Keep Your Head Down; Keep Your Passport Current

Photograph by Nathaniel St. Clair

Maybe it’s the frontier ethos or lots of consumer goods to buoy our psyches for those who remain on the US left with still-functioning minds and who have learned to produce ever-new scenarios in which the systems we now live under will somehow be reformed and work for the betterment of the [all] species.

In “Fish Peddler and Cobbler,” poet Kenneth Rexroth reflects that perennial hope that some on the left hold on to:

Hope that came to an end as
The iron fist began to close. No one electrocuted me.
Nothing happened. Time passed.
Something invisible was gone.
We thought then that we were the men [sic]
Of the years of the great change,
That we were the forerunners of the normal life of mankind [sic].
We thought that soon all things would
Be changed, not just economic
And social relationships…
It will take
Longer than we expected.

When Rexroth wrote those lines, there was still hope for change in a way that couldn’t be perverted by a political campaign, the political system, or some nonsensical and useless innovation of technology. He wrote about real hope for a different order where people and the planet mattered, although we were decades distant from the environmental movement. All of that has now changed and we will soon hang by the same hair that precariously held the Sword of Damocles. Damocles hung on to the precarious hope of happiness; we hang on to the precarious hope for survival.

The same political, economic, and social forces that vomited up Trump, et al., as the frontman of the Apocalypse, will not concede or entertain even the most moderate plans to save the planet and this [all] species from its worst actions.

Nuclear stockpiles are modernized, an insane space force is funded, those seeking protection around the world are tormented by walls, separation, detention, and deportation, while the feedback loops of environmental calamity make themselves known. Even the most idealistic among us know instinctively that there’s something to the title and theme of Chris Hedges’ book: America: The Farewell Tour.

The left in the US has failed in many, many ways. Some among us became so very adept at political correctness that we lost sight of the big picture and the brass ring as we spun around in this often insane world. We broke off into small movements that lacked the organizational ability to connect with other movements. When a group, or groups, following the same or similar cause won some concession from the system, most in the group called it a day and ensconced themselves back into the mainstream. The solidarity that once existed between groups that fought for social change in the 1950s, 1960s, and the beginning of the decade of the 1970s, vanished, or became nonentities with the onslaught of the right and far right. There may not be a way up and out at this point in history.

As one of the survivors of the Kent State University massacre of May 4, 1970 said to me: “Keep your head down.” It’s also a good idea to keep a passport current and valid, if possible.

More articles by:

Howard Lisnoff is a freelance writer. He is the author of Against the Wall: Memoir of a Vietnam-Era War Resister (2017).

February 18, 2020
John Pilger
Julian Assange Must be Freed, Not Betrayed
Peter Harrison
Religion is a Repeating Chapter in the History of Politics
Norman Solomon
The Escalating Class War Against Bernie Sanders
Conn Hallinan
Irish Elections and Unification
Dean Baker
We Shouldn’t Have to Beg Mark Zuckerberg to Respect Democracy
Sam Pizzigati
A Silicon Valley Life Lesson: Money That ‘Clumps’ Crushes
Arshad Khan
Minority Abuse: A Slice of Life in Modi’s India
Walden Bello
China’s Economy: Powerful But Vulernable
Nicolas J S Davies
Afghan Troops say Taliban are Brothers and War is “Not Really Our Fight.”
Nyla Ali Khan
The BJP is Not India, and Every Indian is Not a Modi-Devotee
Binoy Kampmark
Buying Elections: The Bloomberg Meme Campaign
Jonah Raskin
Here’s Hoping
Evaggelos Vallianatos
Herakles in the Age of Climate Chaos
Bob Topper
The Conscience of a Conservative
John W. Whitehead
We’re All in This Together
Gala Pin
Bodies in Freedom: a Barcelona Story
Laura Flanders
Democracy, Dictatorship and Bloomberg
James Chandler
Among Cruel Children
February 17, 2020
Sheldon Richman
Anti-BDS Laws Violate Our Freedom
John Horning
NEPA is Our National Defense System

Evelyn Leopold
How the UN’s Middle East Peace Plan Was Trounced by Its Own Members
Stephen Cooper
“Just Mercy” and Justice Don’t Exist in Alabama
Patrick Cockburn
Sinn Fein’s Victory is Ireland’s ‘Brexit Moment’ When Left-Out Voters Turn on the Elite
Ralph Nader
“Democratic Socialism” – Bring it on Corporate Socialists!
Phillip Doe
Every Day’s a Holiday for the Oil Business in Colorado
Binoy Kampmark
Fashion Fetishism, Surgical Masks and Coronavirus
Cesar Chelala
The Democrats’ New Chapter
Robert Koehler
The Wall: Separating Democracy From Voters
Peter Cohen
Time to Retire the “He Can’t Beat Trump” Trope
Sr. Kathleen Erickson
Lessons From Ministering on the Border
Alvaro Huerta
Another Five Lessons for Democrats to Defeat Trump in 2020
Wim Laven
Donald Trump’s Plan for America: Make it Ignorant
Christopher Brauchli
You Tube’s Trump Predicament
Steve Klinger
Trump Shoots Romney at Prayer Breakfast; GOP Shrugs
Elliot Sperber
Ode to the City Bus 
James Haught
Megachurch Mess
Weekend Edition
February 14, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
Mayor Mike, Worse Than Mayor Pete
Bruce E. Levine
“Sublime Madness”: Anarchists, Psychiatric Survivors, Emma Goldman & Harriet Tubman
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Leader of the Pack
Jennifer Matsui
The Doomsday Cuckoo Clock
Paul Street
Things Said in Confidence to 4000 Close Friends This Week
Jonathan Cook
Even With Corbyn Gone, Antisemitism Threats Will Keep Destroying the UK Labour Party
Thomas Klikauer
Cambridge Analytica: a Salesgirl’s Report
Joseph Natoli
Vichy Democrats vs. the Master Voice
David Rosen
Sanders vs. the Establishment Democrats: McGovern All Over Again?