Month: January 2017

Scenes From the Resistance in Michigan

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Yesterday, Women’s March On Washington – Michigan participated in a mass protest with other groups, at the Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTW), against the recent Trump executive order banning Muslim entry into the US from Muslim nations which do not have Trump businesses operating there.  Having worked with WMW on the march on DC on January 21, 2017, the day after inauguration day, I have been following WMW’s chapter in Michigan and joined in the protest under their Facebook page for the protest. Many other groups not affiliated with WMW, in particular local Muslim groups and local resistance organs like MoveOn, Democracy For America, unions, etc., also participated.  By some estimates, participation was roughly 5,000, at the McNamara Terminal.  Protesters held positions on both the terminal’s upper (Departures) level, and on the lower (Arrivals) level.  Those pictures, video, and verbal descriptions of the lower level that I have encountered indicate that the majority of the protest was there.  Originally, WMW told its participants to go to Departures on the upper level, so that is where my party went.

The day before the protest, when the ban was announced, WMWM posted the protest almost immediately, and in no time at all a couple thousand people indicated interest or intent in going.  I used my personal contacts from the Hillary Clinton campaign, and my network of personal friends and family, to form a team of about 12 people to join the protest; and numerous other campaign staff and other associates also went.  Unlike my group, most of those who I know that went, and who did not come with me, went to the lower level protest.

On the day of the protest, my wife and I hosted a preparation party to make signs and to fortify ourselves for the Michigan cold with some of my wife’s awesome cupcakes, veggies, and snacks.  I met some great new friends who wanted to get more involved in the resistance, and who came with some of my other friends.  After making signs, we divided our group into two car-loads, and off we went.

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Then, we hustled off to the airport, only a few minutes away in normal traffic from my house.  Quickly, we found ourselves in a massive parking lot on the roads heading in, as so many other people were all heading to the airport to join the protest at the same time.  We could see signs in lots of the cars around us, WMW “pussy hats,” and other paraphernalia indicating that most of the jam was protesters, not people trying to catch a flight.  The normally 10-minutes’ drive to the airport from my house took roughly an hour; and about a mile from the terminal, people were walking past us on the sidewalk, some towing luggage, some carrying protest signs.  We did at least have lots of time to wave and exchange thumbs up with other cars of protesters, and to enjoy the many signs that we all just started hanging out of our cars or putting in the window.

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Once we got to the airport, the police were having a hell of a time keeping things from inhibiting airport operations, so we had to get out of the truck quickly while police were yelling for us to keep going.  Our two vehicles got divided, and our twelve people found different spots in which to protest. My carload (after my wife dropped us off to circle around and find parking) joined a long line of newly arriving protesters, all of whom got cheered and “high-fived” by those already there, as we walked past a fence acting as the outer perimeter of the protest area.  Sadly, my wife never was able to make it in; she found some other protesters who needed a ride back out, and helped them out; and then tried to circle back in.  By the time she made it to the parking lot, it was more than another hour later; and the police were no longer letting people park – they were trying to break things up, as the permit for the protest had expired (we had a two-hour protest permit).  She circled back one more time, and picked us up about an hour or so after the protest was supposed to have ended, although the protesters were still there in force.  My party, both cars, found their way out (much easier at least than coming in), and went back to my house to share pizza, stories of the resistance, and friendship.

Some of my pictures from the upper-level protest:

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All images ©2017, Sparkpolitical.

 

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A Letter to Benjamin Netanyahu

I have written the following letter to the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu, who on several occasions has offered praise to Donald J. Trump, in view of the dangers that Trump poses to the Jewish community of the US and to other minorities here, most especially our Muslim brothers and sisters.

Dear Mr. Prime Minister:

I am writing to you as an American Jew, about the grave dangers threatening my country, the United States.  As the leader of a consistent ally of the US, you hold great influence with the new leaders of my country, and I urge you to employ that influence effectively to protect fellow Jews and one of Israel’s closest friends among the international community.

The United States is facing a tough struggle for the next four years, and we badly need your help.  The specter of fascism has taken hold, and Jews as well as other minorities in the US are under a grave threat, not dissimilar to the threat posing us in Germany in the 1930s.

Mr. Prime Minister, you have expressed praise for Donald Trump, and previously you spoke unkindly of President Obama during his administration.  Both of these stances, I am sorry to say, have undermined the safety of Jews in the US and elsewhere.  I cannot image that you are unaware of the great support Trump has received from Nazi groups in the US and other nations, from the KKK, and from other antisemitic and fascist groups here and worldwide.  The new president has received “Heil Trump” salutes; and language recalling and celebrating the Nazis of the 1930s has been spray-painted on temples, mosques, churches, and other potential targets.

