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Est. April 5, 2002
July 30, 2020 - Issue 829

We will be on our annual hiatus in August
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Whose Violence?


"Trump is fanning the flames of discontent
all by himself by his provocation and his use
of thugs in what had been mostly
peaceful demonstrations."

So the demonstrations against police brutality and the killings of black men and boys and sometimes, women, have turned violent in some places?

Don’t say we weren’t warned, that the tolerance of the people was being stretched to the limit, as many observers have predicted in the past two or three years. The powers that be weren’t listening and they’re not listening now.

The murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer in May started this latest round of demonstrations and rallies which quickly caught on in cities around the country and cities around the world, and gave Black Lives Matter (BLM) a boost to the extent that some local elected officials have painted “Black Lives Matter” on the pavement in the streets of their cities.

Many generations of oppression of black and other minorities, say about 400 years worth, finally came to a head with the death of Floyd, whose murder was committed in full daylight view of the nation and the world. The murder infuriated the world and none were more infuriated than the young black and brown people of the U.S. With a number of crises that engulfed the nation at the same time, the young people have taken up the struggle of their parents and untold previous generations for equality, liberty, and justice. They know that the burden of putting centuries of oppression to rest in the land of the free rested on their shoulders.

Although they appreciate the work done on behalf of that struggle by their parents and ancestors, they apparently feel that this is a now-or-never moment in history. Think of it. They are living in a time when there are millions in America who go to bed hungry every night, there is no universal health care (if you have money, you can see a doctor or go to a hospital), they are burdened with student debt into their 50s and even their 60s, there is no low-cost housing program by the federal government to go with Corporate America’s low-wage economy, there is still rampant environmental racism (which makes the nation’s structural racism worse), and everyone is faced with the coronavirus pandemic and even at this late date, there is no national plan to deal with it. It’s easy to see how the demonstrations could become violent.

But, let’s not forget one of the biggest threats to peaceful protest: The militarized police in virtually every situation and the unleashing by President Donald Trump of his unknowable thug patrols into the mix. Looking desperately for a way to salvage his doddering re-election campaign, he has painted himself as a “law and order” president. We’ve seen that before and it did not go well. Yet, Trump is fanning the flames of discontent all by himself by his provocation and his use of thugs in what had been mostly peaceful demonstrations. The president has invaded cities in his own country and the clouds of chemical warfare hang about in the streets. So-called tear gas has been outlawed by international agreement in warfare, but Trump thinks it’s alright to use it on civilian populations of his own country. And, that would not provoke violence in peaceful protestors? He knows exactly what he’s doing.

Trump is attempting to portray cities where Democrats are the elected leaders as the opposite of his “law and order” inclination. He’s hoping that the electorate won’t see through his childish analysis and threats to “take over” their streets and show them how to “dominate” the “battleground.” Yes, he uses these terms in speaking of American citizens, as if they were a nameless city in a country that the U.S. has invaded illegally and in violation of international laws, agreements, and treaties. What he has done is bring those violations of other countries right back home. The enemy, for him, is...Americans?

The president’s thugs are not identifiable. They are dressed in full camo and battle gear, but they don’t have any name tags or agency indicia of the military. They are just nameless entities sent into the streets of U.S. cities by order of the president, whose instructions to them are not known. They are said to be part of the Border Patrol and Customs bureaucracy or some other such instrument of police power of the federal government. At this time, Congress needs to open an investigation into their instructions and how their presence in cities across the country affects the peacefulness or violence of the demonstrations which show no sign of waning. The stakes are too high to stop now. The young people, and most of them are young people, have had a look at America under a right-wing government such as that of Trump, who is aided and abetted, and supported 100 percent by the GOP members of Congress, in both houses. They don’t like what they see and they do not want to see their future that’s been laid out for them by all of the Republicans, some of the Democrats, and all of Corporate America.

