Category Archives: Racism

 “Child Actorvism” and the Extinction Agenda of Neoliberal Racists

There is no shortage of social justice causes trumpeted by the West† with a revolving medley of “child actorvists” at the forefront. The logical observer may question whether these endless multi-billion dollar campaigns have had any tangible effect at all, except in serving as a stalking horse for mass-mediated interferences in the affairs of other nations.

Whether it is about immigration, education or the whitewashing of terrorists, they are there, ready with their scripted messages. The latest sensation happens to be Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg who is trying to save humanity from an environmental apocalypse by playing truant from school.  Manufactured doyens, however, conveniently overlook real progress in the activist areas they were groomed for, revealing a strong pattern of bias in the process.

On Friday Aug 9 2019, more than a million Indians planted 220 million trees in a single day, with each tree representing a resident of the state of Uttar Pradesh (UP).  According to state government official Awanish K. Awasthi: “The pits are geo-tagged and the saplings carry a QR code. So we can record how many saplings are planted and where.” The BBC had earlier cast doubts on whether Ethiopia had actually planted 350 million trees in July due to the lack of a verification mechanism.

This was not India’s first afforestation feat. In 2016, nearly 800,000 volunteers in UP planted 50 million trees in a single day while a year later, 66 million saplings were embedded in just 12 hours by volunteers in neighbouring Madhya Pradesh.

India has targeted a total forest cover comprising 33 percent of its landmass by 2030.  While this initiative was launched under the general rubric of climate change, there were more immediate issues at stake.  The spectres of desertification and groundwater depletion were enough to mobilize ordinary Indians into action.

The sheer design, organization and coordination involved in the Indian undertaking may be studied for years to come. Once verified, the afforestation model can be adapted in fields ranging from big data, artificial intelligence, sharing economy to contingency planning.  A somewhat similar mobilization model was employed when Cyclone Fani hit eastern India during the first days of May. As The Conversation reported on May 13:

A record 1.2 million people (equal to the population of Mauritius) were evacuated in less than 48 hours, and almost 7,000 kitchens, catering to 9,000 shelters, were made functional overnight. This mammoth exercise involved more than 45,000 volunteers.

After studying the grim statistics for Hurricane Maria (Puerto Rico, US; 2017), Hurricane Harvey (Texas, US; 2017) and Cyclone Idai (Mozambique, Madagascar, Malawi and Zimbabwe; 2019), the authors concluded that the “world can learn from” from the Indian experience.

Yet, the momentary fascination with India’s mass mobilization skills dissipated just as quickly as the storm itself. The global risk researcher, stupefied by hours of BBC programming, was left to wonder: Where are those follow-up in-depth analyses? How come the world only came to know of India’s recent tree-planting milestone through a brief Associated Press report? Isn’t climate change the dernier cri?

One could excuse the BBC for disregarding Uttar Pradesh’s greening exploits as it was too busy fabricating videos on “large-scale protests” in Kashmir alongside usual suspects like Al Jazeera and Reuters. Even Malala Yousafzai stepped forward to test the waters, only to be summarily rebuffed.

There may be other reasons behind the neoliberal media’s indifference here. Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath had earlier committed the cardinal sin of renaming the city of Allahabad as Prayagraj. This is a complete no-no in a West that inevitably sides with militant Islam. Take a look at Serbia, Syria, Libya and Myanmar, amongst numerous other examples. Additionally, India’s afforestation campaign (2016 to 2030) was being undertaken outside the ambit of parasitic Western NGOs at a paltry outlay of $6 billion. India was showing the way in cost savings and volunteer-based sustainability, without the need for star-studded events that child actorvism thrives on.

Neoliberal Selectivity

New Delhi’s indigenous efforts since 2015 were therefore deemed unsatisfactory by Extinction Rebellion superstar Thunberg.  She pilloried India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a February 2019 video post:

Dear Mr Modi, you need to take action now against the climate crisis, not just talking about it because if you keep going on like this, doing business as usual, and just talking about and bragging about the little victories, you are going to fail. And if you fail, you are going to be seen as one of the worst villains in human history in the future. And you don’t want that. (Emphasis added).

Do not seek a scintilla of sanity in the outburst above. Instead, note the timing:  It was posted during the run-up to the April-May 2019 Indian general elections where Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won by a landslide victory, surpassing expectations thanks to neoliberal hissy-fits typified by the likes of Thunberg.

Does Thunberg consider the planting of 50, 66 and 220 million trees overnight – involving schoolchildren no less – as one of those insignificant “little victories”? Who is doing the talking and bragging and who is doing the actual planting here? One of India’s other “little victories” was in lifting 271 million people – numbering more than half the EU population – out of poverty in a mere 10 years.

If Thunberg’s views aren’t reflective of Western neoliberal racism, tell me what is? Here is where racial supremacist undercurrents are cleverly masked by the clarion call of “social justice”. Nothing non-Westerners do is good enough unless it involves and profits vested Western interests. Neoliberals and their neoconservative cousins feel they are entitled to run the affairs of other nations. If the line is not toed, an army of “child actorvists” are ready to selectively name and shame national leaders. How is this different from the use of child soldiers and human shields by an assortment of violent thugs and jihadis? And much like jihadis, a false flag calamity inflicted on a child actorvist would reap international sympathy for the “cause”, would it not? We shall see what the future holds…

Quite tellingly, when it comes to the question of extinction, French-Lebanese author Amin Maalouf sums up the prevalent Western hypocrisy perfectly: “Threats to pandas cause more emotion than threats to the extinction of Christians in the Middle East”. Another child actorvist, Bana Alabed, has been roped in to hasten that particular genocide.

The Incurably Colonized

Instead of India’s Modi, Thunberg could have trained her guns on Southeast Asian politicians for allowing the West to dump millions of tons of highly-toxic trash throughout the region. (India had another “little victory” by banning them). It cannot get more pathetic than Pakistani garbage appearing in an illegal Malaysian dumpsite! Is Thunberg really as environmentally literate as she claims to be?  The organized crime networks involved in the regional garbage racket are also into money laundering, smuggling, organ harvesting and human trafficking.

Neoliberals and neoconservatives, however, have a soft spot for Southeast Asia (sans Mynamar) for a good reason: Its leaders and societies have an incurable inferiority complex towards all things Western, rendering them supine and receptive to machinations from the other side of the world. The region hosts innumerable Western-backed NGOs and affiliates whose sole role is to disrupt and shape the local political process. That is, when they are not discriminating against native talent, native ideas and native solutions. For a region that has had several developmental head-starts over India, Southeast Asia has yet to produce world-class scientists, innovators and products of any import, making it easy for West to offer their “expertise” and goods at huge costs. The media in “Asian values” bastions like Malaysia and Singapore are more likely to celebrate Thunberg’s theatrics than investigate real Asian success stories.

Just like neoconservatism, neoliberalism neatly divides the world along classic colonial lines. Can George Soros and his neoliberal backers claim a single success story from the countless “social justice” agitprops unleashed worldwide? Instead, such interventions have left behind a string of broken, emasculated and dysfunctional societies. Women and children are the biggest victims here. One could also include Thunberg’s Sweden in the list of nations facing a surge in sexual violence against women and children. Swedish schools are no longer safe and somehow no child activist has emerged to publicize this highly-proximate issue. †† What is the celebrated “female education activist” Malala Yousafzai actually doing?

Redundant Societies

The idea that the East and West can cooperate, compliment and compete on an equal footing is an anathema to neoliberal and neoconservative minds. It is in “redundant societies” however where neoliberals find the most fertile ground for its destructive agendas. Redundant societies are ones the world would scarcely miss in case its populations were magically rendered extinct overnight – short-term raw material and supply chain disruptions notwithstanding. Is that the core idea behind Extinction Rebellion? Fewer humans are great for the environment, no?

A nation less contaminated by the neoliberal agenda is a nation poised for growth and technical breakthroughs.  Look at the world around us: the relatively nationalistic South Korea, Japan, China and India (the “effective Asia”), Israel, Russia, and Eastern Europe are already challenging the West’s dominance in many critical areas. Even Iran is not doing too badly considering the circumstances.

In the meantime, one hopes that Thunberg will encounter flotsams of plastic as she yachts towards the upcoming UN powwow in New York. If so, these may turn out to be trash that were supposedly repatriated by Southeast Asian nations but which were dumped en route by ships. To avoid “baseless allegations” like these, Thunberg could try some real environmental work by researching, tabulating and verifying claims that all repatriated trash had indeed reached their destinations in toto, as claimed. Maybe, this is a task too arduous for Thunberg. Let’s leave such little details to an Indian schoolgirl’s future dissertation, shall we? After all, she would have literally had her hands soiled in planting the future while others talked the big talk at big money events.

† The author defines the West as nations west of the Metternich line in Europe as well as the Anglo-American world, including geographically-dispersed nations such as Canada, Australia and New Zealand. It does not refer to European Civilization.

†† Anyone researching this topic should scrupulously avoid Google.

Manifestos of Hate: What White Terrorists Have in Common

Writing under the title of “If the El Paso shooter had been Muslim”, Moustafa Bayoumi stated the obvious.

“If the El Paso shooter had been a Muslim,” Bayoumi wrote in the British Guardian newspaper on August 6, US President Donald Trump “would be lobbing accusations such as ‘Islam hates us’ in the direction of Muslims and not lecturing the public about video games.”

Bayoumi was referring to the double standards that define much of western official and media discourses regarding violence. When the alleged perpetrator of violence is a Muslim, then the case becomes a matter of national security and is categorically dealt with as an act of terrorism. When the perpetrator is a white male, however, it is a whole different story.

On August 3, 21-year-old Patrick Crusius carried out a mass shooting in a Wal-mart store in El Paso, Texas, killing 22 innocent people.

Neither US authorities nor media used the term “terrorism” in describing the heinous act. Instead, the Justice Department is “seriously considering” bringing federal hate crime charges against the killer, CNN reported.

On the other hand, Trump reasoned that “mental illness and hatred pull the trigger, not the gun,” in another attempt at whitewashing violent crimes by white individuals.

The “mental illness” explanation, in particular, has served as the convenient rationale for all similar violence.

