I’m Reckoning on a Day of Reckoning

Photograph Source: Ronald Reagan speaks for presidential candidate Goldwater in Los Angeles, 1964 – Public Domain

I used to follow electoral politics with fervor. I pounded the pavement for Bobby Kennedy and George McGovern in 1968 and 1972 even though I wasn’t of voting age yet. I even put in some work for Jesse Jackson in 1984, which got me an invite to a couple events during the 1984 Democratic Convention in San Francisco that year. I went to one for the food and beverages and walked away with four bottles of some decent California vintage which I shared with some friends from Haight Street. The last few decades I pay attention just to keep an eye on the bastards involved in the game. I’m not a Democrat, Republican, Green or whatever.

The way I see the current situation is that the right wing of the GOP has been building its base since it was able to get Goldwater the nomination in 1964. The clown who nominated Barry at that convention—the occasionally honorable Everett Dirksen—had this to say about the USA and patriots like Mr. Goldwater:

“Now all of us were raised to love our country, to take pride in its glorious history, and to defend it with our lives if necessary. We call it “patriotism” — a word once revered by everybody. Today it’s the fashion to sneer at that word and to label positions of strength as extremism, to find other nations’ points of views better than our own. Perhaps too long the bugles of retreat have sounded! And I put my chips on a man who has that fidelity to his country. Consider our diplomatic representative in Zanzibar. He’s at the point of a bayonet, marched to the dock, and said get out. In Ghana, where we’re spending over 250 million dollars, they hauled down our flag from the embassy flagpole and desecrated it. A nation like Panama, that could not exist today were it not for the United States and a great Republican Teddy Roosevelt, can fuss and scold at us with impunity. And then along with it, there is that bearded Communist in Cuba who reviles and scolds and castigates the world’s greatest country — and confiscates our property. “

Our property? No—that’s the Cuban people’s property. Teddy Roosevelt stole it from the Cuban people in the name of freedom. Panama? It is truly a nation that could not exist today were it not for the United States because the US literally STOLE AT GUNPOINT the land from Colombia so it could build the Panama Canal.

After a decade and a half of trying to take over the party following Goldwater’s 1964 electoral defeat, the rightwingers succeeded with Reagan’s victory in 1980. We know how that went. The Bush presidents were not overtly racist and even appeared less racist than Reagan—who always walked a fine line with his rhetoric—but the objective intent and results of their policies marginalized Blacks and other non-white residents as much as Trump’s did. The Democrats under Clinton and Obama played a carrot and stick game. They put more cops on the streets, helped militarize them and let them loose on the marginalized, using the Nixon war on drugs to lock up as many as they could get away with. At the same time, they encouraged tacitly and otherwise the criminalization of immigrants and locked up a bunch of them, too. Meanwhile, both parties celebrated changes in the laws regarding finance that only encouraged Wall Street’s already unhinged greed while simultaneously assisting the major corporations moves overseas.

As far as the US Left is concerned, we organized and organized against war, against racist and brutal cops, against the treatment of immigrants and for amnesty, in favor of LBGT rights and women’s rights only to have the leadership of these movements sell out to the Democratic party which said a lot of pretty words and then blamed the right wing when very little changed. The right side of the population voted for a GOP infiltrated by old and new school white supremacists, evangelical bigots, war mongering neocons, and outright Nazis. Some shied away from the Nazis and other bigots, but all of them kept their eye on power. Now, despite the fact that they are nominally out of power, they control much more of the nation’s political conversation than they should.

I think a day of reckoning will come in our lifetimes.

In the present, SEAL teams ramped on steroids and armed to the teeth take out poor people in their Yemeni hideouts in the sand. COVID deniers go to their deaths sucking up ventilated oxygen and resisting vaccinations, common sense and the fact of their demise. Corporate America raises the prices on everything, blames the workers they no longer have for the shortages their chase for cheap labor created, and the weather is defined by extremes. Extremes I can’t but think have something to do with that capitalist chase for cheap labor and its disregard for the earth it extracts its riches from. A

Military units defend the hospitals in this country so the unvaccinated COVID cases can arrive. Meanwhile, they destroy medical facilities overseas. The contradiction is missed by almost all. Thank you for your service is something I can’t honestly say. I’ve never been convinced those soldiers were serving me or any other soul who doesn’t own a place in the Fortune 500. Families speak quietly about their child’s deployment to the shores of Tripoli, the emirates of Arabia and the drone base of Djibouti. The illusion remains that these pawns of the Empire are something other than pawns. The myths of Harley Davidson and the red, white and blue get confused during NFL halftimes with the kings of the beer business and pretty girls in the mountains drinking Coors. Go team.

