Trump and his supporters refuse to understand: It’s his own fault

The riots and attack on the US government at the United States Capitol building are proving one thing: America really does need to be concerned about the rise of fascism in this nation.

All summer long during protests against the murder of Black citizens by police were conducted by Black Lives Matter and other social conscience groups. Some of those protests were marked by looting that harmed businesses. That was enough for Trump and his supporters to claim the two responses to police brutality were automatically related.

Other nations

The peaceful interior of the Segrada Familia basilica and Barcelona Spain in fact is a form of protest against the legalistic strictures of the Catholic Church as its architect Antonio Gaudi drew on the organic source of all creation to depict God’s glory inside a cathedral and outside on its structure. Photo by Christopher Cudworth in Barcelona, Spain in 2019.

We can turn to the nation of Spain for perspective on the relationship between protests for social justice and independence. I happened to be in Barcelona on a vacation in 2019 during the weekend when originally peaceful protests turned ugly. The issue in Spain was a call for “self-determination” by citizens of the Catalaonian region. They sought independence from the central government in Spain over issues of taxation. Catalan residents sought to secede from Spain. Right-wing defendants of Spain’s traditional national structure and constitution sought to crack down on the protests.

That’s when things turned sour in Barcelona. As reported on Reuters.com, “Barcelona town hall said 400 garbage containers were set ablaze on Wednesday and estimated that the city had suffered damage totaling more than 1 million euros ($1.1 million) in two days. Some city residents condemned the rioting. “This doesn’t represent the majority of Catalans, whichever side they are on, be they pro-constitution or pro-independence,” said Joan, a 50-year-old small-business owner.

The political issues in Spain differ from those in America, yet the cycles of protest and governmental crackdowns and pursuant violence on the part of “protestors” is quite similar to patterns in the United States.

As Reuters reported, “Young people draped in Catalan flags congregated peacefully, tossing balls and skipping rope. Later the mood turned ugly, with protesters setting fire to cafe chairs on the fashionable Rambla de Catalunya street at the heart of the tourist district.

Earlier in the day, thousands of students took to the streets, some hurling eggs at police holding riot shields. Marches from around the region are due to converge on Barcelona on Friday and unions have called a general strike for the day.

“It’s not about who is a separatist and who is not – it’s about human rights,” said Aila, a student who declined to give her family name.”

Black Lives Matter and Antifa

That sounds so familiar. Here in America, hundreds of thousands of protestors also sought to stand up for human rights. Their cause was calling attention to the series of Black people shot or suffocated by police. The incident with George Floyd in which an officer put a knee on the man’s neck until he died went viral and served to illuminate the cause of minorities around the world.

But Trump and his supporters appeared unmoved by the calls for change, and protests escalated as a result. Property damage was rampant, and a loosely organized group calling itself Antifa rose to national prominence as Trump sought to place blame for the violence on an enemy he target for derision by his supporters. That meant Trump lumped everyone together in one supposedly “evil” group that he blamed for property damage. But the people seeking social justice weren’t willing to live with that accusation. They persisted in peaceful protests. I witnessed the “rebound effect” of peaceful protestors while visiting Madison, Wisconsin this summer following weeks of unrest. The boarded up businesses were decorated with messages of love and reminders of why the protests were initiated in the first place. That may have been no comfort to businesses affected by the lockdowns, but that effect was not solely the result of protests. There was the scourge of Coronavirus that Trump refused to address. That incalcitrance toward any authority other than his own was the cause of more suffering in the United States than any protest, Antifa or not, could muster. That’s the reality Trump sought to avoid.

A Black Lives Matter sign painted on boarded up property in Madison, Wisconsin during the protests of summer 2020. Photo by Christopher Cudworth

The problem with the Trump tactic is that was successful with his supporters and his Republican allies eager to shift blame away from the President by siding with him in the depiction of all protestors as the “common enemy.” That means the original cause of the social justice protestors––justice for Black citizens and change in brutal police tactics––was effectively left behind. That is exactly how Trump likes it. His entire tactic in politics is to distract from the bad things he’s done and/or approved by redirecting blame toward anyone he depicts as the “common enemy.” In that regard, he has quite familiar company in history.

