Thursday, November 24, 2016

Deeply Shocking

I have never seen anything like this in the USA in all my life, a little Nuremberg rally on federal property (The Ronald Reagan Building) celebrating a victorious Presidential candidate.

After more than 18 months of stoking this kind of stuff, Trump's recent disavowal and distancing himself from these folks rings hollow and is far too little far too late.  Cynical opportunism is every bit as bad as active endorsement or collaboration with Nazis.  The only right response is opposition from the very beginning.

It appears to me that the leadership of the Democratic Party will slip back into old habits, into the familiar and comfortable role of a minority party.  What we need is an opposition party and a resistance movement to face down the policies of the coming supremacist regime.
We will have to do this ourselves with or without the help of any political party.
We can take heart from the past.  We beat this kind of crap abroad, and we can beat it again at home!

If we want to live in a democracy, in the liberal cosmopolitan country that so many generations worked and fought and died to create and preserve, then we will have to fight for it again as they did. Remember the graves of Union soldiers, Second World War soldiers, and soldiers in the struggles for labor rights, civil rights, women's rights, LGBTQ rights, for the rights and dignity of all the marginalized and disenfranchised. It's time again to fight as they did and to endure to the end.
No peace with fascism! Liberty and Justice for ALL!


We can also take heart in the knowledge that the plurality of voters in 2016 did not vote for Trump; that but for the electoral college and in every other part of the known universe, he would not be President-Elect.  Hillary Clinton's margin of victory in the popular vote is now past 2 million and growing.  Her margin is larger than that of both John F. Kennedy and Jimmy Carter who both won their elections to the Presidency.  Trump's mandate is as hollow as it is wide and shallow.
If Trump isn't a usurper, then he might as well be.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Two Memorials

We find ourselves at a crossroads in the history of the USA. But, it’s not exactly a new place. It’s a new fork in an old road that we’ve travelled since before the foundation of the Republic. We’ve confronted this choice before, and now we face it again in very stark terms. We have to decide what kind of country we want to be, what kind of future do we want.

Who gets to be “The People” in the first three words of the Constitution , “We the People …” , is the central conflict in the history of the USA. Before the 14th Amendment, that answer was simple, white male property owners. After 1865, the meaning of “The People of the United States” became ever more expansive. Until now. Do we want to continue expanding that designation, or do we want to restrict it to those who are somehow entitled, who have somehow “inherited it” or “earned it?”

Here are two memorials to two fundamentally opposed conceptions of the United States. The first is the Lincoln Memorial, the temple that is not quite a temple designed by Henry Bacon with Daniel Chester French’s colossus of Lincoln enthroned like the Olympian Zeus as its centerpiece. It is as much a monument to the union of the states as it is to Lincoln’s memory. The names of the states are carved on the attic story and on the entablature. Inside are the the Second Inaugural Address and the Gettysburg Address inscribed on the walls.

“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

With these brief words dedicating a military cemetery, Lincoln transformed the Declaration of Independence from a quaint old relic into a binding document, a mission statement for the United States (as Gary Wills pointed out). “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these rights are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” These once antique words rose off the parchment to guide future generations to transform the abstract concepts of Equality and Liberty into concrete reality for an ever widening enfranchisement of all types and conditions of humanity. Freedom and Dignity would become universal birthrights.

The meaning of the Lincoln Memorial would be renewed and expanded by the many historical events that took place on its steps from Marian Anderson’s Easter Concert in 1937 to Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech in 1963.

The Confederate Memorial on Stone Mountain in Georgia is the largest bas-relief sculpture in the world. It shows three leaders of the Confederate States of America, Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, and Stonewall Jackson. Carving of the Memorial began in 1916 at the behest of the Daughters of the Confederacy. Gutzon Borglum began the sculpture, but abandoned it to work on Mount Rushmore. A succession of sculptors finally completed the monument in 1972. It is carved out of the very substance of the State of Georgia, a large natural rock outcrop. The monument commemorates the rebellion and secession of the Southern states against what they saw as a threat to their “way of life.” Articles of Secession from a number of states made clear what they saw as at stake. Here is a passage from the Texas “Declaration of Causes: February 2, 1861,” Texas’ declaration of secession:

