Sunday, November 15, 2020

Wartime: A Long Howl

 The Worst Nightmare You Ever Had

This is wartime. 

Our cities haven't been bombed, with combat in the ruins around us. There is a level of threat in going out in search of food or water, or to jobs in businesses that remain open -- but not from being caught in a crossfire; you don't have to wait in cover and to guess when to make a run across some rubble-strewn intersection. 

There is a body count, and there are people responsible for substantial portions of it. Mostly, it's a state of mind, not a physical manifestation of destruction. But recognize it or not, we are in wartime.

Trump, his family and sycophantic staff, Congressional Republicans and GOP leadership; and the entire travelling grifter roadshow of the political Right have assaulted America without pause. 

For five years, we've watched the United States deteriorate into a chaotic, corrupt, authoritarian state. Trump himself is manifestly corrupt, so the government reflects its Capo. He sees the American Presidency as nothing but an extension of personal greed, an exercise in raw power that he can use to destroy his enemies and gift largess to his toadies. And his corruption is openly mirrored through his administration, and the political Right. 

It all happens right out in the open. The Justice Department is run by Trump crime family Consiglieri Billy Barr, so there will be no investigations or indictments, and everyone knows it. But we have also seen a parade of forced resignations; pardoning of Trump's cronies; politically-motivated prosecutions and retaliations -- and for a while, the threat of the stillborn 'Durham Report'. 

We watched the Impeachment and Trial in the Senate, listened as career members of the government detailed the administration's crimes and misdemeanors, and Trump's complicity. It was said clearly that what Trump and his toadies were doing were counter to the idea of Democracy -- but the fix was in in the Senate.

Trump emerged, the Teflon Don, shrugging it all off with a smirk and a threat: You come at the King, you best not miss. And everyone knew what would come next.

Every morning we've gotten up and checked the news; What has he done now? And always, we had the same unanswered question: How does he get away with this? Why will no one stop him? What is this inexplicable hold he has, getting others to throw their lot in with this crude, greedy, stupid bully?

We lived with it, day after day. And it delegitimized the idea of government -- What good is it? One side as bad as the other; no one cares about us -- which is exactly what people like Bannon, the GOP leaders, the Billionaire backers of Tea Party and PACS, taking money laundered from overseas, intended. 

They want us to see a dog-eat-dog world. They want us to believe in social Darwinism and continuing minority rule. They want us to believe they cannot be defeated.

But, day after day,  it drew a line under the belief that The People have no real power against the political Right, against the Mercers and Mellons and Kochs; the billionaire Bundist money. See? We've packed the Supreme Court! Even the law works for us now! That there are no limits on the rich getting richer and the poor, poorer. Power means you pay no penalty -- and having no power means no protection.

And in our drop by drop exposure to Trump, the media's response boiled down to Ahhh, Trump is Trump; that's just how he is. When he attacked mainstream media as Fake, calling them "enemies of the People", all major outlets (except Murdoch's Fox, of course) bent over backwards to show themselves neutral, "fair", and balanced. They didn't know what to do with Kellyanne Conway's "there are alternate facts". They didn't push back.

Instead of calling Trump a liar, and Conway a malicious loon, they only said the President needed to be 'fact-checked".  Twitter's owners did not dare flag or block Trump's unceasing torrent of lies and slander and veiled threats. 

And Trump would emerge to go golfing, again, or lumbering off to yet another rally in front of screaming, ecstatic crowds, more smirking, and not-so-veiled threats about Very good people, asides to QAnon; dogwhistling to white supremacist groups. And his Base cheered. And cheered. And the GOP defended each and every step down the path he was taking, each new red line crossed. 

Trump isn't very sophisticated -- he simply sees masses cheering, all for him, and his narcissism is sated, for a while. As a grifter, he understands instinctively how to connect with and milk the emotions of his Base. He preys on their fear, and hope -- and offers them hate as the antidote to fear. And they cheer.

Calling up murderous tendencies in the human heart has only one outcome, one destination. But Trump doesn't see further than the moment, the cheering sea of red MAGA hats, the maskless faces, the Proud Boys giving him the Hitler salute. And he does not care.

So we would get up, check the news; with each new outrage Trump committed, and in the absence of criticism saw the media normalize his behavior. Like the Frog in the kettle, we tuned him out -- fuck this garbage -- and got on with our lives. People responded by perceiving the mainstream media as unable to speak obvious truths about what was happening right in front of us -- so, part of the problem; tainted, cowardly.

But it also meant tuning out our broader awareness of what was happening to America. In our inner mindscape, we could see tornado clouds gathering, hear the sirens going off.  We kept waiting, as we had for years, for some adults in the room to do something. We hoped the election season, the Biden candidacy, would tear down Trump's tower of lies. 

And we went into the Thanksgiving and Christmas season of 2019. There was a report about a new respiratory illness in China, but few paid any notice.