It would be easy in normal years to dismiss these atrocities, and to presume that these people have misunderstood Trump’s message or that these people do not represent what Trump is attempting to accomplish.  But Trump’s appointment of a leading American white nationalist and anti-Semite, Steve Bannon, to the position of Chief Strategist, signals clearly that the harmony between Trump and the Nazis is neither imagined nor unintended.  In the wake first of the election in November, and more recently of the preparations for and festivities of the inauguration, Jewish communities across the US suffered bomb-threats, swastika paintings, and other acts of intimidation, intended to keep Jews here fearful, obedient, and quiet.

As if that weren’t enough, Steve Bannon has been further elevated by a change to our National Security Council, whereby this white nationalist and anti-Semite has a key role in constructing our country’s security policy – policy which is going to closely affect your nation as well.  This change also included the shocking removal from the council of the Director for National Intelligence and of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the US Armed Forces.  Our intelligence and military chiefs no longer have a right to sit on the key venue for crafting our country’s security policy; but our country’s leading architect of racist and antisemitic propaganda has a leading voice on that body.  Sir, as a Jew, if that does not chill you to the very bone, then I think you need to re-examine your Jewishness, and to take a closer look at Adolf Hitler’s shifting of Nazi Party members into Germany’s security mechanisms in the early 1930s.

Recently, on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, the US government under Trump spoke about the “innocent victims,” while failing to mention Jews in any way.  Nazis and other groups applauded this statement loudly, revitalizing their movement to destroy Jews and other minority groups.  On this very same day, Trump proclaimed a ban on Muslim entry into the US from several Muslim states where Trump has no personal business interests (we can presume, so that his personal business interests would be less threatened by the inevitable attacks that such an act will provoke).  Trump’s ban is a clear reminder to many Jews like me of the policies of the US toward Jewish refugees prior to World War II, turning back many seeking refuge from Nazi terror – many of whom were shortly to perish in the camps.  Sir, as Jews, it is fundamentally imperative for us to embrace those seeking refuge from the political and theocratic extremists of the Middle East (such as ISIS, al-Qaeda, and similar groups).  Innocent people need protection just like we did in the 1930s, and which some like me fear even Jews in the US may need over the next few years.

And where are we to go if the US treks its current path toward fascism ever further?  As long as Israel promotes the settlement of areas of the West Bank and the Golan Heights, we can’t look to your state, either, if it destabilizes regional security with policies such as this.  As an American Jew, I live in a nation built on an idea – attacked as it is by Trump and those supporting him – that all peoples can live together and build a greater community.  That idea has worked for almost 250 years, even if now it seems shaken by those who want to erase the progress of history.  Israel, too, to be a democratic state, must embrace and empower both the minorities within your borders, and the Palestinians seeking to build their own nation-state in the West Bank.  A two-state solution is necessary to the security of Jews in Israel (and may even become necessary to the Jews of the US if we need to seek a haven from American fascism).

Sir, I urge you strenuously, with both the knowledge of history, and the close reading of the events of the past few years, to cease advocating or expressing support for Trump, and to act like a leader of Jews, concerned about the lives of Jews abroad.  The US has not yet become the Third Reich; but we have taken, and are continuing to take, ever more rapidly, the first steps down that road.  We need leaders like you, who have power and influence and who know how to wield them, to help stand in the way and to provide a guiding light for a better way, a way of embracing fellow communities, before that light is extinguished by the darkness of Trump, his Nazi supporters, and those like them.

Thank you.

Sincerely,

Paul Rincon

Spark’s Subtitled and Annotated Edition of Trump’s Inaugural Address

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So you “missed” the speech on, as our new Dear Leader calls it, our National Day of Patriotic Devotion.  Or, you just need a friendly reminder of the unifying ideals expressed by the new leader of the “free world.”  To help fill that gap, Spark! presents an annotated guide to Trump’s day in the rain. You’re welcome.

Trump Inaugural Address, January 20, 2017

Chief Justice Roberts, President Carter, President Clinton, President Bush, President Obama, fellow Americans and people of the world, thank you.

[“By ‘fellow Americans,’ obviously I’m not including President Obama, because my guy in Hawaii is still out there waiting to reveal those things I’ve kept secret all these years for some reason.  And by ‘people of the world,’ I mean the people who have unfairly been keeping our precious American oil underneath their sands. But we’ll change that.”]

We, the citizens of America, are now joined in a great national effort to rebuild our country and restore its promise for all of our people.

