My elementary school wasn’t named after a President, a slave owner, or even a Union Army general. It was named after a Red Cross nurse who treated soldiers in France in World War I and came home to treat people during the pandemic of 1918.
Supposedly it was considered unusual back then to name a public school after someone who wasn’t a famous politician or war hero. But my hometown was ahead of its time. They named it after a “healthcare hero.” I wonder if she would have been in favor of Medicare for All.
I personally am sick to death of having to choose between white men.
On a more serious note, the choice in 2020 isn’t between George W. Bush and Hitler. It’s between George W. Bush and Pat Buchanan, between a neoconservative party of the Wall Street elite and a right wing populist party of cultural conservatives and sun belt capitalists. I suppose Biden is slightly to the left of where Bush (a fundamentalist Christian) was on social issues, but honestly not that far left. He voted consistently for the Hyde Amendment when he was in the Senate. He wrote the Patriot Act. He was one of the architects of mass incarceration. Forget about socialism. Currently, the United States doesn’t even have a bourgeois liberal party, just two right wing extremist fronts for the oligarchs and the military industrial complex.
Genghis Khan/Subutai 2020: If you’re going to make me vote for a mass murderer, he might as well be the best.
1.) Plato (428-347 BC): Athenian Philosopher, the first intellectual to pioneer the concept of an immortal soul separate and above the physical body.
2.) Paul the Apostle (5-67 AD): Jewish/Greek epistolarian. Responsible for earliest known Christian writings. Developed the concept of “salvation by faith.” His arguments for the largely superfluous nature of the Mosaic Law laid the intellectual foundations for the spread of Christianity to Western Europe.
3.) Augustine of Hippo (354-430 AD): North African, Berber intellectual who wrote a grand synthesis of the theories of Paul the Apostle and Neo-Platonism. Developed key Christian concepts like original sin and the trinity.
4.) Constantine the Great (272-337 AD): First Roman Emperor to declare himself Christian. Organized the First Council of Nicaea, which codified the main tenets of orthodox Christianity.
5.) Jesus (0 -33 AD): Syrian Jewish political activist and militant in the early days of the Roman Empire. May or may not have considered himself a Christian. Pioneered the concept of spiritual, as opposed to armed rebellion against state power. Early advocate of single-payer, free at the point of service health-care. No longer influential in the modern day Christian religion, at least compared to important American successors like Joel Osteen, Jim Bakker, and George W. Bush.
6.) Mary Magdalene (Early First Century AD): Associate of Jesus. Early female Christian. Laid the foundation for the development of Christianity as an underground religion (heavily organized by women) in Pagan Rome.
7.) Charlemagne (748-814 AD): Founder of Western Europe. Extended the concept of Christianity as a state religion. His use of forced conversion (salvation at the point of the sword) brought Christianity to Northern Italy, Germany, and the Western Slavs. Rendered it largely impossible for the Umayyad Caliphate to extend its power into Northern Europe.
8.) Muhammad (571-632 AD) Arab merchant and religious leader. Solidified monotheism in the Near East and North Africa against paganism. Has, over the centuries, provided Christian state leaders with a militant “other” that eventually led to the Christian idea of Holy War, which, in turn laid the foundations for a militarized Western Europe and eventual world conquest.
9.) Hernán Cortés (1485-1547 AD): Opened the southern part of the Western Hemisphere, the birthplace of the current leader of the Roman Catholic Church, to the Christian religion.
10.) Martin Luther (1483-1546 AD): His protests against the corruption inside the Roman Catholic Church led to a revival of Christianity in Western Europe, as well as the important, and militant Calvinist faith (which eventually became key to the Christianization of North America).
11.) Francisco Franco (1892-1974 AD): Prevented the secularization of Spain, and in turn, of Latin America, by the militant left. Reestablished the idea of Christian state power. Paved the way for orthodox Christianity to emerge as a major factor in the destruction of the Soviet Union by his, largely unacknowledged, intellectual and spiritual successor Karol Józef Wojtyła.
