FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

The Fire Burns, the Cauldron Bubbles

America serves up its news in a cauldron from hell, or so it sometimes seems. The fragments are all simmering in the same juice: bombs and drones and travel bans, slashed health care, police shootings, the Confederate flag.

Double, double, toil and trouble . . .

Suddenly I’m thinking about the statues of Confederate generals taken down in New Orleans, the Confederate flag yanked from the state capital in Charleston, S.C. . . . and the secret flag the authorities can’t touch. Ray Tensing was wearing such a flag — a Confederate flag T-shirt — on July 19, 2015, while he was on duty as a University of Cincinnati police officer. That afternoon, he pulled over Samuel DuBose because of a missing front license plate. Less than two minutes into the stop, DuBose — a dad, a musician, an unarmed black man — had been shot and killed.

This is so commonplace that, while it may be news, it’s hardly surprising. Tensing was fired from his job. He went to trial for murder, twice. Both ended in hung juries. OK, that’s not surprising either. Cops are almost never convicted in such shootings. But what I can’t get out of my mind is the T-shirt. It’s what places this story fragment within the American news cauldron: the quiet hatred of it, the implicit sense of dominance, the armed racism. Tensing wasn’t a “loner” with an agenda. He was an officer of the law; he served the public. Yet he was secretly honoring the same agenda (the same god?) as Dylann Roof, the young man who killed nine African-Americans two years ago at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C.

This is the crossing of a line. Official public action — armed action, no less — is still permeated with poison.

Fire burn and cauldron bubble.

“As Senate Republicans rolled out the Better Care Reconciliation Act,” Rolling Stone reported, “. . . the halls outside the office of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell were starting to get a little crowded. Sixty disability rights activists from grassroots group ADAPT, many of whom were using wheelchairs, staged a ‘die-in’ to protest steep Medicaid cuts in the bill. They were arrested and removed by Capitol Police, with witnesses saying that some protesters were dropped by police officers dragging them from their chairs.”

A vote on the bill, as we all know by now, has been postponed because of the controversy it has generated across the country, the die-ins that have been held at senators’ offices, and the Congressional Budget Office determination that the legislation would wind up causing, ultimately, 22 million people to lose their health insurance, which translates into thousands of people dying prematurely. What T-shirts were the 13 (Republican, male, white) senators who wrote this bill wearing?

Maybe their T-shirts bore dollar signs rather than Confederate flags, but the connection resonates. Public policy emerges from what we believe to be right, perhaps without the least reflection or awareness. And there is a consensus of fear, scapegoating and dehumanization that has always dominated a portion of American policy as well as individual behavior. Some people’s lives just don’t matter. Or they’re in the way.

With the current president, reckless individualism and public policy merge, sometimes shockingly, as with, for instance, Trump’s anti-Muslim travel ban, which the Supreme Court partially removed from the oblivion two lower courts had assigned it.

According to The Guardian:

“The nation’s highest court said the 90-day ban on visitors from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, along with a 120-day suspension of the US refugee resettlement program, could be enforced against those who lack a ‘credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.’”

So the chaos at airports will continue, and families from these “bad” countries can be split apart. Somehow I don’t see this as a separate, isolated piece of news but part of the big picture of what President Trump might call American greatness, which is to say, American dominance. And of course many of the people who would attempt to enter the United States from these countries are refugees of the wars we are waging or facilitating there, which are making their homes unlivable.

“The enemies may rotate, but the wars only continue and spread like so many metastasizing cancer cells,” Rebecca Gordon wrote recently. “Even as the number of our wars expands, however, they seem to grow less real to us here in the United States. So it becomes ever more important that we, in whose name those wars are being pursued, make the effort to grasp their grim reality. It’s important to remind ourselves that war is the worst possible way of settling human disagreements, focused as it is upon injuring human flesh (and ravaging the basics of human life) until one side can no longer withstand the pain. Worse yet, as those almost 16 years since 9/11 show, our wars have caused endless pain and settled no disagreements at all.”

