Surreal: Some Ninth-Inning Reflections from Pre-Election Police State America

Photo by Laurie Avocado | CC BY 2.0

Photo by Laurie Avocado | CC BY 2.0


I may have grown up a White Sox fan and hate the right-wing owners of the Chicago Cubs but there’s no way I can deny the epic and magical nature of the Cubs victory in the seventh and final game of this year’s World Series last Wednesday night.  After coming back from a three game to one deficit to tie the series, the Cubs the dreadful pitching-change decisions of their manager Joe Maddon (whose ridiculous early removals of Kyle Hendricks and then John Lester cost the team a five-run lead) to push two runners across home in the top of the tenth inning.  The final Cleveland out ended a 108-year championship drought on the North Side of Chicago.

It was better than the best baseball fiction.  After sending untold millions of Cubs fans into near catatonic shock (“oh my God, it’s happening again”), the Cubs got it together to end “the curse of the Billy Goat” once and for all.  The winning runs followed a mystical pre- extra inning rain delay that allowed the mostly young Cubs players to re-group from the shock of (their manager) blowing the lead.

I’ve never seen anything quite as dream-like and drop-dead Hollywood dramatic in the wild world of sports. It was surreal.

But harsh reality hit me in the face within minutes of the last out.  Amidst the pandemonium in Iowa City’s tavern-laden Ped Mall, a student climbed a lamppost and fell to grave and potentially fatal injury. Police vehicles quickly occupied all exits and entrances to the mall. The celebrants were surrounded by cops as paramedics arrived.

There was more cold reality to deal with the following day. On Thursday, I learned about how militarized police attacked Native Americans resisting the eco-cidal Dakota Access Pipeline on the same day the Cubs won it all.   You can see film footage of the assaults here. The scenes are remarkable. You behold, in the words of filmmaker Josh Fox, “a line of peaceful water protectors in the water, up to their waists, freezing cold.” Above them stand police in riot gear, equipped with shotguns.  The gendarmes blast the pipeline fighters point blank and at close range with streams of mace and pepper spray and with rubber bullets. You see a female journalist zapped while she interviews an Indigenous activist. You see a military sniper (certainly with real bullets) perched on a hill above the vicious scene.

“It was like witnessing Gandhi’s Salt March,” Fox said, “then suddenly I am watching people being maced, and I hear a pop and see that they shot Erin Schrode… How is it possible that from 10 feet away, they are shooting at peaceful protesters, journalists, bystanders, medics?”

Later that night the Cubs would finish off the Cleveland Indians, the team with the offensive name (pretty much on par with “The New Jersey Negroes”) and the hideous racist Red Sambo logo. Before the game, however. police dressed like U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan shot, sprayed, and beat real Native Americans fighting heroically to protect safe drinking water, ancestral lands, and livable ecology.

With the historic World Series over, the top media spectacle and grand contest holding the nation’s attention is now of course the presidential election. The quadrennial electoral extravaganza was looking like a slam dunk win for the highly unpopular and Horrible Hillary (HH) Clinton over the even more unpopular and Deplorable Donald (DD) Trump.  But now the pollsters and media say it has tightened up.  The dystopian Trump cannot be counted out after all. And the main reason for this is Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey.  His bottom of the ninth inning decision (nine days ago) to tell Congress that late-breaking evidence (garnered during an investigation of legendary pervert ANTHONY Weiner’s laptop computer) had led the FBI to re-open its investigation of Hillary’s e-mails could prove nearly as deadly to Hillary’s chances as Joe Maddon’s horrific Game Seven pitching changes almost were for the Cubs.