Fascism is an expression of a larger social tendency that, in English language translations of Marx is called “the slaveholders’ revolt.”
It is a process by which every couple generations the revolutionary potential of the angry mob is turned in on itself in the hope that the destruction of society is the only hope to save the rich and their vacation homes from the consequences of their actions.
Every time this happens, there is a faction that arises as the rear guard for the fascists.
This rear guard is usually seen by their contemporaries as being part of the center-left. They will pay lip service to left social causes. They will probably even consider themselves as being politically to the left.
This faction thinks that they can save society and the rich and their vacation homes through small, largely symbolic distributions of pats on the back and cookies. They become covert extremists. Their extremism usually goes unrecognized because it arises in the paradoxical form of their doing nothing or as close to nothing as they can get away with.
As the metaphorical house we all live in burns around us, they insist vehemently that the smoke you feel in your lungs, the char that you see, the heat that you feel in anxious tingles just under the surface of your skin is in fact a problem of interior decoration. Or a misunderstanding.
They will get angry to defend this interpretation. They will gaslight. They will kneecap those with the audacity to acknowledge the house is on fire.
They will finally acknowledge after it’s too late that the house is in fact on fire, but claim that to say the house is on fire is impolite or uncivil.
And finally, when the crisis can no longer be denied, they will market themselves as “the only people who can save us.”
They believe half-heartedly their arrogance will magically make good faith negotiators out of Nazis.
They believe this because to believe otherwise would contradict their savior complex.
They believe this because it’s easier than doing something.
Having gone through bad faith motions of “negotiating” on our behalf, these cowards will offer up the populations they claim to represent as human sacrifices when the wolves show their teeth, craving blood.
The wolves dream of reinventing society to match their internalized self-image of endless opulence and grandeur.
They leave behind mass graves and Trümmerfilm.
The moderates dream of history stopping because they feel entitled to it because…they feel entitled to it.
Cruelty shields the wolves from the heat of the burning house. Denial shields their rear guard.
They are a cargo cult. They think if they say “the house isn’t on fire” enough times, the house will cease to be on fire.
The moderates “mean well.” This “meaning well” means nothing.
It means nothing because whether we kill each other or support each other we are ultimately in this together. The world I live in is the same one you have to live in.
The moderates’ denial will not stop the wolves from eating them, it will only clear the space for wolves to eat the rest of us first.
All their “good intentions” just help pave a wider road to hell.
They leave behind mass graves and Trümmerfilm.
For almost 10 years now, I have been asked by people “Why are you so angry?”
I am part of a generation that has seen, time and time again, that the ground under our feet is not solid.
I was 8 years old when the Columbine High School shooting happened. I was aware of it, but it seemed like an isolated incident that occurred far away. Nonetheless, in school we started running different types of active shooter drills. In order to avoid panic, they never told us why we were turning off the lights and hiding behind our desks. Being very young, we were mostly just happy something broke up the monotony of the classes we attended.
Even as other school shootings started to occur across the country, the threat still seemed far away.
I was 11 years old when 9-11 happened. I remember the teachers at the middle school running off to the teachers lounge to watch the shaky footage of the towers collapsing on loop. I remember them looking nervous, but we weren’t told anything until the end of the day when we were about to get on the bus to go home. The band teacher mentioned briefly in 9th period (the last class of the day) that something big had happened, but that we were going to be fine. He didn’t say what it was.
On the bus, I sat with my best friend. Neither of us really knew what the World Trade Center was or why it was important. I figured that it was where everyone traded everything. We talked about building a tunnel between our houses and pooling Capri Sun juice packs.
In the months immediately following I saw the first germs of what would eventually make the fascist uprising currently destroying the United States and killing its citizens en masse. The conservative adults started making racist claims about “towelheads”, buying Hummers, and plastering every surface they could with “I SUPPORT THE TROOPS” magnets. Business owners started building strange folk art-like shrines on their personal property deifying the dead, as we later discovered, at the expense of the living.
100,000 people protested the beginning of Afghanistan War, but it did nothing and I didn’t even hear about it until years later.