The concept of propaganda

Consider this excerpt from the Nuremberg 1934 rally, in which Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels outlines the premise and purpose of propaganda:

“The concept of propaganda has undergone a fundamental transformation, particularly as the result of political practice in Germany. Throughout the world today, people are beginning to see that a modern state, whether democratic or authoritarian, cannot withstand the subterranean forces of anarchy and chaos without propaganda. It is not only a matter of doing the right thing; the people must understand that the right thing is the right thing. Propaganda includes everything that helps the people to realize this.”

He goes on to state, “Propaganda is a means to an end. Its purpose is to lead the people to an understanding that will allow it to willingly and without internal resistance devote itself to the tasks and goals of a superior leadership. If propaganda is to succeed, it must know what it wants. It must keep a clear and firm goal in mind, and seek the appropriate means and methods to reach that goal. Propaganda as such is neither good nor evil. Its moral value is determined by the goals it seeks.”

Trump propaganda

In the case of Donald Trump, that “purpose” in mind is keeping power at all costs. That aligns with his central goal of self-interest. His policies fulfill promises to others that can help him keep power. But his actions aside from that are all about winning and protecting access to power.

The incalcitrant dictator is most at home when his frequent misdeeds are kept in the dark.

That explains his lies to cover up the threat of the pandemic in its early stages. His central goal in presenting information about the Coronavirus was to protect his image going into the 2020 election. To do that, he sought to downplay the seriousness of the virus and how many people it could possible kill. His interest was in protecting the economy upon which he believed his re-election depended. Yet his selfishness backfired as the virus raged through the American population, threatening to overwhelm hospitals as thousands died from Covid-19. The economy reeled. He raged against the lockdowns proclaimed by state governors as necessary to curb the spread of the disease.

That was Trump’s version of a “protest.” Yet it was his original inaction and refusal to engage the federal government in meaningful distribution of PPE and support for state efforts to conduct testing and reduce infection rates that led to the United States becoming the nation whose citizens were banned from traveling to countries around the world. Trump cynically and ignorantly blamed “testing” as the reason why the infection rates were so high. “If we didn’t do so much testing, there wouldn’t be so many infections,” seemed to be his reasoning.

The confusing mix of disease and outrage

So the summer months were a confusing mix of disease and outrage as American citizens endured the uncontrolled spread of Coronavirus even as Trump refused to wear a mask in public and an entire ‘protest’ movement of Anti-Maskers sprung up within his movement. They claimed that wearing masks infringed on their personal freedoms. Men like noted conservative and former presidential candidate Herman Cain refused to wear a mask in public. He contracted Covid-19 and died as a result.

That incident describes the twisted reasoning and dangers of Trumpism.

In the same way, it was Trump sending out federal troops in a fascist show of strength in Portland and other cities that led to increased resistance and more radicalized response in cities across the country. The Trump administration resorted to posting unidentified, heavily armed guards in Washington, D.C. in one of the most fascist demonstrations of governmental secrecy in American history. No one knew who those guards reported to, or what their purpose was other than to serve as a threat that the right to protest at all was under threat.

Then Trump marched across the street in the company of military personnel while flash-bangs and other deterrence methods were aimed at peaceful protestors gathered around a church in Washington. Trump held up a Bible (upside down, it appears) in clear demonstration of the religio-fascist relationship he maintains with zealously bigoted evangelicals calling for outright theocracy in American government.

Trump supporters long to point toward his “policies” as signs of his success the last four years. But even the supposed lists of accomplishments now circulating in defensive memes are rife with contradictions. His supposed Mideast accords are little more than disguised acts of Zionism and anti-Palestinian intrigue. Trump’s forceful collapse of the Iran nuclear control deal is enabling the re-establishment of that nation’s programs. HIs tax cuts did nothing for the middle class while enriching the wealthiest Americans, and his inaction on Coronavirus crushed millions of jobs while Republican Senators and Congressman fought significant relief bills to help everyday Americans. If one were to draft a program to make American lives worse rather than better, there is none better than the lack of platform resolved by the Republican Party and the sycophantic support they’ve granted their Fascist in Chief. The GOP, as I’ve previously written, simply got pimped.

Fascist takeover

This arc toward fascist takeover of American society was not lost on Trump supporters whose beliefs about American justice were formed and fomented by propaganda spouted by Trump well before the 2020 election even took place. Upon losing, Trump declared the results “fraudulent” and proceeded to carry out 60 fraudulent lawsuits that were in turn rejected by courts on the basis of no evidence to support them.

