the trustees went up to the stage and let the audience know that Elijah was present and spontaneously the whole audience jumped up and gave him a standing ovation.”
There was no mention of Trump or his crappy tweets, though everyone was aware of them. The ovation was a way of honoring Cummings and thanking him in the midst of the ugliness. Elijah Cummings was a big man, far bigger man than most, and he will always tower over those who seem to subsist on racism, anger and hate, those who condemn and never contribute a damn thing to making better this city and this country.