Voting rights remain a myth if you ain’t the right kind of voter in too much of this leeching yard of a nation. Not that voting seems to get one much more than a tiny bit of hope and if the fascist leaning candidate don’t win, a few more years of pretending this country is not so bad after all. There’s always enough diversions to ignore the highway to hell we’ve been on since that highway was a Powhatan trail the Englishmen followed into a place they called Jamestown. If it weren’t for Henry Ford and his Taylorist factories, the development of easy credit, asphalt engineers and Dwight Eisenhower’s militarization of the US road system that highway would be taking us to hell at a slower rate than that which we are currently traveling. But then again, the general attitude seems to be who really gives a flying fuck how or when we end up there?

If I was going to write a song about this current moment in human history, it would be a really sad but not pathetic country song. Something like “Long Black Veil,” only meaner and seriously misogynist. The Johnny Cash version of “Delia “is the direction I’m thinking it needs to go. With the second shot she died/Delia’s gone one more round. The blues seem apropos too. I think I’ll just sit here and drink. Or maybe roll another one just like the other one. My guitar may be out of tune but it sounds just right for the historical moment.

Many years ago I ended up in a southern church of the naked Nazarene for their Easter week worshiping. The parishioners’ focus wasn’t on the resurrection of Jesus the Lord, but on his persecution and crucifixion. The entire scenario was acted out by members of the faith who dressed up in Roman sandals, togas and everything. As their Jesus walked the route to his crucifixion on the hill, the whips hit their mark, creating welts. I thought they were going to use 18 penny nails to hang the poor guy playing Jesus but they backed off, switching to electric cable, Made me wonder if the fellow playing Jesus had been sleeping with the pastor’s wife, daughter or maybe both. My info had it that Pontius Pilate was played by the pastor himself—a chubby mean-looking fellow with a pig nose burnt red by the sun. I thought the Catholics were over the top what with their turning wine into blood and bread into body, but nothing could match the graphic nature of what I saw there. A fried chicken dinner came afterwards.

The Supreme Court, in a rare decision that appears to actually support justice, rejected Donald Trump’s insistence that his papers dealing with his role in the attempt to block the election were covered by executive privilege. In doing so, the court referred to a similar case in 1974 when a different bunch of judges decided Richard Nixon had to turn over some tape recordings to Congress. Those tapes were part of the smoking gun that proved Nixon’s involvement in the cover-up of the Watergate break-in. Biden’s White House responded to the decision saying “His actions represented a unique and existential threat to our democracy, and President Biden has been clear that these events require a full investigation to ensure that what we saw on January 6th can never happen again.” (Washington Post 1/20/22) Myself, I doubt that a full investigation will prevent something like January 6th from happening again. Hell, I doubt that hanging Trump, his kids, his lawyers and his security detail from the gallows can stop it.

Trumpists—especially the ones who call themselves Christian—see the Court’s decision as one more station of the cross on Donald Trump’s limousine ride to his crucifixion. Before his resurrection. When Mike Flynn and Roger Stone roll away the stone of the 2020 election it will shut the doubting Thomases up and restore the throne to the buffoon who is their lord. Then truly will the US be a god-forsaken land. The mainstream media throws more fat in the fire, while selling snacks, pills, beer and cars. Their viewers wait for the day of reckoning to be covered by the twenty-four hour news machine. I wonder how much the networks are selling a commercial minute for that day. Long may she wave.

Ron Jacobs is the author of Daydream Sunset: Sixties Counterculture in the Seventies published by CounterPunch Books. He has a new book, titled Nowhere Land: Journeys Through a Broken Nation coming out in Spring 2024.   He lives in Vermont. He can be reached at: ronj1955@gmail.com