None of that stopped Trump or his fascist henchman Rudy Giuliani from continuing their attack on democratic processes. Right up to the certification of the Electoral College votes, Trump and Rudy G collared Republican Congressman, Senators, state governors and even election officials. They issued dictates and threats. When all this continued to fail, Trump called his supporters into action in Washington. He directed them to march on the Capitol in hopes that the disruption would delay or cancel the counting of Electoral College votes altogether.

The riotous mob did invade and seek to destroy the Capitol building and its occupants. They came armed with ties in hopes of kidnapping the Vice President or the Speaker of the House. Anyone they regarded as “treasonous” was a potential target. Even those tasked with defending the safety of the Capitol building were subject to fascist fury. A Capitol guard was slaughtered by “protestors” using a fire extinguisher to pound the life out of him.

It’s his own fault, not ours

The bellicose grandiosity of Donald Trump is coming back at him with a vengeance.

All of this is inescapably the fault of “President” Donald Trump, whose impeachment for attempts to corrupt the 2020 election were both justified and accurate. So was the Article of Impeachment about obstruction of justice, an action that Trump has taken multiple times and in multiple ways during his administration, all while crying out that he is the victim of a “witch hunt.”

But the witch hunt that sprung into life on January 6 was one driven by those who support Trump, and no one else. It bears echoes of the witch hunt conducted by Michigan Trump supporters who first stormed that state’s Capitol building, then conspired to kidnap the state governor.

The witch hunt also burst into murderous flames in Kenosha, Wisconsin, where a young kid inflamed by propagandistic rhetoric about the actions of Antifa, and not the cause of their concerns, shot several people to death in what his supporters immediately claimed as an act of “self-defense.”

It won’t be long before Trump makes the same claim for himself, that his supporters were acting in on his behalf, as an act of “self-defense” against the supposedly fraudulent results of the election. That is the Big Lie upon which all of Trumpism now depends. It is one Trump originated even before the 2016 election took place. It is a lie he will likely repeat until his is in his grave. He simply can’t accept the reality that Antifa exists in direct relationship to his fascist persona and the actions it has begotten.

That is the ultimate irony in all of this. Trump supporters refuse to understand that Donald Trump brought this upon America, and upon himself.

UNITED STATES – NOVEMBER 19: Rudolph Giuliani, attorney for President Donald Trump, conducts a news conference at the Republican National Committee, on lawsuits regarding the outcome of the 2020 presidential election on Thursday, November 19, 2020. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

What GOP stands for these days

I looked up the history of the acronym GOP as a shorthand for the Republican Party. The Wikipedia page on the Republican Party says this:

“The term “Grand Old Party” is a traditional nickname for the Republican Party and the abbreviation “GOP” is a commonly used designation. The term originated in 1875 in the Congressional Record, referring to the party associated with the successful military defense of the Union as “this gallant old party”.

I’d always thought it stood for Grand Old Party, which is just as lame. But these days, the Republican Party is anything but Grand or Gallant. So the old terminology is moot. I propose that we give the GOP a new set of more accurate terms to replace its traditional claims to grandness or gallantry.

GOP and dying wishes

The option I propose, given the Republican Party’s tactics over the last fifteen years or so, is a far more accurate description of how the GOP operates. We’ll get to that in a moment.

But first, we need to understand the nature of the most recent hypocrisy. That is the installation of a third Supreme Court justice by decree of Donald Trump. We all recall how Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell self-righteously claimed that no President up for election within the year should be granted the right to nominate a Supreme Court judge. So McConnell blocked Merrick Garland’s nomination, only to invite Trump’s last-minute nomination of a constitutional originalist to replace the recently deceased Ruth Bader Ginsburg, whose dying wish was that her replacement would not be named until after the election.

The GOP has for decades been whining about so-called “activist judges” on the Supreme Court. Their concerns have focused on the idea that supposedly “liberal” justices are legislating “from the bench” by voting in favor of civil rights, economic parity, corporate responsibility and environmental justice in America rather than dragging the nation back to an interpretation of the United States Constitution before slavery was outlawed, women had the right to vote and America was a population of just 2.5M people. But here’s a fact that matters: The country is 130 times larger today according to the United States Census Bureau. We have fifty states, not just a few. We are a diverse nation thanks to immigration over dozens of decades and a couple centuries. The Constitution as it was originally written was never sufficient to cover all that change. The Founders knew that, which is why the power to commend Amendments to the Constitution and the Bill of Rights were implemented. To ignore that wisdom is to kick the Founder right in their constitutional nuts.

