Enough Is Enough (E)

I have made this bold statement a few too many times – “I’m not reading the news anymore, it’s too depressing”- and I would love to report that I have listened to my words of wisdom, but alas I cannot do that. In fact, it is more accurate to say that I have been reading more news stories, and magazine articles these last few years than I previously did, which had me wondering the other day: “Why?” Why now, when the news appears to be bleaker than it has been? But that is probably just wishful thinking on my part.

I have read several stories/articles/essays as of late all dealing in one way or another with the growing concern about the alt. right (white), with some notable exceptions, of course, who appear to rallying around this notion that the country, this country, needs to go back to when “they” were the only people around, and if they weren’t then the “they” in this case is either referring to slaves, Chinese railroad workers, or any other ethnic group that just happened to be around to help build the country.

The most recent piece I read, “The New Anarchy” by Adrienne LaFrance, in the April issue of The Atlantic, is a very insightful piece on political violence, and the many far right groups at work here in the US. The article spends a good deal of time discussing the political violence of the 60s and 70s in Italy, often referred to as the “Years of Lead,” which, for the most part, culminated with the assassination of former Prime Minister Aldo Moro, at the hands of the Red Brigade. In a conversation with Vicky Franzinetti, who as a teenager was a member of the far-left militant group “Lotta Continua,” she states that: “There was a lot of what I would call John Wayneism, and a lot of people fell for that. Whether it’s the Black Panthers or the people who attacked on Jan.6 on Capitol Hill, violence has a mesmerizing appeal on a lot of people.” Franzinetti goes on to say that in Italy at that time people were grasping for a “group identity.” Sound familiar? Speaking on that identity, she goes on to say: “If you move from what you want to who you are, there is very little scope for real dialogue, and for the possibility of exchanging ideas, which is the basis of politics.” I would venture to say that what we are witnessing in this country right now echoes these sentiments to a tee. The only things that are being exchanged these days between our two political parties are vitriolic salvoes. Ideas? These have been relegated to the sidelines!

While LaFrance does not feel that it should take an act like the assassination of a former politician, as she puts it, “to shake people into awareness,” another person Lafrance interviewed, William Bernstein, author of The Delusions of Crowds: Why People Go Mad in Groups (2023), said that he is “not optimistic that anything else will work.” According to Bernstein: “The answer is and it’s not going to be a pleasant answer – the answer is that the violence ends if it boils over into a containable cataclysm.” While he was hesitant to say the following, he said it anyway: “…what if they actually had hanged Mike Pence or Nancy Pelosi on January 6? I think that would have ended it. I don’t think it ends without some sort of cathartic cataclysm. I think, absent that, it just boils along for a generation or two generations.”

While I shudder to think what would have followed such a cataclysmic event, for me the bigger question that comes out of Bernstein’s words is what exactly is he referring to when he says “it,” a word he uses three times? Ended what? What doesn’t end with a cathartic cataclysm? What boils along for a generation or two? Or, for argument’s sake, maybe he was right to be vague like this, because do any of us really know what “it” is? One possible answer to why the Jan 6 mob/crowd behaved the way it did might come from yet another book about crowds written 63 years ago! I am referring here to Elias Canetti’s groundbreaking book Crowds and Power in which he states: “A crowd exists so long as it has an unattained goal.” That goal on Jan 6, of course, was to do the bidding of their “supreme” leader and disrupt, at any cost, the certification of the election results.

There are a multitude of these alt. right (white) groups that love a crowd! Oath Keepers, QAnon, Proud Boys, Patriot Prayer, and the Rise Above Movement, to name a few, and then there are a couple that don’t even attempt to hide behind a contrived name, like the Racist Skinheads, or the Neo-Nazis. Crowds, as Canetti describes them, provide a certain kind of anonymity, an unruly mob of faces. However, that was 1960, before there were security systems and the portable technology that we now have, hence the many arrests and convictions thus far. Although the groups’ particular agendas may differ, they all appear to be united on several fronts: Who they want to be President…again; What they would like the country to go back to, (white); How they might achieve this (guns). What is fascinating to me is the fact that they want to rally behind a man who is only second-generation American, because nothing says American to them than someone whose grandfather came from Germany. Hmm. If this weren’t really happening, it would make for a great comedy sketch…just saying. Perhaps some clarification is in order. I am pretty sure the school history books will back me up, well, not all school’s history books, when I say that the only thing that all the nations that “founded” their respective countries in the Americas, including the US of course, have in common is that when they first arrived on the shores of this continent, they all encountered indigenous populations. Period!

