On the Way to Buy Groceries

privilege

Garwood, NJ May 2020

I am reminded of realities of some uncomfortable realities. I didn’t go to any protests today, not only because I’m afraid of Covid-19, but because they erupted so quickly I hadn’t mentally prepared myself to find one. When I read the news today, “oh boy,” and looked at photos of dozens of American cities in flames, the only thought I had was “well here it is, 1968 all over again. The only thing missing is the assassinations.”

But that’s not quite right. In 1968, the cities erupted because Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King were murdered, the former by a Palestinian who resented his support for Israel, the latter almost certainly by US military intelligence who resented his opposition to the war in Vietnam. In 2020, the cities erupted because George Floyd, an ordinary man, not a Nobel Prize winner or a former Attorney General, was murdered by the Minneapolis police.

So it’s not really a matter of “first time as tragedy, second time as farce” so much as “first time as tragedy, second time as a consequence of the first.” Martin Luther King was murdered by the United States government because he was a threat to the military industrial complex and the American ruling class. George Floyd was murdered by the Minneapolis Police because 40 years of neoliberal capitalism has created a society where many lives simply don’t matter, where racist cops have a license to kill.

I have no idea where the current crisis is going to lead us. Will it be the fall of neoliberalism? Or will we get out of the closet fascism? My bet is on the latter, but only time will tell. In any event, I recall the words of John F. Kennedy. “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible make violent revolution inevitable.” Colin Kaepernick lost his career because he protested against police brutality peacefully. He took a knee. We should have listened more closely to what he was trying to tell us.

9 comments

  1. John Thurloe · · Reply

    Take a look at the optics here.

    ‘The liberals have been pushing this virus thing. I’ve lost my job/business, my family has been locked down but the nigs are out on the streets burning what’s left. Guess who I’m voting for?’.

    Every day more evidence emerges that the virus panic has been obscenely overhyped. Advocates from the medical/scientific sectors have fallen silent while critics surge. A national poll just released found that half of Americans would refuse a Covid vaccine if one did emerge.

    People are pissed and they will turn on those who inflicted so much harm on them. Waves of bankruptcies are sweeping the nation. The riots are just the last straw. The Democrats will be held to blame.

    The Democrats have just shifted from Russiagate to virus panic as a means to thump Trump. Instead of putting forward a positive programme. The Dems are the party of Against not the party of For. Anything.

    This lets Trump run on ‘I’m against the endless lockdown. America back to work! And let there be law ‘n order too’.

    To beat Trump requires mobilizing the masses who stand for clear and enheartening reforms. And this can’t be down with supporters locked down. Out, organize, fight! It’s the Democratic liberal establishment that presumes to act as your surrogate.

    1. Both parties are currently pushing the “outside agitators” line, so I’m guessing the election this fall will center around the debate about “who can do the crackdown better” in the same way the 2004 election was centered on a debate about “who can kill Iraqis better.” But I still think Biden’s going to win. Trump’s extremist rhetoric is going to scare “moderates” in the affluent suburbs more than the riots. But this is also a generational conflict. The majority of the protesters are under 30. I was struck by people (who were probably born around the time of the WTO protests) posting photos of downtown Seattle burning. Most millennials and zoomers probably think electoral politics is completely irrelevant. So my guess is Biden will be the next President and it’s not going to make much difference.

  2. I happen to be reading a biography of a famous Canadian politician, Thomas D’Arcy McGee. (1825 to 1868). He spent a number of years in Boston, being the editor of a paper The Boston Pilot. An Irish Catholic, he experienced a lot of various discriminations arising in USA. By 1842, USA had “nativists” claiming USA for “Americans”. There is a sketch of “the Philadelphia riots” in May of 1844 over Catholic and Protestant communities. “Something to fight about” seems to be the general American way. 65 years after the founding of USA, there was already an “America for Americans” with prejudices against this that and the other. McGee actually gave up on USA and emigrated to Canada, where he was willing to accept the “British Crown” as a sovereign, although he had railed against it in Ireland. Opinions change, but racism in USA has not, and I often wonder who in my circle is a white supremacist, still harboring dislike and dismissal of any “other” that dares to exist. I’m an old white guy, just having written about the “new” USA dislike of China, after years of an economic boom for USA manufacturers using cheap Chinese labor to make billionaires while most of USA got poorer and more divided as ALL forms of racism arise with new nationalisms and Fascism globally as civilization seems to be disintegrating.