Yet that’s what some in the GOP love to do.

Changing America

The idea that America is the “same place” as it was 243 years ago is an example of the controlling, abusive notion that all the Amendments and beneficial changes in law and policy installed since that time are meaningless affectations adopted by a whimsically feckless population of liberals.

Ironically, this country would not even have the Second Amendment if things had stayed fixed in place as Constitutional originalists would have it. On that subject, perhaps they’re correct that amendments can be used for ill-suited purposes. After all, America does not seem capable of managing “A well-regulated militia, being necessary for the security of a free state…” Now we’re being gaslighted by vigilante militias and the GOP, both who claim to represent an originalist interpretation of the Second Amendment that ignores that opening phrase in favor of the latter, “…the right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

That is the gaslighting tactic (a lie by selective judgment) upon which activist interpretations of the Second Amendment now depend. As a result, Americans are literally being gaslighted to death by rampant gun violence in the streets, doctrinally motivated mass shooters armed to the teeth, and self-professed militia members playing soldier while claiming self-defense.

Why do all these people deep-down claim to want to arm themselves? Many claim that their armory is to prevent the government from having too much power. Here’s a sobering fact: more Americans have died from gun violence on American soil than all the soldiers killed in wars on foreign soils.

That means we are being gaslighted by the idea that guns are the path to safety in America. The people who make that claim (through the NRA, and other bodies) form one of the GOP’s pet voting blocs. Some equate even the idea of personal freedom with gun rights.

Yes, our country had to fight for its freedom to gain liberty from the rule of England. Guns are useful tools in war. That’s what they were invented for. That’s why a well-regulated militia truly is necessary for the security of a free state.

But it is principles, not guns, that form the true foundations of freedom.

Liberalism and democracy

It was liberalism and the determination that America should be independent from the rule of a king that established the country in the first place. There is also the issue that the nation’s Founders recognized the danger of establishing or enforcing a state religion, so the Separation Clause was written specifically to avoid the rule of one religion over the country.

These days the Christian evangelical community persists in claiming that the United States of America is a “Christian nation,” founded on “Christian principles” and therefore subject to the directives of theocratic directives from whatever source they might be issued. This is another form of gaslighting, a way to “manipulate (someone) by psychological means into questioning their own sanity.”

Crazy times

These are crazy times we live in. To perpetually insist that something is true that is not true, especially by accusing those most affected by that untruth of being wrong, is psychological abuse. So is being a bully over every issue that confronts you. That is what the President of the United States does every single day of the year.

That is also the central tactic of the GOP these days. Choose any principle; be it racism, feminism, gay rights, environmental protection, even the rights of an individual in comparison to a corporation, and the GOP finds a way to flip those concerns around as a means to gaslight people into submission. Crazy times indeed.

Racism and the GOP

When it comes to racism, the GOP inherited the originally vicious views of Southern Democrats and turned into a voting bloc first exploited in dog-whistle fashion by the grandfatherly visage of President Ronald Reagan. The Southern Strategy persists through the era of President Donald Trump, whose open appeal to racists to gain votes for his re-election includes patronage and Retweets bragging that there are “good people” on both sides of the debate over civil rights in America. He doesn’t bother to explain what kinds of “good people” want to persecute blacks and send American citizens “back to Africa” or whatever racist taunt they choose to exhort, but Trump doesn’t care about such details. He is happy to gaslight principled citizens into questioning their own good judgment by wondering what the President means by describing angry white citizens as “good people.”

Blacks and police brutality

The scourge of police brutality toward black people in America is so longstanding and frequent that movements such as Black Lives Matter emerged to heighten awareness of the problem. But conservatives gaslighted the issue by pumping out alternative slogans such as Blue Lives Matter and All Lives Matter. Rather than address and acknowledge that 200+ years of racial suppression continues in this nation, the opponents of full civil rights for people of color selfishly claim persecution for themselves.This is gaslighting at its worst.

The GOP encourages this attitude of denial with its support of Trump and the specious slogan Make America Great Again. Those words are a dog-whistle act of gaslighting unto themselves. They insinuate that the advances in civil rights, environmental protection and religious equanimity established by the Constitution are illegitimate.

Constitutional originalism is gaslighting

Now the Senate has installed yet another constitutional originalist in the Supreme Court. This is an outright act of the sort of judicial activism against which the GOP has railed for decades. It is gaslighting in its most extreme political form.

