Tag Archives: Black Lives Matter

ICYMI – Part 4

In keeping with the Trump ethnic cleansing policy, the administration announced that all “foreign” college students whose schools are planning purely online instruction for the next school year must leave the United States. https://nyti.ms/2ZOCb33 Trump and neo-Nazi Stephen Miller will stop at nothing to remove as many non-white people as possible from the United States.

The full impact on the students and schools is not known because not all colleges have firmed up plans re online versus attended classes. However, “vocational program students and English language training program students will not be allowed to take any classes online” so those students’ access to US higher education is effectively being terminated. The revenue streams from those students (potentially numbering hundreds of thousands) will, of course, also be lost to higher education. Since Trump’s “education” was a complete waste, he apparently doesn’t care what happens to American colleges and universities as long as he can strike a blow for an all-white America.

BUT Harvard and MIT are not taking this lying down. They have sued to block the action. https://cnn.it/2Co23uQ and have been joined by other universities.

UPDATE: For reasons not made clear, in less than one week, the Trump administration, aka the Katzenjammer Kids and/or the Keystone Kops, reversed its decision to force foreign students to leave or be deported. https://cnn.it/2CPyFxL But stay tuned. The neo-Nazis advising Trump are not deterred.

Trump’s Storm Troopers descended on Portland OR wearing camo outfits with no outward identification and used flash-bang grenades and tear gas to facilitate “arrests” of peaceful protestors without charges or Miranda warnings, using unmarked vans and generally behaving like the Stasi, the feared secret police force in communist East Germany. This “federal help” was imposed over objections from Oregon’s governor and Portland’s mayor and, on the face of it, seem to have made the conflict on the streets of Portland worse rather than better. Trump is promising to send more such “help” to various cities he has deemed unable to defend themselves against protestors demanding more just policing and removal of racist statues and symbols from public view.

Trump seeks to strangle COVID testing programs by withholding funds because the surge in infections and deaths is, he rightly believes, imperiling his chances for re-election. His personal political goal is more important to him than the health of the people he took an oath to protect. Following what we hope will be his overwhelming defeat in November, Trump may well face charges of crimes against humanity, among other offenses committed during his term.

Trump has suggested he will not accept any election outcome in which he is not the winner. He was squarely asked more than once in a Fox interview and said, “I’ll have to see.” Meanwhile, he continues to complain that any form of voting except in-person will result in a rigged election. That, despite his own use of mail-in ballots and their use by multiple states with no evidence of meaningful fraud issues. The Post Office, whose funding Trump also wants to cut, will surely face challenges in handling the increase in mail traffic but given the past decline in postal use due to electronic communications, it seems implausible that this is an issue that can’t be resolved within the months before the election. Unless, of course, Trump doesn’t want to solve it but wants to cripple the agency responsible for mail ballot transmission to bring about the very problem about which he claims to be so concerned.

Despite Florida’s attempt to doctor the data, COVID cases and deaths continued to spike there and through most of the states outside the northeast. https://tmsnrt.rs/3eKvmVP Trump, however, using his customary word-salad, continued to claim that the virus will soon just disappear:

“We have embers and we do have flames. Florida became more flame-like, but it’s – it’s going to be under control.”

Trump on “Fox News Sunday” repeated his assertion that the virus would eventually disappear.

“I’ll be right eventually,” he said. “It’s going to disappear and I’ll be right.”

https://reut.rs/30x0OBB

It is well known and widely discussed by many people that Trump is always right. Many people. Bigly. A grateful nation must appreciate these reassuring words from their leader. (thick sarcasm for those who don’t recognize it).

In the least important news, Kanye West, who had previously announced he was running for president, then announced he had suspended his campaign, has now apparently decided, in his best imitation of a human pinball machine, he is running after all. He has missed qualifying on many state ballots and the entire enterprise seems like a sick joke that is not remotely funny. Despite his manifest lack of qualifications, even more so than Donald Trump, West has a large, and like Trump, inexplicable following of people who would actual waste their votes on him. Some of us don’t even think he’s a decent musician, and he certainly cannot do anything but muck up an already problematic campaign situation for the nation’s highest office. It is equally inexplicable that news media think this is a newsworthy story and continue to provide oxygen for what should be ignored.

In multiple disturbing videos, the New York City Police Department is shown to have used unreasonable and unnecessary violent force against protesters in the recent demonstrations following the murder of George Floyd. Be advised that the videos in this New York Times report are extremely violent: https://nyti.ms/39bNNBs NYPD says it used restraint, which is ludicrous gaslighting in the reality shown in the video.

Equally disturbing video shows an individual painting black paint over the Black Lives Matter street mural that was placed on 5th Avenue by the city in front of Trump Tower. NYPD officers purport to be trying to stop her but this one woman is somehow, while crawling on all fours, able to manhandle the officers and continue what the defacement. https://bit.ly/39cMIJK  Later she posted this message on Twitter stating that she was treated “like royalty” by the police who actually approved of what she was doing and thus it may be concluded that their faux “arrest” was just for show. https://bit.ly/3jnlp43 The city has some explaining to do.

