(Editor’s Note: In light of the events yesterday in Virginia, where a mass gathering of unhinged White supremacists provided the opportunity for yet another domestic terrorist to bring death and destruction to the nation, a reprint of an article I wrote at the end of last year speaks to the this brutal moment in time, encapsulating the broader truth about where things stand.)
The Question: Brutality or Democracy?
By Max Eternity
“One must go through the deep experience of sickness and death to arrive at a higher sanity and health”
Thomas Mann, Author of Death in Venice and The Magic Mountain
The headline reads “America Has Abdicated Its Leadership of the West.” And in the first paragraph of that November 14th article at Der Spiegel, the author opens by saying “when Donald Trump is sworn in as the 45th president of the United States, the American Age will celebrate its 100th birthday—and its funeral. “
Although it should be said that the White supremacists celebrating Trump’s ascension across the nation appear to see a rebirth, not a funeral, with independent media outlets reporting as much, including Common Dreams, which ran a story on November 22nd about an alt-right gathering, entitled “White Supremacists in Suits and Ties in Washington.”
The article’s brief introductory statement reads:
Nazi salutes. White people demanding a white “homeland.” A speaker talking about how women like to be assaulted. Glowing remarks about Adolf Hitler.
There’s freedom of expression, but should that freedom include advocating oppression and brutality?
After all, says Noam Chomsky, the “country was founded on two incredible crimes…unbelievable crimes.” The European tyranny of Native Americans and Africans is largely how this country came into being, but to what extent will this trajectory continue or escalate under the direction of President-Elect Donald Trump? And how ought moral leadership respond?
Critiquing US democracy and civil rights, in a recent [3-part] interview at MaxEternity.com, celebrated moralist, author and social critic, Rabbi Michael Lerner, said US democracy really consists of a faux meritocracy. Also saying in a speech given this past summer at Muhammad Ali’s memorial service that “the US should “become known as the most generous and caring country in the world, not the most powerful.”
But the lure of power is not an imaginary thing, if history is to be believed.
“Brutality is respected, the people need wholesome fear. They want to fear someone. They want someone to frighten them and make them shudderingly submissive.” So said Ernst Röhm, who was the co-founder of the (Hitler’s) Nazi Storm Troopers, aka the SA, but oppression does not work, says Lerner, no matter how it’s packaged.
In a November 18th editorial at the Guardian UK, preeminent scholar, author, actor and activist, Dr. Cornel West, starts off first with a searing critique of neoliberals and neofascists, in part saying:
The neoliberal era in the United States ended with a neofascist bang. The political triumph of Donald Trump shattered the establishments in the Democratic and Republican parties – both wedded to the rule of Big Money and to the reign of meretricious politicians.
The Bush and Clinton dynasties were destroyed by the media-saturated lure of the pseudo-populist billionaire with narcissist sensibilities and ugly, fascist proclivities. The monumental election of Trump was a desperate and xenophobic cry of human hearts for a way out from under the devastation of a disintegrating neoliberal order…
As his editorial wraps up, Dr. West references the historical legacy of the African-Americans civil rights struggle as an instructive lamppost for an inspired path forward, by saying:
In this bleak moment, we must inspire each other driven by a democratic soulcraft of integrity, courage, empathy and a mature sense of history – even as it seems our democracy is slipping away.
As one whose great family and people survived and thrived through slavery, Jim Crow and lynching, Trump’s neofascist rhetoric and predictable authoritarian reign is just another ugly moment that calls forth the best of who we are and what we can do.
For us in these times, to even have hope is too abstract, too detached, too spectatorial. Instead we must be a hope, a participant and a force for good as we face this catastrophe.
Dr. Cornel West is no stranger to critiquing the political elite, and he believes a new nightmare is definitely unfolding. Speaking to Amy Goodman he referred to Trump as a “neo-fascist” in a December 1st interview, also saying Trump has thrust the nation into a “spiritual blackout.”
In the same vein, the Rev. Dr. William Barber III, appears to have a near identical forecast as Dr. West, writing in a November 19th article at BillMoyers.com, entitled “A Dying Mule Always Kicks Hardest,” that:
The reactionary wave that swept across America with the election of Donald Trump is not an anomaly in our history. It is an all-too-familiar pattern in the long struggle for American reconstruction.
The story of our struggle for freedom is not linear: Every advance toward a more perfect union has been met with a backlash of resistance.
Yes, we have some difficult days ahead. But our foreparents were up against more with less. And they taught us that a dying mule always kicks the hardest. Our work continues: we must work together for a Third Reconstruction in America.
On other fronts of resistance, a coalition of “water protectors” consisting of 200 American Indian tribes garnered the support of 500 interfaith clergy, 3000 military veterans, countless environmentalists, and a host elder statespersons and Hollywood celebrities toward successfully blocking a $3.8 billion dollar oil pipeline in South Dakota, which would have destroyed sacred burial grounds, and quite likely, the Missouri River.
Too this, Senator Elizabeth Warren is as fiery as ever, having already warned Trump not to cut Medicare and Medicade. And Senator Bernie Sanders continues to act as a major agent of progressive change. He has a new book out, entitled Our Revolution: A Future to Believe In, and while talking about his book on December 2nd, Sanders spoke at the University of California – Berkeley saying there will be “no compromise” on bigotry, climate change and democracy.
No rolling over and playing dead, or giving up and giving in, seems to be the message a large representative swath of the public is sending to the coming Trump Administration. For it appears, as Harry Belefonte stated in a forum with Noam Chomsky on December 7th: There’s some ass kicking out here to be done. And we should do it.