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2016 What Have You Wrought?

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Holy shit, what a year, huh?  A friend keeps reminding me she knew it was going to be a bad one when David Bowie died in the first few days.  Even if one wasn’t a fan, the impact of his death was felt across the planet, especially in the imperial zones.  It’s hard to argue that things improved from that news.  Musically and politically, there was plenty more bad news to come.  The death of Fidel Castro, one of the world’s oldest revolutionaries, saddened the hearts of millions while providing his ideological enemies a moment of delight.  The future of one of the world’s most successful revolutions is now uncertain.  Capitalists are salivating at the opportunity to make a buck while various fascist and other right-wing elements look forward to exacting some kind of revenge.  Their sanguinary lust is barely concealed.  Fidel’s social conscience and fearlessness will be missed.  His revolutionary determination must be replicated a billion fold.

This is especially the case in wake of the regime change about to take place in Cuba’s northern foe.  The assumption of the White House throne by the authoritarian, obnoxious and narcissistic being known as Donald Trump removed any doubt in the eyes of the world as to the existence of democratic elections in the United States.  The fact that he and his uber-capitalist henchmen (and women) are set to rule the world’s most dangerous nation despite losing the popular vote by almost three million votes is all the proof one needs.  The electoral process leading up to his soft coup, from the empty box that is the Republican Party to the venal corruption and greed for power that defines the misnamed Democratic Party, only adds more ammunition to the argument that democracy in the USA is a pathetic fiction.  The fact that so many of us fall for that fiction every election cycle continues to baffle me, as it has since the 1970s.

I don’t wish to review the entire campaign season, but I find it necessary to remember that Bernie Sanders never really had a chance to get the nomination, even if he had won every single primary.  Furthermore, if somehow he had made it past the Clinton machine and the Democratic Party “leadership,” he would not be in line to move into the White HOuse in January 2017.  The fact that Clinton is not doing so despite winning the popular vote proves this.  Those who insist that the Electoral College was set up to prevent demagogues like Trump from becoming president misunderstand this essential fact–the Electoral College was designed precisely to make certain that men like Trump do get into the White HOuse.  It’s a system set up by wealthy racist white men to ensure that wealthy racist white men rule the United States.  Donald Trump is a wealthy racist white man.  Any questions?  Barack Obama was an anomaly.  Hillary is too.  According to the founders’ compromise (between slavers and the rest) Black men and women of any skin color are not supposed to rule over white people.

But what about those white working class who were pushed aside?  One quick response to that.  It wasn’t the non-white working class that made them redundant.  It was the system so many of them believe in that did that–capitalism.  Another musical great who checked out this year wrote and sang a lot of songs about this sector of the US population.  From his ultimately tongue in cheek “Okie from Muskogee” to his last single “Kern River Blues,” which lambasted the financiers and big business for destroying the American family farmer and the environment, Merle Haggard’s odyssey  in song spoke for many of the descendants of European settlers left behind.  Covert racism, which occasionally loomed in the context of some of his earlier work, had left decades ago.  In its place, Haggard had focused on the same class and people who are now working with Trump as the enemy of the working man and small farmer. In other words, he focused on the ruling class; the financiers and arms dealers, the land speculators and their Wall Street cronies.  Men and women who make money without ever doing any work; who lift a pen to rob the nation and the planet without nary a pang of conscience.  Haggard’s voice and wit will certainly be missed.

“Everybody’s crying peace on earth/just as soon as we win this war…”  Jazz pianist, vocalist and composer Mose Allison wrote those words decades ago.   Barack Obama got elected in part because he promised to end the US wars on Afghanistan and Iraq.  Yet, they continue, with more troops leaving for Iraq every week.  Mose Allison died in November 2016.  The wars did not end because a few powerful corporations and the humans that run them make an incredible amount of money by making certain they continue.  The politicians are either too fearful of or too much in debt to the war economy’s masters. The profits of the US war economy are a cancer.  They are killing what remains of this nation’s soul as certainly as they kill women and children in the lands where the war profiteers’ merchandise; as certainly as they kill veterans of their wars via suicide.

As I write this, Donald Trump has called for a resurgence of the nuclear arms race.  This happened once before under the man the media fell in love with; the man who went to the town of Oxford, Mississippi and praised the Klan; the man who went to a Nazi grave in Bitburg to commemorate something heinous; the man who ignored the outbreak of HIV-AIDS even as friends of his died from it; the man who energized the movement that resulted in the current sorry state of crumbling infrastructure and permanent homelessness.  I could go on, but we all know I’m talking about Ronald Reagan.  Donald Trump is his political descendant with an even greater touch of just plain meanness hidden behind his arrogant entitled self.  The uber capitalist class is rejoicing.  The rest of the world scrambles to respond.

Here we are, a day or two away from 2017.  To borrow a line from Bob Dylan, this is darkness at the break of noon.

Or, even more concisely, borrowing words from the late Leonard Cohen’s title track from his final disc, “You want it darker, we kill the flame.”

Ron Jacobs is the author of Daydream Sunset: Sixties Counterculture in the Seventies published by CounterPunch Books. His latest offering is a pamphlet titled Capitalism: Is the Problem.  He lives in Vermont. He can be reached at: ronj1955@gmail.com.

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