“We hold as undeniable truths that the governments of the various States, and of the confederacy itself, were established exclusively by the white race, for themselves and their posterity; that the African race had no agency in their establishment; that they were rightfully held and regarded as an inferior and dependent race, and in that condition only could their existence in this country be rendered beneficial or tolerable. That in this free government all white men are and of right ought to be entitled to equal civil and political rights; that the servitude of the African race, as existing in these States, is mutually beneficial to both bond and free, and is abundantly authorized and justified by the experience of mankind, and the revealed will of the Almighty Creator, as recognized by all Christian nations; while the destruction of the existing relations between the two races, as advocated by our sectional enemies, would bring inevitable calamities upon both and desolation upon the fifteen slave-holding States.”

Using language that consciously echoes the Declaration of Independence, the Texas Declaration repudiates the very idea of human equality, and likewise appeals to the Creator as the author of such an order. The Confederacy was about more than defending slavery. It was about the divinely ordained dominion of the white race as they saw it. The rightful place of all the rest of humankind was under the tutelage of the white race

It could be argued that the Confederate Memorial commemorates an idea that is much more securely rooted in the realities of human history. Most of that history is a record of aggression, conquest, and defeat. The great Swiss Protestant theologian Karl Barth argued that history in the end was nothing more than the natural struggle for survival and domination projected into the social sphere. The historian James McPherson pointed out that the South in 1860 with its large plantation farms and slave labor looked much more like the rest of the world than did the North with its industry and independent small farmers. The Confederacy was much more truly like ancient Greece than the self-proclaimed democratic North. In light of such a view of the world, as an arena of endless struggle for survival and dominion among nations, the ideas behind the Lincoln Memorial appear to be the most ridiculous liberal sentimentality.

And yet, those ideas proclaimed in the marble of the Lincoln Memorial are at the heart of modernity, ideas that the human condition is not immutable, that it can be changed, that we are not doomed to win our bread in painful toil after all, that kings and queens and nobles are not necessarily our divinely ordained guardians, that perhaps we can decide for ourselves how we wish to be governed. While the success of those ideas may very well be in doubt, there is no doubt that vast numbers of people continue to pin their hopes on them and vote for them with their feet. From fugitive slaves fleeing the South, to African Americans fleeing Southern segregation, to Irish fleeing famine and oppression, to Germans fleeing violent reaction, to Jews fleeing Tsarist Russia and Nazi Germany, to people fleeing Communist rule in Europe and Asia, to rural people migrating to cities, to now legions of frightened people fleeing the bloody chaos of a collapsing Middle East or gang violence in Central America or bloody conflicts in Africa, people continue to vote with their feet for Freedom and Dignity over Tutelage and Domination.

I very much hope that the coming return to ideas proclaimed on Stone Mountain is but a brief pause in the real mission of the USA, and not a permanent retreat.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016


Flags of resistance movements from World War II:

Free France

Italian Partisans

Polish Resistance

German Resistance

It looks like 50 years worth of progress on Civil Rights, Women's Rights, and LGBTQ Rights is about to be rolled back.  The 80 year long dream of the right to repeal Social Security may be about to finally come true.  The Affordable Care Act, and even Medicare, are in mortal danger.  The last remnants of the right to bargain collectively are about to go extinct.  We are about to take a giant step backwards, by perhaps 100 years.

These flags remind us that instead of asking "How did this happen?", the first word on our minds in the years to come should be RESIST.

Unlike the partisan causes from the early 20th century that lefty cranks usually pine for, these movements won.  They succeeded, if not immediately, then ultimately.  We should take heart from them to fight the coming supremacist state.

"Let All The Poisons That Lurk in the Mud Hatch Out!"

Congratulations to the white supremacists.
 The larger part of the electorate chose loyalty to tribe over loyalty to country. White America voted for war against all who are not white, not Christian, and not straight. ‘E Pluribus Unum’ becomes ‘Go home n*gger!’

Congratulations to the knuckle-draggers.
A walking talking parody of the lowest most impoverished idea of masculinity just won the Presidency. ‘Mate, slay, dominate’ is a conception of male-ness that we share with bands of chimps and schools of fish. There’s not much that’s even human about it, let alone noble. Now a 70 year old boy, who like so many boys of all ages, thinks of women as trophies, concubines, Mommy, and chattel leads the USA. A man who openly fantasizes about sexual assault now leads the nation, including its the female half. Gender equality becomes a baboon’s rape fantasy.