[But not for American Indians at Standing Rock, whose lands Trump is about to commit to corporate exploitation, because screwing over the original Americans never gets old.  And not for women, who are experiencing increasing attacks under the emboldened Trumpist cultural warfare ravaging across our landscape.  And not for Jews, who have since the election seen a stark rise in attacks.  And not for working people, since Trump has nominated a labor secretary who wants to eliminate workers so that management and shareholders can make and keep more money to themselves.  But to all corporations who, thanks to the US Supreme Court, are now “people,” “You’re welcome.”]

Together we will determine the course of America and the world for many, many years to come.

[“Because my SCOTUS bench fillers are going to derail decades of political progress and civil rights victories for an entire generation.”  And by “together,” Trump means, “the minority of Americans who voted for him,” and “the small cabal of personal advisers who operate more secretly now that Trump has muzzled our executive agencies and kept them from communicating with us and with Congress.”]

We will face challenges. We will confront hardships [ever more so, in fact, as we invoke a new age of protectionism with its long history of economic failure in an inept way to stop globalization, a force far beyond the understanding of the petty children we have now elevated to power], but we will get the job done. Every four years we gather on these steps to carry out the orderly and peaceful transfer of power and we are grateful to President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama for their gracious aid throughout this transition. They have been magnificent. Thank you.

[“I’m told that I can’t say what I actually think, because there’s some semblance of civility that is required.” And truth be told, the Obamas were just as civil in not simply exploding in disgust or requesting our armed services to save the nation with a last-minute coup d’etat.]

Today’s ceremony, however, has very special meaning because, today, we are not merely transferring power from one administration to another or from one party to another, but we are transferring power from Washington, D.C., and giving it back to you, the people.

[See previous note about “the people” being corporations and Trump’s personal board of dismantlers, particularly as in “draining the swamp,” Trump is now appointing Wall Street in charge not only of the financial and treasury aspects of federal government, but over education, foreign policy, and all aspects of American governance. We the People are now, “We the People, Inc.”]

For too long, a small group in our nation’s capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have born the cost.

[“Those rewards will now be reaped by a small group of the struggling superwealthy in New York instead.  The people, of course, will continue to bear the costs, especially my ‘poorly educated’ who will be ever more unsuited to a 21st century economy.”]

Washington flourished, but the people did not share in its wealth. Politicians prospered, but the jobs left and the factories closed. The establishment protected itself, but not the citizens of our country. Their victories have not been your victories. Their triumphs have not been your triumphs and, while they celebrated in our nation’s capital, there was little to celebrate for struggling families all across our land.

[“Not that that stopped me from exploiting struggling families, who ultimately had to sue me a few weeks ago for a $25 million settlement for my ‘Trump University,’ and not that that stopped me from screwing over those little girls who sang for me during the campaign, workers building my properties, blacks, etc.  Screw those people.”]

That all changes starting right here and right now because this moment is your moment. It belongs to you. It belongs to everyone gathered here today and everyone watching all across America. This is your day. This is your celebration, and this, the United States of America, is your country.

[“It isn’t the country any more of those dark-skinned people, those people who speak with suspicious accents or have virtually identical religious practices but under a different name.  It isn’t the country any more of the educated, the knowledgeable, those who use facts to make arguments and know what words mean. Again, screw those people. Am I right?”]

What truly matters is not which party controls our government, but whether our government is controlled by the people. January 20th, 2017, will be remembered as the day the people became the rulers of this nation again. The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer.

Everyone is listening to you now. You came by the tens of millions to become part of an historic movement, the likes of which the world has never seen before.

[Well, a minority of embittered white people in full control of virtually every venue for power thinking that a minority has somehow kept them from their fully deserved place in the sun, and using a weakness in the system of selecting a chief executive to take further power and retract all progress made toward making the nation more fair and productive, does have a precedent or two.  For example, we have the 1930s.]

At the center of this movement is a crucial conviction that a nation exists to serve its citizens. Americans want great schools for their children, safe neighborhoods for their families, and good jobs for themselves. These are just and reasonable demands of righteous people and a righteous public, but for too many of our citizens, a different reality exists.

[“And you can thank the party now in power, and people like me, for constructing that reality in the first place.” So, thanks, Republicans, for dismantling our public education system. Thanks, Betsy DeVos and your family for converting public education in Michigan into a source of profit for billionaires while student progress plummets ever further. Thanks, Republicans, for writing into law provisions not only making this possible but favoring for-profit corporations in dismantling the school system. Thanks Republicans, for cutting pensions, pay, and even jobs for the police protecting our neighborhoods; all the time while obstructing the passage of laws that keep guns out of the hands of the wrong people; and for refusing to protect our schools from gun violence.  Thanks, Republicans, and Trump specifically, for opposing the auto industry bail-out, which protected an entire industry and tens of thousands of American jobs, and which was paid back with interest to the taxpayer.]

Mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities, rusted out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation, an education system flush with cash, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of all knowledge and the crime and the gangs and the drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential. This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.

[See previous notes on the causes of this “carnage,” and on Trump’s exploitation of the people impacted by it.  This carnage also underscores eight years of virtually continuous job growth from the dismal performance of the last time Republicans managed the economy; as well as the historically low levels of violent crime, which has been steadily dropping for the last two decades.]

We are one nation and their pain is our pain. Their dreams are our dreams and their success will be our success. We share one heart, one home and one glorious destiny. The oath of office I take today is an oath of allegiance to all Americans. For many decades, we’ve enriched foreign industry at the expense of American industry, subsidized the armies of other countries, while allowing for the very sad depletion of our military.

[Trump never learned not to use pronouns without the use of an antecedent. Who are “we,” and who are “they”?  Trump is separating America into “us” and “them,” the rich and empowered, and the poor and disenfranchised.  He calls hypocritically for a sudden reunification of those whom he exploited, with those doing the exploiting.  He also criticizes moderate reductions of the rate of military spending growths as “the very sad depletion of our military,” the largest military force in the entire world.  Trump completely ignores the our nation’s uncontested military supremacy, and the fact that there is no nation on earth whose military comes close in either size, training budget, technological sophistication, or experience in modern joint operations.  Trump also moves straight from the “dreams,” “success,” and “destiny” of the people to military force.  His view of “greatness” is clearly not a reflection of civil rights, or equality and justice, or even providing good jobs and working conditions; but is solely a measure of how many bombs the US can drop and how many people it can kill.  “Sad!”]

We’ve defended other nations’ borders, while refusing to defend our own, and spent trillions and trillions of dollars overseas, while America’s infrastructure has fallen into disrepair and decay. We’ve made other countries rich while the wealth, strength and confidence of our country has dissipated over the horizon. One by one, the factories shuttered and left our shores with not even a thought about the millions and millions of American workers that were left behind. The wealth of our middle class has been ripped from their homes and then redistributed all across the world.

[Which leads one to ask why Trump has nominated a labor secretary who wants to automate more jobs and reduce job opportunities even further. While his words here castigate this tendency, his actions past and present celebrate the dissipation of American jobs.  And why has Trump himself been a leading mover of jobs overseas? If he cared at all about this, how come he never acted on matters that have been entirely under his control? He could have been an innovator and employer of new factories in the US if he cared at all for these shuttered factories and workers “left behind.” Where was he? Playing the rich playboy, playing golf, screwing over the poor students of “Trump University,” and making and keeping wealth for himself at the expense of the very people he here pretends to care about.]

But, that is the past and now we are looking only to the future. We assembled here today, are issuing a new decree to be heard in every city, in every foreign capital, and in every hall of power. From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land. From this day forward, it’s going to be only America first. America first. Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs will be made to benefit American workers and American families.

[Not the first time that isolationism has been suggested; but in that case why do we need to spend even more on an already incontestably powerful military? Also, how are we defining “American workers and American families”? Trump’s tweets about his “enemies,” and his ceaseless attack on Americans not firmly behind him make it plain that he does not mean “all Americans.” His hypocrisy and his ceaseless efforts to screw over the very kind of people who voted for him suggest that even they may not be included into the “all Americans” category. Who he is talking about here are the top 1%, pure and simple. The “workers” he looks after are those who wear expensive suits and ties and are driven around in big, black cars by others.]

We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies and destroying our jobs. Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength. I will fight for you with every breath in my body and I will never, ever let you down.

[Protectionism has, of course, had a sad record of closing off trade and shuttering factories even further. As the world has grown wealthier, the US has not only lost jobs but has also become more dependent for the ones we’ve kept on being able to trade across borders, and those borders he is now suggesting we close. Chinese and Indian consumers from an exploding middle class eager for sophisticated products and services will just get them from other markets (each other, Brazil, Russia, Europe, etc.).  As far as “letting us down,” wait until you hear about Trump’s use of private email servers, or his multitude of “imperial presidency” executive orders, or closing off our contact with our own government agencies, or his diversion of attention away from Russian hacking to the ridiculous notion of “millions of illegal immigrants voting.”]