For example, when 28-year-old Ilan Long opened fire on college students in Thousand Oaks, California, in November 2018, killing 12 people, Trump offered this logic. “He was a very, very mentally ill person,” he said, referring to Long. “He’s a very sick — well, it’s a mental health problem. He is a very sick puppy. He was a very, very sick guy.”

The mental illness argument was infused repeatedly, including last March, when Brenton Tarrant opened fire on Muslim worshippers in Christchurch, New Zealand, killing 51 people.

“I think it’s a small group of people that have very, very serious problems,” Trump said of Tarrant’s anti-Muslim terrorist attack.

Compare this to Trump’s response to the killing of 14 people in San Bernardino, California, which was blamed on two Muslims. Trump immediately assigned the word “terrorism” to the violent act, while calling for a “total and complete shutdown” of the entry of Muslims to the United States, “until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on”.

But we do, in fact, know “what is going on”, a truth that goes beyond the typical western double standards. Crusius, Tarrant and many such white terrorists are connected through a deep bond that exceeds the supposed claim of mental illness into something truly sinister.

These individuals are all part of a larger phenomenon, an amalgamation of various ultra-nationalist governments, political movements and groups all around the world, all united by their hate for immigrants, refugees and Muslims.

Crusius and Tarrant were not “lone wolf” terrorists, as some would want us to believe. Even if they were single-handedly responsible for the mass murder of those innocent people, they are members of a large, ideological, militant network that is dedicated to spreading hate and racism, one which sees immigrants — especially Muslims — as “invaders”.

In his “manifesto”, a 74-page document that he posted online shortly before he carried out his heinous act, Tarrant references the far-right, the racist ideologues who inspired him, along with fellow “ethno-soldiers” — like-minded murderers who committed equally horrific acts against civilians.

It was not by accident that Tarrant named his document the “Great Replacement”, as it was framed after a similarly named conspiracy theory made popular by a strong Israel supporter, Renaud Camus.

Camus is an infamous French writer whose “Le Grand Remplacement”, an even more extreme interpretation of Francis Fukuyama’s Clash of Civilizations, envisages a global conflict that sees Muslims as the new enemy.

The Great Replacement, along with other such literature widely popular among the far right, represents the ideological foundation for the, until recently, disorganized and disconnected efforts by various ultra-nationalist movements around the world, all united in their desire to address the “Muslim invasion”.

The common thread between violent white males who commit mass killings is obvious: a deep indoctrination of racism, anti-immigrant sentiment and hate for Muslims. Like Tarrant, Crusius also left his own manifesto, one that is, according to CNN, “filled with white nationalist and racist hatred toward immigrants and Hispanics, blaming immigrants and first-generation Americans for taking away jobs and the blending of cultures in the US”.

Moreover, both seemed to subscribe to the same intellectual discourse, as they had posted links to a 16,000-word document on Twitter and 8chan that was “filled with anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim sentiments”.

“The writer of the document linked to the El Paso suspect expressed support for the shootings of two mosques in Christchurch,” CNN also reported.

White militants are gripped by the groundless fear that they are being “replaced”. “Great Replacement” promoters argue that Islam and the Islamic civilization are “ethnically replacing” other races, and that such a supposed phenomenon must be stopped, using violent means if necessary. Unsurprisingly, they see Israel as a model country that is succeeding in fighting against the “Muslim menace”.

What makes violent white supremacists even more dangerous is the fact that they now have friends in high places. Trump’s refusal to address the issue of white nationalist militancy in a serious way is no accident. But the American president is not alone. The rising star of Italian politics, Matteo Salvini, for example, has a great deal of sympathy for such movements. Following the Christchurch massacre, the Italian defense minister refused to condemn white extremists. Instead, he said: “The only extremism which should be carefully addressed is the Islamic one.”

The list of far-right ideologues and their benefactors is long and constantly expanding. But their hate-filled speech and disturbing “theories”, along with their fascination with Israeli violence and racism, would have been assigned to the bins of history if it were not for the high price of violence that is now associated with this movement.

Our understanding of white nationalist violence should move beyond the double-standard argument into a more wholesome analysis of the ideological links that tie these individuals and groups together. In the final analysis, no form of violence targeting innocent people should be justified or tolerated, regardless of the skin color, religion or identity of the perpetrators.

Fetishisizing White Supremacy

“White Supremacy” has captured the nation’s attention. On August 3, a white supremacist mass shooter left 22 dead in El Paso. On Wednesday August 7, presidential candidates Joe Biden and Corey Booker made speeches referencing White Supremacy. That same day, Fox host Tucker Carlson announced he is ‘going on vacation,’ after claiming that White Supremacy is not an issue. Across the mediascape, White Supremacy and its role in American society is being interrogated – what is it and what are we supposed to do about it?

Despite the apparent diversity of responses to these shootings that recur with “chilling regularity” to quote Cory Booker, responses across the political spectrum from Democrat to Republican share fundamental assumptions rooted in White Supremacy. Is it possible that the responses by Cory Booker and Joe Biden meant as critiques of white supremacist violence are invested in a logic that retrenches it? Is their very definition of ‘White Supremacy” itself an obfuscation which aligns them with Tucker Carlson?

In fetishistic disavowal, one comes to assert the part for the whole. Perhaps the whole is too traumatic to internalize, or too complicated to make sense of. A psychologically digestible portion of a phenomenon is apprehended, and comes to stand in for the thing in its entirety. That which is not apprehended is disavowed – driven outside of discourse and of comprehension.

This article proceeds from the definition of White Supremacy as the organizing logic and fundamental structuring principle of the U.S. social formation. Examples run from the annihilation of the indigenous population and the chattelization of millions of Africans, through wars of territorial expansion, racial lynching, anti-miscegenation law, and Jim Crow. Despite a hegemonic ‘color-blind’ ideology that sees U.S. society as transcending its history of racial despotism, there has been no break and no ‘outside-of’ White Supremacy.

Racism, according to Ruth Wilson Gilmore, is “the state-sanctioned or extralegal production and exploitation of group-differentiated vulnerability to premature death.” The United States is a hierarchically organized racial state with whiteness as its privileged category and black and brown populations historically and contemporaneously subjected to “premature death.”

Across any register of social well-being – access to housing, health care, wealth, educational access and employment, whites do better than people of color. Black and brown populations are also subject to a monstrous racialized social control apparatus in the prison regime, which employs extrajudicial street execution, community destruction, and renders black and brown bodies to pieces through tortuous technologies of isolation, physical brutality and disappearance.

White supremacy is the everyday. It is our common sense. When we ‘see race,’ that’s White Supremacy at work. It is to quote Omi and Winant our ‘master category’ that renders legible the US social formation, and is constitutive of our very identities as subjects.

Progressive Corey Booker, centrist Joe Biden and conservative Tucker Carlson, in their elaborations of White Supremacy, have deployed a series of fetishistic disavowals – a linking of the signifier “White Supremacy” with a particular circumscribed meaning. Through fetishistic disavowal these entirely despicable actions, these white nationalist shootings, and the white nationalist spaces from which they emerge come to stand in for White Supremacy in its entirety. The part stands in for the whole and the whole recedes from comprehensibility. White Supremacy is much bigger than these shootings, of which they are a symptom. Not just white nationalist extremists perpetuate it. “Good” liberals do too. The ‘normalcy’ that democrats wish to return to is always-already saturated in White Supremacy.

The Ignorant

“If you were to assemble a list, a hierarchy of concerns of problems this country faces, where would white supremacy be on the list? …It’s actually not a real problem in America. The combined membership of every white supremacist organization in this country would be able to fit inside a college football stadium.”

Tucker Carlson defined White Supremacy as ‘white supremacist organizations” and their members. White supremacy is a fringe ideology, numerically negligible – surely not the ‘problem’ democrats make it out to be.

The Real of White Supremacy as organizing principle is disavowed. Access to education, health care, or subjection to racialized social control through the carceral – questions of housing discrimination, the wealth gap, and access to employment become unthinkable. Carlson’s definition fetishizes white nationalist organizations as the whole.

As awful as they are, they are a small and symptomatic part. If they were all rounded up in Carlson’s football stadium and given the Pinochet treatment, the fundamental structuration of US society as White Supremacist would remain.

The Absurd

Joe Biden gave the best performance of his presidential run in his speech in Iowa on August 7. His speech has been praised as a “blistering” rebuke of the President, who is “fanning the flames of white supremacy.”

“…the president has fanned the flames of white supremacy in this nation. … an energetic embrace of this president by the darkest hearts and most hate-filled minds in this country say it all. When the white nationalist Richard Spencer celebrated Trump’s election by declaring, “hail Trump” at an alt-right conference where the Nazi salute was being used. In Charlottesville, David Duke, the former leader of the KKK said, “This is why we voted for Donald Trump, because he said he’s going to take back the country.”

Joe Biden articulates White Supremacy as the nexus between Donald Trump and the ‘darkest hearts and hate-filled minds’ of Richard Spencer, David Duke, the KKK, Neo-Nazis, and the Alt-Right. Joe Biden is correct that these are some awful people. But nevertheless, they are not the entirety of White Supremacy. In fact, hate is not White Supremacy’s animating principle. White supremacy can function with general positive regard.

White Supremacy does not depend on hate because it is not in individual attitudes, but the social structure. Hate does not deny housing loans, nor does it deny people of color access to health insurance. Judges are not handing out disproportionate sentences to black and brown youth because they are hateful. They do it because it’s written in law. Laws like the 1994 crime bill.

Hence, we arrive at the utterly surreal and Orwellian absurdity that Joe Biden, a chief architect of the most powerful White Supremacist social control apparatus in the modern period, mass incarceration, grandstands as a champion in the struggle against White Supremacy. Through collapsing its definition to equate with the Alt-right and white nationalists, a discursive space is opened in which a chief architect of institutional White Supremacy postures as its nemesis.

Reading Carlson’s and Biden’s statements together, something else becomes apparent. Though they disagree on whether White Supremacy is a problem, they fundamentally share its definition. Although these shootings are reprehensible and we should do all we can to contain and to eliminate them, doing so will not eradicate White Supremacy.

Through fetishistically disavowing the scale of White Supremacy, both Tucker Carlson and Joe Biden adopt ideological positions firmly ensconced within White Supremacy as organizing principle. That’s how master categories work.

