Someone Needs to Teach These As$#oles a Lesson

Drawing by Nathaniel St. Clair – Photo by Martin Falbisnor

“Someone,” my Finnish-American socialist great-aunt Mary used to say in the late 1960s, “ought to teach these assholes a lesson.”  By “these assholes,” she meant the people who own and run the United States.

Mary died many years ago. I thought about her the other night while watching Donald Trump lie about crime and border walls to an audience of frothing white-nationalist Amerikaners in El Paso. I wondered what she’d think about the American political circus these days.

I imagined her yesterday laughing with disdain as the orange monstrosity idiotically declared a national emergency.  There is no national emergency at the southern border just a humanitarian crisis created by its own fascist nativism.

For the Ruling Class Because in the Ruling Class

Who would Mary want taught a lesson in 2019?  Trump, of course, for starters. Aunt Mary would have loathed the tangerine truth-crusher with a passion.  She would have been appalled by the callousness with which the billionaire creeping fascist president cut pay and benefits for 800,000 federal workers for five weeks in pursuit of a nativist wall meant to counter a fake brown menace on the southern border.

Mary would despise the modern-day Republicans for playing along with Trump’s racist, sexist, and authoritarian games and for giving the super-rich and their corporations a big tax cut in a country where the top tenth of the upper One Percent already had as much wealth as the nation’s bottom 90 percent.

But Mary wouldn’t stop with Trump and the Republicans.  Her notion of the “assholes” who need instruction would include the well-heeled agents of oligarchy who sit atop the nation’s other reigning capitalist party.  As Mary would understand quite well, the Democrats’ abject service to the big financial institutions and transnational corporations is why the racist and sexist Republican Party holds the presidency, the Senate, the Supreme Court, and most of the nation’s state governments today. “Red Mary” (as my more middle-class and devoutly Lutheran Finnish relatives called her) would have enjoyed the late political scientist Sheldon Wolin’s term for the dismal, dollar-drenched and demobilizing Dems: “the Inauthentic Opposition.”

Mary would have nothing but contempt for multi-millionaire neoliberal Democrats like the Clintons (net worth: $125 million), the Obamas ($40 million), U.S. Senator Mark Warner ($243 million), U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein ($94 million), U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthals ($85 million),  MSDNC morning host and former top international derivatives trader Stephanie Ruhle ($5 million), and MSDNC evening star Rachel Maddow ($20 million).

These people are forthe global bourgeoisie and its empire because they are part ofthe global bourgeoisie and its empire.

Mary would be nauseated by the identity games bourgeois Democrats play, whereby one is called a “racist” for having the decency to point out that Barack Obama and Corey Booker are corporate assets – and a “sexist” for noting the same about Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar (a notorious abuser of Congressional staffers) and evenElizabeth the “Senator from Raytheon” Warren (net worth $11 million). (With the former mass incarceration-agent Kamala Harris at the top of the ticket, corporate Dems will enjoy calling her left and progressive critics both racist and sexist at the same time.)

What Did Ilhan Omar Say?

Aunt Mary would have been sickened to see the Democratic Party establishment join the white- nationalist Republicans in absurdly accusing the new Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar of racist anti-Semitism for having the audacity to note the obvious fact that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) purchases influence and votes in Congress.

“What did she say?” Mary would ask me.  I’d go to my “smart phone” and pull up the two supposedly “racist” Omar Tweets, together accounting for seven words: “AIPAC!” and “It’s all about the Benjamins, baby.”

“That’s it?” Mary would ask, incredulous. “She was called a racist Jew-hater for that?  The Democrats joined in the charge? What’s wrong with those assholes?”

It’s a good question. “What makes this whole row over Omar’s remarks so utterly bizarre,” writes Mehdi Hasan at The Intercept:

“is that so many leading Democrats, loudly and rightly, decry the pernicious and undeniable impact of special interests, lobbyists, and donations on a whole host of issues — from the role of Big Pharma and Big Finance; to influence-peddling by Saudi Arabia; to the ‘grip’ that the NRA has on the debate over gun control, to quote Democratic senator Richard Blumenthal. But any mention of AIPAC and lobbying in favor of Israel? ‘Anti-Semitism!’”

The Nation has published a reflection from Ady Barkan, a self-described Jewish Israeli citizen and Washington lobbyist who writes the following: “I speak from personal experience when I say that AIPAC is tremendously effective, and the lubricant that makes its operation hum is dollar, dollar bills.”

The “ugly truth,” Barkan adds, “is that the Israel lobby, like other powerful lobbies led by Jew and gentile alike, wields its money strategically and effectively. Outrage should be directed not at those who point this out (most often Muslims and people of color) but at the suffering of the Palestinian people and the simultaneous dependence of the Republican Party on genuine anti-Semites.”

We Need to be Socialist

If she could have made herself watch the orange monstrosity’s stomach-turning State of the Union Address last week (I tried but failed), Aunt Mary would have been sickened to see Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi join (however half-heartedly) in the applause when Trump called for the nation’s elected officials to “renew our pledge that America will never be a socialist country.”

