Thursday, January 13, 2011

I will be on KGNU 8:30 tomorrow morning on the shootings in Arizona

I will be discussing the shootings in Arizona and Martin Luther King day, and answering questions with Kathy Partridge tomorrow morning on Connections on KGNU – FM 88, 5, AM 1390 - from 8:35 am until 9:30. The show emphasizes the voices of listeners. Please call in with questions and comments. For those outside Denver, the show can also be accessed on the Web at www.kgnu.org at the time (if you listen to it afterwards, hit the morning segment at 8 and move the cursor ahead to 8:35).

On the post on Shootings in Arizona, Richard Falk wrote me a letter, wondering if we disagreed about it (we usually don’t). He has a very good post on it here Richard rightly emphasizes that the case of Jared Loughner needs to be investigated on the facts (most assassinations are not well investigated or investigated for government-protecting political purposes, i.e. the Kennedy assassinations or 9/11). He is entirely right about this, and I need to correct the original impression left by not drawing sharply the distinction in my post, that the shooting is simply part of a political environment connected with the rise of a police state.

In addition, President Obama gave a speech last night which commended all those who helped in the tragedy and conjured his own, and all of us, acting up to the hopes of Christina Taylor Green, the 9 year old, who was just elected to student government, just learning about democracy, coming to see Gabrielle Giffords as perhaps a role model. This was a beautiful thought, particularly since his own affection for his two daughters was strong in his empathy with her and her family. He is the President of the Empire and will do – as with his two Clinton advisor/Wall Street appointees suggests – problematic things at home as well. But speaking of how we are here fleetingly, how what we do that is significant is not an expression of wealth, power or status, but of how we love those we love and help others, he transcended narrow politics and in doing so, underlined some of the dangers of America’s public atmosphere. There is a poem about the death by fire of a young girl in London by Dylan Thomas. It ends – “deep with the first dead lies London’s daughter...after the first death, there is no other.” Perhaps Obama found some of that – though not quite the dark as well as the hopeful inflection. As Socrates said long ago, one doesn’t know…

But the potential police state is real enough in America’s practices, especially with Cheney. Though torture has been scaled down by Obama, habeas corpus is compromised; Janet Napolitano, honorably reading from Isaiah, has brought illegal spying on Americans to a new pitch (collecting fingerprints on 96 million Americans, inter alia); torture is denounced but the torturers unpunished (there is no punishment in the elite for the greatest crimes). And the political atmosphere, as Gabrielle Giffords emphasized during her campaign, is poisonous. In a poster, her opponent in the election had a large army rifle in his lap, calling for targeting Giffords and for his supporters to join him in firing the gun. This is the tea party, the core of it, the river of anger at the other, the Muslim, the man who lacks a birth certificate. It was comforting that Jan Brewer thanked the President for coming last night because the Republican head of the state senate, recently praised a resolution that would keep non-citizens – he meant Obama as well as Mexicanos and Chicanos – out of Arizona. Giffords was the local target, but stirring anger at Obama – an unusually thoughtful, cool and decent person as well as a moderate in American politics – is what the tea-party does. The racist atmosphere contributed to the shooting of all these people (much of Loughner’s lunacy or perhaps schizophrenia takes the form of musings about mind control by a dangerous government; his thinking inflects to the right). Giffords is “white”; as I noted in the last post, she is also a jew. She was brought down here not simply through the blood libel (to underline how Palin might have used the term aptly), but through a confluence of racisms. America is filled with anti-Islamic or relatedly anti-Arab racism (imagine if the shooter had been Arab, as Michael Moore says), anti-latino racism (barring ethnic studies, Arizona is a horror in this regard), and other forms of bigotry, but the dark heart of American bigotry, that which promotes the Tea Party’s and Rightist rage, is anti-black racism.

Fascism as distinct from authoritarianism is the eliciting of killing from below by crazed racists. They do not know who they are killing; they see, everywhere they look, the enemy; they use racism as an excuse, as in the mass graves of all the people Franco murdered in 1936. See here, here and here.

Yes, this was a disconnected incident, perhaps like other assassinations, needed particular investigation. But also, yes, it is part of a rising police state and an emerging fascism. Killing political or public officials is part of the rise of the Right. Walther Rathenau, a Foreign Minister in the elected government and a Jew, was assassinated in Weimar Germany in 1923. This was part of the movement toward fascism. An outspoken secular governor was just murdered in Pakistan by a bodyguard who is now lionized – rose petals showered on him as he goes to court. The sand runs in the hourglass abroad (Obama’s drones nurture Pakistani fascism) and at home. President Obama rightly emphasized all the Americans who rose to the occasion, the aide Daniel Hernandez who probably saved Giffords’ life, those who tackled the shooter and wrested the bullets from him as he tried to reload. The spirit in that large meeting at the University of Arizona and in the New York Times op-ed "Sweet Home Arizona" by Aurelie Sheehan here is strong. There is a powerful current among most people to fight for American democracy against fascism. As Socrates and Plato suggest, we each should go down for democracy (and many stand for this cause).

All was not lost on Saturday. But given America’s rapid decline, given the laws of a police state replacing habeas corpus, given the revival and exaltation of guns and murder on the reactionary right (much of the current Republican Party), with lots of corporate money, thanks to the, in this respect, fascist 5-4 Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, and breathed into "life" by the corporate media, a fascist movement is the real danger here. Fascists are never a majority - Hitler was not “elected,” but appointed by President Hindenburg – but they have powerful friends in high places, and silence others…

Gabrielle Giffords pointed out the danger – the frighteningness – of the gun target trained on her by Sarah Palin. This was not just the usual metaphor of politics: targeting the enemy, as Palin’s favored candidate revealed, with his weapon, in the poster. Fire it with him, he asked his supporters. If Giffords had not warned about what this meant before her shooting, the charge would not stick to Palin. But she was shot point-blank and it does. This is not just a horrible political wounding and murder of innocents ; it is not just some sad accident which will heal, to some extent, with a graceful speech. It is also part of a movement toward fascism, toward the blind murder and suppression of "the enemy." That movement must be fought. It is each of us that these bullets came for.

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