The Cynical

Cory Booker’s speech at Emanuel AME church where 9 black people were killed by a white mass shooter in 2015 was a rhetorically brilliant performance within a powerful setting.

Unlike Biden and Carlson he recognized White Supremacy as a structuring principle of the United States, an act of ‘profound contradiction.’ “White Supremacy” and “racist violence has always been a part of this American story.”

He spoke of mass incarceration as disproportionately affecting black and brown people, unjust immigration policies, and racialized access to health care. Unlike Carlson and Biden, he spoke of White Supremacy as embedded in institutions.

He spoke of revolutionary love and struggle and cited the great social movements of American history – abolitionists, labor, the women’s movement, and the civil rights campaign and wrapped his speech with a reference to Martin Luther King, Jr.’s ‘dream’ speech.

So what’s the problem?

Much has been made of Joe Biden’s ‘slip’ of the tongue the day after his Iowa speech in which he said ‘poor kids are just as smart as white kids.’ According to Freud and Lacan, slips of the tongue betray the ‘truth of the subject’ – the underlying stream of thought below consciousness that is being repressed during enunciation.

Another slip of the tongue that is just as “interesting” was made by Cory Booker during his Emmanuel AME speech.

“We must label (slip) to do the… we must labor (correction) to do the difficult, we must be freedom fighters, we must stand together, and work together and struggle together for a new American freedom in our generation. Freedom from fear, freedom from violence, freedom from hatred… freedom to dream America new again.”

What could this slip “mean?” What repressed truth is spoken here? That Booker, through reciting the long history of struggle in this country wants to link himself with these movements. He wants the label.

He wants to be thought of as an extension of their symbolic legacy. He wants to be labeled a “ freedom warrior.” He wants to distance himself from other democratic contenders by capturing the legacy of movements. But the utterance of “label” in the place of “labor” signifies another truth – on some level he unconsciously recognizes the disparity between what he is proposing be done and the legacy he cites.

“The real question is, do racism or white supremacy exist? If the answer is yes then the real question is who is or isn’t doing something about it.”

What does Cory Booker want to do to engage the long and sordid history of White Supremacy as organizing principle?

“We must require the Department of justice, homeland security and the F.B.I. to conduct assessments of the domestic terrorist threats that are posed by white supremacists, to take this more seriously, to act on the threat and to publicly and transparently report annually to congress and the public on these threats…”

Booker’s Fetishistic disavowal works through the policies that he proposes, by targeting these groups as the sole actionable object towards remediating White Supremacy. Booker knows the legacy of movements towards justice and cynically articulates this legacy and their struggles against systemic White Supremacy with a policy platform that, by targeting white nationalism exclusively as the site of White Supremacy, re-inscribes its definition in exactly parallel ways to Tucker Carlson and Joe Biden.

Since when did ‘freedom fighting’ and ‘struggling together’ mean fighting to have the FBI make annual reports to congress?

His ‘do something,’ his ideological extension of the legacy of social movements harkening back to MLK is to strengthen and rely on the FBI, the same FBI that labels “Black Identity extremists” a top terror threat. Anyone familiar with the long legacy of the FBI’s repression of movements towards justice should shudder at the thought.

For as with Biden, this is great policy for repressing this paroxysmal violence. But it doesn’t do anything to challenge White Supremacy proper.

Restricting access to weapons that belong on battlefields, and labeling white nationalist violence as terroristic and loosing the surveillance state will suppress the symptomology of White Supremacy. But holding this symptom suppression up as a cure is fetishistic disavowal, if not outright cynicism. For with all his recitation of the legacy of freedom fighting, how is his ‘do something’ any different than what any other democrat would do?

White Supremacy is in the news. And we have seen three different mainstream political responses from the so-called ‘progressive’ Booker, centrist Joe Biden, to the conservative Carlson. These positions are, respectively, the cynical, the absurd, and the violently ignorant. And they are all so deep in the waters of White Supremacy that they don’t know what wet is.

MSNBC and the Next Election: Racism is the Issue

After Donald Trump unexpectedly won the 2016 election, the Democrats and the mainstream media they shape sought to explain the disaster as a result of Russian meddling. Such meddling, which had been alleged for months, was documented in an (unconvincing) intelligence report prepared by the lame-duck Obama administration, made public Jan. 6, 2017; Congress followed up, demanding the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate Russian interference and possible collusion between any Russians and the Trump team. After two years the report concluded that there was no evidence of collusion, causing many downcast looks among news anchors reporting the bad news. Suddenly Trump’s impeachment–for which the MSNBC and CNN anchors openly cheer–looked less likely.

I for my part was happy to see closure to the Russiagate farce. (If in fact that has happened. Some seem hell-bent on never letting it die.) It was all along an opportunistic application of Cold War Russophobia to the effort to topple Trump. It had been painful to watch so many Democrat Party shills, including progressive African-American women, railing about Russian interference in “our” elections as though this had truly happened, was an “attack on our country” and had brought Trump to power! Nonsense.

We hear little lately about Trump and the Russian connection; it’s now all about Trump and the people of this country. The current case for impeachment rests on Trump’s racism (now routinely referred to by reporters, matter of factly, in their “objective” news reporting), his divisiveness, his spreading of hate. This racist category pertains to Trump’s cruel treatment of immigrants, his fear-mongering about an “invasion,” his targeting of African-American critics, his declared “nationalism,” his dog-whistle appeals to the white nationalists, etc. Trump has been accused of racism for years but never so routinely, journalistically.

The solution to Trump? The most conservative Democratic presidential candidate, Joe Biden, who claims he’s the best option to defeat the racist, polarizing president and bring people together again. Credit Card Joe is surely Wall Street’s pick, and he’s the apparent favorite of the DNC. (Biden presided over the gay wedding in May 2017 of DNC treasurer Henry R. Munoz III.) He preaches a return to normalcy, declaring that if Trump has one term, it will call the Trump era something that will “go down as an aberration, an anomaly. But eight years will fundamentally change the nature of who we are.” So let’s avert disaster, and return to the responsible government we enjoyed in the Obama-Biden period!

The Democratic Party has long been the more anti-racist party, championing civil rights laws, recruiting people of color. It has become increasingly the party of identity politics, sometimes at the expense of progressive economic politics. It radiates pride in its promotion of racial and gender equality, just as the Republicans project pride in their promotion of a traditional white-dominated America based on love of God and country.

Targeting Trump as a racist makes sense, of course, it being the truth. He is not one of the most egregious type of racists, overtly embracing a Nazi-like ideology. But he has discriminated against African-Americans in his real estate businesses, used the n-word, questioned a Hispanic judge’s objectivity in handing a case involving himself, praised “both sides” in Charlottesville, used highly offensive language in tweets attacking women of color. He himself of course has said repeatedly that he is “the least racist person on earth,” while (in his usual “counterpunch”) accusing Rev. Al Sharpton of being (presumably anti-white) racist. He is too old, too disconnected, too surrounded by racist strategists, too insensitive to see the racism in himself.

The question is: if Trump’s racism (as opposed to the now-discredited Russian ties, or other issues including his wreaking destruction on the world economy; dangerous foreign policies implemented by a gutted, understaffed State Department; manifestations of mental illness) becomes the key charge, whether in the impeachment hearings more and more Democrats crave, and/or in the election next year, how will Trump’s forces react?

One imagines the Trump supporters include self-defining, proud racists, white supremacists. But surely most would deny being racist, and probably argue that Trump’s tweets if sometimes over the top aren’t racist either. We’re talking about maybe more than half the white population. (Trump won 58% of white non-Hispanic votes in 2016.) Polls do not indicate that Trump’s base is dissipating; they have not been so dismayed by his racist words and policies that they would abandon him.

We thus have a society more polarized than ever in recent history on matters of race. At least a third of the people are comfortable with Trump’s characterizations of Muslims and Mexicans. Decades of work by progressive and radical left groups has produced landmark legislation and considerable positive social change. But part of the country has either been unmoved by all this, or rejected it in part; white fear of blacks and Hispanics advancing at their expense, or acquiring to much influence in popular culture, remains a powerful political phenomenon. White supremacist groups seem to be growing.

*****

I see MSNBC has become positively hostile to Bernie Sanders, absurdly comparing him to Trump as a populist appealing to the alienated with vague proposals for change, notably universal health care, which the anchors pooh-pooh as unrealistic. They keep repeating that Bernie has been dropping in the polls without mentioning how they are doing their best to make that happen. By rooting for Biden in general, but also Warren, Harris, and Buttigieg, as acceptable alternatives to Biden. But not Bernie.

MSNBC was instrumental in getting Trump the Republican nomination. Joe and Mika treated their friend with kid-gloves in 2015, perhaps hoping with John Podesta, whom we know from a leaked memo wanted Trump or Carver to get the nomination (as an easy defeat). MSNBC and CNN both favored Hillary Clinton all along during her campaign and worked both to limit Sanders’ exposure and to dismiss him as a mere hero to quixotic youth.

MSNBC repeatedly denounces “socialism” in principle, in general, treating the very word and concept as “toxic.” (MSNBC is one big advertisement for the conclusion that, goddam it, kids, socialism is dead!)

But racism is alive, and Trump is the Racist-in-Chief! So vote for someone who can win against him! That means maximum outrage at Trump and his tweets, minimal attention to the capitalism he personifies. Anybody who can defeat Trump! Danny Deutsch, host of an MSNBC program, “marketing professional” and political commentator in Morning Joe, has actually said on air that he would vote for Trump over Sanders. Capitalism over socialism, even bogus-socialism. Don’t even use the word, he says.

But, whatever the DNC thinks, capitalism is in fact the central issue, and those who understand this, and understand the need for some form of socialism, should not shut up in deference to capitalist propagandists like Deutsch and the whole MSNBC crew that reflects its advertisers’ ruling-class ideology. How could it be otherwise?

Just as the workers of the world have no country, we in this country have no anti-capitalist party poised anywhere close to a seizure of power. We have the two-party capitalist rot, with the party in power increasingly (if not quite) fascistic, the other evermore politically correct and rooted in identity politics but loath to take on Wall Street or even discuss the real problems.

“Don’t be silly,” laughed DNC head Debbie Wassermann-Schultz in 2016, as Bernie won primary after primary. “Bernie will never win.” How silly to think MSNBC would now give respectful treatment to Sanders.