 

Successful Activism is Not a Part-Time Job

I have seen a number of comments by younger people to the effect that voting is a waste of time because after “activist candidates” are elected, nothing much changes. See, for example, Young Protesters Say Voting Isn’t Enough. Will They Do It Anyway? https://nyti.ms/2AKA2fZ

Given the staggeringly long history of racism in the United States, now combined with the militarization of police departments in the age of terrorism and the wanton use of brute force throughout the country , including federal troops in the Capitol deployed against peaceful protesters, the frustration and impatience with this “just vote” message is entirely understandable. There is no doubt that the sad place at which we have, as a society, arrived, is attributable in significant part to the failure of elected leaders to live up to their promises to bring about a more just society.

I am going to offer some thoughts about how this dysfunction has prevailed for so long. To be clear at the outset, I offer these not as excuses. There are no excuses. The racial situation is and always has been a national disgrace.

These thoughts are possible explanations that might illuminate a path forward and provide some hope to those whose frustration with failed progress has overwhelmed them in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, the most recent in a long line of tragedies and surely just the tip of the iceberg in what has gone on when there was no one around to video.

I base these observations on a period in my life when I was active in local politics in Virginia, leading a citizens’ group pitted against a large oil company that had purchased the development rights to finish the master plan for our “planned community.” The situation is not, obviously, analogous to the problem of police violence against people of color, but some of the lessons learned may be useful in thinking about the “is voting useless” issue.

For context, the oil company’s interest typically was in increasing development density – more homes and more people per available acre. Deviations from the original master plan for the town were subject to the approval of a Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors. The Board was the elected governing body for the county in which the planned community) was located.

Our group reviewed every proposed plan deviation and demanded hearings before the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors. The oil company soon began to refer to us as “rabble rousers” and “troublemakers.” It employed lawyers and experts to fight us at every stage. Sometimes we prevailed, sometimes not.

The governing bodies were typical of many local elected governing bodies across the country; regardless of how compelling our case was in any single situation, we faced resistance from some leaders who were more concerned about protecting developers’ “rights” and assuring rapid economic growth than they were interested in the environmental and social issues we often raised.

We were not without champions on these governing bodies, but the reality was that they had to deal with the other members of the bodies on a regular basis. Conflicts required compromise that often felt to us as “selling out of citizens’ interests to the commercial aspirations of greedy developers.” Our champions often fought hard for us but were outvoted. Sometimes their support was simply not as strong as we wanted. We told them so but were usually met with “you need to understand that to get anything done, we have to deal with the opposition in a measured and respectful way.” In those days the very idea of a “planned” community was anathema to many old-line Virginia conservatives and citizens demanding to have a voice in everything was a noxious concept to many.

We learned a few things from these experiences. It was necessary to show up all the time. Being ‘part-time’ advocates simply didn’t work. The politicians, those on our side and the others, needed to understand that there would be no respite. We would always show up, often accompanied by large numbers of supporters carrying/displaying some kind of identification that could be seen from the dais. Nothing disruptive but something clear enough that they would know we were there, watching. Voters in the room for every relevant decision. No respite.

There was pushback, to be sure. Our issues often were scheduled for late on the agenda, allegedly because they were “controversial,” but really so that it would be harder for our “troops” to stick around. Tenacity was important but ultimately many people with jobs the next day would have to leave the hearing for home before our items were taken up. As the group’s leader and advocate, I always stayed, sometimes until well past midnight. Nevertheless, our group’s unmistakable presence in the room, even for a few hours, signaled to the decision-makers that we were watching. Voters in the room. And the decision-makers also knew that by stalling us, they were offending many constituents. We got a few newspapers to write about it. Politicians hate bad publicity even when their names are spelled correctly. No respite.

My argument here is that it is simply not enough to vote. Bearing constant witness and constant engagement is critically important. After a while, our oil company knew we weren’t going away. Their management was furious that they could not control us. Calling us names just angered people even more. We used that against them to stir up more activism.

Well-healed adversaries, including police unions, can lobby all the time. Citizen activists are at a huge disadvantage, but can compensate to a large degree by (1) voting, voting, voting – the constant threat to remove ineffective politicians who can’t/won’t deliver on their promises (if they don’t think your group votes, they won’t care what you think or say), (2) making clear that you and your crowd will always show up for relevant decisions – pack the room, (3) treating everyone with respect, but (4) making clear you will not accept deflection and will use the tools of public advocacy, including particularly the press, to expose aggressively corrupt and indifferent decision-making, and (5) showing appreciation for victories won, even small ones – name the names; reward … and punishment. We are here. We will always be here. Deal with us and our concerns or pay the price. No respite.

Making change, progressing an agenda of challenging ideas is very hard. The natural inclination of most decision-making bodies is to move in tiny steps, if at all. Offend as few people as possible, go along to get along, etc. etc. Protests are extremely valuable for bringing attention to morally outrageous situations, but they are, standing alone, insufficient. Laws still have to be written, lobbied, passed, enforced. Recalcitrant leaders must be brought around. They must come to see that you are not going away. “Enough is enough” is not just a slogan. You cannot wait us out. Talk, talk, delay, study – no. Not good enough. We are not going away until you do the right thing. No respite.