Missing Voices?

Missing Voices?

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Photography By James D’Angelo 

Sunday, April 14, was Palm Sunday.  The day marks the beginning of Holy Week,  likely the most sacred period of the Christian Calendar.  I attended services, did my shopping and headed to Leesport, Berks County, Pennsylvania for a vigil at the Berks County Prison.  Part of the facility is being used as a detention facility by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, commonly called ICE.

The event drew a good crowd, about 60 people.  It was more along the lines of a church service than a rally.  Where one would expect cries of “Shut Down Berks” and “No human is illegal” there were instead prayers and hymns.

I don’t know how many of the people there were part of the Sanders campaign. I didn’t ask, but one of the speakers did say she had been with his campaign.  But there were two other aspects of the crowd that did concern me.

One was that though the event was in Berks County, it seemed that the two largest groups of people were from Philadelphia; a group of students from St. Joe’s University and a group of students from Cabrini College.  I understand that much of #theresistance, like activist movements of the past, is younger people, but a larger presence of people from the community itself would send a stronger message.

The second thing, and the one that bothered me more, was a lack of members of the Latinx community.  Of all of the “outgroups” Trump has created, Latinx seem to be the one that he relies on most to rile up the rural reactionaries he relies on for so much of his support.  The people in the facility are mostly, if not all, Latinx.  Make the Road PA, was listed as a sponsoring group, but I saw little signs of their presence.

Monday, April 15, I voiced some of these concerns to another activist, who took the stance that there were people there.  This is true, but I think more folks from the affected community, Berks County, and the Latinx community would have sent a better message.

Not Angry Enough

April 15 seems to be a bad day for me.  My Grandfather died that day, there was the Boston Marathon Bombing, and now the day Notre Dame nearly burned to the ground.  The battle to save this sacred monument was a bit personal to me.  As a high school senior, I had the opportunity to visit the massive cathedral with the foreign language department.

Many of my fellow activists did not seem to share my concern.  Several do likely believe in Marx’s notion of religion being the opiate of the masses.  Some asked where the concern was about the African-American churches in Louisiana that have been burned.  Still others pointed to the environment.

As I read some of the comments on social media, I couldn’t help but wonder if I am angry enough to be an effective activist.  Rather than seeing Notre Dame as a relic of darker age, I saw it as a piece of history.

Is it that my anger is misplaced? I kind of lashed out at a fellow activist when she didn’t seem to see the fire the way I did.  Of course, we have my well-documented fury at the #BernieOrBust and #DemExit folks, and the rural reactionaries that may have provided Trump his margin of victory in states like Pennsylvania.

Am I glad that Notre Dame seems that it will soon rise from the ashes again, perhaps on Easter Sunday 2024, yes.  Might that make some activists angry at me, of course.  I seem to be doing that a lot over the last few days though.

No Easy Solutions

The April 15 issue of The Nation featured an article that caught my interest about a quarter of the way in.  A piece titled Trump’s 2020 Immigration Trap contained a description of how Trump will likely use immigrants as a “Dog Whistle“, without ever  using the term.  It mentions Reagan’s “Welfare Queens”, Willie Horton, and the “Swift Boating” of John Kerry.  “The US-bred Salvadoran-based MS-13 gang might well become the Willie Horton of the 2020 election,” warns the author. The article could have gone back to the “Southern Strategy” of Nixon and maybe even earlier.

The Democrats’ response will be a balancing act, according to the author.  They need the Latino vote, as well as the votes of #theresistance.  They also can’t risk losing votes in states like Michigan and Ohio, who may not be bigoted but may see the Democrats as being more concerned with the undocumented than with protecting America and Americans.

One response may be to get voters to tune out the noise.  Make the election about health care or the judiciary; the author offers a different plan, to seize initiative and go on offense.

The first part of this strategy, according to the author, is to make clear that Democrats are committed to limiting immigration to what is legal.  The second element is a counterattack, the author suggests use the increase in illegal crossings as evidence that Trump’s policies have failed.