Let pompous Joe pontificate and mild Mika mumble sweet encouragement as they both try to impose Biden on the people. Assuring us he’s still favored in the polls. Glossing over his gaffes. Doing for Biden what they did for Clinton, this time working to end the anomaly and restore–what?–law and order? Biden and Harris both have strong records on that.

Bodies on The Ground And The Rise And Rise Of The Economic Elite

The US is less of a nation than a collective, psychotic episode.

Within day to day life in the nation, a cultural aura exists that shifts, mingles, and merges between a sense of nervous agitation and displaced rage, in combination with a sense of weightlessness. The fragmented quality of daily life imparts an insubstantial, unreal quality wherein the citizenry of the capitalist/consumer empire of hungry ghosts drift through a nadascape comprised of ad hoc, fast-buck-driven, suburban/exburban architecture and the ersatz eros of constant, consumer come-ons.

Yet beneath the nebulous dread and nettling angst of it all, there exists the primal human imperative for connection and social communion; i.e., authentic eros. The most lost among the lost in the ghostsphere of the collective mind attempt to animate the realm of shades with libations of blood. The gods of the capitalist death cult demand no less.

Where does an impulse to possess an unlimited number of firearms fit into the scheme of things? A firearm’s heft, for one. The weapon feel substantial when held and hoisted thus serves, provisionally, to mitigate a psychical sense of weightlessness. The act of engagement eases nervous agitation. Guns reality is antithetically to the weightless content of media reality. Focus is achieved when one aligns the weapon’s site to a target. Nebulous dread transforms into adamantine purpose. The presence of an Angel Of Death will focus the mind. The ground, for the moment, feels solid beneath one’s feet. Hence, there arrives a craving, in the sense of addiction, to hoard the object that provides relief; in addition, massive quantities of ammunition must be stored as emotional ballast. The mystifying, rankling, uncontrollable criteria of this weightless Age and the white noise of uncertainty seem to yield to the clear and decisive crack of a rifle shot. Relief is imagined in the concomitant carnage. Rebecca West captures the phenomenon in prose:

Only part of us is sane: only part of us loves pleasure and the longer day of happiness, wants to live to our nineties and die in peace, in a house that we built, that shall shelter those who come after us. The other half of us is nearly mad. It prefers the disagreeable to the agreeable, loves pain and its darker night despair, and wants to die in a catastrophe that will set back life to its beginnings and leave nothing of our house save its blackened foundations.

― Rebecca West, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, 1941

Because we, on a personal level, in most cases, choose the primary option, our hidden, shadow half will live out the latter on a collective basis. During the blood lust on display at Trump rallies, the mob finds a collective comfort zone in catastrophic longings. The domestic landscape of paranoia works in behalf of the profiteers of perpetual war, perpetrators of the U.S.-created deathscapes overseas, and vice versa, in a self-resonating feedback loop of carnage.

In our era, in which the US empire is in decline, as a consequence the White supremacist order no longer seems inevitable, Trump’s frightened legions have personalised the decline. In their gut, they feel as if their identity is under siege. Seal off the nation’s borders. Construct an unscalable wall. Create a cordon sanitaire to protect and preserve racial purity. A strong authority figure is craved in order to set the world back in order. The phenomenon could be termed, Authoritarian Simpatico Syndrome (ASS) — a pathology manifested in personality types who have been traumatized by the authoritarianism of the US socio-political milieu but who seek to assuage their hurt and humiliation by identification with the very forces responsible for their torment.. The stuff of a cultural nervous breakdown.

To that end, according to its own laws, the nation’s citizenry, sufferers of mental distress, should be restricted from purchasing a gun. Yet without a doubt, the most disturbed of all are the nation’s political class, those responsible for gun legislation. There is compelling evidence that they present a clear and present danger to themselves and others. The political class is a menace to society; they make decisions, more often than not, based on delusional thinking, that are responsible for harm on a massive scale. Thus they should be subject to institutional-style restraint, within the confines of the most heavily secure, lockdown ward in an asylum for the criminally insane.

Although the so-called mentally ill, as a rule, are not any more inclined to commit violent crimes than are the general population of capitalist dystopias. The US nation was founded in genocidal violence and the fortunes of its ruling class are protected by the state sanctioned violence of the police and are bloated by the violence inherent to imperialist shakedown operations.

It comes down to this: In our emotionally brutal era, those deemed mentally ill are suffering from capitalism. The pummelling stress and boot-in-the-face, hierarchy-inflicted humiliations inherent to the system inflict trauma on large swathes of the citizenry.

Epidemic levels of middle age, US citizens are dying with needles in their arms. The inherent and internalised White supremacy of the societal order has been exacerbated by Trump’s self-serving, reckless agitprop and acts in a drug-like manner causing dopamine levels to rise in those experiencing emotional torment due to humiliation-caused despair. Demagogues such as Trump are aware and exploit the manner despair can be palliatively mitigated by the emotional displacement of rage.

Fascist insignias rise when the hopes and aspirations of the working class lay shattered across a capitalist economic wasteland. Hoisted torches provide the illusion that dark despair has been banished. The fascist mob becomes possessed by a belief that they, en masse, can ascend into the precincts of heaven by scaling a mountain of corpses comprised of outsider groups.

Fascism not only acts as anaesthetic to the wounds delivered by capitalism, it is a psychoactive drug because incantatory rhetoric and imagist psychical material get those susceptible to its crude allure high.

Capitalism is borne on manic wings. The economic elite move from corporate skyscrapers and high rise rooftops in order to travel by helicopter, where upon landing, they board private, luxury jets, then, whereupon landing again, they are transported by helicopter to corporate skyscrapers and high rise rooftops. Touching the earth is a fleeting experience. The ruling class have lost touch with ground level verities. In a classical sense, such displays of hubris were understood as the progenitor of madness. The gods first elevate those they drive mad.

And, yes, race-based fears and animus are in play. Racism engendered mass murder has been coming to pass since armed Europeans trudged ashore in the Americas, with their blood-sodden religion and their murderous craving for gold and land. Of course, the racist demagoguery of the Bloated Orange Tub Of Nazi Goo oozing into and agitating the limbic systems of violent cretins during homegrown Nuremberg Rallies and his compulsion to blitzkrieg the pixel-sphere with Der Stürmer tweets is fomenting racist mayhem that includes bacchanals of blood. US mythos is rancid with the reek of the corpses of the innocent slaughtered by White men brandishing firearms. Mass murderers have been and continue to be enshrined as heroes, from Wounded Knee to Afghanistan.

The nation was established by gun-enabled genocide and the intimidation of African slaves held at gunpoint on capitalist plantations. The truth has never been faced; e.g., the suppression of the Nixon tape in which Ronald Reagan displayed his racist mindset.

The US citizenry thanks the soldiers of its racist wars of aggression for their “service.” Perpetual shooting sprees origins can be traced to the heart of darkness of the nation and its concomitant White supremacist creed. The killings happened long before the rise and election of the Tangerine Tweet Führer. Of course, the racist shit-heel Trump has exacerbated the situation. He deserves all scorn cast his way. It is obvious his capacity for malice does not possess a governor’s switch.

Trump is a two-legged emblem of the hypertrophy at play in late US imperium. Gun-inflicted violence is steeped into the blood-stained fabric of the US (sham) republic. Withal, Trump is not an anomaly; he is an emblem. Gun-strokers are no more going to shed their mythos than liberals and progressives are going to shed theirs that the US is a democratic republic, governed by the rule of law, and progressive reforms will be implemented by its High Dollar owned and controlled political class that will serve to turn around the trajectory of the blood-built and maintained US empire.

A Gory Gift to Trump: A Cruel, Militarized, Expensive, and Decades Old, Bipartisan Border Policy

John Carlos Frey’s Sand and Blood relates the roughly 140-year history of U.S. anti-immigrant racism and policy on the southwest border, and highlights its mostly pre-Trump, bipartisan intensification over the last thirty-odd years. Frey, an American citizen born in Tijuana, Mexico, and raised in San Diego county, did not give the Border Patrol or border policy much thought until one day in 1977, when he was 12. His mother, a green card-holding, legally-residing Mexican American, was arrested walking near her home because a Border Patrol agent did not believe she was legal, nor that she lived nearby. She was deported to Tijuana before her family could do anything. Luckily, they were able to bring her back the next day. The experience encouraged Frey’s outlook to shift from innocent indifference to sober scrutiny, a shift that pushed him to become a leading journalist examining border and immigration policies and attitudes.

Anti-immigrant hate and hysteria in the United States is hardly an unknown matter. However, Frey managed to surprise this reader when he dug up a rather antique, if grotesque case. In 1753, Ben Franklin, sounding Trump-like, but with more august language, worried about what he considered the low-quality Germans entering the country, threatening to destroy our language and even, he must have gasped, our very nation. The expression of such anti-German opinion, however, like other early anti-immigrant expressions, never rose to the fever-pitch fixated on Chinese immigrants. And that is where Frey begins his 140-year history.

In the 1880s, the terrifying immigrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border were desperate Chinese laborers, not Mexicans. Mexicans were crossing, returning, and re-crossing then, but their presence was mostly ignored given that they met the exploitative needs of agricultural interests and, I would guess, American insecurities lay elsewhere. Mexican migrants remained invisible near-slaves—the status of hated-celebrity near-slaves, that would be a future privilege. The 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act barred Chinese laborers from entering the country—belying the sentiments about “huddled masses” and all that, written just a year later and eventually stamped on the base of the Statue of Liberty. The focus of early military patrols along the Mexican border, as early as 1904, remained on Chinese immigrants. However, a shift characterized by increased anti-Mexican attitudes and policies soon began; policies which included such humiliations as daily stripping and delousing of migrant workers, including the spraying of clothes with toxic chemicals during a Typhoid scare.

In 1924, border and immigration policy worsened notably, though it would take decades before it reached the current systematic militarized cruelty aimed overwhelmingly at desperate and poor Central American migrants. That year, the Immigration Act prohibited entry by most Asians entirely (on whom racist hysteria, as noted, was then still fixated) and created a quota system for other immigrants, all on the basis of worries about “American homogeneity” (14)—meaning whiteness, mostly. Additionally, the Labor Appropriations Act established the Border Patrol, the pre-existing body of which was expanded from 75 agents to 450 by the previously-mentioned Act—putting it on its path to its current gargantuan, nearly-20,000-agent size. Still, the Border Patrol was, in the 1920s certainly, mostly absorbed with stemming alcohol smuggling from Canada. And for fifty years, border and immigrant policy remained relatively low key.

