The Dia de los Muertos of the US Left

Even as I sasheyed down 24th Street with a hangman’s noose around my neck and a crown of skulls adorning my tonsure in the Mission barrio’s 30th-odd Dias de los Muertos procession, ABC-Disney was already calling Florida for Bush and hope itself was busy dying. All of a sudden, this Aztec ritual celebration of life, death, resuscitation, and death all over again seemed the aptest metaphor for the calamity that was about to engulf our nations.

By 4 AM the next morning, even as the last ballots were being cast in Columbus Ohio, Bush had surged to a purported three million plus lead in the popular vote and Kerry was on the brink of conceding Ohio, ostensibly to avoid another extended spasm of partisan malfeasance a la 2000 but bottom line, to save the empire from itself. I awoke with the bitter bile of four more years on the tip of my tongue. My inexplicable conviction that the Dems would score a landslide knockout had shipwrecked on the smiley shores of Good Morning America. Where had I gone so wrong?

I had just trekked the breadth of the country from the Republican National Convention up and down the eastern seaboard into the breadbasket of North America and thence deep into the heart of Texas, a journey of 10,000 miles, had conversed and overheard conservation with and between dozens and dozens of fellow passengers on Spaceship USA. Never once had I met a professed Bushite or a “Values Voter”–do you buy them by the pallet-load down at Wal-Mart?–or even, for chrissakes, a supporter of their pinche war! Yet the results would seem to shout out that there are 3,000,000 more of them than us. But where do they live?

This is not a nation divided geographically between bi-coastal blues and rock-solid reds everywhere else but around the fringe of the Great Lakes (a map that looks surprisingly like one of the slave and free states on the edge of the Civil War), not a map split between global franchises like Starbucks and Wal-Mart, or even rival religious fanatacims.

This is two nations, each claiming to be the United States of North America. We cohabit the same territory, sort of like Palestinians and Israelis. But more and more, they are all around us now. We mingle with them at airports and follow them on freeways. They have already moved in next door, perhaps into our own homes incubating down in the basement like the pods in “Invasion of the Body-Snatchers. They are coming in with the fluoridation.

Make no mistake about it, comrades; we now live under an evangelical theocracy. Those who are not Born Again will soon get the death penalty. Those who are not taken up in the Rapture will burn in the hellfires of Nuclear Armageddon. I predict that within four more years, certain states of a southern persuasion are going to enact laws making handling snakes and speaking in tongues mandatory

The Great Satan Osama’s apparition on the eve of the election was positively biblical. Radiating Koranic karma and old testament patriarchy, costumed in a golden prayer shawl, his beard fulminating dire prophecy, Osama seemed a paid political announcement for the End Time–although what Bin Laden actually proposed (trading guarantees of your security for our security) was an offer of peace and not the bloody Jihad as Bush, Kerry, and their respective followers seemed to interpret it.

>From the get-go, Al Qaeda and its Jihadist associates currently starring in Iraq set the agenda for this catastrophic election. The fear of God and the God of Fear, theirs and ours, is at the root of the new crusade that was the calling card of both candidates as Bush and Kerry marched in lockstep towards destiny’s precipice, whooping it up about killing terrorists, pulverizing the infidels, and safeguarding the Holy North American Empire.

We on whets left of the Left who allowed ourselves to be duped by John Kerry into believing that when he thundered that he would do a better job of winning the war in Iraq, he really meant that he would end the occupation, have only our own souls to flagellate. Suspended belief or cognitive dissonance aside, we too were, as my old homeboy Saul Landau chortled last week, “faith-based voters.”

Besides Osama, whose Al Qaeda subsid in Qatar long ago announced its endorsement of the incumbent’s re-election (“his stupidity and religious fundamentalism will be beneficial to the Islamic Cause”), the Bushites were sanctified by that astute Christian theologian Karl Rove. Reverend Rove’s strategy of piling up 11 anti-gay marriage initiatives in mostly Bush states (although Prop I is alleged to have put the President over the top in Ohio), encouraging a Christian landslide that won his boss a popular majority and was God’s way of showing whose side He’s really on. Winning the popular vote was inimical to the Bush gang’s strategy of re-occupying the White House in the face of worldwide clamor for their eviction. Indeed, it was the loss of the popular vote in 2000 that nearly queered the deal to steal that election.