The final part may be the hardest, to look at the forces that are driving the migration.  To look at the regimes, many that the US supports and the “War On Drugs”.  The author suggests a “Zero Tolerance” policy on corruption and oppression, and ending our relationships with the militaries of many Central American Countries.

When I finished the article, I realized a problem with many progressive or left-wing solutions.  They don’t simplify well.  What the author proposes is a solid, long-term solution.  But it is more complex than “Build The Wall”.  It also forces Americans to look at their role in creating a crisis, not an easy sell to folks who have swallowed “American Exceptionalism” like cans of Natural Ice or Pabst Blue Ribbon.



“Muller Time” to “Our Time”

When I heard that a summary of the Muller Report was released Sunday, I will admit I was a bit disappointed. The report found no evidence of formal collusion with Russia, but also did not fully exonerate Trump of obstruction of justice. That is a subtlety lost on many of Trump’s supporters.

With Monday being my Sunday, I did have an opportunity to hear Democracy Now offer their take on the summary. I was surprised that the program did a debate between Glenn Greenwald of The Intercept who was a critic of the probe into Russian collusion, and David Cay Johnston.

The major substance of the debate seemed to be whether the whole probe was overhyped. Greenwald seemed to think that since this had intrigue that it made for a more compelling story than looking at the forces that created an economy that made enough Americans, especially working-class Americans, think a billionaire could represent them. Trump’s embrace of authoritarian leaders like Putin, Edrogan, Duerte, and even Kim Jong Un, and his reject of Western Leaders like Merkel and Trudeau, his constant reliance on “Dog Whistle” rhetoric and his cronyism all could have taken up the probe’s airtime.

I do think a lot of members of #theresistance saw this probe as being a “Watergate moment”, that would mark the beginning of the end of Trump’s Presidency. Many folks who consider themselves part of the various movements that may have started even before the election have been looking for a champion.

But many others have realized that it’s up to them. Trump had not even been sworn in when citizens of Cumberland County, and surrounding communities stood in solidarity when two cars were vandalized. We had Disrupt J-20 and the Women’s March. Our efforts paid off a bit with the 2018 elections, giving Democrats the “Power of The Purse”.

Trump and his followers seem to see the report, which we may never fully see, as vindication. Would I like to see the full report made public, but in the meantime, I will keep doing what I can to comfort the afflicted, afflict the comfortable, counter the “whitelash” and continue to resist.

Enough Is Enough?

Last Wednesday was Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the season of Lent for myself and many other Christians. This time of preparation is to be marked by prayer, fasting and almsgiving. In recent years for me, though, it has been a time of study. I have done Bible studies, read books by progressive Christians and done other sorts of exploration.

This year, I am doing a social justice themed devotional. As I work through it, I find myself constantly asking myself “Am I doing enough?”

It’s likely a question that many activists have been asking as #theresistance has pushed on. We have to move from one “outgroup” to another; immigrants, Muslims, African-Americans, LGBT+, Women. We have to also advance an alternative agenda; “Medicare For All”, the $15 Minimum wage, the “Green New Deal” as well. It is enough to wear anyone down.

It’s also enough to make one doubt themselves. “If I could only help one more person,” may be another question that activists are asking. One person, or one group can’t save everyone. Perspective needs to be kept.

One potential way to avoid this may be to let those who bleed take the lead. The affected communities know what they need. Asking “How can I help” instead of saying “We’re here to help” can go a long way in keeping one fresh.

In addition to avoiding fatigue, one also may need to look out for “slacktivism”. The notion that with so much to do, that retweets, likes and signing online petitions is going to be enough. This resistance still requires boots on the ground–not just clicks on a mouse.

Emergency Response

Emergency Response

As of February 15, 2019, America is in a state of National Emergency.  Some may say we’ve been in one since January 2017. Trump, perhaps realizing that the border wall that helped rally the rural reactionaries of the GOP to his side will never pass the US House, has decided to “go it alone.”

While it is interesting to consider what would happen when a President Ocasio declared income inequality or climate change a “national emergency”, or how the rural reactionaries would have responded if Obama would have declared health care a national emergency.  The more immediate matter is how we, as the resistance, will respond.  There are already legal challenges in the works, and Congressional action will soon follow.   Harrisburg, PA has a rally scheduled for Monday and I have plans to be there.