The first year I was in college, the real estate market collapsed. My parents and most of my friends’ parents lost enormous chunks of their savings, yet the federal government gifted 100s of trillions of dollars to Wall Street banks.
When I first heard about Occupy Wall Street, I went there as soon as I could. Thousands of people gathered in public spaces and stayed there in order to educate a public that didn’t understand how they’d been screwed over, just that they were hurting. Those who were in a position to deny that anything was wrong, that things weren’t going to return to normal, responded to the Occupy camps with anger and hostility. They thought that by pointing out the emperor had no clothes, we would also make them naked. Those who remembered the 60s treated Occupy with patronizing disdain-they’d abandoned their principles and “gotten that stuff out of their system” and soon would we they supposed.
My peers and I entered a perilous job market filled with “internship” scams-it was taken as a given in the journalism program where I studied that we were going to have to work multiple full time “internships” for free to fight over maybe getting a position that paid $15 dollars an hour. Most people I remember discussing it with at the time defended this practice. It taught you “hard work” or something. A bunch of people who went to college in a time when, adjusted for inflation, you could make $21/hr working at McDonalds decided their kids had it far too easy.
Slowly but surely, we, the kids, decided we didn’t care much if the real estate market crashed again as we also slowly, but surely, realized we would never be in the financial position to own a house. We carved out what space we could. We faced relentless criticism from old people, the same old people who stood by like cowards while the safety net they enjoyed was eviscerated, saying we ruined US culture because we weren’t buying enough things with the money we didn’t have.
With none of the conditions that led to the crash addressed or resolved, the economy bounced back into a hollow zombie boom for a couple years.
With the reality of climate change and the possible extinction of the human race becoming more and more a tangible reality, most people still denied it was happening with their actions, even if they paid the concept lip service. Declaring himself the messenger, Al Gore trained a generation that the proper response to climate change was to be mildly annoyed it was happening but to defend to the death the guy with 5 houses and a private jet who was its PR agent.
And now, after some of us sort of dug ourselves out of the hole, we’re facing a global pandemic set to kill millions and a second Great Depression. Hundreds of thousands will be homeless.
Those who scoffed at the people who fought to defend them now realize they’ve been sitting in boiling water when its probably too late. Those who made great sacrifices to fight back politically face a population that by and large betrayed them in order to enjoy things “being normal” for a couple more years.
If they didn’t know it was all a ghost dance, why label their children “Generation Z”?
And it took a pandemic to underline once and for all that it was this “normal” that destroyed the hopes and futures of millennials.
Our suffering en masse was apparently the only thing that would even temporarily halt the destruction of the environment we live in and the decade long pandemic of mass shootings.
The last Great Depression lasted 12 years even with a president who (mostly) did the right things and had the realistic option of ramping up industrial production.
We are a lost generation.
That’s why I’m angry.
As Karl Marx remarked in his classic account of the Revolution of 1848, in order to make sense of a present crisis, we often resort to the rhetoric and the imagery of the past. “Thus Luther put on the mask of the Apostle Paul, the Revolution of 1789-1814 draped itself alternately in the guise of the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire, and the Revolution of 1848 knew nothing better to do than to parody, now 1789, now the revolutionary tradition of 1793-95. In like manner, the beginner who has learned a new language always translates it back into his mother tongue, but he assimilates the spirit of the new language and expresses himself freely in it only when he moves in it without recalling the old and when he forgets his native tongue.”
Here in a typical bedroom community of New York City, epicenter of the Coronavirus pandemic, one of my neighbors has put up a display invoking the only two times in the recent past the New Jersey bourgeoisie has faced a life-threatening crisis. The crudely handmade sign “Cranford Strong” invokes the good old days of Hurricane Sandy and the Chris Christie of “Jersey Strong.” The more professionally done sign thanking the “front line,” the troops that stock the shelves with toilet paper and canned tuna fish at the local ShopRite, reminds us all of 9/11, when in response to the way Islamic terrorists “hate our freedom,” which isn’t of course free, the American people rallied around George W. Bush and offered to give up our freedom, to sign the Patriot Act into law, to invade Iraq, and to get to work laying the foundations for the torture/surveillance state.
