Terry H. Schwadron
Jan. 19, 2021
In conversations with old friends, the notion has come up multiple times: All those years ago, when we joked, hopefully, about a political “revolution” in this country, it wasn’t going to be like this.
Two generations ago already, we were talking about America coming to its senses about Vietnam, about Civil Rights, about rights for workers over profit-bound corporations, about internationalism, the role of education and empathy for individualism free of censorship.
When the revolution comes, we would say, people could live their lives without worry about color of skin, sexual choices or music with a message, with equality and fairness as a watchword for daily life, with more concern about peace and love and a whole lot less on the power of the gun.
Whether anti-war protests, Flower Power or Black Power or freedom from laws peeking into our bedrooms, there was a generational pull for a more liberal, more trusting view of the individual to act with increased respect for one another.
Our institutions and marketplaces would prosper by emulating those feelings, we insisted, before much of it slipped away.
That it hasn’t worked out that way is rueful, of course. But as we await a necessarily militarily guarded change in government, we must acknowledge more than a generational failure. We have an emergent set of fissures that affect everything from elections to personal health, a fundamental attack on who is allowed to be a full-fledged American.
Instead. . .
Who could have predicted that we actually have inherited a largely cultural resolution based on preserving a White, Christian domination of power personified in an ego-centric, would-be monarch like Donald Trumpthat would be used to justify an actual swarm attack on the American government? Where was it written that the immigrant experience, so central to our American traditions, was to be totally rejected, that Black citizens, Muslims, Jews, and anyone considered The Other could be subjected to such widespread attack just for being, that only the monied and the crazy would be allowed to say who could be elected in this country?
Yes, as all those videos of the mob show us, we got the revolution, long-simmering. Only it wasn’t our revolution.
It’s not as if we’ve been blind for years over what’s been happening now. From groups like the Anti-Defamation League and Southern Poverty Law Center to the FBI to journalists, we’ve followed the broadening of conspiracy theorists, of racialist backlash to Civil Rights, of rising fears and gun ownership. We’ve watched in temporary moments of mass killings or outrageous police killings of Blacks in routine arrests, to court-sanctioned shutdowns of laws to end abortions, attack gay marriages, harass transgenders.
Has it only been that the meanness stretching into anti-democratic policies have not touched each of us as individuals? Are we so short-sighted as to demand that every policy and law only affect me and my family in a positive way?
There will be a million Trump legacy reviews offered as he leaves office now, but certainly a central theme will be his enabling of the rise of a new generation of hate.
Seeking a Message?
Wallowing through the video of the Capitol Insurrection –ProPublic has assembled an amazing collection of thousands of videos posted in Parler, the right-wing’s preferred platform — what comes across is the lack of anything remotely positive.
“The footage illustrates with great force just how tightly bound up that big lie — that the election was illegitimate — was in the rioters’ motivations. The enablers of this lie badly want to flush this truth down the memory hole,” noted columnist Greg Sargent.
This was the revolution of people who want only what they want, are willing to savage, kidnap, or as it turned out, kill, to keep Donald Trump in office, but who talk nonsense about Satanic cults of pedophilia incongruously linked with opposition to public health masks and non-existent election fraud.
But, as a set of unrelated, generally anti-government groups, they only see enemies — everywhere — lacking any message that is understandable, not to say legal or implementable. What do you do with a Satanic government?
Not only are the results dangerous, whether to lawmakers or Democrats (or for that matter, Republicans who think beyond the shouted “Stop the Steal” mottos), more peaceful protesters, and anyone non-White and non-Christian, however that is defined, but it is, well, nihilistic. The results being sought are nothingness. This isn’t about health care or global economics or taxes or policing; it is about raw tribal-ness with a significant dose of racism. We’re in, you’re out, and we can ignore your votes in an election, your “cancel culture” attempts, your would-be empathy.
This is the politics of fear, and it is the new American revolution.
Now, We Must Overcome.