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.

Back in 2007 I predicted the outcome of the November 2014 election

FlagWaiverIt took me ten years to complete my book The Genesis Fix: A Repair Manual for Faith in the Modern Age. It started with an essay titled “How the Earth Was Forgotten In Creation” back in 1997. That essay dealt with the ugly ideological divide building between literalistic Christians and those who believe in science, evolution, environmentalism and earth stewardship.

But with the election of George W. Bush in 2000, and the obvious doctrinal politics linking religious and political absolutism behind the so-called “victory” that included equally obvious strong-arming of the political process, the book expanded in scope with every passing year.

Money talks

One of the emerging dynamics in the early days of the Bush administration was the corporatism in the entire approach to politics. Dick Cheney was so tied in with his Halliburton connections and war profiteering was clearly in place during the invasion and takeover of Iraq. Mercenaries were hired to fight the unbudgeted war. It was like pigs at the trough.

Then the Fox News phenomenon took hold through the Iraq War. The good people and conservatives I knew were sucked into that entire mentality. It was sad to see them grow in anger even when their party was in power, and entirely powerful. It was not enough to defeat their political foes and run all four branches of government. The language ramped up and turned into a culture war, one that resembles the divide between North and South during the Civil War. In other words, for all the changes, America has not really changed.

Except there was a new facet to the new corporal divide in America. Corporate money. So in writing my book I documented how and why this new component in American politics was going to define future choices of politicians. This is what I wrote:

The current-day battle between liberals and conservatives carries the same stridency and stubbornness that marked the American Civil War. The difficult question we must face is whether we can anticipate the rise of a new form of “confederacy” in the modern age.

The original, Southern Confederacy stemmed from dissatisfaction with the state of the Union and the future of government.  It might seem easy to assume that the Union was 100% on the right side of political issues in the Civil War. But no matter how correct the Union cause might appear in retrospect, the Confederacy was not by definition without virtue. As a political entity it may well have been justified in defending itself against economic and military aggression by the Union. And in spite of the notion that the ideology of the Confederacy was purged through the Civil War, the personal and political freedoms advocated by the South are alive and well today in modern society, woven into the politics of libertarians and other conservatives who contend that the best government is that which governs least. These principles the Confederacy sought to defend, and the sense of pride in defending moral principles has never been lost on the South.

However unfortunate it may have been for the Confederate South to secede, one can admire the determination of the movement as symbolic of the American revolutionary spirit. It may still be possible that partisan politics to produce an America divided over ideology, geography, oligarchy, or all of the above.

Perhaps the most likely scenario is the formation of a “neo-Confederacy” around “doctrinal states” or politics focused on “Red” and “Blue” states. Proponents on either side of the political fence have begun to see the value of the “winner-take-all” approach. We are not far from a moment in history when battles over doctrinal authority could lead to a new secession in the hands of the “neo-Confederates” and the states they represent. 

But there are other issues afoot as well. The next Civil War may be fought not in the fields and forests of America, but in courtrooms where armies of lawyers battle over the rights of corporations to control America’s life and politics. Corporate lobbies and revenue now influence every facet of American life.  The largest corporations and the individuals who run them have more money and power than many countries in the world.44 It is not a stretch to say that one cannot become a governor, senator or representative without the backing of corporations. A neo-Confederacy of corporate largess already exists in America, and it is not limited to the Republican side of the political fence.  It may not be long before the power vested in corporations becomes a self-fulfilling mandate and America will be forced to choose between its original model of a democratic republic recorded in the Constitution and a new, corporate society that is ruled by companies who run the business of America. Whether we have the courage to resist this takeover of American life is a question for our age.

And that is what has now come to pass. The November 2014 election confirms that the neo-Confederacy of corporate politics is officially, indeterminately in power. We’ll see if America has the will for another great Civil War.

The Genesis Fix.

The Genesis Fix.

Who’s to blame for the neo-Confederacy of corporate politics?

A symbol for rights or privilege?

The American flag is a symbol held dear by many Americans. But does it stand for greed or rights and social justice?