But the resistance needs to consider what else Trump may do under this “National Emergency”.  The effects may extend far beyond the border.  It could extend to cities, with orders for ICE to escalate efforts.  It could reach the roads as police forces are mobilized.  It could reach state legislatures, in the form of legislation targeting sanctuary cities.

Perhaps the best suggestion for how to respond comes from Frederick Douglass.  The famous abolitionist leader ended the classic The Meaning of July 4th For the Negro, better known as What, To a Slave, is The Fourth of July with the following admonition:

This emergency may be the time for us to be that fire, that thunder, that whirlwind, that earthquake.  For folks whose activism has been confined to tweets and likes to take to the streets, to support those people who may be willing to take the direct actions that may be needed.  To get into the affected communities and work with the people affected the most.  To speak out and speak up at their workplaces, their congregations, etc.  This may mean confronting privilege, and getting out of the suburban comfort zone that many of the resistance inhabit.


A Year Of Action–and Results?

A year ago, we were all still parsing the tragedy of Parkland, Florida.  This seemed to be just another school shooting that would fade into the media ether.  The students of Parkland seemed to have other plans.  Perhaps taking cues from the #MeToo movement, the students took to social media.  Having existing groups like Moms Demand Action to join with may have also helped their efforts.

The way the activists handled the criticism from the gun manufacturers lobby and its rural reactionaries showed maturity beyond their years, and may have shown the shrillness of the manufacturers and their reactionary supporters.

But the young people also did get results.  Advocates for what is called “Gun sense”; background checks, magazine limits, etc made gains in the midterms and several states have proposed legislation.

The Parkland Students and other groups still have a long way to go.  In my opinion, they need to focus on more than the mass shootings and look at the “daily grind” of gun violence that often mainly affects people of color, etc.  They also need to concentrate on the power of corporate interests like the NRA.  I am still waiting for an alliance or coalition between Moms Demand and groups like Move to Amend.

Since Parkland, there have been more mass shootings.  Just as there were mass shootings before Parkland.  Each one makes me wonder when, and if enough Americans will say “enough!”

Dangerous Precedents?

Today, Feb 7, could be another example of a “Bust” for the #BernieOrBust and #DemExit folks.  The Supreme Court, with a more solid Anti-Reproductive Rights majority, may rule on whether a Louisiana law that would put crippling restrictions on reproductive health providers can take effect.  This law would likely be a model for states to pass similar laws and may be a step towards rolling back one of many decisions that the right has had its eyes on for decades.  It will be interesting to see how many #BernieOrBust and #DemExit folks would be willing to use their privilege to build the #maidez movement that may be necessary.

But the Fall session may bring an even greater threat. During that term, the Court may hear a challenge to a New York City law that forbids gun owners from taking their weapons outside of city limits.

I have been looking for a case where a city or state makes the argument that they are exercising their right to regulate the militia.  That seems to be the part of the 2nd Amendment that the gun manufacturers lobby and its rural reactionary supporters overlook.  The New York City law seems a weak example.  Perhaps why it has been brought up; I would say the best solution is to change the law to make the challenge moot.

The law being struck down could be used to restrict the ability of states, etc to regulate firearms.  But it may also pave the way for something that has been on the gun manufacturers lobby’s “wish list” for years.  It’s something that may put activists and communities of color literally under fire.

It’s called “Concealed Carry Reciprocity”, and on the surface it makes sense.  Much like a driver’s license works in every State, so would a concealed carry permit.  The issue is that the laws for concealed carry vary by State.  Reciprocity would in a sense make the weakest laws, likely from more rural states, the law of the land.

So what could this mean for activists or communities of color?  That any reactionary could be armed, and depending on the State they are in, be able to shoot almost without legal repercussion.

This may be yet another case of #BernieOrBust and #DemExit folks not considering the courts, and now needing to take ownership of their actions; not that they have a good record of doing that.