Frey says that in the 1970s, border security still appeared mostly a “show for the public” (5) and the border, particularly near San Diego, a tranquil “free zone” (29) where cross-border movement and family contact continued to some extent undisturbed. Politically-powerful business interests focused on maintaining cheap labor sources managed to mute racist and militaristic policies. In the 1980s, however, though the capitalist desire for cheap labor remained, as it does to this day, officials began, largely for “political reasons” (5), to shift the balance toward the racism and militarization. Reagan, though hardly anti-racist, to say the least, sincerely backed the “amnesty” angle of a mid-80s immigration bill, eventually adopted. However, the bill also made life harder and more dangerous for Central American immigrants, including those fulfilling cheap labor needs. In California, Governor Pete Wilson, despite a two-thirds disapproval rating, rode anti-immigrant Proposition 187 to a second term. President Bill Clinton noticed this, apparently, and turned increasingly anti-immigrant. Clinton built on Bush Sr. policies remarkably reminiscent of the suggestions of a hate-group, the moderately-named Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). Clinton even ignored INS and Border Patrol calls for administrative reforms to accelerate legalization and opted instead for an unprecedentedly brutal militarized approach at the border that intentionally funneled migrants into desert death-zones. Presidents Bush Jr. and Obama inherited and continued the policies. 9/11 served the hysteria well, and provided an excuse for the expense and horror, though it did not originate them.

Trump did not bring border policy horror to America, either. He also inherited it. He remains unable to gain any further legal leeway to impose his vision of border policy, reports Frey. Instead, he has taken full advantage of existing laws, while trying often to stretch their applicability (which has meant increased cruelty to migrants). Though he has been “bold and brash” (178) about the policies, and his rhetoric devoid of nuance, his expressions have often merely echoed those of previous politicians, like Bill Clinton. His wall is an impossibility, in part, for the same reason migration is so deadly—the harsh terrain. The default option will remain the militarized crossing places in concert with the death zones. Yet, the impossibility of the wall did not prevent the longest government shutdown in US history, all over funding for the impossible wall—highlighting the political nature of border policy, as the death and cruelty grinds on.


The unfortunate father and daughter depicted in the image above, and how they relate to Frey’s narrative, merit notice. The AP story1 from which it was taken included a graph illustrating death rates at the border over the last twenty years, based on U.S. Customs and Border Patrol stats. These peaked, we are to believe, at nearly 500 in 2005, and again in 2013, before declining to last year’s number, 283. The father and daughter’s deaths occurred on the Mexican side of the border, so the thoroughness of the accounting for their loss of life may be hard to determine. However, a key matter to understand, as Frey tells us, is that the Border Patrol consistently and knowingly undercounts the dead, ignoring the significant numbers of border deaths discovered by others (while also sometimes exaggerating apprehensions). Such policies misinform the public, certainly, obscuring the conscious lethal-desert-method of deterrence, while playing up the apprehension-method. In Vietnam, official body-counts of enemies killed were controversial, but reportedly exaggerated to demonstrate achievement of official goals; body-counters, for bureaucratic reasons, simply double- or triple-counted those dead they found. At the modern U.S.-Mexico border, bodies are undercounted because the understood policy of deterrence by death cannot be broadcast—and so the Border Patrol ignores those dead found by others, dead who thereby do not exist in official counts converted into published graphs like the one accompanying the AP News story.


Frey and I share a birth year (1965), and we both grew up in the American Southwest, giving us a chronological as well as a cultural overlap I appreciate. However, since my entire family is U.S.-born, and because, frankly, we customarily check the ‘white’ box on the decennial census form, Frey’s experiences and mine diverge. Mercifully, the Border Patrol never arrested my mother walking down the street in her neighborhood due simply to her ethnicity and proximity to the border. Frey’s extensive work as a journalist offers another line of departure between us, toil that led him eventually to this volume.

The book is an important and very informative addition to the current conversation about immigration and border policy. It serves to support serious critique of relevant Trump policies, which have upped the ante in the worst ways, while at the same time gutting the simplified histories that leave the impression horrible border policies began in 2017. Frey demonstrates how the militarized, inhumane border policies are not Trumpian, but American, common to both liberal and conservative administrations, taking on their current hyper-militaristic and hyper-cruel qualities at the eager command of Bill Clinton, Democratic star.

Frey could have strengthened his argument that U.S. policies and behaviors have contributed to the push and pull factors encouraging immigration; details, for example, regarding such policies and behaviors in regard to places like El Salvador and Honduras. Relating the experiences of two brothers from the former country, one of whom dies while the other becomes incarcerated, Frey mentions the now-international El Salvadoran street gang MS-13, the menaces of which compelled the two brothers to leave. Frey might have given some attention to the history of the gang in the context of the illegal U.S.-proxy war against El Salvador, carried on in the country for over a decade, and its aftermath. Said history would reinforce Frey’s contention that U.S. immigration policy has been both cruel and irrational, and has long been complicated by the needs of other power centers in the United States, whether agricultural and construction interests, or the foreign policy establishment. Those of the first examples have effectively pulled migrants to U.S., while those of the other, such as our illegal intervention in the El Salvadoran civil war, or the birth of MS-13 as an outcome of the violence we magnified, pushed migrants here. Additionally, the 2009 US-supported military coup in Honduras against the country’s elected government has decidedly worsened conditions there, pushing Hondurans to go somewhere, and the US remains, ironically, the most promising destination of desperate people in Central America.

Likewise, Frey’s plea would have benefited from fuller consideration of the neoliberal capitalist context of the harshening border and immigration policies over the last thirty years. It seems hardly a coincidence these policies occurred just in the wake of the turn to neoliberal policies in the US, policies which have exported jobs like hot commodities, exalted the market at the expense of the public, increasing poverty and inequality, and cast down the government as any kind of help to the public and brake on private ambition. Clinton’s neoliberal NAFTA sent the Mexican economy into the gutter. Increased migration resulted, which he answered with death zones at the border.

Regarding nationalism and its relation to this matter, though arguably outside the scope of Frey’s reportorial approach, more discussion of the attitudes and psychology involved would have explained some of the insanity. For instance, the theme of supposed Mexican dirtiness (discussed in chapter one), arising intermittently for decades, mimics a common refrain heard from nationalist racists in many modern contexts—an attitude enlisting germ theory to serve of the cause of white supremacy, a sort of ideological cousin of social Darwinism. Also, as social psychologist Richard Koenigsberg has said:

Nations are conceived as bodies. We project our own body into a national body. One’s fragile, vulnerable self is blown up—to become a gigantic, omnipotent self. Because territory is imagined in corporeal terms (Neocleous), the state seeks to secure it borders—its “orifices and entry points.” Orifices and entry points must be closed—to prevent penetration. Porous boundaries need to be firmed up, sealed off—walls built to protect the vulnerable self. One’s actual, fragile body fuses with the fantasy of a of a gigantic, invulnerable body. National bodies require borders to prevent penetration. Anxiety is played out on a monumental scale. Walls must be built—nothing can be allowed to penetrate. Each and every orifice must be sealed.

How this “anxiety is played out on a monumental scale” is the story of a state that has arrived at both indifference and desperation. This desperation arises from a political degeneration that refuses to answer, is indifferent to, the decline of the public in any way that threatens the globalization interests of the U.S. ruling class—which, as Sean Starrs’ has written, has not declined, as commonly believed, but globalized instead. Decline is just the fate of the rest of us. And if harsh border policies, thrown as thin scraps to a deluded public, seem to ease their despair, so much the better. If society’s increasingly desperate need for some form of civic freedom, which fosters both community and popular power, and not just tolerance, is forbidden for the threat it poses to ruling class power and wealth, then closing up the nation’s orifices becomes the toxic political gruel of the day. And, in turn, opening them without thought about the issue of civic freedom and popular power, looks like the only conceivable reply.

The words of Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno, in Dialectic of Enlightenment, seem suitable here. They spoke, in part, of the Nazis and their high-tech horrors when they wrote the following line, but they also had their eyes on the West more generally, including, of course, those who triumphed over the Nazis. The “wholly enlightened earth”, they wrote, “is radiant with triumphant calamity”. Certainly, our wholly enlightened border policy radiates with a sort of triumphant calamity. The policies and infrastructure, as documented by Frey, the expensive, tax-payer-funded high-technology, a boon to private interests, the largely-privatized internment camps (what’s more enlightened than privatization?), the rationality of pushing migrants into desert and mountain death zones, and the political, corporate, and bureaucratic deceits that cover it all up, including the uncounted dead, epitomize the serene, systematic malice of a modernity sucked nearly dry of humanity.

Frey relates the shock and horror he felt while accompanying the nonprofit Angels of the Desert on a search for two missing migrants. Their faceless corpses were eventually found. “Animals and insects eat the soft flesh of the face first” (199). These were two of the officially-undercounted hundreds who die every year in our Border Patrol’s intentionally-created death zones, zones which, they say, offer them a “tactical advantage”, certainly a shrewd building block in our “triumphant calamity”. Martin Luther King Jr.’s cautionary words about “sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity”, cited by Frey, accord in a way with Horkheimer and Adorno’s verdict on modernity. Frey’s critique comes up short of the latter’s, but his judgment is nevertheless worth taking to heart. He reminds us that we have rejected the enslavement of African Americans, the slaughter of Natives Americans, the internment of Japanese Americans, the denial of the vote to women, of interracial and same-sex marriage, and the delay of civil rights. Frey says rejecting our cruel and (objectively) irrational border policies would continue that tradition. He looks forward to all of this horror becoming a mere part of “our dark, stained history” (200).

The extremely negative impacts of Trump’s border policies on actual human beings, and the relatively-popular racist fever dreams both partially underpinning and feeding off them, illuminate our present with a hellish light. However, the neoliberal capitalist policies and transformations, and all the deceits about drugs, terrorism, and immigration, of the last forty years or more, all of which preceded Trump, and which in the wrong hands feed the racist fever dreams even more, were effectively embraced across party lines. Trump, chin up, to more cruel and deadly effect for migrants, simply took the bipartisan decorated-but-desiccated zombie of border policy and wore it like a gaudy costume.