That is what the GOP stands for these days: Gaslighting Over Principle.

We’re stuck with it for the time being, but there will come a moment in history when the tables turn again. That may come sooner or later. But gaslighting does win the day on November 3, the country as we’ve known it for 243 years will cease to exist, and we’ll all be subject to the violent instincts and abusive advances of a highly conflicted man and his dysfunctionally self-absorbed family.

That’s the choice we’re making on November the third. We can let ourselves be gaslighted into insanity, or we can stand against the GOP and its lying tactics, sycophantic whorishness and cloying lust for power, black eyes and all.

Is it time to ditch the paramilitary structure of the police?

A few years back while riding my bike in the country, I saw a green vehicle parked by the side of the road. The writing on the side said, “CONSERVATION POLICE.”

With an interest in the environment and especially our parks and natural areas, I stopped to talk with the officer at his vehicle. That probably doesn’t happen all that often. I noticed that he was a bit guarded in his demeanor. So I opened with a question, “Do people know what you do?”

He seemed to realize that I was either curious or genuinely knew the answer to that question. He smiled and said, “Between you and me, about seven out of ten people want to know what the Conversation Police do.”

Training and commissions

That speaks to a lack of knowledge and a level of paranoia that exists in society toward the police. As a writer I followed up on our talk by contacting the regional office for the State Conservation Police and wound up interviewing two officers, one a woman and the other a man, about the distinctive nature of their jobs.

What I learned is that State Conservation Police go through training to become fully commissioned state police officers. They also go through additional training for the specifics of their job in policing natural areas, parks and other situations in urban, suburban and country settings.

I learned that it’s not an easy job. I also learned that the police with whom I talked at the managerial level were open to the idea of communicating the breadth of the job handled by state conservation police officers. It’s true that many people do not understand the roles and challenges of police officers at the local, regional and state level.

Urban and exurban realities

After learning more about policing the wilder areas of our state and writing an article about it for a suburban lifestyle publication, I met a man that served as a police chief in a highly urban area west of Chicago. It was a tough town according to reputation. He’d spent many years rising through the ranks to become the Chief of Police. In classic police fashion, he was not overly communicative about the nature of his job. But after talking for an hour, I dared ask him a question that I’d long wanted to pose to a police officer in his position.

“What do police actually think about the problems of gun control?”

It was admittedly a question phrased in a liberal context. Yet he answered with sincerity. “We think it’s a mess,” he confided. “There are too many guns out there.”

One could immediately jump to a number of conclusions from that statement. Gun proponents might state that there are too many illegal guns in the urban environment where the officer was stationed. It is easy to ascribe patent gun violence to gang-bangers and such. That carries with it the implications of race. Yet the police officer with whom I spoke was himself African-American. He’d probably seen plenty of violence and law-breaking from people of all races and backgrounds.

Self-protection

But the culture of policing in America depends on guns as safety and protection for the officers. The result has been that as America’s volume and capacity of the weapons on the street has escalated, so has the need for police to arm up and defend themselves. When placed in circumstances where guns may be present or called into action, police are at risk in every situation from a traffic stop to breaking up a block party to watching prisoners in hospital settings.

So it’s really no surprise that people are being gunned down by the police. The sad, sick part of the equation is that the paramilitary structure of the police force with its hierarchy of command places police in a position of protecting their own as would any other form of unit committed to a battlefront. That’s what the United States of America has become. A nation at war with itself, and the police are supposed to act like the United Nations forces in blue helmets trying to keep the peace.

And frankly, it is too much to ask

Conflicting purposes

The police are clearly being asked to do too many types of things. From traffic control to domestic violence, handling mental illness in the public space to tracking down crime and violence, the police are expected to multitask like no one’s business. And frankly, no organization can handle that many options and be efficient and effective.

That’s especially true when the paramilitary structure demands loyalty, rigidity and compliance on the front end. Surely discipline is important to public and private policing. But discipline alone is too easily compromised when social or work pressures enter the picture. That’s when people become more concerned with covering their ass and keeping things quiet if things go wrong, rather than opening the subject to inquiry and consideration.

When political or racial bias further enters the picture, a paramilitary organization too easily becomes a tool of power and manipulation. When the culture of an organization adopts a prejudice of any kind, it conflicts with the assigned purposes of a police organization to serve and protect.