In 2007 when my book The Genesis Fix: A Repair Manual for Faith in the Modern Age was first published, the divide between so-called liberals and conservatives had achieved a strident tone. But the real reach of the divide had yet to be revealed until a combination of class warfare, racial prejudice and plain old nasty partisan politics emerged with the election of Barack Obama in 2008.

Obama’s election produced a political paradox for  Republicans who were forced to admit that President George W. Bush & Company had done an absolutely terrible job in leading the country the previous 8 years. The GOP wanted to distance itself from Bush as a President but certainly did not want to accept any blame for the pain of his Republican reign. So conservatives adopted a strategy of claiming that Bush was not in fact a real conservative, but something else entirely. Maybe a Republicrat?

But the disavowal of Bush amounted to an essential denial of responsibility for any of the nation’s problems. Despite their potentially genuine dislike of the Bush Doctrine (Whatever it really was…) conservatives still basically rubber-stamped everything their once-favored son did while in office––right down to torture, illegal detention of prisoners, trumpeting illegal wars and gutting the nation’s middle class while giving away costly corporate welfare subsidies for industry, agriculture and the financial sectors.

All those giveaways, financial failures and protracted wars meant that President Barack Obama had inherited a nation in economic crisis, teetering toward a possible Depression.

But as far as Republicans were concerned, those were now Obama’s problems. “Hell, he even created half the mess,” they claimed. So true to form, Republicans stuck together despite the very evident rot in their patented ideology. Instead a new strategy emerged with ramped up attacks on the new Democrat in office, led by the promise of Republican Mitch McConnell who vowed to make Barack Obama a one-term president.

Despite this resistance Obama did manage successful policy implementation including passage of a health care reform bill that now covers millions of young Americans under their parent’s policies, and will someday protect patients from exclusion based on pre-existing conditions.* Obama also closed down military intervention in Iraq (but left the mercenaries behind?) and presided over the killing of Osama bin Laden. Conservatives should have been joyous over such news, but some even attempted to give credit to George W. Bush. Somehow.

Over issues such as these, America has become a giant battlefield for hardball politics. The far right wing of the Republican Party as represented by Tea Party candidates even caused a downgrade in America’s debt rating by threatening to default on the nation’s debts. Still, that constituted a form of heroism in the minds of some Americans. The nation was clearly in the throes of a brand new form of Civil War in which some would rather kill the country than have it run by anyone they choose to hate, and for any reason. Race. Religion. Sexual orientation. Gender. Political persuasion. These became the pillars of partisanship. But to what end?

Here is what I wrote in 2007: “The current-day battle between liberals and conservatives carries the same stridency and stubbornness that marked the first American Civil War. The difficult question we must face is whether we can anticipate the rise of a new form of “confederacy” in the modern age.”

To illuminate the subject, I provided some historical context on the American Civil War and how it came about:

“The original, Southern Confederacy stemmed from dissatisfaction with the state of the Union and the future of government.  It might seem easy to assume that the Union was 100% on the right side of political issues in the Civil War. But no matter how correct the Union cause might appear in retrospect, the Confederacy was not by definition without virtue. As a political entity it may well have been justified in defending itself against economic and military aggression by the Union. And in spite of the notion that the ideology of the Confederacy was purged through the Civil War, the personal and political freedoms advocated by the South are alive and well today in modern society, woven into the politics of libertarians and other conservatives who contend that the best government is that which governs least. These principles the Confederacy sought to defend, and the sense of pride in defending moral principles has never been lost on the South. However unfortunate it may have been for the Confederate South to secede, one can admire the determination of the movement as symbolic of the American revolutionary spirit.”

The Tea Party attempted in some ways to reclaim these ideals as it emerged with its call for limited government, less taxation and claims that America was being taken over by political interests that were too intrusive in the lives of everyday Americans. The Tea Party was suspicious even of Republican leadership, making noise of secession from that party to lay claim to the core of American values, especially the Constitution. But still the movement was joined at the hip because it needed to share the mantle of power owned and dispensed by Republicans.