We are in the second wave of SARS-CoV2. As of this writing, 245,000 Americans are dead. Biden was elected two weeks ago, but Trump disputes it as Fake, "rigged", "stolen" -- a conspiracy theory he had already prepared well ahead of November 3. 

He claims there is proof of a conspiracy, election fraud on a mass scale. No such evidence has been presented, because it doesn't exist. Dozens of lawsuits pushed by Trump's shrinking legal team, attempting to slow, stop, or interfere with counting of votes in key states, have been dismissed as frivolous. 

Obligatory Cute Small Animal Photo In Middle Of Blog Rant

But Trump continues to lie. His Base believes every word of it. Republican members of Congress and Party leaders, with few exceptions, back Trump's insistence the election has been "stolen". Some of them say, privately, that Trump is having difficulty adjusting to the election results; that we should give him time to "process" losing. That we should humor him.

Meanwhile, Trump will not allow the normal mechanism of transition to a new administration to occur.  He suggests Republican state Governors appoint their own, Trump-True electors to appear in Washington on December 14.

If in that process, either Biden or Trump do not receive 270 electoral votes, then election of the President will result from a vote in the House of Representatives -- where each state has one vote. If that were to happen, Donald J. Trump would likely be 'elected' for a second term -- all legal, and blessed by the Constitution.

Yesterday, approximately 10,000 members of his Base attended a "Stop The Steal" "Million MAGA March" in Washington D.C. Out in force were the openly nazi 'Proud Boys', and other right-wing militia -- 'American Guard'  'Oath Keepers'  'Groypers' -- marching with the other, more mainstream Trump supporters. 

The Leader himself decided to drive past them in his armored SUV, on his way to play golf at his country club in Virginia, giving them a characteristic gesture through the window: two thumbs up, and sticking his tongue out between his teeth. The Base cheered. Later, he broadcast by Twitter: 
"[Biden] only won in the eyes of the FAKE NEWS MEDIA. I concede NOTHING! We have a long way to go. This was a RIGGED ELECTION!"
Later that night, the various fascist militias walked the streets in Washington D.C., assaulting counter-protesters, 'owning the streets'. It was a scene straight out of Berlin in the early 30's, with nazi Brownshirts assaulting whomever they believed were an enemy. The Washington police appeared to focus on containing anti-Trump protestors, allowing the pro-nazis freedom of movement and action. 

Again, Trump Twittered:
"ANTIFA SCUM ran for the hills today when they tried attacking the people at the Trump Rally, because those people aggressively fought back. Antifa waited until tonight, when 99% were gone, to attack innocent #MAGA People. DC Police, get going — do your job and don’t hold back!!!"
This continues a trend that's developed since the summer, as the various fascist militias come together develop and coordinate their tactics; they organize.  And, a continued blurring of boundaries between armed, openly pro-nazi organizations and a the broader 'legitimate' conservative mainstream is very disturbing. 

The day you see a spokesperson from one of the pro-nazi organizations appear on PBS' The News Hour, or MSNBC or CNN, as one half of a 'both-sides' segment -- we will be too far down the road towards very deep trouble.

Millions, including hundreds of thousands of Americans, died to crush nazism
during the Second World War. Now, nazis sell their flags on the National Mall,
not far from the WW2 Memorial, or Arlington. (via Twitter)

On top of that, it was announced yesterday (in Murdoch's Wall Street Journal, of all places) that the Mercer family -- who brought you Cambridge Analytica, among other things -- is funding Parler, a new social media app boosted as 'Twitter for conservatives' . 

Essentially, it's the Murdoch business model of monetizing right-wing users, using the app to broadcast rightist propaganda, lies, and distortions to be shared by The Base. The Mercers will be able to harvest their user's data, sell it to vendors, right-wing organizations, and (as they've done with Facebook) develop strategies for those clients to manipulate the Base -- Rubes and Marks that they are.

And, insanely, an interview with Charles Koch was published two days ago:
After spending decades bankrolling causes and politicians that fueled America’s increasingly ugly and hostile national divide, billionaire mogul Charles Koch [said] he now wants to focus on bridging the gap he helped create.

“Boy, did we screw up. What a mess,” is how the Donald Trump supporter characterizes [it] ... Koch claims he wants to work across party lines to forge solutions to poverty, addiction, gang violence and homelessness...
Koch's interview was also published in Murdoch's WSJ.  Just as Murdoch wants to buy a fig-leaf of credibility by calling Arizona for Biden on election night, Koch wants to others to not hate him and remember him as the kindly philanthropist who only believed in healing. 

Not sure, given his Randian, Social-Darwinist view of human beings, what kinds of solutions to poverty, addiction, gang violence and homelessness he could suggest. It's hard to "save" people you believe are nothing but easily-manipulated, disposable, and ultimately irrelevant.

Meanwhile, America's political Left is fragmented. The Democratic party's leadership appear convinced that appealing to the center, 'normalcy', while singing Kumbaya to the GOP is the way to the future.

