Let’s get away from micro-news stories and start to look at the big picture where various forms, flavours, sauces and condiments are all infected with cultural violence in the United States.
Violence against minorities, against the legal investigations of the FBI, the Special Prosecutor, and apparently even the Senate, against civil discourse, against truth-telling, against accountability, against public access to affordable health care, against the national interest, against collaboration with NATO, against the planet's eco-system, against the mainstream media, against transgender, against an equitable tax code, against moral values and against even hope.....they are all redolent across the American homeland!
There is no moral equivalency to the blame to “all sides” that has been attached to the Charlottsville VA Saturday violence, one week ago. White Supremacists, Fascists, anti-semites …of them allegedly protesting the removal of the Robert E. Lee equestrian statue, cannot and must not be compared equally with the “Antifa” (Anti-fascist) movement that showed up to oppose the racist fascists.
However, there is another equally volatile debate emerging on the ‘left’ including the “Antifa” (anti-fascist) extremists and the Southern Poverty Law Centre. The handbook of the former argues that words have not and will not defeat fascism, that violence is and will be required. On the other hand, the SPLC argues that violence begets only more violence. They advocate non-violent protests.
Violence, as a political instrument, versus non-violent protest, the legacy of Dr..Martin Luther King (and Ghandi, and others)….this argument percolates anew if and when ordinary people are aroused by the culmination of conditions they consider unacceptable. The underlying archetypes are war and peace. And when starkly put, the public consciousness predictably votes for peace. At the same time, ironically, the war machine is injected with millions of dollars, “so that a strong military is needed to mount a strong deterrence to war”. (so goes the argument for the most massive military build-up in history.
And it is not only a massive military arsenal that has gobbled the preponderance of the American national budget allocations. It is a culture steeped in violence and military applications to almost every single one of life’s primary steps, rationalized as merely in service to the capitalist, for profit, corporatist culture. Militarizing video games, militarizing political discourse, militarizing social media, militarizing judicial appointments (all nominees having to be vetted by the Federalist Society), militarizing school yards and MBA training..militarizing neighbourhoods with private guns….militarizing organizations like hospitals and schools….while legitimizing “order” for its own sake, will inevitably generate a culture of Manichean black/white options. Similarly, telling kids at summer camp, in morning and evening chants, “I am a winner” posits the opposite (loser) for those who are not part of the group.
Hegel posits “thesis, anti-thesis, and synthesis”….as his approach to philosophy. Thinking is not and can never be satisfied with only two options, no matter how ubiquitous binary math undergirds the new technology. Sealing public discourse and debate into an “either/or” casket can and will produce only what Chuck Todd (Meet the Press host, NBC) calls a “stuck place”. Public support will accrue, in most civil societies, to those proposing non-violent protest, giving them the ‘high ground’ morally. And history gives us numerous examples of the devastation resulting from violence, both military and civilian, creating the “low”moral ground position for those espousing violence. Taking “sides”, a pretense to which the media would have all talking heads subscribe, usually generates more heat than light. Similarly, street protests that pontificate “white supremacy” versus anti-fascism, also inevitably will generate violence, and perhaps even murder as it did a week ago in Virginia.
trump has magnetized the votes of very angry, disillusioned and impatient mostly white voters, including David Duke, the former chief of the Ku Klux Kkan, in spite of Trump’s disavowal of even knowing him. He has also declared a kind of “political war” on the mainstream media, the Washington establishment, most if not all minorities (Muslims, Blacks, Latinos) and spectacularly spared Jews. (One of the white supremacists from Charlottsville, when interviewed by Vice TV, video replayed on NBC’s Meet the Press, said his group was furthering the ideas of Trump, and looking for a spokesperson like him, but one ‘who did not give his daughter to a Jew”.)
We are living on a precipice that evokes memories of the 1930’s when National Socialism, including racial contempt for Jews and other non-whites stomped across Europe. In Virginia, it is lawful to carry a loaded gun on the street, another of the many pieces of evidence that demonstrate the successful lobbying/seduction by the NRA of a majority of members of Congress, at least of Republicans in both houses. Terrorism, whether home-grown or the result of international radicalization, and whether based on white supremacy or radical Islam, has destabilized the sense of security and stability that previously prevailed in most North American towns and cities, and public institutions have been less successful in taming these beasts. Racial animus, compounded by religious fanaticism, co-incident with outsourcing millions of honourable jobs, the demise of the labour movement, and the resulting hopelessness makes a highly volatile ethos, and like a funeral pyre of dried and brittle wood, the ethos is a potential political and perhaps even violent inferno.
