How to Love Thy Neighbor and Resist at the Same Time

On Reaching Protest Critical Mass

[Elizabeth Garcia]

For three weeks of August and September, 1970, a Motown counter-culture anthem was a #1 single in America. It remains one of the most popular protest songs ever recorded.

War, what is it good for?

“War” asked a basic, rhetorical question in a time when Vietnam was at the forefront of our collective consciousness. It had taken a long, long time before most people were ready to shout out the answer.

For opposition to become the norm, to take hold, required—

  • years of war disguised as “conflict”
  • five Presidential terms of office
  • 50,000 US casualties
  • the Tet Offensive and a sea change in television coverage
  • Kent State shootings and other cultural touchstones

Makes one wonder about the prevailing winds of current opinion.

And how much longer before we admit: shouting not at each other but for each other, out loud or to ourselves — is vital to American self-preservation.

Now — again — there is much talk of resistance and protest. The how and why of it.

To march or not to march. Disparate goals and methods.

In essence? Infighting.

We are scolding and lecturing each other about how best to preserve our ideals, make measurable progress, and avoid the divisive tactics that led to our current plight.

Debate is sprawling, expansive: Method. Engagement. Severity. Inclusion. Legality. Intent. Cost. Optics. Duration. Representation.

Throw in semantics, game theory . . . the kitchen sink . . . quite a mess of things to consider before one even decides to call a senator or pick up a sign.

However.

There is something important I think many are discounting: America was simply not ready for all this. We are behind and struggling to catch up with the changes.

I am not just referring to progressives, liberals and fans of Barack Obama, disillusioned and politically adrift.

I mean conservatives. Libertarians.

Religious right Christians. Christmas-and-Easter Christians. Atheists. Muslims. Jews.

Undecided voters. Non-voters.

Scientists. Coal miners. Astronauts. Bus drivers.

Baby boomers. Immigrants (not just new ones — 3rd and 4th-generation immigrants).

Millennials too.

I am talking about every single person that cannot be identified as a die-hard, red-hat-wearing, journalist-threatening supporter, one who believes everything coming from the White House without question.

I mean — the majority. Not the plurality of 60-whatever-million of registered blah-dee-blah . . . no. The majority of us.

The majority in America was not equipped to merge a) the many freedoms and protections for so long afforded by institutions outlined and protected within the Constitution and Bill of Rights, and b) swift, unrelenting attacks on media, dissent, political norms, and — most importantly — reason itself.

We simply were not prepared. And many still cannot fathom the administration might knowingly attempt to suppress free speech.

Why else do such well-intentioned, brilliant people continue barking up the wrong conversational tree?

One reason: we are unpracticed at navigating the fog of misleading and mendacious information.

Here we see conservative David Frum — along with offering many productive, decent suggestions on ‘How To Beat Trump’ — crediting Trump with positioning the University of California as a “target for retaliation,” without exploring why his minions were there in the first place.

His post yesterday (since retitled ‘What Effective Protest Could Look Like’ for reasons unknown) has valid thoughts on civil, productive expressions of resistance and is definitely worth a read.

However, it buries the lead: Alt-Right agitator and Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos is trolling universities across the country to foment backlash and create misplaced, feckless headlines.

When reporting on “trouble,” we must stop blaming everyone but the real troublemakers.

February 1st, black bloc style rioters brazenly destroyed Berkeley property alongside peaceful Cal students; here are the first results of a ‘Yiannopoulos’ Google search, at the time of writing:

I Am a Liberal, and I Want Milo Yiannopoulos on Campus

There Must Be Free Speech, Even for Milo Yiannopoulos

UC Berkeley Should Be Ashamed After Milo Yiannopoulos’ Canceled Speech

These are from liberal sources like The Guardian (UK) and the Huffington Post!

Milo (and by extension, Trump) continues to steal the narrative completely. He actually has liberals saying thank you sir may I have another! They are cowering and subverting their own opinions just because the likes of Yiannopoulos and Martin Shkreli threw them a little shade using logical fallacy and projected shame.

Well I am for free speech, they think, so I can’t be against scheduling more incendiary public appearances, even for this dingbat provocateur.

[Aside: Martin Shkreli is on tour while out on bail, awaiting federal trial for fraud. He price-gouged people who needed to buy his lifesaving drugs. These are the people telling us how to behave, giving lessons in ethics.]

Somehow, people are noticing only the fires and broken windows of outside anarchists (not the hundreds of other peaceful demonstrations and rational public dissent). Nor are they questioning why people in black masks suddenly appear when Yiannopoulos does.

Coincidence?

Let us backtrack to another California appearance. University of California - Davis, in January. Friday the 13th.

  1. Protestors protest. Peacefully.
  2. The College Republicans cancel the event (not the police or university).
  3. Milo says it was canceled for violence and property damage by lefties. UC Davis states, “Despite some reports, there were no broken windows or other property damage during the protest.”

Bottom-line: zero evidence of Davis or Berkeley students (left or right) being violent or riotous, yet Milo continually gets the benefit of the doubt and the sensational headlines he seeks with some hyperbole here and a bit of misdirection there. The same tactics being used in the White House Press Room.

You do not need Trump-loyalist Facebook friends to see such descriptions, there are everywhere: free speech was stifled at UC Berkeley, the epicenter of the free speech movement! Sad!