The Progressives believe their way is not only best, but the only way to positively affect the environment and achieve racial / economic equality and diversity. They see the mainline DNC's approach as too little, too late, and their distrust of the Democratic leadership's motives is high.

It's worth nothing that competing factions of the political Left in Europe before the Second World War (Italy in the years after WW1; Weimar Germany up to 1933; and Third-Republic France during the 30's) made it a near-certainty that the more cohesive fascist parties would come to power.

[Biden] ran on unifying the country. And it was a smart appeal to people who are sick of the division and the chaos. But it’s not possible for him to deliver that. Obama ran on that and he failed as well. This is because the Republicans will obstruct and refuse to cooperate and then point the finger and say, “See? He didn’t deliver on what he promised!” It works out great for them.
..."Towering before [Biden] is a wall of Republican resistance, starting with Mr. Trump’s refusal to concede, extending to G.O.P. lawmakers’ reluctance to acknowledge his victory, and stretching, perhaps most significantly for American politics in the long term, to ordinary voters who steadfastly deny the election’s outcome."
...Voters want to believe in bipartisan cooperation but it’s a one-way street because Republicans, being a cohesive, radicalized minority party with outsized power, benefit from obstruction. So Democrats have to run as the “unity party” but there’s no way for them to get it. Most people see this and understand it... [but] people in the middle who Dems need to win the electoral college, or in red districts and states, don’t pay close enough attention to sort it all out. It’s a problem.

The chances are that "the process" will work (unless there is another massive conspiracy out there we aren't aware of), and Biden will be inaugurated next January. 

Trump will continue to squeal, and fuel the notion that the election was stolen from him. He will go off into some kind of exile, trying to throw as much sand in the gears of American politics as he can -- but he's in his mid-seventies, a waddling tub of guts with health issues, facing potential prosecution for a variety of fraudster crimes. 

In that, he will become lies and less useful to the Steve Bannons, Nigel Farages and Marie LePens of the world. He may still have some use as an elder figurehead of a rightist movement in the U.S. -- and it will be a symbiotic relationship: Trump will get to monetize his notoriety as long as he can.

As an honest political party, Republicans are effectively done. They are the party of Trump, now; the party of white power, Ayn Randian, corrupt strongman rule.  The Base is the party -- and GOP leaders understand they have to continue dogwhistling to them in order to win elections.

And whether they recognize it or not, the RNC, Mitch McConnell and the rest of the Republican 'leadership' are strapped to the proto-nazi, white-power militias that Trump called forth. I'm not sure they give a damn any longer.

The current Republican leadership can maintain power at the polls for a few cycles, but if they can't deliver on whatever the Base demands, a 'True Trumpist' may appear -- a new Leader, talking about God and Country and a glorious future. One who publicly embraces the militias, forcing GOP leadership to become more radical just to hold on to their personal power. 

America, meanwhile, continues down a road towards open violence, oppression, and civil war -- which is what the militias and their supporters want.

But now, Trump continues to sow doubt about "the process"; he tells his Base that assumptions about our Republic are false -- that without him in the White House, the government itself is illegitimate, run by Antifa, Satanists and pedophiles.

This may seem insane to most people who hear it -- but for roughly 37% of America's adult voting population, it is gospel and settled science. They believe it. They heard it on Fox.

So, we continue in social isolation, in lockdown. We live in an internal landscape where nothing seems certain, and in an external world with very real threats. 

We are in wartime. Biden's election is a bit of grace -- even if all it does is cease the endless focus on one corrupt, deranged bully -- but there will be no Kumbaya with the Right. 

America has never been as divided a country since the last time we took up arms against each other, and that will not vanish overnight, if ever. The Republicans depend on stoking that outrage to maintain power, and at this point the level of public debate can only sink lower.

We are in a wartime of the spirit, and on that ground inside ourselves is where it will be fought. We will either come to recognize, or reject each other. It's likely to last for years -- a decade, if not longer -- and there is no guarantee that America will exist in any way we recognize when it comes to an end. 

But I continue to feel how we pay attention to the moments that will come for us, how we behave towards each other, and the choices we make may be more important than before. 

The Dalai Lama was asked what he felt the central tenet of Tibetan Buddhism to be; he replied, "Just, 'Do your best.' "  I took the Lama's observation to suggest that Existence is too complicated for any person to say why they are, and what the end results of their thoughts and actions will be. Be kind; act with compassion. Do the best you can, moment to moment. That works for me.

But, as a comparative comment on purpose and values (in his case, Resistance), Albert Camus believed the fact of humankind was the justification for right action, of making a demand for Justice -- for a better world. And that works for me, too.
I continue to believe that this world has no ultimate meaning. [That] ... it has no justification but man -- hence he must be saved if we want to save the idea we have of life. 
With your scornful smile you will ask me: what do you mean by 'saving man'? And with all my being I shout to you that I mean not mutilating him, and yet giving a chance to the justice that man alone can conceive.  
(Resistance, Rebellion and Death)

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