All that amounted to was an even bigger ball of trouble in which the politics of corporate largesse take over the entire process, as predicted in The Genesis Fix:

“It may still be possible that partisan politics will produce an America divided over ideology, geography, oligarchy, or all of the above.”
And here were the finer points of that prediction:

“Perhaps the most likely scenario is the formation of a “neo-Confederacy” around “doctrinal states” or politics focused on “Red” and “Blue” states. Proponents on either side of the political fence have begun to see the value of the “winner-take-all” approach. We are not far from a moment in history when battles over doctrinal authority could lead to a new secession in the hands of the “neo-Confederates” and the states they represent. 

But there are other issues afoot as well. The next Civil War may be fought not in the fields and forests of America, but in courtrooms where armies of lawyers battle over the rights of corporations to control America’s life and politics. Corporate lobbies and revenue now influence every facet of American life.  The largest corporations and the individuals who run them have more money and power than many countries in the world. It is not a stretch to say that one cannot become a governor, senator or representative without the backing of corporations. A neo-Confederacy of corporate largess already exists in America, and it is not limited to the Republican side of the political fence.  It may not be long before the power vested in corporations becomes a self-fulfilling mandate and America will be forced to choose between its original model of a democratic republic recorded in the Constitution and a new, corporate society that is ruled by companies who run the business of America. Whether we have the courage to resist this takeover of American life is a question for our age.”

All it took for that prediction to come true was the ruling of a court case known colloquially as Citizens United, which essentially granted corporations the same rights as people, and privacy to boot, in making unlimited political contributions and buying advertising to support partisan interests.

The impact of the case has already essentially determined the outcome of an election in Wisconsin where the recall of Governor Scott Walker was initiated through citizen protests over destruction of collective bargaining rights for public workers, among other issues. Outside money resulted in a 7-to-1 spending imbalance between Walker and his opponent. That same month the Republican candidate Mitt Romney coincidentally (or not so much) raised more funds than incumbent President Barack Obama.

Meanwhile the battle over social issues raged across America with conservative religious factions damning gay rights as President Obama stood up for equality for people of all gender and sexual orientation. The modern day form of slavery or at least discrimination continues for many citizens denied full rights of citizenship in America. Their rights are consistently denied by conservative, legalistic and literally interpreted religious interests standing on the wrong side of history, again.

It will no doubt be a long and ugly fight just as the first Civil War divided the country, and the fight has really just begun. It remains to be seen whether the battle will spill blood on the streets and hills of America. That depends, we must assume, on whether half of America can come to its senses and stop believing in the God of money and power over the God of mercy and tolerance. It appears some political interests believe strongly in the former and not at all in the latter, much less as a political strategy and brand of social justice.

Here is how The Genesis Fix outlined these issues:

“Corporate largesse has a close relationship with the power of doctrinal politics. Any government owned and run by business will obviously favor the interests of business over that of individuals. When religion adds to the clout of corporate government by giving its stamp of approval to something so profound, powerful and self-fulfilling as the military-industrial society, then a nation has lost its grip on democracy and turned itself over to commerce as rule of law.

Part of the reason doctrinal politics, economic aggression and triumphal religious language make such a potent combination is that all three appeal strongly to a sense of personal pride. Some people refuse to distinguish between the three.”

And that is where we stand. Americans have not changed much in the 100+ years since our nation immersed itself in Civil War. It is our inability to collectively define and rationally justify our various convictions that gets us into trouble. But it gets much, much worse when commerce and greed get to decide our fate and start our wars. Just as a reminder: the bible tells us that God does not like that one bit.

*Republicans claim to hate the health care reform bill on grounds that it is a form of medical socialism and would result in “death panels” where the government gets to decide who lives and dies. Yet the bill actually shows much more respect for life than the current corporately controlled, profit-oriented (and therefore often Darwinian) health care system that notably excludes millions of Americans from even basic coverage.

From a religious perspective: God tells us life itself is a pre-existing condition. No one gets out alive. Health care is designed to protect quality of life while we are here. That basic fact seems lost on the ideological opponents of health care reform, who turned on Obama with vicious fervor even though their candidate of choice in 2012, one Mitt Romney, essentially built the same system when he was governor of Massachusetts.