Tribalism and paramilitary mentality

That is how an officer decides to kneel on the neck of another human being long enough to kill them. And why fellow officers stand aside or even support that effort. There is too much tribalism built into the paramilitary model of the police forces of this country. That is not to say that the police are necessarily to blame. Who wants to risk their lives in a country where there are more guns than people? The perversion of the Second Amendment into a free-for-all of gun rights and vigilantism has turned policing into a losing proposition from the start.

The opening phrase of the Second Amendment holds the solution, too long ignored and debased by the likes of the NRA and its patsy politicians, that reminds us that, “A well-regulated militia, being necessary for the security of a free state…” should not be dismissed as an unnecessary burden on the nation. More people have died from gun violence in the United States than all the soldiers killed in American wars on foreign soil. The nation is in the long grip of a gun violence pandemic and mass shootings that only abated for a bit once a disease pandemic came along to force people off the streets and out of the cycle of blasting each other to bits.

The POTUS and domination

The worst part of all this vigilante addiction to guns and force, and the paramilitary approach to society, is that the President of the United States even views our nation’s military as his personal police force. In a fascist response to public protests over the killing of multiple black victims by police, Trump proposed sending tanks into Washington, DC and other cities to “dominate” those he considers out of order. It is no surprise where Trump likely got the idea, as he put in a call to Russia’s President Vladimir Putin before launching the idea of this proposed assault on American society to protect his own racist agenda. Trump’s murderous instincts have included instructing police not to be too soft and to knock heads when doing their jobs. This is not the message America needs to hear.

Cities across America are now considering “defunding the police” which is an unfortunate term at best. The real goal is to restructure the approach and obligations of America’s police forces. The best place to start is changing the system from a hierarchy of paramilitary command to a more collaborative model similar to organizations where decision-making is more effectively crowd-sourced and includes contributions from all levels of an organization to hold everyone accountable and provide support where needed from top to bottom for police everywhere. Of course, the “tough guys” mentality of police work would resist this model as impractical and too soft. But what’s the better alternative? Remaining at war with the public in fear for the lives of the officers on the front lines, or acting with conscience and proving the Blue Lives really do matter?

Source: https://leb.fbi.gov/articles/perspective/perspective-evaluating-the-paramilitary-structure-and-morale

Why armed militias walk freely and peaceful protesters get mowed down

See those guys in the photo? They’re part of the Boogaloo movement planning to bring about a new Civil War. They’re a far-right, libertarian-style faction that hates government and loves American gun laws that allow them to carry weapons around with impunity.

See the people in this photo? They’re part of peaceful protests taking place all around America and the world. Their main objection is that police keep slaughtering black people in this country, and the death of George Floyd under the pressure-packed knee of a Minneapolis policemen generated legitimate public protests.

To review, the armed militias have had quite a bit to say lately, and plenty of latitude to say it. A group of them descended on the Michigan State Capitol, stormed the legislature and started making demands that restrictions on public access related to the Coronavirus pandemic be removed. One of them placed an effigy of the female governor as if she’d been hanged. Meanwhile, Kentucky Libertarian Rand Paul is blocking an anti-lynching bill even in the wake of the documented asphyxiation––a lynching in public––of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Some of this stuff you just can’t make up.

Trump excuses and welcomes brutality

The President of the United States of America excuses all these affronts to true justice because, he maintains, “People are angry.” That was also his excuse for the “good people” who assaulted activists during the removal of a Confederate statue somewhere below the Mason-Dixon line.

During his manic attempt to restore order in the face of recent protests, the President met with leaders of the American military to request that 10,000 active troops be deployed as a “domination” force against peaceful protestors. That request was made shortly after a personal call with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, also known as a strongman with a vicious bent for punishing his own citizens.

Conflation patrols

Trump’s defenders claim he was only trying to stop people taking advantage of civil unrest to loot storefronts. The two groups had entirely different motives, but Trump refuses to make that distinction. He conflated them as one, and then grandly proved that point by shoving aside peaceful demonstrators to descend on a Washington church where he stood with a Bible in his hand as if he owned the place.

Trump clearly thinks he owns everything, but especially the military. Everything the man has done, and all his claims to executive authority, are earnest expressions that he believes he owns the entire nation. His demeanor is one of a slavedriver demand response to whatever he chooses to impose. The nation is his plantation, you see. That is why he steals funds from the military to build his border wall. It is also why he sought to force Ukraine’s President to make up lies about Vice President Joe Biden. Trump’s version of political negotiation is to cheat or coerce the system until it does his will.