We condemn, we bring to trial, the armed hatred and racism of individuals, but far too rarely do we ever bring the whole system, or a serious segment of it, to trial. That’s because it takes a movement to do so. The civil rights movement and the movements that followed — antiwar, women’s rights, environmentalism — did that, and we changed as a nation. But not enough.

It will take another movement of ordinary people to continue this evolution. I know it’s underway: I feel the courage, for instance, of the disabled die-in participants. We’re at a new beginning.

More articles by:

Robert Koehler is a Chicago award-winning journalist and editor.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
Weekend Edition
December 13, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
The FBI: Another Worry in the National Security State
Rob Urie
Establishment Politics are for the Rich
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: That’s Neoliberalism for You
Paul Street
Midnight Ramble: A Fascist Rally in Hershey, Pennsylvania
Joan Roelofs
The Science of Lethality
Joyce Nelson
Buttigieg and McKinsey
Joseph Natoli
Equally Determined: To Impeach/To Support
Charles Pierson
The National Defense Authorization Act Perpetuates the Destruction of Yemen
REZA FIYOUZAT
An Outrageous Proposal: Peace Boats to Iran
Lee Hall
Donald Trump Jr., Mongolian Sheep Killer
Andrew Levine
A Plague on Both Their Houses, Plus a Dozen Poxes on Trump’s
David Rosen
Mortality Rising: Trump and the Death of the “American Dream”
Dave Lindorff
The Perils of Embedded Journalism: ‘Afghan Papers’ Wouldn’t Be Needed If We Had a Real Independent News Media
Brian Cloughley
Human Rights and Humbug in Washington
Stephen Leas
Hungry for a Livable Planet: Why I Went On Hunger Strike and Occupied Pelosi’s Office
Saad Hafiz
Pakistan Must Face Its Past
Lawrence Davidson
Deteriorating Climates: Home and Abroad
Cal Winslow
The End of the Era: Nineteen Nineteen
Louis Proyect
If Time Magazine Celebrates Greta Thunberg, Why Should We?
Thomas Drake
Kafka Down Under: the Threat to Whistleblowers and Press Freedom in Australia
Thomas Knapp
JEDI Mind Tricks: Amazon Versus the Pentagon and Trump
Jesse Jackson
Trump’s War on the Poor
Michael Welton
Seeing the World Without Shadows: the Enlightenment Dream
Ron Jacobs
The Wind That Shook the Barley: the Politics of the IRA
Rivera Sun
Beyond Changing Light Bulbs: 21 Ways You Can Stop the Climate Crisis
Binoy Kampmark
The Bloomberg Factor: Authoritarianism, Money and US Presidential Politics
Nick Pemberton
Ideology Shall Have No Resurrection
Rev. Susan K. Williams Smith
What Trump and the GOP Learned From Obama
Ramzy Baroud
‘Elected by Donors’: the University of Cape Town Fails Palestine, Embraces Israel
Cesar Chelala
Unsuccessful U.S. Policy on Cuba Should End
Harry Blain
The Conservatism of Impeachment
Norman Solomon
Will the Democratic Presidential Nomination Be Bought?
Howard Lisnoff
The One Thing That US Leaders Seem to Do Well is Lie
Jeff Cohen
Warren vs. Buttigieg Clash Offers Contrast with Sanders’ Consistency
Mel Gurtov
The Afghanistan Pentagon Papers
Gaither Stewart
Landslide … to Totalitarianism
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
How Blaming Nader in 2000 Paved the Way for Today’s Neo-Fascism
Steve Early
In Re-Run Election: LA Times Journalist Wins Presidency of NewsGuild 
David Swanson
If You’re Not Busy Plotting Nonviolent Revolution for Peace and Climate, You’re Busy Dying
Nicky Reid
Sorry Lefties, Your Impeachment is Bullshit
John Kendall Hawkins
The Terror Report You Weren’t Meant to See
Susan Block
Krampus Trumpus Rumpus
Martin Billheimer
Knight Crawlers
David Yearsley
Kanye in the West
Elliot Sperber
Dollar Store 
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail