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Sunday, May 31, 2020

a rainbow Armageddon

Our riot comparisons – Newark, Detroit, D.C. Watts the Rodney King riots – reference years when the U.S. economy was booming. This aint one. Roosevelt was elected, in part, because Hoover reacted to the Veterans march – the Bonus Army – which had camped on government grounds in D.C. by calling out the army, which, under MacArthur, simply overwhelmed the camp with tanks and soldiers, driving the families there away. That was July 28, 1932. Supposedly this was the last straw for Roosevelt, who decided, finally, that Hoover was not just an opponent but the real shit that he so abundantly was. (for Hoover’s chillingidea that we shoulda allied with Hitler in World War II, see Brad Delong’spost, here: ).
The US is facing a gaping hole where the economy used to be, but in White America, at least, until recently, the thought was that we’d puddle-jump it. So we sort of turned to more important topics in the great lockdown, like Animal Crossing, looking away from the two trillion that the U.S. government essentially pumped into the upper 1 percent. Two trillion used to be quite an amount. And when you compare it with what the administration is proposing now – time to cut food stamps! – it seems, well, pretty large. But the media isn’t going to lead any charge against it anytime soon. On the street, however, the idea that it is either starve or change has a new air of reality.
For the twenty-somethings, this reality is coming down pretty brutally. It is a surprising rainbow who are out there marching. It is lovely, but here I speak as a person who has been in demonstrations on the losing side since the age of Reagan’s Contras: demonstrations are covered and then forgotten. The demonstrations against the Iraq invasion were some of the biggest ever seen, and they meant squat.
Thus, the temptation out there to turn it up a notch. In combination with the inevitable poison cocktail of peep’s projecting their own psychodramas and the suspicious marge, the undercover cops and agents provacateurs. If you have ever been active in any left organization, you will have run into these people. They are standard issue guys, mostly, always proposing the stupidest things to an excitable mass of angry people. Your tax money hard at work!
I think we are sliding into the reaction, delayed but perhaps inevitable, to our age of surroundsound inequalities.  I don’t think it is economic determinism to hypothesize that if black median income wealth were equal to white median income wealth, instead of being 13 x lower, black people in Minneapolis, who compose 15 percent of the population, would not constitute 60 percent of the people that the Minneapolis cops use the choke knee on. Inequalities at certain points converge. An unequal healthcare system equals many more corona deaths in the black community, proportionally, than among whites. As a for instance.
In any horror movie, just when you think the monster is dead, he comes back to life for another jumpscare. This is an excellent rule for how things happen.


Anonymous said...

Hello, I cannot really argue against what you say about demonstrations being covered and then forgotten. And that the demonstrations against the Iraq war did not stop the war. But worth squat? I'm just one of those young ones who perhaps doesn't know much. I try to read and learn though. And I had an aunt who was a friend of yours, which is how I started reading this blog. She took me to a few demonstrations when I was little, and talked to me about them. I don't remember it all but I have her notebooks to remind me. She talked and wrote about it in terms of theater. I suppose theater doesn't stop wars either. I remember her talking to me of ancient Greek theater. The Furies in Aeschylus who made a bad pact she said and went below the earth. But they will return from the dead and protest and demand justice for the living. It seemed a like a strange ghost story when I was little. I'm not sure I understand it much better now, but protesting and demanding justice is not nothing.

Roger Gathmann said...

Your aunt is right, and I am wrong to say that demos are not worth squat. And she is especially right to reference theater, for there is something very sacrificial at the heart of the political process that comes out in the demonstration. That said, demonstrations, to be more than squat, need a demonstration culture, which we are seeing crystallized in the U.S., suddenly. My experience of demos against the wars in Iraq - the Gulf war one and the occupation - were that the demonstrations did squat. I thought about why for a long time - I think it is very much a matter of those demos not hooking up with the existential situation - with the inequality, the racism, the systematic domestic violence - but narrowcasting. I think that this started to change with the Gilets Jaunes, who have sparked a long train of demonstrations, I think, which preceded the pandemic. So let me rephrase myself in honor of your aunt, a woman who was smarter than me: a demonstration is squat if it doesn't express the full existential urgency of its object, which depends upon the situation from which it arises. Arghh, I'm falling into blah blah blah here! Hope you will excuse me.