Wednesday, August 28, 2019

In Portland, They Are Literally Asking For It

On August 17, right-wing agitators assembled in Portland for the stated purpose of drawing out violent opposition. They numbered about 300; resisters about 1000; two bridges were closed, local businesses lost about $3 million, and taxpayers ponied up $2 million for the police presence.

I'm coming around. And Trump gets the credit.

I've got principles. They're not always the thought-out kind. They live in my gut rather than my head. For instance: if something is fundamentally unkind, it's fundamentally wrong. And: the ends don't justify the means, because in the end all you have is means. And: violence is wrong.

That last one's visceral as hell. I have hardly ever witnessed violence. Mom spanking me on the fanny doesn't count. I don't even remember that except the times I didn't think I had it coming, which was twice, and even then her case could be made. I saw two boys punching each other at the school bus stop once when I was about ten. Everyone else was egging them on and I was running away with my hands over my ears. I can't even watch boxing on TV. Do people realize they're actually hitting each other? 

So I've been dismayed by the small faction of us anti-fascists that likes to come out swinging. Some of my dismay is thought-out. The tactic plays into the hands of our enemies, and fascists are our enemies. If they're coming to little Portland specifically to score points by attracting predictable violent resistance, why give them what they want? We should ignore them. Or surround them in stupefying numbers, preferably serenading them with tubas, kazoos, and slide whistles.

But I've already seen what the right wing machine is doing with our activist fringe. They are shocked, shocked that Liberals are resorting to violence when they don't agree with what someone is saying! Trump's all over it. Unacquainted with irony, he perches his podium on the backs of terrorized children and the bullet-ridden bodies of the innocent, and he tells his mob of knuckle-draggin', mosque-bombin', immigrant-bashin', pasty-faced vigilantes that Antifa are domestic terrorists. And that means they can be rounded up, along with any sympathetic souls in the vicinity. I know how this story ends. The world has seen it before. And if it happens, Portland, at least, is going to go all Spartacus on their asses. I'll suit up in black and a bandanna myself, and so will 100,000 more of us. Arrest us all, mofos.

I put this question of violence to Dave, and after he hawed, and hemmed, and bobbled opposing talking points on either hand, he said it didn't necessarily matter what he thought, because all our shared history confirms what we'd both do: if confronted by a bunch of Nazis mouthing off, he'd start pummeling, and I would run away with my hands over my ears.

Weirdly, the only people I have ever felt like actually unleashing my tiny fist of fury on were racists. It's just as well I've never followed through. I'd probably bounce off, and my victim would be left absently flicking knuckle cells off his nose and looking around for the mosquito. I'm not big.

Here's how my own fantasy plays out. The leader of the Proud Puffy Patriot Prayer Peenie Preeners postures and prances onto a platform, three-quarters erect in his body armor and flag underpants, and begins to rattle on about his various favorite amendments for no reason whatsoever. I make my way up to the platform--Excuse me, sonny, pardon me--in a clean flowered housedress and sensible shoes and I tip into the microphone and say Now, now, honey, you're all upset. Why don't you go home and put your feet up for a while, and have a nice lemonade, and then when you're feeling better you can go out and see if there's something nice you can do for somebody. Someone will want to have sex with you eventually, honey, just you wait and see!

In the meantime, what the hell. I still don't think you can violent your way to peaceful. But if a handful of our anti-fascists wants to smack some Nazis, I say, give 'em one for me.

33 comments:

  1. That which we resist, persists. The best thing to do would be to go about one's day and ignore them. And I mean completely ignore them, as if they weren't even there. That would really piss them off, as nothing would make them happier than getting a reaction. If you deny them that, the only drama created would be their own, and it would show just how bad these people really are.

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    1. I used to think that, but now I'm not so sure. Seems like there might have been a lot of ignoring in Germany in the '30s...but I'm not a historian.

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  2. The right wing neocons have long thought that 'liberal' equaled 'pacifist'.....that ain't the case, as we in the VVAW showed 50 some years ago in Portland in the Park Blocks. I was in the medic tent.

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  3. There is such a gulf in thinking between the kind and the unkind. That is humanity in a nutshell, I think. And I think the only way to make sure unkind doesn't get the upper hand is through democracy and close attention to who our leaders are and what our laws are. The struggle has been ongoing since the first larger brains developed, and probably will never go away. But the descent happens more quickly if those of kindly natures count on other people to look after society. We all have to be involved, understand the forces and issues, and do our part to keep the scales tipping on the good side.