I imagine myself going on my “smart phone” to show Mary the 2017 CNN Town Hall where Pelosi told the audience that “We’re capitalists, and that’s just the way it is” when a student asked the Congresswoman her if the Democrats “could move farther left to a more populist message.”

I’d also show her Pelosi’s nauseating comment on the Green New Deal that progressives advance both in order the reduce the nation’s extreme inequality and to (by the way) help save hopes for a decent future by moving the nation and world on to an environmentally sustainable path: “the green dream, or whatever they call it.”

Then I’d show Aunt Mary a link reporting Pelosi’s net worth at $72 million. “What more do you need to know about that witch?” Mary would say.

Mary worked much of her adult life as a clerk in a downtown department store in Elgin, Illinois. She remembered and benefited from the original New Deal. She would have torn Nancy Pelosi to shreds at a CNN Town Hall.

Mary would have been incensed to see Gillibrand, Harris, and Warren join Pelosi by standing to clap when Trump uttered his “never socialist” line.  “What’s the matter with those women?” Mary would have asked and added that “We need to be socialist.”

That we do. The sooner the better. Hellen Keller knew it.  So did Albert Einsteinand Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  It’s not for nothing that more 18-29-year old Americans respond favorably to the word “socialism” than they do to the word “capitalism” these days.  Imagine that! The Cold War came to an end before they were born and now they are coming of age in a nightmare world bequeathed to them by the decrepit “Lords of Capital” (Glen Ford).

Capitalism, the soulless profits system, is incapable of planning for and privileging the common good. It is cold class rule masquerading as democracy.  It is inherently opposed to meaningful popular sovereignty.  It is intrinsically driven to sow and exploit divisions of race, ethnicity, gender, nationality, culture, and sexual orientation. It is systemically compelled to ruin livable ecology. It has created an environmental catastrophe humanity cannot overcome without undertaking what Dr. King called “the real issue to be faced …the radical reconstruction of society itself.”

Nancy Pelosi’s belief that “we’re capitalist and that’s just the way it is” is a death sentence for the species.

(How generationally vile is it for the 78-year-old Pelosi to respond with elitist condescension to activists trying to sustain ecological livability for young people and future generations? Millennials and their children now face the specter of environmental ruin thanks to a growth-addicted system that has made Nancy “Green Dream” Pelosi insanely rich during her final years on the planet.)

Against “the Demonic Subject Tube”

What would “Red Mary” think of Bernie Sanders?  She’d be a fan with a big caveat. The qualification would be that it’s “bullshit” (as Mary would have said) for Sanders to cite Scandinavian nations as his role models without having the decency to point out that those nations dedicate relatively tiny portions of their national budgets to military expenditures.  Mary was an admirer of Dr. King, who preached that the U.S. could not end poverty or escape “spiritual death” as long as it diverted vast swaths of its tax revenue (57% of federal discretionary spending today) to a giant war machine that “draw [s] men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube.”

Bernie F-35 Sanders(who sickened Vermont peace activists by cheering Bill Clinton’s criminal bombing of Serbia twenty years ago) gets it when it comes to onetime U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis’s justly famous maxim that the American people “must choose” between “democracy” and “wealth concentrated in the hands of a few” since “we can’t have both.” But brother Bernie falls short when it comes to a different but related corollary:  Americans must choose – we can have democracy, social justice and livable ecology or we can have a giant global war machine.  We can’t have both.

(Acknowledging this “guns or butter” choice at is a great third rail in major party U.S. politics. Bowing to the power of imperial ideology and possibly internalizing it, the nation’s top two “democratic-socialist” (really progressive-populist) politicos Sanders and House Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NYC) praise mass-murderous war criminals like George HW Bush and John McCain and fail to seriously defend the democratically elected socialist government of Venezuela against a U.S.-led regime-change (coup) operation.)

Who should “teach these assholes a lesson”?  Aunt Mary, who participated in the sit-down strike craze that spread across the nation in 1936 and 1937, wouldn’t hesitate to deliver the answer: the American working-class. If there’s anybody she’d love on the American political scenes today, it is Association of Flight Attendants president Sara Nelson. Nelson called for a national general strike just days before unpaid air-traffic controllers brought the recent federal shutdown to a rapid close by withholding their labor power and thereby threatening to idle air-travel, at no small expense to the investor class.

“There’s a time,” as Mario Savio famously said in December of 1964 during Berkeley Free Speech Movement:

“when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart that you can’t take part! You can’t even passively take part! And you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus — and you’ve got to make it stop! And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it— that unless you’re free the machine will be prevented from working at all! And it will stop!”

America, under the eco-cidal rule of the Lords of Capital, is mired in such a time right now. The machine is so odious on so many levels that it almost defies belief, and it stinks to high heaven. It is long past time for We the People, the working-class majority, to teach the people who own and run this nation a lesson or two on the path to displacing them altogether.  We can complain all we want about Donald Trump, the malignant mother of all assholes, but the machine that is grinding us and the common good down is much bigger and deeper than just the nation’s titular head of state. It’s “the whole damn system” that needs to be reconstructed and brought under the tutelage of the people.

Paul Street’s latest book is This Happened Here: Amerikaners, Neoliberals, and the Trumping of America (London: Routledge, 2022).