What I’ve noticed, however, is how muted my neighbor’s patriotic display is compared to what I saw in October of 2001. There are no flags, just an acronym, FLAG. There’s no call for war against China. I have yet to see any sign referring to the “Wuhan Virus.” No new bumper stickers have been mass produced. The overwhelming mood isn’t violent patriotism, but tired resignation. All anybody really wants to do is to be able to buy toilet paper again, to send their kids back to school, and to take their dogs back into the park. No coherent narrative has emerged. While Donald Trump and the far right have attempted to stir up hostility towards China, and while there have been hate crimes against Asian Americans, it pales in comparison to the drumbeat of Russopobia that liberal Democrats maintained for years after the election of 2016, let alone the overwhelming consensus that emerged after 9/11 that “we” had to “support the troops” and invade Iraq. The corporate media’s attempt to make Andrew Cuomo the 2020’s Rudy Giuliani — it’s a little hard to remember these days just how much of a hero that nasty little fascist troll was back in 2001 — seems to have petered out.
Back in March, the Democratic Party crushed a mild mannered insurgency from the very moderate left in Bernie Sanders, but in retrospect it’s a little difficult to figure out why they even bothered. Sanders, who fell in line and voted for the recent corporate bailout as obediently as Amy Klobuchar or Corey Booker, presents no threat to the American ruling class. Those “Bernie Bros,” so feared on social media, are no more likely to produce a Lenin or a Robespierre than I am to get a job doing shampoo commercials. While there may be something resembling a general election this November — a second wave of the pandemic may cancel it altogether — I can’t imagine that it will have much legitimacy. Both candidates will be old men in cognitive decline. Neither will be able to campaign in public. There won’t be much debate. Don’t look for Lincoln Douglass in 2020. I suspect that whichever elderly reactionary wins, the one with the R at the end of his name or the one with the D at the end of his name, the corporate elite will control the government from behind the scenes. Wall Street, the military industrial complex, the intelligence agencies, and the big tech companies in silicon valley are going to dangle the puppet in the White House on their knee, and drink a glass of water while they lecture us on how for our own good we need to give them anything they want. The democratic system was on its dying legs, a frail, elderly resident of the American nursing home. Coronavirus has killed it.
I don’t know what’s going to happen after the pandemic dissipates. I don’t know what our ruling class has planned. I don’t know how the rest of us will react. But I suspect that we’re going to see a heavy push by the media to increase surveillance and control — whether its by the government or the corporations makes no difference — for our own good. That’s the real tragedy. People in the Middle East don’t hate us for our freedoms. They hate us for our hypocrisy. Coronavirus, on the other hand, does. To be more accurate, Coronavirus loves our freedom because it hates us. Coronavirus thrives in a free society. It breeds in warm, sunny Mediterranean cultures like Italy. The coldblooded Germans, by contrast, seem to have defeated it. Coronavirus makes protest, political rallies, social gatherings, even Holy Communion, deadly. It requires us to shun one another, to fear each other’s presence. It puts all society online, on a corporate controlled Internet that the wealthy can shut down any time they want. It transforms any act of defiance — illegal fishing in the local pond, walking your dog in the park, conversing with strangers — a form of stupidity. Coronavirus, at long last, is the final stage of neoliberal capitalism.
It was unbelievably obvious months away from the primaries what the Russian/GOP plan to take down Biden was. They’re gonna hammer him with ads about his son, Burisma, and the probably legitimate #metoo accusations he carries around like some token validating he’s actually a boomer. These things provide enough cover for center-right cowards to vote for Trump out of moral equivocation and cowardice.
And that’s Joe Biden’s fault. And the fault of all those people who insisted he was the safe choice despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary that was directly in front of their faces.
If Joe Biden actually gave a shit about anything besides himself, he would’ve dropped out long ago. He has no leadership to provide in this crisis, and the simulacra of leadership he’s attempted to provide has just been a pale shadow composed of ambition, poorly mimicking what Bernie Sanders has done out of conviction.