• First published at Hard Crackers

  1. Peter Orsi and Amy Guthrie, “A grim border drowning underlines peril facing many migrants”, AP News, June 26, 2019.

What Maketh a Man?

Monday morning is here, dawn has broken over the home of the brave and the land of the free. As those first shafts of sunlight creep westerly across the nation they illuminate, one after another, the flags that have risen to half-mast on this, another day of national mourning. The refrain is all too familiar to us now as we come to grips with the body count from the latest mass shooting. On this particular day after we confront the results of back to back slaughters that left over thirty people dead in the space of just over twelve hours this weekend.

As familiar as the carnage has become so too has been the familiarity of the rhetoric that follows the bloodshed. Politicians, pundits, and citizenry quickly fall into their ideological camps and point their collective fingers in a dizzying array of directions. This is not to discount every point of view but rather it is acknowledging the lack of genuine discussions and concern from many. Solutions are looked for, proposed, demanded, or ignored depending on the political leanings of those articulating the problem.

What is obvious by now no matter the denials from some quarters is the reality that this country is in the midst of a domestic terrorist problem. Radicalized white men have taken upon themselves to express their vision of manhood through violence and destruction. They see the world through a lens colored by hate, bigotry, and misogyny and have been convinced that they are some sort of ordained agent of change.

This particular social dynamic has been labelled as “toxic masculinity” by many and has become both an analytical tool and a catch phrase to describe the brutality and cruelty that has become so prominent in recent years. The deindustrialized United States of the 21st century has spawned a generation of men facing harsh economic realities of a consumer society, a world vastly different from the one in which they grew up in. For communities of color the lack of economic opportunity has been a way of life but for white America there has always been the promise of an “American dream” which is now out of reach for a growing segment of young white men. This inability to prosper strikes directly at their masculine self-conception and contributes to this implied toxicity.

None of this excuses the violence and hate but we would be remiss to not honestly examine and attempt to understand the forces at play here. There are those that refuse to even breach such subjects, proclaiming that what we call toxic masculinity is “the reason your ancestors weren’t eaten by wolves.” Any critic of this hyper machismo is seen by some as an attack on men in general and an attempt to weaken the gender by the forces of feminism. The make America great again mentality would hearken back to the mid-20th century example of the male ideal John Wayne whose character in the film She Wore a Yellow Ribbon says, “Never apologize and never explain–it’s a sign of weakness.” This then is the paradigm we seek to understand, what maketh a man? What is the parameters of the masculine ideal and how does the perception of that ideal relate to the barbarity on display in the mass shootings that continue to plague this country.

Beyond the economic realities of the 21st century there are also the new frontiers of media and culture that are defining this age. Masculinity must be elucidated in a world of increasingly less human interaction where the borders between fantasy and reality are becoming blurred and undefined. Those that seek to blame the rise in mass shooting on violent video games are simply looking for a convenient scapegoat and lack any statistical proof when we compare America to other nations who consume the same media and do not produce the same dire side effects. What is of real concern is not the violence of the games per se but rather that men are consumed by the games themselves and spend an inordinate amount of time “living” within them. Online communities can foster this escapism going beyond simple entertainment and enabling the avoidance of true maturity. Groups such as incel, self-described “involuntary celibates” turn their social awkwardness into a movement that avoids responsibility and growth in favor of victimization. This movement and others have been a part of the cruel dynamic that has fueled the continued carnage.

So today we have an image of manliness that is inextricably linked to violence. Open carry laws give us the pleasure of going to our local Walmart with our neighbor who feels the need to shop for groceries with an AK-47 slung over his shoulder. Ironically the statistics tells us that the number one danger he faces is not a robber but rather another white guy with an automatic rifle slung across his shoulder. Any attempt to identify or deal with these skewed male ideals is seen as attacks on American virility and a weakening of masculine resolve. So we hear ad nauseam that the only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun; the only way to prevent violence is with more violence.

There is another path, there are better examples of masculinity than John Wayne who was neither a cowboy nor a soldier but somehow became a cultural icon by pretending to be both. It is possible to be virile, manly, and strong without becoming aggressive, abusive, and insensitive. The theatrics of sports such as MMA have overshadowed the Martial Arts at their foundations. The arts, not so much the sports, produce individuals that can break bricks with their bare fist but simultaneously hold themselves to creeds that promote courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self-control and an indomitable spirit. An example of this version of masculinity can be found in the life and writings of the Karate Master Gichin Funakoshi.

Sensei Gichin Funakoshi

Born sickly and premature in late nineteenth century Okinawa he was raised by grandparents who made sure he was schooled in classical Chinese literature and introduced to the practice of Karate-Do which at the time was taught in secret because of the prohibition by the occupying Japanese authority.

An overview of his life; Martial Arts master, father of modern Karate (bringing it from Okinawa to mainland Japan in the early 20th century), founder of Shotokan Karate (one of the four major schools), grandfather of Taekwondo (two of its founders were Funakoshi’s students), and author of some of the arts foundational textbooks. From such a resume we would imagine a fierce fighter with an intimidating persona in the mold of Steven Segal or Jason Statham. The real person we find in the pages of his autobiography (Karate-Do My Way of Life) is quite the opposite.

Funakoshi recounts a story of being accosted by a young would be robber while in his later years. Doing his best to defuse the situation proved to be unsuccessful when the culprit swung his umbrella at his head. Funakoshi, at eighty years of age, ducked under the swing and grabbed the assailant’s testicles and held him till a patrolman came along minutes later. He includes the story not as a boast but rather as a disappointment over which he expresses shame because he was not able to resolve the situation without offensive action.

These were not just the sentiments of an elder teacher, and earlier account in the narrative describing Funakoshi as a young Karate novice in the company of several other students who are confronted by a gang who seemed intent on confrontation. A fight is avoided because of the guidance of their Sensei who defuses the situation and prevents his student from depending on simple violence even though they were more than capable of defeating the more numerous opponents. Here too Funakoshi expresses regret, thankful that his Sensei had prevented them from using their martial skills on “untrained men.”

Among the many teachings and precepts left by Gichin Funakoshi are that there is no first strike in Karate, we should void self-conceit and dogmatism, and that Karate should be an aide to justice. These and other teachings are the foundational truths that mark the martial artist and indeed the man himself. This is the counter narrative to the ideal of aggression and violence being hallmarks of masculinity. Funakoshi was as, or more, capable of inflicting harm than most but found balance in his compassion and humility.

The term Martial Arts itself is a misnomer to a great degree. The term budo is translated into English as the “Martial Way” or the “Way of War” but a more accurate translation would be the “Way of Stopping Violence” or of making peace. This current propensity of so called toxic masculinity is nothing new, the realities of instant prolific communication has merely heightened its exposure. On a governmental level the two main responses to confrontation are war or sanctions that aim at crippling foreign populations. There has always been a department of war/defense but never one whose chief aim is peace.

Again, I do not believe we have the current epidemic of mass shooting because disaffected young white men are watching too many violent movies or are playing too many violent video games. What is at the root of this however are young men who loose themselves in the fantasy that those and other mediums reinforce? This ideal male that stretches back to John Wayne, Dirty Harry, or the like has ingrained itself within our culture and finds life today through the rhetoric of Donald Trump or Rush Limbaugh. It is the mentality that says that the rugged individual, properly armed, can survive the apocalypse when history has taught us the opposite; it is the community of connected people that has the strength and tenacity to make it through. It is not our ability to knock down our opponent that makes us a man but rather our desire to reach down and pick them up.

Sur Baher Home Demolitions illustrate a Vicious Spiral of Oppression in Palestine

Recent events have shone a spotlight not only on how Israel is intensifying its abuse of Palestinians under its rule, but the utterly depraved complicity of western governments in its actions.

The arrival of Donald Trump in the White House two-and-a-half years ago has emboldened Israel as never before, leaving it free to unleash new waves of brutality in the occupied territories.

Western states have not only turned a blind eye to these outrages, but are actively assisting in silencing anyone who dares to speak out.

It is rapidly creating a vicious spiral: the more Israel violates international law, the more the West represses criticism, the more Israel luxuriates in its impunity.

This shameless descent was starkly illustrated last week when hundreds of heavily armed Israeli soldiers, many of them masked, raided a neighbourhood of Sur Baher, on the edges of Jerusalem. Explosives and bulldozers destroyed dozens of homes, leaving many hundreds of Palestinians without a roof over their heads.

During the operation, extreme force was used against residents, as well as international volunteers there in the forlorn hope that their presence would deter violence. Videos showed the soldiers cheering and celebrating as they razed the neighbourhood.

House destructions have long been an ugly staple of Israel’s belligerent occupation, but there were grounds for extra alarm on this occasion.

Traditionally, demolitions occur on the two-thirds of the West Bank placed by the Oslo accords temporarily under Israeli control. That is bad enough: Israel should have handed over what is called “Area C” to the Palestinian Authority 20 years ago. Instead, it has hounded Palestinians off these areas to free them up for illegal Jewish settlement.

But the Sur Baher demolitions took place in “Area A”, land assigned by Oslo to the Palestinians’ government-in-waiting – as a prelude to Palestinian statehood. Israel is supposed to have zero planning or security jurisdiction there.

Palestinians rightly fear that Israel has established a dangerous precedent, further reversing the Oslo Accords, which can one day be used to justify driving many thousands more Palestinians off land under PA control.

Most western governments barely raised their voices. Even the United Nations offered a mealy-mouthed expression of “sadness” at what took place.

A few kilometres north, in Issawiya, another East Jerusalem suburb, Israeli soldiers have been terrorising 20,000 Palestinian residents for weeks. They have set up checkpoints, carried out dozens of random night-time arrests, imposed arbitrary fines and traffic tickets, and shot live ammunition and rubber-coated steel bullets into residential areas.

Ir Amim, an Israeli human rights group, calls Issawiya’s treatment a “perpetual state of collective punishment” – that is, a war crime.

Over in Gaza, not only are the 2 million inhabitants being slowly starved by Israel’s 12-year blockade, but a weekly shooting spree against Palestinians who protest at the fence imprisoning them has become so routine it barely attracts attention any more.