The gesture out front of the church with the Bible in his hand was particularly disturbing because it interpolated Christianity with the brand of fascism it took to place himself in that position. But perhaps that’s not such a big stretch. It was Adolf Hitler that once stated, “We are not doing anything to the Jews that Christians have not been doing for 1500 years.” Some traditions stick around. Others just come back in other forms.

Fortunately the nation’s generals did prevent Trump from sending tanks into the fray in Washington. Yet frustrated by the lack of force he could employ, he instead commissioned Attorney General William Barr to rally a group of mercenary prison guards to station themselves around the Lincoln Memorial.

Displays of fascist “domination” such as these align directly with the overwrought militia types that took over the Michigan state capitol. Their end goal, it seems, is to start a Civil War under the term Boogaloo to get what they want. That is a world free from restrictions on their racial prejudice and aggressive victimhood. They also want their firearm toys. It’s a compensatory thing.

That’s no different than the priorities of Donald Trump. Together these politicized nasties represent a Neo-Confederacy threatening the existence of the Union as we have long known it. That explains why armed militias of many types are being seen more frequently across America. Trump has no intention of giving up control of this nation’s armed forces or its resources, which he loves to dole out to his fawning loyalists. To accomplish this mission he welcomes even mercenary support as long as they share his goal of not letting anyone challenge him. Both the thugs in Boogaloo outfits and the Evangelicals cozying up to Trump share that in common: a opportunity to align themselves with such power. Fuck Jesus, and let’s go play with guns.

There is a third quasi-military faction involved in this mess. We’re already seeing the results of the vigilante confederate mindset, with dispassionately misguided police forces knocking a 75-year-old men to the ground because they can. If that’s how they treat the elderly, think of the brain-crushing they’ve got planned for youthful protestors full with energy and purpose. The bloodshed could be awful to behold.

Fascism rules

Trump’s supporters are keen to defend him. “This is not Nazi Germany,” they say. “He’s only trying to protect the nation from Antifa and looters.” Yet we’ll repeat: that claim aggressively ignores the fact that armed militias are being casually permitted to run wild and privately commissioned prison guards are hired to impose martial law in the nation’s capitol. And the police keep killing people.

This may not be Nazi Germany, but neither is it the United States of America. But perhaps this is what Trump meant all along by his slogan Make America Great Again. After all, Germany enjoyed a few great years before the world sent Hitler into his private bunker with a pistol and a getaway plan of taking his own life rather than having to face a tribunal for the deaths of millions of people. Trump’s Coronavirus body count is only up to 113,000 at this moment, but if he’d been allowed to carry on with his selfish plan of ignoring the threat, it is estimated that 2,000,000 may have died.

The scary truth of that last statement is that Trump’s flaxenly selfish response to the Covid-19 epidemic was only changed because he realized that people dying in droves might hurt his chances for re-election. Once again, he did not act out of conscience, but for selfish political reasons.

Hideouts

Illustration by Christopher Cudworth

In something of a symbolic coup, Trump is now hiding behind 13-foot-tall fences installed around the White House. For a while at least, he was even hunkered down in a bunker out of fear that his life was at risk.

Yet he’s refused to wear a mask in public because he thinks it would make him look ridiculous. That’s a bit like that evil clown John Wayne Gacy complaining that his lipstick is smeared. And speaking of clowns, Trump shrieks like a carnival barker behind the podium of Twitter. He raves about how the game isn’t fair and that he’s a victim of all sorts of conspiracies against him, especially by Democrats, but some Republicans too.

Yet somehow white evangelicals line up and clamor for his words. There are women who worship and fawn and faint over Trump and his manhood. His business buddies just want to grab what they can before the economic collapse comes along. And “First Lady” Melania Trump keeps a purse and small suitcase packed and ready in case the whole carnival needs to take off for Argentina.

A firsthand look at the twisted world of police prejudice

As manager of a sports complex in the town where I lived, my duties were to open up every night at 6:00 pm to allow the public to use the indoor track, basketball, and volleyball courts in a facility attached to the high school. It wasn’t strictly a membership club or anything like that, but there were discount passes available. The entire purpose was to return some value to the community for the tax dollars used to create that building for the school district.

So it was a popular facility for many reasons. On weekends, there were indoor soccer games from 9 am to 5 pm. That was the real moneymaker for the building.