When Weimar Germany collapsed, the accepted leaders of Jewish community made the decision to pursue a program that could theoretically preserve the possibility their children might lead the same mediocre middle class existences they’d been privileged to experience.
This despite the overt overtures of the ascendant Nazi regime to have them and their children exterminated in gas chambers so they could profit on their tooth fillings.
Joe Biden, not being Jewish, does not recognize the existential threat in the offing. He thinks by virtue of his having been there when things were boring, he can make things boring again. Bernie Sanders understands that the rich will not stop at genocide if there’s money to be made. History has shown us this too many times for your “centrism” or “moderate” stance to play as anything besides ignorance or cowardice, an attempt to feel vindicated at the expense of your childrens’ future.
If the actual lesson you took away from the Holocaust was that we could bargain with these people, you’re a fucking idiot.
Did that make you feel bad?
Good. This isn’t about your feelings. This is life and death.
Think about the consequences of your decisions and the people around you next time, if you’re awarded such privilege.
Today the United States government used the cover of the Coronavirus pandemic to pass a “stimulus package” so regressive it’s going to make the Wall Street Bailout of 2008 look like the New Deal. Corporate America is going to get trillions of dollars in our tax money. You and I are going to get a measly $1000 bucks, which is also going to be taxed. Even worse, ruling class ghouls like Donald Trump, Lloyd Blankfein and Jerry Falwell Jr. are calling for people to go back to work by Easter, even if it means millions of deaths. Falwell even reopened Liberty University in Virginia, a glorified fundamentalist Bible school nobody would ever mistake for Harvard or Columbia, but an institution with a campus and a student body the size of Ohio State or the University of Texas.
We do not need to go into the streets to rebel. All we have to do is continue what is in effect a “general strike” imposed by the Coronavirus. Nobody should risk their lives and go back to work to help the millionaires and billionaires who own stock. Rather, we should refuse to pay our bills, refuse to pay rent, refuse to pay taxes, and above all refuse to pay medical bills. Most of us are terrified. Very few of us have the savings to live through the Coronavirus without a paycheck. In order for the ongoing general strike to work, it’s going to require solidarity. If everybody refuses to pay for a Coronavirus test, the health care industry and the government won’t have the power to ruin anybody’s credit. If everybody refuses to pay their mortgages and property taxes, the local sheriff will be powerless to evict us all. On the other hand, the more people who decide to act on the bourgeois ideology we’ve all been force fed since childhood, to act as individuals instead of a united people, the more power we give the ruling class currently trying to rip us off.
I grew up in Roselle, a rather obscure little suburb in northern New Jersey that came very close to being destroyed by the financial crisis of 2008. It has produced only two people you might have heard of. The first is Rosey (Rosey is for Roosevelt) Grier, an NFL defensive tackle who become something of a curiosity in the 1960s when he took up knitting. At 6’5″ and 250 pounds nobody was going to question his masculinity. Grier was also a liberal activist, a supporter of Robert Kennedy who witnessed his assassination at the Ambassador Hotel in 1968. When Grier, who’s now an evangelical Christian and a Republican returned Abraham Clark High School in Roselle to speak to his old football, I made a crude, adolescent joke about how “bodyguard for Robert Kennedy was probably not something you wanted to put on your resume.” Grier remarked that he had been guarding Ethel, not Robert Kennedy, but that he considered it an accomplishment that he managed to dive on top of Sirhan Sirhan and prevent him from being lynched. Had Sirhan Sirhan been murdered by outraged bystanders the truth about the assassination would have been buried with him forever. As far as I know, Sirhan Sirhan has never given any indication that he shot Robert Kennedy for anything other than his support for Israel, but unlike Lee Harvey Oswald, he’s still very much alive.