It is a future that they will not accept. Black Lives Matter is one in a long line of struggles of black and minority Americans to rid the country of its inherent racism, but this time, they are not willing to accept incrementalism and they want action now, to end the structures of racism. They are not willing to accept that they must wait for another generation or two before they realize equity, equality, liberty, and opportunity, the same as the majority. Despite the progress that has been made, exemplified by the life of Rep. John Lewis, who fought every day of his life for equality and justice, they can see lingering racism in the words and deeds of a racist president, whose loves for the Confederate battle flag and his extreme right-wing supporters and cultists guides his actions. What can a country expect, when the president expresses his contempt for black and brown and other minorities in the open, before television cameras? What you see is what you get and they don’t like what they see or hear and they don’t like the tear gas, the flash bang grenades, the rubber-tipped bullets, or the kidnapping of demonstrators who have been hauled into unmarked vans to be taken to unknown destinations.

In a way, what the thugs have done with demonstrators they have kidnapped is a metaphor of what’s happening in the country: A president who changes like a chameleon and is, therefore, subject only to speculation about what he will do next. In other words, an unknown, even though in other respects he is very predictable, since everything he does is for his own personal benefit and to satisfy his own peculiar and warped sense of entitlement and need for adulation from everyone around him. It’s why he has rid himself of all his adult advisors and has “acting” members of his administration, so he can fire them at will and replace them with people who are more loyal to him (they won’t give him any bad news to digest). Although lately he has had to digest some very bad poll numbers regarding the upcoming presidential election, he ignores them, claiming that they are “fake polls,” just as he will assert that the election was “fake,” if he loses.

His frail ego was on full display, when he refused this week to attend the memorial of Rep. John Lewis, who refused to attend Trump’s inauguration because he felt the reality television star was not a legitimate president. When the civil rights icon refused to attend the inauguration for the reason given, the new president responded, saying Lewis, who suffered a beating in the Selma march back in 1965, was all “talk, talk, talk,” with few accomplishments. Naturally, Trump was referring to Lewis’ not having used his talent to accumulate great wealth, the only measure Trump uses to reckon a winner. One of John Lewis’ accomplishments was the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which was of greater benefit for more minority Americans than Trump ever could accomplish if he were president for the next couple of decades (not going to happen). Trump would never be caught dead fighting for justice for the poor and minorities. Fact is, it has never occurred to him, since he only deals with winners, like himself (self-described).

The Southern Christian Leadership Conference chose to start the march to Montgomery in Selma, because they believed that the notorious brutality of the segregationist sheriff and his bully boys would call to President Lyndon Johnson’s attention that brutality and push harder for the voting rights act, for which John Lewis struggled so hard to achieve. That made Lewis a winner far beyond what Trump could ever achieve, if he lived to be 200. That’s what our frail president could not stand and why he refused to attend the memorial. He’s so frail and needy that it almost makes one want to send a bolt of compassion toward him, but then...

Trump’s impulse to violence, and he certainly has a wide streak of it, overrides most other things. He thinks in terms of winners and losers and those who are not like him are losers, as he has said over and over since long before he ran for office. Winners can be respected and losers are nothing to be even noticed, let alone nurtured and uplifted, as John Lewis did for all of his life. This president wanted the world to believe that Lewis was a loser, that he didn’t accomplish much in his life, but he became known as the “conscience of the U.S. Congress” and that is an appellation that few will achieve, if any other is ever called that. He was a champion of non-violence, freedom and justice for all, and a voice for the voiceless for all of his public life.

Above all, John Lewis would urge Black Lives Matter demonstrations, especially the young people, to keep demonstrating and keep rallying, and keep marching, keep it peaceful and never forget to vote, a right for which he fought and bled and achieved in passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Trump and others may try to instigate violence so that BLM and others can be denounced, but the proof of non-violence is in the legacy of what John Lewis has left for them. The struggle goes on. Columnist, John Funiciello, is a former newspaper reporter and labor organizer, who lives in the Mohawk Valley of New York State. In addition to labor work, he is organizing family farmers as they struggle to stay on the land under enormous pressure from factory food producers and land developers. Contact Mr. Funiciello and BC.

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