But on weekdays, there were between 100-150 runners and walkers coming through the doors at night. I learned most of their names and still see some of them out in the community decades later. Along with serious runners counting laps, and logging miles on cold winter nights, heart patients were recuperating from surgeries, mothers losing weight after babies and people talking through life’s problems as they circled the oval for 30-60 minutes.

Then there were the basketball players. As a longtime hoopster, I occasionally joined the games on nights when my staff had things in order. It was an excellent way to get to know the players and frankly, earn a bit of credibility among them. We had ballplayers from all over the Fox Valley show up for competitive basketball games. There were politics involved with who wound up on what team. My floor supervisor had a system of first-come, first-serve, but the guys had all figured out how to scam that and wind up on powerful teams that dominated the floor. So instead of winner-take-all every night, we instituted a two-game winner, then you sit system so that more players could see action.

It was a diverse population. We had guys from either end of the Fox Valley, cities such as Elgin and Aurora, two of the larger urban centers in northern Illinois. One night I joined a game that involved nine black players and me. I wound up guarding a small guy named Doc. On the first time down the floor Doc faked right to take me to the baseline and then literally jumped over my shoulder to dunk the ball. The entire place erupted in laughter. I’d been had. Doc didn’t look like much with his wire-rimmed glasses and closely shaved head. But the guy could sky.

From then on, I played him far more closely, and we had a good game all around. Our team lost, however, and I was walking back to the office after shaking hands when my assistant game to meet me at the door and said, “We have a problem. We got robbed.”

I looked at the office, but that wasn’t where the robbery occurred. Instead, there was a team of guys who scouted out the locker room and posted a guard at the door while one of them went locker-to-locker snapping locks with a bolt cutter. They cleaned out wallets and valuables that they could find and were out of there in five minutes.

Of course, we immediately called the police. The officer who showed up was a couple of years ahead of me in high school. His younger brother was a high jumper on the track team with me. The officer was strong and tall, about 6’3″ and probably 190 at least.

The thing that struck me on his arrival was the nightstick he carried in his right hand. He’d already unleashed it from his belt. Recognizing me instantly, he came straight over and made it clear that he was ready to bust heads if necessary. Then he looked around, and I was instantly nervous about his intentions. He muttered something that could only be construed as a racist comment about the robbers, mentioning as well that he thought the “black” problem at the facility was what caused it all to happen.

The guys playing basketball clearly were not involved directly in the robbery. I told him so. “I know these guys,” I told him, using his name for emphasis. “This was someone else entirely. We don’t even know for sure what race they were.”

Our employees had seen people coming in well after the usual rush to sign up for games. They had paid for admission, which was $5.00 per night without a pass. So there was an inferred possibility that the guys who showed up later were involved in the robbery.

That did not satisfy my policeman friend. He took some notes after putting his nightstick back on his person and then left.

A week or so later, I received a note from the athletic director that policies might be changing for the facility. “It may be restricted to residents only,” I was told. Immediately I protested. “This was an isolated incident,” I insisted. “We can keep a better eye on the locker rooms and won’t have a problem.”

My staff and I were concerned about the people who used that facility, and appreciated it. I had even worked out a deal for a father with an energetic batch of children that he brought to the facility each week to let them run on the track. I’d charge him two admissions, and six of his family members would come in. Several years later, those children grew into young adults and won many state championships in track and field. In my estimation, the facility did not lose money on that proposition. It gained value for society, and for that family.

Was it special treatment? That father and his children were black. Would I have done something similar for a white father and his children? I’m not sure. We all have to make judgment calls on those decisions in life. Just like the father I helped out, it would take a little conversation to figure out the right and wrong of the situation. Some of these calls we make are not black and white.

There’s a whole lotta world out there trying to make the right call on issues like these, and more. We have to call on our conscience to make the best decisions in the moment. I suppose I erred on the liberal side of the equation in granting a favor to that black father and his children. But what made the decision easy in my mind was the many other discussions and experiences I’d had over the years with black teammates and work associates. It didn’t take a genius to see the effects of prejudice on their lives. So I tried to compensate a little.

Perhaps a diehard conservative would decry such civil reparations as examples of liberal and unnecessary favoritism. But compared to a cop wielding a nightstick on a winter evening looking to bust heads, and that firsthand look at potential police prejudice and violence, or a policeman kneeling on the neck of a possibly innocent black man until he died, I’ll take the liberal recourse any day. And every day.

Because that’s the least we can all do.