The other person from Roselle, New Jersey you might have heard of is Abraham Clark the namesake of my old high-school and a signatory of the Declaration of Independence. Abraham Clark, who was the William Kunstler of colonial New Jersey, a radical lawyer who specialized in defending the poor, would have probably felt very much at home in today’s New Jersey, but I can’t help but think he’d be disappointed. While the United States abolished slavery in 1865, the class system is far more rigid than it was in 1776, when there was plenty of land and opportunity, when something resembling a “meritocracy” did in fact exist. In 2020, the United is an oligarchy, a government of the wealthy (and their stooges), by the wealthy, and above all for the wealthy. Above all, we’ve become doormats. Whatever the rich tell us to believe, we believe. Whenever they ask for a bailout, we give it to them. If they want to us kill a few hundred thousand people in Iraq, we willingly send our sons and our daughters, and our blessings, halfway around the world to prove that “freedom isn’t free.” If anybody objects, we say “America love it or leave it. Support our mass murderers or get out.” Americans have stockpiled more weapons than any people in history. Yet the odds of a violent revolution against the American government, those “Second Amendment Solutions” I’m always hearing about, are pretty remote.
Yet I grew in a house built on the property, which was divided and subdivided in the 19th Century, of a man who signed the Declaration of Independence. I often wonder what we lack that Americans in 1776 didn’t. What allowed them to overthrow the tyranny we so passively accept. I’ve decided that it’s two things.
The first is a “sense of limits.” If you read the letters of the British or Hessian officers who unsuccessfully tried to put down the American Revolution, one thing keeps recurring. None of them could quite figure out why exactly the colonials were rebelling against King George. To the typical British or German army officer, let alone a poor Irish or Hessian conscript, the farmland of New Jersey and Long Island seemed lavishly rich. The colonials who rebelled against the British in 1776 were not the starving French peasants of 1789. They were prosperous farmers and merchants, well off men who could have easily paid their taxes to the British Crown. Americans in 1776 did not rebel because they were starving. They rebelled because their “rights as Englishmen” were being violated. King George III, who hardly ranks as one of history’s greatest tyrants, overstepped those “inalienable rights to which the laws of nature and of nature’s god entitle them.” Unlike the Jacobins who organized the French Revolutionary Terror of 1793, the men who organized the American Revolution weren’t revolutionaries dreaming of a new world order. They were conservatives defending boundaries their sovereign back in London had overstepped, a natural order that no self-respecting Englishman would allow any government to violate.
The second thing Americans in 1776 had that we have lost is a sense of civic duty, of something larger than ourselves and our families. Some of the signatories of the Declaration were traditional Christians. Some were agnostics. Some were deists. But what they all had in common, and what they had in common with their more radical French brethren 15 years later, was the idea of a larger community, a nation. Yes, Americans today are often loudly patriotic, but their patriotism usually stops where their property begins. Every one of those Senators how voted “yes” on the Wall Street bailout today wears a flag pin. Most of them don’t care if their fellow Americans die. Abraham Clark, by contrast, put his country, not only above his wealth, but of his bloodline. Putting your signature on the Declaration of Independence back in 1776 in northern New Jersey was a dangerous proposition. The British occupied New York City all through the late 1770s and early 1780s. John Witherspoon was safely off in Princeton, but had the British wanted to arrest Abraham Clark, try him for treason, and string him in lower Manhattan there wouldn’t have been much the Continental Army could have done about it. The British did in fact capture two of Clark’s sons, both of whom were officers in the Continental Army, and sent them to the prison ships, the Abu Ghraib of the day, in New York Harbor. All Clark had to do to secure their release was to recant his signature on the Declaration. Clark was a bourgeois lawyer, but like an old Roman, he also put his country above his family.
Two of Clark’s sons were officers in the Continental Army. He refused to speak of them in Congress, even when they both were captured, tortured, and beaten. However, there was one instance when Clark did bring them up and that was when one of his sons was put on the prison ship, Jersey, notorious for its brutality. Captain Clark was thrown in a dungeon and given no food except that which was shoved through a keyhole. Congress was appalled and made a case to the British and his conditions were improved. The British offered Abraham Clark the lives of his sons if he would only recant his signing and support of the Declaration of Independence; he refused.