Whatever the outcome, it’s no small matter. Comey has made an historic, unprecedented intervention on the part of federal law enforcement into the national electoral process.  It is a truly chilling intrusion against what’s left of democracy that broke dramatically with long-established government tradition.  As CounterPuncher Mike Whitney explains:

“The surprise announcement was delivered…by…Comey, who knew that the action would create a cloud of suspicion around Clinton that could directly affect the outcome of the election…Recent surveys suggest that that indeed has been the case, and that Hillary is now neck in neck with GOP contender Donald Trump going into the home-stretch of the bitterly contested campaign…By inserting himself into the democratic process, Comey has ignored traditional protocols for postponing such announcements 60-days prior to an election, …His action is as close to a coup d’état as anything we’ve seen in the U.S. since the Supreme Court stopped the counting of ballots in Florida in 2000, handing the election to George W. Bush…It is not the job of the FBI to inform Congress about ongoing investigations. Comey’s job is to gather information and evidence that is pertinent to the case and present it to the DOJ where the decision to convene a grand jury is ultimately made. Comey…decided to abandon normal bureaucratic procedures…to torpedo Clinton’s prospects for election.”

Unreal. Dystopian.

The common thread in all of this is the reach and power of the police state in American society, which is already quite bad enough with supposedly liberal Democrats in the White House. Who knows how far it will to reach with a President Trump, who has promised to round up and deport millions of Latino immigrants and to ban Muslims from entering the country.  In response to Black Lives Matter protests, Trump called for “a national stop and frisk law” – a declaration of racist martial law. It’s not hard to imagine that if Trump were in the White House right now federal marshals and/or National Guard troops under federal control troops would be shooting Standing Rock’s water protectors with live ammunition, not just rubber bullets.  Maybe James Comey can stay on to help coordinate such repression in coming months.

Will Big Brother Comey’s unsettling police state interference be enough to push Trump over the top? Probably not but only tomorrow will tell…well, maybe not (determining the results could drag on for a bit if Hillary doesn’t get the minority turnout she needs and Trump gets the broad white Amerikanner turnout he requires).

But back to the Cubs – and, strangely enough Bernie Sanders. Three days ago, an estimated five million people lined up for miles in Chicago to see a parade and rally where heroes were applauded and gave short speeches to adoring masses.  It was the seventh largest gathering in human history, exceeded only by the Kumbh Mela pilgrimage in India (30 million in 2013), the Arbaeen festival in Iraq (17 million in 2014), the Funeral of CN Annadurai in India (15 million in 1969), the Funeral of Ayatollah Khomeini, Iran (10 million in 1989), the Papal Gathering in the Philippines (6 million in 2015), and World Youth Day in 1995. You’d almost think there’d been a revolution that introduced democracy, social justice, and environmental sustainability to save livable ecology.

Later the same day as the Cubs parade, maybe 500 (at most) people gathered at College Green Park in Iowa City, just three blocks from my house, to hear the lovable loser Bernie Sanders – the candidate who said that “the American people are tired of hearing about Secretary Clinton’s e-mails.” Bernie made a less-than-convincing case for thinking of a vote for the right wing corporate and imperialist Goldman Sachs darling Hillary Clinton as a progressive, even “revolutionary” statement. It was hard to take.   The mild and tepidly responsive turnout was very different from the huge and hungry crowds Bernie garnered here and across Iowa when he was challenging, or seeming to challenge –his e-mail comment reinforced my early sense that “sheepdog” Sanders wasn’t in-it-to-win it – Mrs. Clinton for the Democratic nomination. It did not bode well for Lady Klynton Kissinger Sachs’ chances in Iowa.  Comey’s letter was disgraceful but a party that doesn’t want its presidential candidate investigated by the FBI shouldn’t insist on putting up a presidential candidate being investigated by the FBI.

The attendance was low despite the unseasonably warm weather resulting from the anthropogenic (really capitalogenic) global warming that threatens to close off prospects for a decent future – a problem that failed to garner s single solitary question from corporate media operatives during the three “presidential debates” between DD and HH this fall.

The repression continues in North Dakota.

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Paul Street’s latest book is They Rule: The 1% v. Democracy (Paradigm, 2014)

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