    1. The Irish (along with the Germans) became fully white in 1924 when Congress passed the Immigration Act of 1924 (which declared Southern and Eastern Europeans an inferior race). Eastern and Southern Europeans, in turn, became fully white when FDR segregated the New Deal to appease the Southern Democrats. I’m sure both parties are going to “pivot” from hating Russia to hating China over the next few years (although they might just continue to hate both). Interestingly enough, a lot of the anti-Russia hysteria that began in 2012 seems to have an underlying agenda, to discipline the Germans and make sure they buy American and not Russian gas. But the one constant in American history has always been white supremacy and racism against blacks.

      The Democrats are willing to bring blacks (and other people of color) into the elites, but they’re not going to accept working class youth of all colors protesting together. So get ready for a lot of propaganda about how the Russians are behind the protests.

      p.s. Obama’s election in 2008 was a weird time. For a few years, even here in New Jersey, which is pretty liberal as far as the USA goes, every white man over 40 seemed like a Tea Partier of some sort. It wasn’t particularly virulent but just so, so, so tedious the way you could predict it. Eventually I just stopped talking to white men my own age because I knew they were just going to spew some sort of Koch Brothers propaganda.

    2. John Thurloe · · Reply

      McGee grassed out the Fenians and they whacked him for that.

  3. John Thurloe · · Reply

    After President Theodore Roosevelt invited black educator Booker T. Washington to the White House South Carolina Senator Ben Tillman declared that this “…will necessitate killing thousand niggers in the South before they will learn their place.”

    Hasn’t really changed that much, eh?

    The Bully Pulpit, Doris Kearns Goodwin

    1. And Booker T. Washington was probably the most conservative African American leader of the day.

  4. John Thurloe · · Reply

    Just to completely confuse what people think is black and white (bad pun) below are the spoken remarks of the notorious racist General Nathan Bedford Forrest to the Independent Order of Pole-Bearers Association July 5, 1875:

    “Ladies and Gentlemen I accept the flowers as a memento of reconciliation between the white and colored races of the southern states. I accept it more particularly as it comes from a colored lady, for if there is any one on God’s earth who loves the ladies I believe it is myself. ( Immense applause and laughter.) I came here with the jeers of some white people, who think that I am doing wrong. I believe I can exert some influence, and do much to assist the people in strengthening fraternal relations, and shall do all in my power to elevate every man to depress none. (Applause.) I want to elevate you to take positions in law offices, in stores, on farms, and wherever you are capable of going. I have not said anything about politics today. I don’t propose to say anything about politics. You have a right to elect whom you please; vote for the man you think best, and I think, when that is done, you and I are freemen. Do as you consider right and honest in electing men for office. I did not come here to make you a long speech, although invited to do so by you. I am not much of a speaker, and my business prevented me from preparing myself. I came to meet you as friends, and welcome you to the white people. I want you to come nearer to us. When I can serve you I will do so. We have but one flag, one country; let us stand together. We may differ in color, but not in sentiment Many things have been said about me which are wrong, and which white and black persons here, who stood by me through the war, can contradict. Go to work, be industrious, live honestly and act truly, and when you are oppressed I’ll come to your relief. I thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for this opportunity you have afforded me to be with you, and to assure you that I am with you in heart and in hand. (Prolonged applause.)”.

    A bit humbling considering.

    1. Forrest was trying to rebrand late in life.

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