On Friday, Israeli snipers killed one protester and seriously injured 56, including 22 children.

That followed new revelations that Israeli’s policy of shooting unarmed protesters in the upper leg to injure them – another war crime – continued long after it became clear a significant proportion of Palestinians were dying from their wounds.

Belatedly – after more than 200 deaths and the severe disabling of many thousands of Palestinians – snipers have been advised to “ease up” by shooting protesters in the ankle.

B’Tselem, another Israeli rights organisation, called the army’s open-fire regulation a “criminal policy”, one that “consciously chose not to regard those standing on the other side of the fence as humans”.

Rather than end such criminal practices, Israel prefers to conceal them. It has effectively sealed Palestinian areas off to avoid scrutiny.

Omar Shakir, a researcher for Human Rights Watch, is facing imminent deportation, yet more evidence of Israel’s growing crackdown on the human rights community.

A report by the Palestinian Right to Enter campaign last week warned that Israel is systematically denying foreign nationals permits to live and work in the occupied territories, including areas supposedly under PA control.

That affects both foreign-born Palestinians, often those marrying local Palestinians, and internationals. According to recent reports, Israel is actively forcing out academics teaching at the West Bank’s leading university, Bir Zeit, in a severe blow to Palestinian academic freedom.

Palestinian journalists highlighting Israeli crimes are in Israel’s sights too. Last week, Israel stripped one – Mustafa Al Haruf – of his Jerusalem residency, tearing him from his wife and young child. Because it is illegal to leave someone stateless, Israel is now bullying Jordan to accept him.

Another exclusion policy – denying entry to Israel’s fiercest critics, those who back the international boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement – is facing its first challenge.

Two US congresswomen who support BDS – Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, who has family in the West Bank – have announced plans to visit.

Israeli officials have indicated they will exempt them both, apparently fearful of drawing wider attention to Israel’s draconian entry restrictions, which also cover the occupied territories.

Israel is probably being overly cautious. The BDS movement, which alone argues for the imposition of penalties on Israel until it halts its abuse of Palestinians, is being bludgeoned by western governments.

In the US and Europe, strong criticism of Israel, even from Jews – let alone demands for meaningful action – is being conflated with antisemitism. Much of this furore seems intended to ease the path towards silencing Israel’s critics.

More than two dozen US states, as well as the Senate, have passed laws – drafted by pro-Israel lobby groups – to limit the rights of the American public to support boycotts of Israel.

Anti-BDS legislation has also been passed by the German and French parliaments.

And last week the US House of Representatives joined them, overwhelmingly passing a resolution condemning the BDS movement. Only 17 legislators demurred.

It was a slap in the face to Ms Omar, who has been promoting a bill designed to uphold the First Amendment rights of boycott supporters.

It seems absurd that these curbs on free speech have emerged just as Israel makes clear it has no interest in peace, will never concede Palestinian statehood and is entrenching a permanent system of apartheid in the occupied territories.

But there should be no surprise. The clampdown is further evidence that western support for Israel is indeed based on shared values – those that treat the Palestinians as lesser beings, whose rights can be trampled at will.

Trump and Supporters: Paranoiacs Following Lee Atwater’s Racist Strategy

He has been glorified as a hero and obeyed as a ruler, but fundamentally he is always the same. His most fantastic triumphs have taken place in our own time, among people who set great store by the idea of humanity. He is not yet extinct, nor will he ever be until we have the strength to see him clearly, whatever disguise he assumes and whatever his halo of glory. The survivor is mankind’s worst evil, its curse and perhaps its doom. Is it possible to escape him, even now at this last moment?

— Elias Canetti, Crowds and Power, April 1 1984

[White] America’s conscience is bankrupt. She lost all conscience a long time ago. Uncle Sam has no conscience. They don’t know what morals are. They don’t try and eliminate an evil because it’s evil, or because it’s illegal, or because it’s immoral; they eliminate it only when it threatens their existence. So you’re wasting your time appealing to the moral conscience of a bankrupt man like Uncle Sam. If he had a conscience, he’d straighten this thing out with no more pressure being put upon him…And in my opinion, the young generation of whites, blacks, browns, whatever else there is, you’re living at a time of extremism, a time of revolution, a time when there’s got to be a change. People in power have misused it, and now there has to be a change and a better world has to be built, and the only way it’s going to be built—is with extreme methods. And I, for one, will join in with anyone—I don’t care what color you are—as long as you want to change this miserable condition that exists on this earth.”

— Malcolm X, Oxford Union Debate, 1964

Canettii argues in his book that the most dangerous individual holding power is someone who views him/herself as a Survivor, or someone who can survive at the expense of others. Canetti notes that the Survivor, with access to nuclear weapons, can obliterate a hefty chunk of mankind. The President of the United States, as Commander in Chief, has the option to use those weapons presumably only under the most dire of circumstances. President Donald Trump’s proximity to the nuclear weapons trigger has been noted with trepidation by non-military observers from the beginning of his presidency and that matter is always lurking in the background, particularly as the US modernizes its Nuclear Triad. But the checks and balances in the use of the Nuclear Triad can’t be discounted as it is likely that military commanders would refuse to carry out Trump’s orders to use nukes even in spite of revised doctrine appearing to make it easier to do so.

The bigger problem, according to Canetti, is this:

Today, the survivor is himself afraid. He has always been afraid, but with his vast new potentialities his fear has grown too, until it is almost unendurable…The most unquestioned and therefore the most dangerous thing he does is to give commands.

Trump’s world is a paranoid one. His apologists and supporters are loons. How else to describe those that refuse to condemn, even approve, racist presidential behavior. Trump and his disciples act as if they have survived some horrific mentally debilitating event; or indeed, expect one in the form of a color shift in America’s complexion.

They fear the majority of the popular American electorate, they fear immigrants, they fear people of color, they fear LGBT’s, they fear government funded social programs, they fear the questioning of their beliefs, and they fear non-Christians—and that’s just for starters.

Didn’t evolution weed these viruses out decades ago?

Trump and his disciples view themselves as a persecuted minority and that’s dangerous because they really believe they are. The statistics, the demographics, show that Whites make up the largest chunk of the American population with Hispanics second at 18.3 percent and Blacks at 13.4 percent. Trump’s people are horrified at the prospect that America will turn a light tinge of brown, which it inevitably will, by the 2050s and beyond.

Making Amends with Corporation and the Financial Sector

Trump is Canetti’s Survivor, a hustler. He managed to gaming the legal and financial system to stay afloat, always getting rescued/supported by “his kind” for boneheaded business decisions and now for slashing US federal spending and regulations that protect the American public turning the US federal government into a bigger playground for corporations, businesses and interest groups (something corporations welcome with glee).

The Washington Post reported in 2016 that Trump declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy six times; four in the 1990s and two in the 2000s. In 2004, Trump’s Hotel and Casinos Resorts was $1.8 billion in debt and couldn’t meet its obligations.

So why do the corporate powerhouses of America stick with Trump even though he is a real estate swindler, racist and psychopath?

That’s simple.  He is a repaying the corporate/financial world back for robbing them of billions years ago by giving them trillions now. He, and his Republican/Democrat apologists in the US Congress, slashed corporate/business tax rates, and they are now pillaging federal programs like the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) for budget cuts or elimination, ostensibly to save American taxpayers some money. Trump wants to drop 3.1 million people from SNAP.

It is the same story at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). According to the publication Mother Jones:

On Wednesday [July 18], the United States Environmental Protection Agency doubled down on one of the most controversial environmental deregulation moves of the Trump presidency…the EPA reaffirmed its 2017 decision to reject a proposal from the agency’s own scientists to ban an insecticide called chlorpyrifos that farmers use on a wide variety of crops, including corn, soybeans, fruit and nut trees, Brussels sprouts, cranberries, broccoli, and cauliflower.

And why would Trump be interested in chlorpyrifos that has been shown to be detrimental to children’s brain development? “Dow AgroSciences’ parent company, Dow Chemical, has also been buttering up Trump. The company contributed $1 million to the president’s inaugural committee…the administration has approved the Dow-Dupont merger, and named several former Dow execs to high posts within the US Department of Agriculture,” Mother Jones reported.

Just so.

Trump’s Supporters: Theory of Evolution Apologizes Profusely

Trump lands uppercuts and left hooks to the American body politic and culture by ignorant Tweets that stoke racial tensions and non-partisanship.

Just how does a racist grifter, who tells four democratic congresswomen—Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-NY, Ilhan Omar, D-MN, Ayanna Pressley, D-MA,  and Rashida Tlaib, D-MI, to go back to their “totally broken and crime infested places from which they came” manage to win the support of millions of Americans and bump up Trump’s poll numbers? Or why did 187 US House members vote not to condemn Trump’s beliefs?

According to Pew Research, polling results for the 2016 election indicate that “Among the much larger group of white voters who had not completed college (44% of all voters), Trump won by more than two-to-one (64% to 28%)…Trump had an advantage among 50-to 64-year-old voters (51% to 45%) and those 65 and older (53% to 44%).”

And it is not just those who have not completed college or even attended college who are party of Trump’s looney bin. Wealthy “smart” Republicans are part of the evolutionary mishap, as well.  Republican CEOs side with Trump because he is helping them increase profit margins, shareholder dividends, and stock buybacks. What’s all the fuss about a President of the United States who is both a racist and pro-business? It is, after all, just another write-off for the books.

According to a paper titled The Politics of CEO’s:

We use Federal Election Commission (FEC) records to put together a comprehensive database of the political contributions made by over 3,500 individuals who served as CEOs of S&P 1500 companies during the period 2000-2017.We find that these political contributions display substantial partisan preferences in support of Republican candidates.To highlight the significance of CEO’s partisan preferences for some corporate decisions, we show that public companies led by Republican CEOs tend to be less transparent to investors with respect to their political spending.

Senate and House Republicans, morally bankrupt to the core, are marching to the beat of a racist drummer.

Democrats: Remember Your Ugly History

The Democrats don’t get a pass on racial issues. There’s a lot for them to answer for as well.