“Gay Marriage” is only the tip of the Christian Succubus, a codeword for White Born-Again America, a gateway drug to racial profiling, right-to-life, kill all the raghead terrorists, and their fucking Rapture. Reverend Rove hit the jackpot out there in Holy Roller land. Blaming it all on Gavin Newsom is malignantly ingenuous.

Bush’s re-election is going to be understood by the rest of the world as a declaration of war on their lives and their lands–although the fourth world war has raged for a long time, up until now it has been a largely undeclared one.

This time around, the U.S. North American people are not getting off the hook so easily. They will not be pardoned as they were back in 2000 when they haplessly allowed Bush and his electoral goons to snatch the vote in Florida and claim a mandate the rest of the world condemns as fraudulently obtained. This time around, there are no nuances. We are all complicit. Prepare yourself accordingly. If I were you, Iâod stay out of big city skyscrapers for the next four years.

The Declaration of World War IV or Four More (or five more) Wars–Iran, Syria, North Korea, Cuba, and Venezuela–is the price of Bush’s re-election. If, in fact, he was re-elected.

Start adding up the what about and see what the sum total of stolen votes amounts to. What about those 58,000 absent absentee ballots in Broward County Florida? What about the long lines of early voters I saw in Austin and San Antonio and El Paso, so long you had to make an appointment to come back to cast your ballot? What about the long lines of early voters in Florida, mostly Afro-Americans?

What about black voter suppression in the South and Midwest, the leaflets stuffed into the mailboxes in the Milwaukee projects warning black voters they could lose their children if they voted under false pretenses or if they were ever convicted of a felony? I’m old enough to remember Mississippi Freedom Summer–how could I forget being chased all over that lynch law state by armed peckerwoods? The Bushwas’ black voter suppression project of 2004 was how the Klan and the White Citizens Council operated back then. The recent decision by the Justice Department (now under the command of the first Mexican American to call the Geneva Convention ‘quaint’) that only that agency and not offended voters could bring voting rights suits. cuts right to the quick of black voter suppression in 2004.

And what about Columbus Ohio where tens of thousands of new voters were registered in the inner city only to have their registrations declared invalid by Elections Czar Ken Blackwell, this year’s Katherine Harris, because the forms were not on 24 weight bond paper? And what about the switcheroo on polling places in the Ohio capital–so few were set up in Afro-American neighborhoods that the avalanche of expectant voters did not subside until long after midnight, an unsubtle hint to folks of color that their suffrage wasn’t wanted there. How many went home without casting a ballot?

What about New Mexico, a hotly contested state where Gore only beat Bush by 300 votes last time around and now hundreds of ballots were “lost” in the liberal enclave of Taos (Donald Rumsfeld has a home there) and hundreds of voters not registered on the books voted in a nearby conservative county? Sounds a lot like old Mexico flimflam to me.

What about punch-card fraud, electronic disenfranchisement, and “spoilage”? Indeed, the confluence of all this Republican chicanery bears an impressive resemblance to what the long ruling (seven decades) Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) used to euphemize as electoral “alchemy.”

And what about John Kerry throwing in the towel in Ohio with a 156,000 provisional votes still to be counted and Bush holding a 136,000-vote lead? Was the fix in–again?

No one in his left mind is going to believe these results. One panel of foreign experts invited to observe the process by Global Exchange concluded that the presidential elections of 2004 were less credible even than those of Kazatzstan earlier this year.

Despite all the Internet chatter, no one in my immediate circle is going to the mat for a duplicitous fool like John Kerry who we willingly allowed to delude us into voting up as an anti-war candidate. It would be embarrassing.

Instead, we should be rejoicing that we are now unencumbered by deceiving Democrats. Now we can once again say and do what we think without obtaining permits from the Party with its absurd paranoia about tipping the election to the Bushites. We are free to plot and pursue a Left-wing agenda again without being spanked by the accursed liberal machine – 2004 was, as Jim Petris correctly testified, the most right-wing, anti-labor election in decades, maybe centuries. With Sweeney and his lambs laying down for the slaughter, the only mention of “class” (as in “working class” or ” class struggle”) in an economy that has lost more jobs than under any president since the Great Depression was that of the “middle” one.

