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Five American Pastimes, Six Dark Ironies: Reflections on Alexandria

Photo by Joel Dinda | CC BY 2.0

When the bitter Bernie Sanders fan James T. Hodgkinson shot up the Republican congressional baseball team on a practice diamond in fashionable Alexandria, Virginia this last Wednesday, five great American pastimes – baseball, bad politics, deadly gun violence, the sensationalist news cycle, and the police state – came together with great and dark irony.

Hodgkinson was a liberal Democrat and Bernie Sanders supporter who posted this on Facebook last March 22nd: “Trump is a Traitor. Trump Has Destroyed Our Democracy.”

Shooter, please. Forget the unproven assertions of collusion with Russia and ask yourself just what democracy it was exactly that Donald Trump wrecked? The Big Money-managed United States is a damn near openly plutocratic oligarchy where the wealthy Few get what they want again and again regardless of majority working class sentiment.  There’s a strong body of solid academic research demonstrating what Joe and Jane Six Pack already know about U.S. politics and policy: “money talks, bullshit walks.” The game is rigged.

It’s been going on for a long time. The capitalist class has been destroying what’s left of U.S. democracy for decades and it’s been doing this as much through Democrats like the Clintons, Obama. Pelosi and Schumer as with Republicans like Reagan, the Bushes, Trump, Ryan, and McConnell et al.

You can’t have meaningful “democracy” in a nation where the top tenth of the upper 1 Percent owns as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent.

Fellow leftists, don’t let the right-wing link you to the Trump-pricked madness of James Hodgkinson. When we come for the ruling class, it won’t be as wild lone gunmen.  We’ll come with great dignity and en masse, after a highly organized uprising, with handcuffs and a summons from the People’s Revolutionary Tribunal. We’ll be after a system, the profits system, not just that system’s richest and most powerful “elites.”

One among six ironies I count in this terrible story is that the Hodgkinson’s rampage has given the quasi-fascist Malignant Narcissist-in-Chief Donald Trump an opportunity to seem human and concerned with “bringing the American people together.”  For Herr Donald, who has done more to legitimize violence in American public life than any politico I can recall, it’s been an undeserved opportunity to boost his miserable approval numbers by appearing “presidential.”

Nice job, James Hodgkinson.

Trump left it to surrogates like that slimly and Satanic sociopath Newt Gingrich to blame “The Left” for egging Hodgkinson into his action. On the FOX News and talk radio right, of course, “The Left” is anyone and anything to the portside of Charles Grassley – anyone from your local Marxist-Leninist or left-anarchist discussion group or Jacobin reading club to Mark Cuban and the editors of the New York Times and the Washington Post.

The insane fascist radio host Michael Savage took to Twitter to say “I warned America the Dems constant drumbeat of hatred would lead to violence!” (Want to heard a “constant drumbeat of hatred”? Listen to Savage). Right wing shock jock Bill Mitchell Tweeted that “The Left in this country is ushering in a new #CultureOfViolence where violent hate is the new normal.”

Right, it’s “The [U.S.] Left,” with all those highly weaponized Maoist and Trotskyist paramilitary groups, that is making violence and hatred ubiquitous across the U.S. You betchya! (That reminds me, I’m late for my assault rifle training. My regional subcomandante will not be pleased).

Sadly but predictably enough, the actually not-at-all Left Times printed a Thursday morning report in which it took seriously the suggestion that the centrist social democrat Bernie Sanders might bear some responsibility for the bloodshed in Alexandria because he has had the elementary, truth-telling decency to observe that the demagogic Trump is a “demagogue” and to note that the orange-tinted beast is “perhaps the worst and most dangerous president in the history of our country.” The title of the Times article was “Attack Tests Movement Sanders Founded.”  (What “movement” would that be exactly?)

A second irony is that Hodgkinson gave the Clockwork Orangutan some welcome news-cycle respite from the rolling spectacle of Russiagate/Obstructogate/Comeygate – the great “cloud over my presidency” Trump wants evaporated.

Poor Jeffrey Toobin looked more than a little depressed as the Alexandria story stole Russiagate’s thunder for at least a night on CNN.

A much bigger tragedy occurred the same day – a horrifying fast-moving fire at a hazardous public housing high-rise (Grenfell Tower) in London.  The victims were mainly nonwhite and working and lower class. The charred tower’s low-status residents had long complained about unsafe conditions there, particularly noting fire risks, only to be told “shut up or else” by the local (Kensington) council and their counterfeit Tenant Management Organisation.

The corporate media attention given their appalling deaths (the final toll will certainly rise well past the initial official count of 12) did not come anywhere close to that received by the wounding of a Republican congressman, a Republican congressional staffer, a Republican lobbyist, and two police officers in Alexandria.  Some victims of tragedy are more officially media-worthy than others.