Writing in The Hill, Burgess Owens notes that:

As a party with a history of pro-slavery, pro-secession, pro-segregation and pro-socialism, the Democratic Party has also been the party that has politically controlled urban black America for over 60 years. Predominantly black communities in many cities today are mired in poverty, unemployment, illiteracy, crime and hopelessness. The Democratic Party has never apologized for its past, nor has it attempted to atone for its present failures.

Instead, it has skillfully used the art of bait-and-switch. Millions of Americans are convinced that somehow in the 1960s there was a wholesale transition of the Democratic Party’s two-centuries-old hatred of black people to the policies of the anti-slavery, anti-secession, anti-segregation and pro-God Republican Party. Only in a vacuum void of common sense, critical-thinking skills and true American history could such logic survive.

Former Republican National Committee Chairman Lee Atwater, known for his brutal, but successful, campaigning for Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, commented on flipping the Southern United States from racist Dixiecrats (Democrats) to, well, racist Republicans. Gone were the days of vulgar racist comments by Whites, and in came the days of using coded terms for racist policies.

In an interview with Atwater for a book on Southern party politics in 1981, while employed by the Reagan Administration,  Atwater was asked this:

But the fact is, isn’t it, that Reagan does get to the [George] Wallace voter and to the racist side of the Wallace voter by doing away with legal services, by cutting down on food stamps?

Atwater responded:

Y’all don’t quote me on this. You start out in 1954 by saying…By 1968 you can’t say…that hurts you. Backfires.  You say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites. And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I’m not saying that. But I’m saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me—because obviously sitting around saying, “We want to cut this”, is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than… So, any way you look at it, race is coming on the backbone.

And the beat goes on 38 years later.

Not All Whites

Many Whites have stood on the ramparts with people of color and other minorities to fight for equal rights and liberties. White judges and politicians have rendered decisions or passed legislation to turn the tide against racism in the USA. I’m not guilty of my Whiteness as I argued in (Dissident Voice, 2015).

I know of no one, young or old, that likes to be pigeon-holed no matter their color, immigrant status, or their ethnic background. No one wins this type of blame game except the racists in Trump’s camp who fan the flames of fear or those who mock the individuality of each human being.

So why are there racists out there in the open, in the White House, Congress, corporations and the voting public? What can be done about it?

I posed that question in 2015.  I mean, should I attribute the sins of the world to Whiteness? Or should I conclude that the Species itself and the dominant economic and ruling methodology of Capitalism combine to make the “demon” that Ta-Nehisi Coates refers to and the “system” that Malcolm X wants us all to change: That American system, born largely of the British, Roman and Greek Systems, that relies on absurd contradictions and irony. A system that makes those from NWA and Straight Out of Compton, with all the female bashing lyrics, now part of the One Percent elite of corporate America; or the principals of the George W. Bush Administration clearly guilty of war crimes still cashing in on public office; or the poor and largely Black people that can’t make $500 bail and waste away in jail; or the White miners in West Virginia killed because the mining company ignored safety rules and is found not guilty of negligence on a legal technicality; or the citizens of Detroit City denied, by a lone judge, the right to clean drinking water.

And what should I make of an American society that does not care about corporate surveillance (for profit) and government monitoring of all forms of communication (to maintain security and stability for the corporations to make profits)? Where were the White Rockers, Black Rappers, and Country Music stars when the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan raged on or the beach head for the corporate and government’s invasion of privacy was the home?

They, all of them, were co-opted by a political, economic and cultural system we deny every day but in which we also live, procreate, operate and profit. With all of our complaints, we don’t have a functional alternative to offer. The ballot-box provides no remedy. Presidential and Congressional elections are polluted by money and interests, foreign and domestic, over which voters have no control. Politicians are bought and sold like horses prior to a race.

I don’t think I’m White.  I think I am a human being.  I don’t know what it is like to be rich and in the top 20 percent of money makers in the USA.  I know that I’m color-labeled as White and class-labeled as Middle by the identity and false consciousness hunters that roam the American landscape.

I know I agree with Dave Chappelle, famed comedian with $10 million in the bank, who is labeled as Black and Wealthy. But I’m not a smart guy and I think that he is a human being and really funny guy with great observations of the human condition. I think that way of George Carlin, Chris Rock and the late Robin Williams. According to Chappelle “I support anyone’s right to be who they want to be. My question is: To what extent do I have to participate in your self-image?”

I don’t want to participate in the self-image, the evolutionary mishap, that is President Donald Trump, his apologists and his supporters. I also don’t want to deal with duplicitous Democrats who always seem ready to enable Trump’s foolishness.

It seems to me there is no vocal, turbulent opposition to the madness that permeates the United States of America these days. Who inspires any longer? Who can compromise?

Who will fight?

Olive Reincarnations and Elvis on Mars: Boris Johnson Becomes British PM

The BBC World Service took its listeners to the English cathedral town of Ely, set in picturesque Cambridgeshire, during the course of a hot July 23 in an effort to take the pulse of the country.  Well, at least that particular, erratic pulse. It found, for the most part, a certain enthusiasm for Boris Johnson, the fop-haired, bumbling wonder of the Conservatives, a quite literally inventive journalist, former magazine editor and Mayor of London who has become the new prime minister of Britain.

One word kept cropping up in discussions like an endangered species searching for a bullet: enthusiasm.  Plain, sprightly, delightful winged enthusiasm. “We need to be enthusiastic; Boris (because, of course, he is Boris to them) is enthusiastic.”  Be gone pessimists and Cassandras; farewell such tactical and strategic realities of being in or out of the European common market; in or out of European regulations; ease of access or difficulty on the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.

With the Conservatives voting on who to replace Theresa May as leader of the Conservative Party, and, it followed, Prime Minister, Johnson won through against Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt.  The margin of victory – 66 to 34 percent of the party membership – was nearly two to one, and came from a system Johnson derided as a “gigantic fraud” when employed by the British Labour Party in 2007.

His victory speech had much of what has come before.  It spoke of instincts – the acquisitive standing out (“the instincts to own your own house, to earn and spend your own money”).  These were “noble”, “proper” and “good”.  Nor should the needy be forgotten, the poor abandoned, in realising them.  Words were given like those of a motivational speaker.  “Do you feel daunted?  I don’t think you look remotely daunted to me. And I think we know we can do it, and that the people of this country are trusting in us to do it, and we know that we will do it.”  While he conceded that the campaign of deliver, united and defeat – spelled DUD – did not augur well, detractors had forgotten the E: “E for energise”.  “I say to all doubters, dude, we are going to energise the country.”

The October 31st deadline for Britain’s exit from the European Union would not change.  The “new spirit of can-do” would prevail.  Britain, “like some slumbering giant” would “rise and ping off the guy ropes of self-doubt and negativity.”  Metaphors of growth and movement abounded: “fantastic full-fibre broadband sprouting in every household”; “more police”.

The Johnson-watchers verged between being worried and thrilled.  Comments seem pitched to a sporting register: How will BJ perform on the field?  Will he restrain himself, or be unduly foolish on the world stage?  As if describing an unusual species, Lloyd Evans remarked that, even at Oxford as a first-year student, he was “weirdly conspicuous – the ruddy jowls, the stooped bullish stances, the booming Duke of Wellington voice, and the freakish white bob crowning his head like a heavenly spotlight.”

James Forsyth, writing in The Spectator, is hopeful the real Boris is partially caged, leaving another version to do get his hands dirty.  “This is a risk; will his approach sound flippant when discussing serious issues?”  On balance, however, Forsyth felt that there was something to be said about the man being let loose.  “When he tried to be a different kind of figure, it didn’t work.  It felt forced rather than natural.”

Finance commentator and regular forecaster of economic apocalypse Robert Peston stated the cold, mad justice of it all.  As Johnson had been instrumental in creating Brexit, it was only fitting that he now try to own it.

Navigating the gong tormented sea of narratives on Johnson, a few career standouts remain, making his attempt to be Big, Bold and British, unconvincing.  The new British PM and Tory leader is a piece of truly befuddled work, one who still manages to play the card of the electable clown.

As a journalist, he fabricated and teased records.  In 1987, when employed by The Times courtesy of family connections, he was fired for a story on the discovery of the Rose Palace, built by Edward II.  His godfather, Oxford historian Colin Lucas, featured.  “The trouble,” he recalled, “was that somewhere in my copy I managed to attribute to Colin the view that Edward II and Piers Gaveston would have been cavorting together in the Rose Palace.”  Pity, then, that Gaveston was murdered by the time the Rose Palace was built.

After the sack, he ventured over to The Telegraph, and became a shock trooper for anti-EU sentiment in Brussels, feeding Eurosceptic fanaticism back in Britain and beyond with such choice titled pieces as “Snails are fish, says EU”, “Brussels recruits sniffers to ensure that EU-manure smells the same” and “Threat to British pink sausages”.  Johnson’s feeling about it all?  A “rather weird sense of power” that his copy had “this amazing, explosive effect on the Tory party”.

His casually racist remarks on foreign powers and peoples have given him an enormous inventory of the insulted over the years, producing degrees of consternation and rib-stitching hilarity.  He has deemed Africa a country, its people “piccaninnies” with “watermelon smiles”, compared women who wear burqas to “bank robbers” and “letterboxes” and appraised the chaos within his own conservative party as akin to “Papua New Guinea-style orgies of cannibalism and chief killing.”

Other comments have caused less consternation, not least of all his views of the current US president, Donald Trump, whom Johnson deemed “unfit to hold the office of the United States” on account of his “stupefying ignorance”.  This, from a man who himself said that becoming UK prime minister was “about as good as the chances of finding Elvis on Mars, or my being reincarnated as an olive.”  We live in jaw-droppingly interesting times.

Britain is in a mess, and the Boris Broom is unlikely to be able to make its bristles more effective beyond tinkering with the May-EU Brexit plan as it stands.  The EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has expressed the view that some room is open on reworking “the agreed declaration on the new partnership” but that the “withdrawal agreement” would be more or less ratified in its current form.

On the diplomatic front, Johnson is bound to be confused, if his various stances on the Northern Ireland-Ireland border, or non-border, are anything to go by.  Having scolded his predecessor for taking the view that having no firm border between the two would not be in the UK’s interests, he subsequently veered, telling the House of Commons that “there can be no return to a hard border.”  BJ’s slumbering giant may well continue to do a bit more slumbering.  Over to you, dude!