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    1. I do think that's the biggest gulf, in a nutshell. Empathy. Just the ability to imagine someone else's existence and experience.

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  4. I see far too much of this on some of the Tumblr blogs I read. They take it as a truism that it's acceptable or even laudable to initiate violence against fascists -- and in practice they define a "fascist" as anybody who disagrees with them about pretty much anything. Real fascists are a small and mostly-ridiculous minority -- and if they became a bigger threat, as in Germany in the early 30s, it's far from obvious that starting street brawls with them would be the most effective way of countering the problem.

    Insofar as the Trump regime has fascistic tendencies, remember that he got into power by whipping up racism and paranoia, by vote-suppression laws, and by Russian election interference -- none of which involved punching people in the streets. Street violence won't play any role in getting him out of office, either. If anything, it's more likely to fuel the paranoia of his followers.

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    1. I've seen a lot of it too, which is what prompted me to write this in the first place. I stated my antipathy toward violent tactics and was called, myself, a fascist. That went over well with me. I declined to pursue.

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  5. I am characterised (fairly equally) by curiostity, empathy and wimpiness. I am endlessly fascinated by so many things (people included) whether I like them or not. And definitely empathic (which is often painful). And I hate, loathe and cringe away from violence. I certainly cannot watch it for entertainment. I do hope I stand up for kindness in my wimpy empathic peaceful way though.

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    1. This world needs more peaceful wimps. In power.

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  6. I adore the idea of a large group just making fun of these eejits. Kazoos, drums, pennywhistles. Funny balloons and ridiculing signs with little penises on them. That is really how we can get them to shrink away.

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    Replies
    1. There's a wonderful video out there of a Nazi group being attended by one guy on a tuba playing derpy music.

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    2. Apparently, ridicule was an effective response. From Shane Burley's article on TRUTHOUT: "

      “We know that the far right does a lot of their recruiting from protest videos and love to make toxic masculinity riot porn,” said Effie Baum of Pop Mob, “so we decided we wanted to do something so they could not make a single video that would not look ridiculous or be drowned out with noise.”

      The coalition planned a massive string of morning events, including an opening interfaith prayer, juggling and clowns, and a great deal of music, noise makers and outrageously themed costumes."

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  7. Yup, I'm a peaceful wimp. I'll go to a protest with a sign saying "Be Kind" on
    my banner.

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  8. Kindness and humour get me through most ugliness.But I avoid crowds. Any crowds.

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    Replies
    1. I'm okay with crowds as long as I'm not shopping.

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  9. I think laughing at the Nazis is the best defense. It does play into the Right's hands to initiate violence. But I have some pretty violent tendencies myself and I probably would punch a Nazi as well if need be.

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  10. Nice alliteration there :)
    You absolutely cannot violent your way to peace. I hate violence myself and would join you in running away as fast as my little legs can go. I've never witnessed violence in my own home, we kids weren't even spanked, but there was one incident when child #2 was about three or four and being an absolute PITA and I said "do you want me to smack your bottom?" cheeky bugger said "yes", so I did and we both cried from the shock.

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  11. Remember the old bumper sticker, "What if they gave a war and nobody came?" There are countries, like Costa Rica, which have no armies. In a related topic, this utterly deranged administration has come out with a new rule that if you are in the United States armed services, and are stationed in a foreign country along with your family, and your child is born in that country, your child is not a US citizen by birth. I am not making this up; Trump is denying citizenship to the American children born to American service families overseas. This MUST be mind-blowing to the families of our armed forces. And how exactly does this accomplish America great again?

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    Replies
    1. The man runs a country like a guy fishing a pond with dynamite.

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    2. He's doing what now??
      I can see a lot of men giving up soldering and taking up burger flipping instead, so they won't get sent overseas and have to come home minus the kids.

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  12. Nah, your history is wrong. There was huge violent resistance to the Nazis in Germany. Nightly battles in the streets between Nazi and Communist gangs. A lot of Hitler's appeal was that, wacky though some of his ideas might have been, he was the only person who really seemed to have the will and the power to re-establish public order. I don't know who the hell started the myth of the docile German public, but it wasn't anyone who knew much about Germany in the 1920s and 30s.

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    1. I stand happily corrected. I am horrible at history and should know better than to heave out statements like that. I think something like that is going on now though--establishing public order by going after the Antifa as domestic terrorists?

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    2. PS Maybe I should stick with Creative Science lessons instead of history!

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  13. I am all for intelligent resistance, such as offering them bottled water or Jack Daniels laced with laxatives.

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