Attempting to inject rational arguments, for non-violence, for moderation and for a cooling-off period seem somewhat wistful and Disney-esque. Dante’s Inferno seems more appropriate as an analogy. And there has to be a mountain of both shock and surprise from many that this cauldron is boiling in a country of the most wealthy, and one of the best educated and historically one of the most healthy populations in the world. To say there is a class war merely scratches the surface of the toxic cancerous tumours that inhabit the body politic. Class, race, religion, and even gender (Sebastian Gorka, another incongruous White House freeloader, exclaimed on television that the “pyjama boys have been replaced by the alpha men”). Bannon, upon leaving his perch in the Oval Office declared that he was declaring ‘war’ on all globalists…..and Breitbart, his “weapon” is a strident and hate-mongering organ of white supremacy.
So violence, in words, in bullets, in attitudes and in expectations and even in beliefs, stalks the land…..creating a shadow of ominous fear that cannot be restricted to the 100 km width of the band of darkness generated by yesterday’s eclipse.
Congressman John Lewis was clubbed over the head when he marched as a young man with Dr. King, by police who were determined to keep the black population “in their place”…out of the voting booth, out of the restaurants, out of the city hall and government jobs and essentially out of sight and out of mind. He fully thought he was going to die. Nevertheless, he has persisted, in his shared conviction with Dr. King and others like Andrew Young, that non-violence was to better path.
The fact that a Dartmouth professor has authored a handbook for the Antifa movement, advocating violence makes one wonder how he retains his tenure at that illustrious college. Perhaps, under the protection of the First Amendment, in support of FREE SPEECH, he is unable to be dislodged. However, the American culture and political culture has to accept the need for limits to the free speech protection, and if they are unable or unwilling to curb its use, the country could easily slip into another epidemic of civic violence. Just yesterday, the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) announced it will no longer defend those who use weapons to protest their cause. Surely, it is long past time to put limits on the First Amendment, the right to carry and show guns, and the legalization of high powered rifles designed specifically for killing in war.
The world is watching. And while dumping trump will begin a very long process to civility, it will take a series of radical surgeries to eviscerate the tumours that are growing hourly on every organ of the United States body politic. And then “political chemo and radiation” will be required to put the disease into remission.
Trump, as has been stated so often, is a large symptom of a disease. But the disease has already metastasized far beyond the Oval Office.
There is an obvious cultural fixation on the literal meaning of words, on the physical solutions to all problems, a kind of infantilism of both options and imagination, and a over-reaching oligarchy that has rushed into the intellectual, and political and economic vacuum.
The top 1% (or less) have already so consumed the levers of power, including voting power, fundraising power, media power, university training (job skills while sacrificing the liberal education that demands nuanced, and careful argumentation) and the debasing of the arts, culture, nuanced imagination and dialogue…and this in addition to the already complete control of the economic levers.
A kind of “soft coup” has already taken place, in a country that prides itself as the recipient of the Greek ideal of democracy, in its 21st century incarnation. That, too, folks, is just another of the myriad of lies, deceptions, illusions, and theatrical ruses that have been inflicted on an unsuspecting, parochial, provincial, despondent and limp public so consumed with many pain-killers, opiods and illicit drugs that even the mountainous DEA cannot keep up with this symptom of the disease.
It is not that Trump could kill someone on Fifth Avenue without suffering a political blow-back; it is more that the country has spiralled into a paroxysm of what in lay language could be termed a massive “breakdown”…..and it really does not know the full extent of the illness, nor the potential pathways back to civic and national health.
To argue for or against the use of violence to confront the fascists is merely to focus on the symptoms of the disease. And violence merely gives expression to the national illness. And there are so many expressive symptoms: drugs, neighbourhood shootings, police brutality, corporate rip-offs, political pimping for all elected politicians, isolationism, militarism, bullying, racism, sexism, Islamophobia, and above all, deception, lies, salesmanship and the enmeshment of the national shadow and the ego…indicating that the “show” has replaced the “reality” and the ‘truth”…. Violence, aided and abetted by the current occupant of the Oval Office (to serve the vestiges of his miniscule ego) abounds, and proliferates across the land. Fear of being “tweeted” by the White House is not and must not become an impediment to confronting trump by those serving the republic as elected officials. They have all taken an oath to protect and to defend the constitution. When are they going to be held to their oath? And by whom?
Can the republic, currently on life support, regain full consciousness, come to its senses and throw off and out all of its nightmare demons?