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Sunday, July 01, 2018


Marching, but to where?

by Tom Sullivan

Letter to the Salt Lake City Tribune in response to the deadly 2017 "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, VA.

Some years ago, we helped Joseph (not his real name) pack up his mother's things after she died. It was an emotional, but relatively easy task. Born in the 1930s in Germany, she didn't have much. Divorced, she lived alone in a single-wide up a steep gravel road not far out of town.

After dismantling the bed, we started on the bedroom closet. We came across a tin containing his mother's personal papers, and we sat on the floor sorting them to see what Joseph might want to keep. Among them were her naturalization papers. The form had a place to list all the organizations of which she'd been a member. Near the top of a long list of U.S. charitable organizations, something else leaped out, perhaps because it was in German, and perhaps because it read Hitler-Jugend. Hitler Youth.

Once-blonde like his mother, tall, fit and square-jawed, Joseph is somewhat a fatalist. Noting the detention camps going up on the U.S. southern border and the country's souring relations with our European allies, Joseph said last week Europe should just write off Washington.

"They've seen this movie before," he said dryly and shook his head. "It doesn't end well."

Writing for the Irish Times, Fintan O'Toole agrees. He believes the sitting president's caging of toddlers is no mistake, but test marketing:

Fascism doesn’t arise suddenly in an existing democracy. It is not easy to get people to give up their ideas of freedom and civility. You have to do trial runs that, if they are done well, serve two purposes. They get people used to something they may initially recoil from; and they allow you to refine and calibrate. This is what is happening now and we would be fools not to see it.
"Building up the sense of threat from a despised out-group," is key to breaking down moral barriers to dehumanzing them, he continues. So how has this latest test gone?
First, Rupert Murdoch is happy with it – his Fox News mouthpieces outdid themselves in barbaric crassness: making animal noises at the mention of a Down syndrome child, describing crying children as actors. They went the whole swinish hog: even the brown babies are liars. Those sobs of anguish are typical of the manipulative behaviour of the strangers coming to infest us – should we not fear a race whose very infants can be so devious? Second, the hardcore fans loved it: 58 per cent of Republicans are in favour of this brutality. Trump’s overall approval ratings are up to 42.5 per cent.
It matters little that the base support for barbarism is a minority, O'Toole writes, so long as your 40 per cent is "fanatically committed." Control and intimidation does the rest.

So it was encouraging to see members of the other 60 percent pushing back in 750 “Families Belong Together” marches across the country on Saturday. Braving high heat, tens of thousands descended on Lafayette Square across the street from the White House. Hundreds of thousands joined protests in 50 states. One hundred lined the highway a few miles from the sitting president's Bedminster, New Jersey golf resort, the closest any protesters would get the him yesterday.

In an FAQ for the events, organizers recommended wearing white as a sign of unity harkening back to suffragettes and other social justice movements:

The lead partners of this action are calling upon participants to wear white—as a striking visual symbol that will also connect attendees in solidarity to each-other and channel historic social justice movements unified by one color of clothing. We believe if we can get a significant portion of the crowd to wear white, it will provide a compelling image for the media coverage and to capture the public's imagination.
Even here in the Cesspool of Sin where keeping it weird is a lifestyle, rallygoers wore white. Even regional Daily Kos organizer Randall Thompson, a professional clown. After decades of ineffectual anti-war protests, the left is finally adopting the advice Matt Taibbi offered after the 2004 Republican convention:
Three hundred thousand people banging bongos and dressed like extras in an Oliver Stone movie scares no one in America. But 300,000 people in slacks and white button-down shirts, marching mute and angry in the direction of Your Town, would have instantly necessitated a new cabinet-level domestic security agency.

Why? Because 300,000 people who are capable of showing the unity and discipline to dress alike are also capable of doing more than just march.
That level of organization is making the president's supporters nervous. Our local Democratic committee's Facebook page has attracted trolls the last couple of days. Lame insults, mostly, of the "Democrats are bad" variety, from people whose pages show no friends or a few friends and little activity. It appears coordinated, and suggests our friends are suddenly very uncomfortable and feeling threatened. Good.

Because it was clear last weekend the sitting president lost control of the national narrative. Supporters tried to get it back using the Red Hen and Rep. Maxine Waters. But 700+ rallies pushed right back.

Native Americans were here first. The rest of us whose forebears were not brought here in chains come from immigrants. As nativists and white nationalists try to cloud our eyes to that, it would be wise to remember where we came from. My mother still tells the story of her mother (2nd generation Irish with a fresh memory of when her family members were treated as Latinos are now). She sat her down before sending my mother to school for the first time and looked her square in the face.

"When they ask at school what you are, you tell them you're an American."

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For The Win 2018 is ready for download. Request a copy of my county-level election mechanics primer at tom.bluecentury at gmail.