It might just be me and my hatred of the cold, but I'm finding that I hate winter for an extra reason this year. Between the anniversary of the election in 2020, and the fast-approaching anniversary of the January 6th Insurrection, we're in the middle of a period that, looking back, was extremely nerve-wracking. For others, it was, and is, a time of rage. I think it's worth taking a look at a subject that we haven't considered much recently, as it's a danger that has not gone away, and in recent weeks has ramped up.
After Biden was elected, I assured you this wasn't the end of insurrectionary acts. I've been mostly wrong about that so far, and glad for the fact. Despite that, it's not been a peaceful time, either, and while the energies of Trump's acolytes have been far more fragmented than I would have anticipated, they haven't been without casualties. Instead of marching on the Capitol again, or going after a governor, many fascists have turned to ongoing hotbutton issues like mask mandates, and continue to advocate for violence against medical professionals who encourage vaccination. While the media hasn't made as much hay of these events as they did while Trump was in office, it isn't to say that things have been cooling down.
We've reached a point of convergence that is worth mentioning. There are the historic events of last year, like the election, the bomb in downtown Nashville (you forgot about that, didn't you?) and the Insurrection itself, and then there are the numerous high-profile trials of the last month or so. Kyle Rittenhouse, Ahmaud Arbery's killers, the QAnon Shaman, and the perpetrators of various crimes in Charlottesville have recently been on trial or sentenced. All of these cases have some extremely worrying facets, from the defense for Arbery's killers suggesting that Black pastors in the courtroom are intimidating, to the behavior of the judge in Rittenhouse's trial–I'd laugh if it didn't make me want to cry–but it's creeps from Charlottesville that concern me the most, because a neo-Nazi there used his time in court in much the same way Hitler did after the Beer Hall Putsch: making the trial a platform on which to spout his racist dogma. It's this easy echo of history, among others, like the pledge of allegiance to Trump supporters' very own Blood Flag, that remind me that half this country doesn't take fascism seriously enough, and the other half is too close to embracing it.
One of the things that makes me despair most about the way things have gone since Biden's election is that, oddly enough, the fascists haven't been over the top. They've engaged in smaller skirmishes tied to populist issues instead of holding rallies and marches of their own, sticking their fingers in other pies and enlarging their tent. Outside of the QAnon gathering in Dallas to welcome a reincarnated JFK Jr., which itself has strayed pretty far from the original path of QAnon, I can't think of a pure-Trump/fascist event. That is almost certainly ignorance and lack of media coverage on my part, but that's also part of my point–I didn't hear about it, and I've got my ear to the ground most days.
Meanwhile, only somewhat quietly, the far-right are taking a bigger and bigger chunk of the American government. While Arizona Ghoul Paul Gosar has been censured, he's still in office. MTG is still in office. Boebert is still in office. And school boards, and city halls, and health board meetings across the country are being disrupted and, eventually, will be co-opted. It's not going to become harder for these types to get into government, or to make any and all public platforms their own–the bar has been lowered, and new precedents set.
This is the juggernaut. There is an unstoppable movement in this country, fed by income inequality, by poverty and disparity, that is not being addressed by either the Dems or the GOP. However, it is being addressed by the media machines of both: for the MSNBC crowd, these inequalities will be ameliorated by token social programs (while the military-industrial complex and neoliberal actions continue behind the scenes) and four more years of whatever lukewarm vessel they've got; for the Fox News devotee, we know the answer. It's not income inequality; it's laziness. It's not racism; it's political correctness. The solution is mindless devotion to flag and capital. The other day a friend of mine asked why we haven't passed legislation simply legalizing (or outlawing) abortion outright, and my answer was simple: if that happened, what would the Dems or the GOP have to campaign on?
Despite the different masks and the very real dangers that have been created, the problems remain, at their root, the same. It's a damn shame that the narrative has been given over to both the center-left and the right, because these issues are ones that we have solutions for–they've just been declared poisonous by everyone else on the political spectrum.
'nother Civil War
The media in the past few weeks has done a lot of talking about the possibility of another civil war. Like, a lot of talking. It's almost like they remembered how fragile democracy is, how close we came to (re) installing a dictator a year ago, and how close we still are. Unfortunately, it's a timely conversation. Inter-American distrust and hate across party lines is high, as is our distrust of the government itself. Throw in the turmoil of an Insurrection, a pandemic, and the growing instability of all things thanks to climate change, and you've got a veritable powder keg.
Most civil wars, particularly modern ones, do not adhere to the American imagination of the term. We think of two morally distinct sides fighting along equally distinct borders. But largely, civil wars are far more fractious and complex than that. In the Lebanese Civil War (which my wife has educated me on many a time) there were around twenty distinct factions and militias fighting over territories that could be as small as neighborhoods. There were, at one point, thirty factions fighting in the Syrian Civil War.
When you look at a map of America and consider your proximity to a red state (or blue, whatever), consider looking instead at one of these election maps. We won't be fighting state against state; it'll be city versus country–county versus county. It's not just geography; scale is important, too. Whether the whole country devolves into infighting (unlikely) or pockets of fighting break out, this will breed more conflict. You might be far from a warzone, but fall prey to an individual adherent to one side of that distant cause. A single church may decide it's up to them to police their small town. A group of people too slipshod for the Three Percenters could block an intersection and decide they want folks to pay a toll, or pass some kind of arbitrary inspection–and woe be to those with an equality bumper sticker. It's always been the case that we could be subjected to random violence, random disasters–that's life, and it's part of why I started this whole endeavor. But with our country in the state that it's in? These acts of violence could cease to be random and instead become part of system of mayhem meant to wrest control of everything from a city block to a state.
And to be clear, these acts are not without precedent within American history. The only successful coup in America took place because white supremacists threw out, beat, and killed, members of the city government in Wilmington, North Carolina. Post-Katrina, as I've written before, portions of neighborhoods in New Orleans and surrounding areas were subjected to vigilante justice by gangs of white people and also by literal, actual, mercenary forces hired by wealthy residents. And, finally, you don't even have to turn the clock back two years to see examples of civilian-run checkpoints in Oregon, post-George Floyd protests and in the midst of wildfires. Leftist mutual aid organizations were stopped in rural areas at gunpoint.
This is one of those times that I don't have a recommended course of action. I don't have a crystal ball, but the American government has been on a steady downturn for the last several years, and that's not looking to change. When a government of that size goes belly-up, it's difficult to say how things will be except hard. Shit's probably gonna suck. To which, I'd say, you'd better find some folk who think like you. Maybe learn to defend yourself. Maybe learn how to grow your own food. Find, build, grow a community that is able to withstand what's coming.
Lastly, you all should listen to Robert Evans' excellent podcast, It Could Happen Here. Particularly the first season. It's a grim listen, but it's also not without hope.