Misdirection again: a student has every right to petition its University, either for or against a campus event. That is not stifling anything. That is representative democracy.

In between Davis and Berkeley, Milo was in Seattle. The headlines justifiably centered on violence, culminating in a man getting shot in the abdomen. The shooter was an alum of the University of Washington, and awaits trial.

Why was he there, do you suppose? To protest?

To support Trump, Yiannopoulos, and the NRA.

I will not give you a speculative, unverified cause and effect for Berkeley. I will not go as far as suggesting the black bloc rioters were “false flag” actors. But this former MSNBC host will:

UC Berkeley Riots Could Have Been Right-Wing Plot by 4Chan

True? Hard to prove. Possible? Hell yes.

Either way, we are clearly dropping the ball by self-policing so stringently and practicing prior restraint, while simultaneously handing said ball to this guy.

A guy banned from Twitter, twice. Once, for bashing Islam immediately after 49 Americans died in the Orlando shootings. A second time, for racist, bigoted attacks on comedian Leslie Jones. [Ostensibly, her crime was appearing in the Ghostbusters movie.]

He still gets plenty of interviews, but he no longer tweets, as the second ban from Twitter was permanent. Without any controversy, real or manufactured, Milo Yiannopoulos cannot pay his bills.

Oh, it bears mentioning: Yiannopoulos is not even an American citizen. He is a British national. America First, right Milo?

Anyway, it all led to this, the cherry on top:

Great Caesar’s Ghost. Huh?

The University of Cal-Berkeley itself “practices violence”? How did I miss that story? When did that occur?

Trump would love to take money away from blue bastion California any way possible, but this logic is beyond flimsy. This is not ‘smoke and mirrors’ — it is an outright lie. California could sue him on this tweet alone.

Why do we give an iota of credence to these talking points when they continue to be supported with oh-so-real events like the Bowling Green Massacre?

Finally, Robert Reich made this observation in Newsweek: Breitbart news said Yiannopoulos would “call for the withdrawal of federal funds” at the event. Later, Trump threatens “no federal funds” in reference to the riots.

Hmm. Breitbart mentioned yanking federal dollars before the Berkeley event. Before any rioting occurred.

How did they know, in advance, there would be rioting? Not just protests but riots? Magic ball??

Awfully, awfully fishy.

That deep dive slightly buries my own lead: resistance — whatever form it takes — is no longer a partisan thing. This concerns all of us.

In his opinion piece, “Why Nobody Cares If the President Is Lying,” Milwaukee conservative Charlie Sykes describes the Trump age Orwellian, and calls dystopian novel 1984 an invaluable guide to our “post-fiction” world. Nobly, he even admits to his own role in the recent upheaval of thought and reason:

For years, as a conservative radio talk show host, I played a role in that conditioning by hammering the mainstream media for its bias and double standards. But the price turned out to be far higher than I imagined.

We thought we were creating a savvier, more skeptical audience. Instead, we opened the door for President Trump, who found an audience that could be easily misled.

Now, as in 1970, division and confusion hold us back.

“War” was originally recorded by The Temptations in 1969. It was never released as a single; the label and the band considered it too controversial for its fanbase—even then, after the consensus of opinions had swung 180 degrees. The solution was to re-record with Edwin Starr with the infused soul of James Brown.

Starr went on to have a long, outspoken career. He last performed “War” in Stuttgart, Germany, 2003. He died of a heart attack soon after, exactly two weeks after the U.S. began to drop bombs on Iraq. Again.

That is not even the real irony — it is more that, sometimes, in our fervor and haste, the message gets lost. In 2001, he said this:

The song was never about the Vietnam War. It was about the neighborhood wars and the racial wars that were going on inside America at the time. It just happened to coincide with the war in Vietnam.

Does that make “War” hypocritical or disingenuous as a protest song? Hardly.

Co-opting messages for a greater purpose happens all the time. Does everyone at Standing Rock protesting DAPL have the same agenda? No. Does that make the movement less powerful? Or more?

Sure, I care to know the backstory, the real facts. Absolutely.

But when there is so much at stake, worrying which cause is most important, whose words to use, and to whom to apportion credit becomes more and more like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

What I find, with each passing day — a coalition of righteous, valid dissent, all along the political spectrum. In heretofore unlikely places.

We are creating unity by speaking out. Jointly, as one agitated bickering mass of citizens, one that reaches across the aisle or across the street to do what is necessary. As Jefferson and Hamilton once did.

In deciding what is beyond reasonable and acceptable in America, Trump and his authoritarians have caused us to examine the commonality of our core values.

And to define our common enemy: his administration.

We are being force to defend our country ourselves from the fetid, illegitimate power inhabiting 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Look at those paws. Are they small paws? I guarantee you there’s no problem.

As long as we continue to resist, shoulder-to-shoulder, in the same direction . . . we will win. Then, eventually — somehow — we can all have back our flawed, beautiful country.

Until then: America?

Wake! Up!

We let a fox in our hen house. He is eating up all our chickens (and selling the scraps to end up in Moscow McNyuggets).

What are we going to do about it?

Hint: answers include something, anything, and anything at all. Or —

The complete opposite of “Absolutely nothin’.”

Looking to do your part? One way to get involved is to read the Indivisible Guide, which is written by former congressional staffers and is loaded with best practices for making Congress listen. Or follow this publication, connect with us on Twitter, and join us on Facebook.

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