Tuesday, November 25, 2014

There be no shelter here

Photo of Ferguson on fire, from PBS.

We played "Killing in the name" at the end of our radio show last night, which was right before 9pm, the time of Prosecutor Robert McCulloch's press conference in Ferguson, Missouri. In this incendiary (but rather bizarre) press conference, he announced the grand jury had not returned an indictment, and there would be no trial for the murder of Michael Brown by Officer Darren Wilson on August 9th.

All three of us are seasoned activists, and we knew what was coming. Even though 99% of grand juries return indictments... we knew THIS CASE would be an exception.

And so, driving home, I thought of the song we had played ... and then I thought of Rage Against the Machine's "No Shelter"--which I heard in my head, over and over... there be no shelter here/the front lines are everywhere. I wondered, is that really true?

Apparently so.

By the time I got home, America was burning.

I was going to write a post-election synopsis, but I think this post is going to stand in for it. My feelings about Ferguson and the 2014 election are forever entwined. One has in fact brought about the other. You are seeing the results of the election in action: the arrogance of power.

Rarely has an election had such a catastrophic effect on my morale. I have been plagued with self-doubt and disgust at the Left (or what passes for the Left in the USA), particularly the young folks who didn't vote and thus turned over the election to the Republicans. The election of Ronald Reagan left me deeply depressed, and this has been almost as bad. I just have to keep remembering: most people didn't vote, midterms belong to the base, it wasn't an actual mandate, blah blah blah. But right after the election, I was most upset at all the pseudo-radical tumblrites, the kids who talk a good game and do nothing, those people who claim there is no difference between the parties, when the lack of Medicaid expansion here in most southern states means that thousands will die with no health care.

They don't seem to care about that, or at least, not enough to vote.

Now see, when you put it that way, they howl in disagreement and indignation. But that is exactly what they did. They chose to sit out the election, and as David Brooks smugly reminded us on PBS, not voting is a vote, and the Democrats "failed to mobilize the base." Both true.

But see, the youth are all fired up over Ferguson. They tweeted furiously, almost more than I did. What's up with that? Drama attracts attention, but boring elections don't? (Do they understand the election was also a matter of life and death?) I was amazed at all the young people I saw in the Ferguson footage, all races, raising fists in the air and blocking the interstate. I once helped block an interstate highway (at the 1980 Republican convention in Detroit that nominated Ronald Reagan) and it is a powerful feeling. (We delayed Reagan's acceptance speech by almost an hour.) GODDAMMIT, PAY ATTENTION is what these actions scream out loud. It is as if they have decided elections are old school, and yet, the only way to get more minority cops and minority representation, IS ELECTIONS. However, considering all the votes habitually dropped down the toilet, along with gerrymandering and right-wing hijinks, we ALSO see that elections are stolen regularly, and that has created an epidemic of electoral cynicism.

I feel like the country is going down the road described so frighteningly in the (very entertaining, highly recommended) novel California, by Edan Lepucki. She describes a time when "the internet goes dark"--scary but totally believable, since it is obviously a threat to hegemony. People pay to live in "communities" that are safe and protected. If you can't afford to live in one of these, too bad. In Margaret Atwood's trilogy, Oryx and Crake, Year of the Flood and MaddAddam, there are likewise "compounds" populated by the employees of the international corporations, and if you can't make it into one of these, you are consigned to the "pleeblands"--which are pillaged, torched and trashed with regularity.

Watching the news reports last night, I momentarily felt like I was in a compound, while Ferguson is a pleebland.


At left, Curtis McLaughlin on our radio show right before the election. He was the Libertarian Party candidate for congress in South Carolina's 4th district, against Trey Gowdy.

There was NO Democratic challenger.

Gowdy won 85% of the vote. Welcome to the South.


There is also some good news, as the first gay marriages in South Carolina have now become legal. I went to the demonstration last week at Greenville County Square, to cheer on those couples going in to get their licenses and thereby make history.

A little light in the darkness. A little bit. Some light, but no shelter.

There be no shelter here.

No Shelter - Rage Against the Machine

Comments welcome, but pro-Wilson/pro-cop comments will be dealt with harshly, and possibly deleted. Be advised.