 “History” though, is not always what it appears to be. As Sam Lipsyte so prophetically puts it in Hark (2019): “History hides. That’s its job. It hides behind other history.” Towards the end of this novel, Lipsyte reiterated saying: “…history hides. It hides every new interpretation of an interpretation” … And then prophetically concludes these thoughts with: “But that’s all history ever is. Trauma and adjustment.”  So, perhaps it’s time to forget history and the history books and open our eyes, look around us, and recognize what it is we are so plainly seeing on a daily basis in this country: Overt Racism.

But that’s really only the tip of the iceberg, isn’t it? Because Americans have been traumatized by overt racism ever since our homeland became a nation, not to mention way before then. So, what is it then? What has these people arming themselves to the teeth like they are preparing for Armageddon? Why are they willing/wanting armed conflict with their fellow citizens in order to preserve some Puritan ideal as to what this country needs to be like again? Are they that appalled by “globalization?” And yet don’t understand that it is partly responsible for how they are in this world. Are they that afraid of “wokeness,” “the written word,” unless of course we are talking about the “good book,” LGBQT, government (except, of course, when it comes to subsidies, the “dole,” child-tax credits, and the list goes on)? Just to clarify, this isn’t only about those in need of the things listed above, the monied half of this alt. right (white) contingent benefit from the government in many ways, for those with, shall we say, portfolios. After all, there is a reason why a certain someone doesn’t want his tax records looked at!

Now that I got that off my chest, let’s take a closer look at globalization. Simply put, globalization is “the word used to describe the growing interdependence of the world’s economies, cultures, and populations, brought about by cross-border trade in goods and services, technology, and flows of investment, people, and information.” While some might argue this is a new phenomenon, it is not. The idea of a “connected” world began as soon as humans were able to travel by means other than their bodies provided. As soon as we had the ability to “explore,” globalization began. Are there problems with this type of connectedness to all the above-mentioned traits of globalization? Absolutely! Is the answer civil war? Not likely. The irony of a group of people complaining about a way of life being lost to “foreign” interests, when these same people’s ancestors did the exact same thing to the indigenous people of the lands, they appropriated for themselves, is laughable (see photo above). It is also tragic. As I think about this, I am reminded of that famous line from George Santayana’s 1905 book, Reason in Common Sense, which comes at the end of volume 1: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” However, in this modern day installment, it is not about remembering the past, it’s about obliterating it, it’s about trying to control what people can and cannot read, and in Florida about what you can and cannot say: GAY, come and get me Ron!

One of the problems that I personally have with all of this is only partially due to these reprehensible morons that have been able to finagle their way into the political morass that this country is now seeing, or the armed to the teeth MAGA zealots, otherwise known assome pretty decent folk.” The other is due to the fact that some people appear so shocked by all of this as if we are seeing something new. This is NOT NEW. These people have been around us all along, hiding behind “history,” stockpiling and biding their time for the right moment, or the right person. They have been waiting for their savior that will deliver them to the “promised” land, which is really the land that they already occupy, but no longer want to share with anyone who doesn’t look like them, doesn’t think (I use that word begrudgingly) like them, and doesn’t pray like them. They want to return their country to the OK Corral circa 1881 and turn Tombstone into tombstones. Exactly the “John Wayneism” that is mentioned above.

If you need more proof that their messiah has risen, look no further than the rally recently held in Waco, Texas, a location chosen not by accident, but to send a message. The only problem is that even though the “speech” given was incendiary, spiteful, threatening and, above all, ludicrous, it is already old news and we have moved on waiting for the next outrageous “message,” and on and on it goes. It is high time we looked behind the “curtain” to expose what we all know is there, a man (another word used begrudgingly) who has lied, cheated, and bullied his way into our lives, and used and abused the very systems, ironically enough, that were put in place to counter such tactics.

Los Angeles 2024

8 thoughts on “Enough Is Enough (E)

  1. Excellent commentary. I’d like to say that we don’t having these, or at least all them (no book banning anyway) here in Canada, but it’s brewing. As you say some should perhaps learn a little history, in the end things never go well for the ones on the wrong side of the Corral so to speak.

    Liked by 1 person

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