Congratulations to the very very rich.
 A sweet life for them over the past 35 years is about to get even sweeter. They’re getting another massive tax break and a roll back of banking, safety, and environmental regulations. The last vestiges of organized labor (and the right to organize and bargain collectively) will be legislated into extinction. Trump’s adoring working class followers are about to find out that he cares about them about as much as he cares for his wives and mistresses. Trump with the rest of the very rich will take the money and run. Patriotism ends at the bottom line. “Liberty and Justice for All’ becomes ‘I got mine! Fuck you!’

Congratulations to the gun cult.
The Second Amendment will be the last part of the Constitution left standing. When a heavily armed psychopath murdered 20 little kids and 6 adults in an elementary school with a military assault weapon, our first instinct was to protect our guns and our rights to own them. In doing that, we crossed a bright hard line of common sense and decency which we will never walk back across. From now on, random violent death at the hands of a lunatic with a gun is normal. Losing our loved ones (including our children) so suddenly and so pointlessly is the price we are all expected to pay for what some people call “freedom.” In a world full of dangerous minorities, criminals, illegal aliens, voter fraud, welfare cheats, perverts, a world run by ZOG and The Conspiracy, a gun is the white man’s only true friend. His only real fellowship and trust is in Mutual Assured Destruction, even among other white men. Victory and revenge are the only happiness he is allowed. Fear and loneliness are necessary for vigilance and the price of victory. When they get to be too much to bear, there’s always booze and drugs. Peace becomes the silence of the grave.

Congratulations to Vladimir Putin.
 Congratulations on his successful efforts to influence our election. A compromised USA will no longer stand in the way of Russian ambitions in Syria, Ukraine, and elsewhere. The USA under Trump might leave or dissolve the NATO alliance and subordinate its policies to Russian interests. If so, Putin will have triumphed where all of his Soviet predecessors failed. The USA would be neutralized as a world power. The larger part of our electorate apparently is just fine with this. They see Putin as a role model and prefer his brand of lawless nationalist dictatorship over having to share liberty with others and respecting their rights as we would want our own rights to be respected under the rule of law. Putin, like Stalin, Mao Zedong, and Mussolini, is a Strong Leader. We love dictators. They get things done (laws be damned!). They kick Those People’s ass and they make small men feel big. We hate dictators only when it’s our own ass getting kicked, or if they start wars and lose them. As for Liberty, as long as ‘I got mine,‘ everyone else can stay in their chains. ‘Government of the people, by the people, and for the people’ becomes ‘Hail the Leader! Hail Victory!’

Congratulations to the late Osama Bin Laden on so great a victory.
 All of his plans are now fulfilled. A frightened American public eagerly turns against each other and happily sets their own country on fire. The Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave is about to become a nation of narcs and suspects. The narcs are eager to spy on the neighbors, rat each other out, and suck up to the nearest authority figure.
 We’ve become the Chicken Hawk Nation where others make the sacrifices and do all of the fighting and dying while we get to talk tough. The World’s Last Best Hope now proudly does to suspects, undesirables, and prisoners of war those very things for which we hanged people at the Nuremberg and Tokyo trials. Those secret torture chambers and CIA prisons intended for foreigners are about to come home to be used on citizens. The Shining City on the Hill is now the world’s largest carceral state making prisoners out of more people than even China or Russia; and it’s about to get even bigger.
That masturbatory fantasy of terrorist and fascist alike is about to be realized; a “Clash of Civilizations” between the West and Islam that can only end badly for everyone. Who needs a policy agenda when you can have revenge? Governing means war abroad and war at home.

Ignorance, arrogance, lying, treachery, and bullying prove to be a winning combination yet again, and set an example for our children.
And now, out of spite and bigotry, we elected some squint-eyed spray-tanned old grifter to be our new discount Führer.

Dylann Roof, all your dreams are coming true!

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Election Day 2016

Susan B. Anthony's gravesite in Mount Hope Cemetery in Rochester, NY today.

Susan B. Anthony was arrested on November 8, 1872 for trying to vote.