Monday, January 17, 2022

Everything Old is New Again

Another quality post brought to you by Steve!

This blog has been around since fall of 2014 (hard to believe, right?) and I've had Monday posts since at least 2017.  Consequently, I've had to write about civil rights on Martin Luther King Day at least three or four times during the nightmarish phantasmagoria of the Trump years in this country.

I can't say I've done the topic any justice.  I certainly know that I can't say anything particularly lived-in about the minority experience in America.  Sometimes, when I'm feeling particularly basic, I say to myself, "Well, technically you're a minority: you're a veteran, you're an atheist, you're a bisexual," and so forth.  But the stark fact is I go through life with all of the privilege being a white man in America can afford me.  I'd have to actively seek out discrimination in a country where it's so lavishly bandied about.

One year when faced with this challenge I asked a colleague if it was even appropriate for me to write about this topic.  And he replied something to the effect that, "Yes, it's your job to think about it and to talk about it, because it's hard, and most white people don't want to think about it or talk about it."

So.  It's been about a year since the Nazis tried to overthrow the government.  Not a sentence I ever thought I'd be writing in America, but there it is.  And doubtless people will wish I'd equivocated over the use of the word "Nazi," but I'm tired of equivocating and I don't feel like doing it anymore.  The Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers and their fellow travelers and a good portion of the MAGA movement are in form, function, personality and intent identical to the Sturmabteilung (and the SS who displaced them) of pre-war Germany.  It's not worth spilling any more digital ink over the distinction.

And equivocating is, frustratingly, all I've seen done for the last year.  Yes, I know there were little old Republican grannies at 1/6 who don't know the difference between Trump and Eisenhower because they don't pay attention to politics.  And I know QAnon has brainwashed a disturbingly broad swathe of the population.  I even know, and have always known, that prisons are not particularly nice, happy places, even in the richest country in the world.

But you spend enough time saying, "Oh, there were mostly little old grannies there and just a few bad apples" or "Well, it was just some of the extreme folks on the fringe who actually broke any windows" or "Well, they're political prisoners now, look at the shitholes they've been thrown into" and it's all just a lot of smoke and mirrors.  My favorite "distinction," though, I think, is that "It wasn't really an insurrection."  And that's probably because I'm a writer and the meaning of words is important to me.  But call something an insurrection instead of a protest and the people who planned it might look like the bad guys!

I could submerge in despair, and I have plenty of times in the last year.  But Dr. King, I think, would exhort us to hope.  And I am somewhat hopeful for the future.  One thing I've started to grok in the last year through my never ending goal of political education is the stark power of the state.  There are very dark elements to that, strikebreaking, warmongering, Wounded Knee, and so forth.  But the mighty power of the state can also be wielded for good.  I've seen 700 Nazi assholes get their comeuppance in the last year.  Just last week 10 of them were charged with seditious conspiracy, which is to say, plotting to overthrow the government.  Which means it sounds like the gloves are off with the equivocating, at least from the DOJ.

Richard Spencer and the other scumbaccios responsible for the 2017 Unite the Right massacre were just (in November, four years later!) found financially liable for that debacle.  It seems likely the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys will be next up to be bankrupted.  It's nice, I guess is what I'm saying, to see government power wielded in the pursuit of justice.  I guess that's why, when you boil everything down, it's so important that that power is kept in the right hands.

Tomorrow the Senate will vote on the Voting Rights Bill which has the power to reverse the horrific voter suppression laws so many states passed in the wake of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 being gutted by the Supreme Court in 2013.  The new law almost certainly won't pass because of the simple fact that the right in the country is certainy united in not wanting the "wrong type of people" to vote.  So in a perverse sense, minority voting rights are worse off in this country in 2021 than they were in 1963, from a legal perspective.  From a cultural perspective we've come a long way.  But, then again, the partisanship of that culture is probably not much different from Germany in 1932.

Everything old is new again.  I'll remain tentatively hopeful, but also deeply worried.

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