A third irony is that Hodgkinson’s act seems almost calculated to generate sympathy for a party, the arch-plutocratic Republicans, that Noam Chomsky has called “the most dangerous organization in human history.” No love for the dismal, neoliberal, dollar-drenched, imperial, and planet-wrecking Dems here, but Chomsky’s comment has some merit.  What gives his “outrageous statement” (as Chomsky himself calls it) some credence is the Republicans’ extreme commitment to the escalation of climate change through the radical deregulation of energy.  As Chomsky told the BBC last May:

“It’s a crucial issue. It’s an existential threat. Now we have this astonishing spectacle of the United States alone in the world, not only refusing to participate in efforts to deal with climate change but dedicated to undermining them….It’s not just Trump – every single Republican leader is the same…In the Republican primaries, every single candidate either denied that climate change was happening or, when you get to the so-called moderates like Jeb Bush or [John] Kasich, they say ‘well maybe it’s happening but we shouldn’t do anything about it’. It’s 100 per cent refusal.”

And it’s insane. Atmospheric carbon parts per million (ppm) is now at a shocking 409.21,  nearly full 10 points above the mark set just four years ago. We are now heading to 500 ppm by or before 2050 – a level that will melt the Antarctic and wipe out all prospects for a decent human future.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the eco-Exterminist crime of Geocide will make the Nazis look like small time thugs by comparison. I don’t say this to provoke crazy lunatics to start shooting right-wingers.  I say it to spark some awareness of the urgent need for revolutionary social, political, and environmental transformation.  Am I supposed to muzzle such reflections thoughts because we live in an Armed Madhouse (Greg Palast’s term) where demented men like James Hodgkinson might take one’s simple truth-telling as a reason to wreak havoc?

Should the Beatles not have recorded The White Album because it might have been sucked into the demented cranium of Charles Manson? (If you want to see some truly violent messages, read The Holy Bible, and not just the Old Testament. Or play some American video games with some of your favorite twenty-somethings living in their parents’ basement.)

A fourth irony is that the white Republican white nationalists on the Alexandria ba[tt]l[e]lfield appear to have had their lives saved by Black police officers from the Capitol Hill security detail. The officers were present because one of the Congressmen present, the critically injured Steve Scalise (R-La) , is the third ranking Republican (the party “whip”) in the U.S. House of Representatives. He’s also a racist. As Democracy Now! reported two and a half years ago:

“…Scalise once addressed a gathering of white supremacists and neo-Nazis. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise has confirmed reports he spoke at a 2002 convention of EURO — the European-American Unity and Rights Organization. EURO is founded by David Duke, a former Ku Klux Klan leader and perhaps the country’s most notorious white supremacist. Scalise was serving as a Louisiana state representative at the time. ‘Mr. Scalise reportedly described himself as “David Duke without the baggage,” so it’ll be up to Republicans to decide what that says about their conference,’ White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said…” (emphasis added).

A fifth irony is that Scalise and most in his party are militant gun advocates, opponents of even most elementary restriction on gun ownership, including assault rifles. Scalise boasted an A+ Rating from the neo-fascistic National Rifle Association, whose gun industry-funded campaign to put an assault weapon in every ammunition-stocked U.S. household is perfectly matched to the neoliberal, arch-capitalist ideal of total Hobbesian human atomization – the war of each against all.  Well, almost all: it’s a barbarian bloodbath meant to be viewed from the safety of high-security gated communities for the One Percent.

One of Wednesday’s Alexandria’s victims was a top lobbyist for Tyson Foods, a truly vicious and socio-pathological corporation that ranks very high on the scales of worker exploitation and environmental spoliation.  I asked my “social media” correspondents if this lobbyist was actually playing on the Republican Congressional baseball team. Someone wrote back with a clever line: “Probably was the manager.”

I doubt that that’s true but my correspondent has a good understanding of the relationship between the corporate class and the political class in the U.S. Big Business calls the shots, as Hodgkinson himself noted in a Facebook post that went up the day before his assault. The doomed assailant put up a cartoon explaining “How does a bill work?” “That’s an easy one, Billy,” the cartoon reads. “Corporations write the bill and then bribe Congress until it becomes law.”

“That’s Exactly How It Works. ….” Mr. Hodgkinson wrote.

Not completely, of course, but all-too sadly close to the dark plutocratic reality of what passes for popular governance in Washington DC and the fifty state capitals.  Which takes us back, ironically enough (this is number six) to my original question to the late Hodgkinson: what “democracy” was it exactly that Trump and/or Russia supposedly ruined?

Help keep Paul Street writing at www.paulstreet.org.

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

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