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We Do Not Live in the World of Before

Following the announcement of US presidential candidate Joe Biden picking Kamala Harris for VP, I have seen many social media posts. US American liberal friends seem thrilled and some have already started the “vote shaming.” Biden and Harris have been forgiven or, better yet, not even noted for their centrist, rightwing past. And I have US American leftist, anarchist, and socialist friends lamenting the betrayal, once again, of the Democratic Party to working class people. Most of them are anticipating another four years (or more) of Trump. As one who is considered to be far left, I must concur with the latter. The Democratic establishment is once again banking on identity politics in favor of substance. It is digging in its heels to the noxious muck of late capitalism, as it always has. That might have worked before, but we do not live in the world of before.

So it causes me to ponder what might have won? Medicare for All in a country where healthcare (a fundamental human right) is linked to employment, where millions have lost their jobs and are un or under-insured? And during a global pandemic that is poised to take hundreds of thousands of American lives? Comprehensive programs for housing and debt relief, including student debt, in an economic downturn not seen since the Great Depression? Defunding and abolishing the police as it exists as an institution today, in the midst of massive uprisings against documented, ongoing, entrenched brutality and systemic racism? A true “Green New Deal,” that isn’t merely a cloak for green corporate capitalism and the fossil fuel industry? An end to the surveillance state that vastly eroded civil liberties, and a bloated military industrial complex that sucks billions of dollars each year to destroy poorer nations in the global south in the defense of capitalist interests? A decisive criticism of diplomacy and the human rights crimes of American allies, like medieval Saudi Arabia, which continues to commit genocide in Yemen with US bombs? Or apartheid Israel, which has just annexed the occupied West Bank with little opposition even though it violates international law? Just a few things here, I know.

Trump is perhaps the final and most visual symbol of the American Empire’s depravity. Perhaps, even, of its collapse. And his proto-fascistic character thrives on centrist weakness as much as it feeds on the fears of the privileged, ignorant and bigoted. He has been erroneously mocked as stupid, and yet those who mock him cannot see that this is his strength in a sham republic, where education and science are routinely viewed with suspicion and met with derision by an enormous swath of the population.

Forgive me, but I have no encouragement regarding these events at the moment. Because to me, it is as if the Weimar Republic is reaching its bony fingers through the soil of its grave to warn the apathetic and the unaware. An omen to those who live in the shadow of an empire in collapse.

I can only encourage people of conscience to build solidarity and stay sharp. As Lenin said, “sometimes decades pass and nothing happens, and then there are weeks where decades happen.” From here until January of 2021, we shall find out if that is the case in our moment.

Kenn Orphan is an artist, sociologist, radical nature lover and weary, but committed activist. He can be reached at kennorphan.com.

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