What’s left of the U.S. Left has two obligations to the people of the world. One is to oppose Washington’s imperialist aggressions, and the other is to both build an electoral alternative and an alternative to elections.

On the second score, the Left flunked the 2004 urine test miserably. The Greens’ “safe states” strategy handed over all the political capital that threat of a third party had accrued in 2000 when the Democrat delusionally considered that Nader had stolen the election for Bush. So long as they remained so deluded, a Green Nader candidacy–and the promise of Nader to withdraw from the race in exchange for an anti-war plank in the Party platform, was a hole card the Greens backed down from playing–was the fix in again and again?

Although California was hardly a swing state, there were no Green candidates on the ballot I cast on Valencia Street in San Francisco this November 2nd–I had to write in the only Green whose name the Bay Guardian knew to exist in the neighborhood.

But elections are a poor criteria by which to measure democracy, and an even worse weapon for effecting meaningful change. Peace with justice does not come without outrage and pain and vote taking is designed to drain the rage from political movement.

For months, we abstained from taking the streets–August 29th at the Republican National Convention when a half million of us gave the Bushwas a humongous collective finger, was a jubilant exception to this rule–cowed by the idiotic logic that mass demonstrations would hurt Dean or Kerry or whatever patsy the Dem candidate was going to be.

In Mexico, we have this word “corraje”–it means both pissed off and courageous. Now we must move back onto the public thoroughfares with renewed corraje.

There may be no entity called “The Movement” functioning in the U.S. of North America these days but there is plenty of momentum and not all of it eschews the creative re-arrangement of public and private property as a weapon of resistance in the fourth world war. Frustration with the electoral process always seems to breed such strategies. During my coast-to-coast junket, I was often shadowed by survivors of the Weather Underground touring with their movie. Their audiences were always bigger and more enthusiastic than mine.

We have been at this juncture before. Back in 1968 when, like now, both candidates wanted to decimate the gooks, we ran a pig for president and declared war on the farce of electoral politics. The biggest and toughest mobilizations, the ones that brought the war back home, came after the anti-war movement divorced itself from those still wedded to the electoral option.

Whatever the true count was November 2nd, we can be assured that we account for half of the United States of North America. There are in fact two countries out there, equal in mass and weight but not in spirit. Our United States of North America is inclusive, multi-racial, multi-cultural, pluri-lingual. We are diverse. We dance.

Their United States of North America is a closed Christian Caucasian cell, one that would exclude the Other, that loves the death penalty, and demands divine retribution. Like Ashcroft, it canâot dance.

Our United States of North America demands peace with justice, exudes solidarity, stands resolutely with the earth, and resists the globalization of corporate greed. Theirs is so inflated with neo-con, neo-imperialist helium that it has drifted off the face of the planet. Our America is determined to reattach it.

On election night 2004, I was exactly where I needed to be, in the swirling midst of the Dias de la Muerte procession in my old neighborhood of La Mision. We marched that night as a community to remember those who have sweetened the earth before us and to proclaim our freedom from the death politics of The Bush people. The task right now remains to build such communities of resistance everywhere in this land. For the rest of the world, our success is a matter of life and death. For us too, it is the only way we are going to survive Bush’s Rapture.

John Ross is the author of the instant cult classic “Murdered By Capitalism–A Memoir of 150 Years of Life & Death on the U.S. Left“.

Ross will speak at Evergreen in Olympia Washington Nov. 19th, Laughing Horse Books in Portland Nov. 22nd, and Simon Fraser University and the Vancouver Public Library Nov. 25th-26th (if Canadian authorities choose to admit him.) Ross will make a final offering at Cody’s in Berkeley Nov. 30th before returning to Mexico.



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JOHN ROSS’s El Monstruo – Dread & Redemption in Mexico City is now available at your local independent bookseller. Ross is plotting a monster book tour in 2010 – readers should direct possible venues to johnross@igc.org

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