America will start winning again. Winning like never before. We will bring back our jobs. We will bring back our borders. [Where did our borders go? Last time I looked, they were still there.]  We will bring back our wealth. And we will bring back our dreams. We will build new roads and highways and bridges and airports and tunnels and railways all across our wonderful nation. We will get our people off of welfare and back to work rebuilding our country with American hands and American labor. We will follow two simple rules: buy American and hire American. We will seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world, but we do so with the understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first.

[Trump, of course, has no conception of how to handle the greater loss of jobs to automation and virtual economy and to the Walmartization of our economy. The “winning” was not just a matter of one nation wins and another loses; but we have instead chosen to shop at places and in ways that eliminate jobs and workers from the purchases that we make, helping to concentrate wealth into the hands of ever fewer Trumps. Trump’s words, “ideas,” and plans include no measures to restore small business and Main Street storefronts from these losses.

By “seek[ing] friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world,” Trump must be referring to his good-natured attacks on our ally and leading trade partner Germany, his criticism of NATO. Or maybe he is just hinting at the closer relationship with Putin that will do our nation little good.]

We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example. We will shine for everyone to follow. We will reinforce old alliances and form new ones and unite the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the earth. At the bedrock of our politics will be a total allegiance to the United States of America and, through our loyalty to our country, we will rediscover our loyalty to each other. When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice.

[“Of course, radical Christian terrorism, like that of Dylann Roof and Charles Dear and so many others, will continue to go unchallenged, because Jesus.”  And in telling his American-flag flying deplorables, the very ones who fly their Confederate Battle Flag alongside our stars and stripes, the ones who fly our flag while shouting “Heil Trump!” and performing the Nazi salute, those entitled white people who “don’t see color,” will refuse to see the prejudice that remains. Prejudice entrenches itself further as we dismantle all of the protections that weakened it. Flying the flag does not stop it. We have to fight for the things symbolized by that flag, for patriotism to mean anything.]

The bible tells us how good and pleasant it is when god’s people live together in unity. We must speak our minds openly, debate our disagreements honestly, but always pursue solidarity. When America is united, America is totally unstoppable. There should be no fear. We are protected and we will always be protected. We will be protected by the great men and women of our military and law enforcement and most importantly, we will be protected by God. [“Because, Jesus.”]

Finally, we must think big and dream even bigger. In America, we understand that a nation is only living as long as it is striving. We will no longer accept politicians who are all talk and no action constantly complaining, but never doing anything about it. The time for empty talk is over. Now arrives the hour of action. Do not allow anyone to tell you that it cannot be done. No challenge can match the heart and fight and spirit of America. We will not fail. Our country will thrive and prosper again.

We stand at the birth of a new millennium ready to unlock the histories of space, to free the earth from the miseries of disease and to harness the energies, industries, and technologies of tomorrow.

[“Of course, all of this requires a Congress willing to spend your tax dollars, and executive agencies able to converse with the public, with Congress, with other nations and private enterprise. We need an EPA protecting our environment, a CDC unrestrained from studying the things ailing our nation like gun violence, and departments like the Department of Energy to be led by innovative people with sophisticated knowledge. Since I’ve appointed complete quacks to lead my government, and am about to shut that all down anyway, I wouldn’t hold my breath on any of the above.”]

A new national pride will lift our sights and heal our divisions. It’s time to remember that old wisdom our soldiers will never forget, that whether we are black or brown or white, we all bleed the same red blood of patriots. We all enjoy the same glorious freedoms, and we all salute the same great American flag.

 

And whether a child is born in the urban sprawl of Detroit or the windswept plains of Nebraska, they look up at the same night sky. They fill their heart with the same dreams and they are infused with the breath of life by the same almighty creator. So, to all Americans in every city near and far, small and large, from mountain to mountain, from ocean to ocean, hear these words: You will never be ignored again. Your voice, your hopes and your dreams will define our American destiny. And your courage and goodness and love will forever guide us along the way.

Together we will make America strong again. We will make America wealthy again. We will make America proud again. We will make America safe again. And, yes, together, we will make America great again. Thank you. God bless you and god bless America. Thank you. God bless America.

[We are, of course, already strong, more so than any other nation on earth. We have more wealth than any other nation on earth – we just let it get concentrated at the very top by undermining unions and middle-class workers, by freeing the top 1% from their tax burden, by selling off all of the public good to private corporations.  We are as “safe” as we have ever been, more so than in many times in our history.  And “greatness”? Trump is calling for a new Roman Empire, a militarization to replace a working economy, a chorus of “hell yeah” as we drop bombs and kill people to distract the poor from the corporate hand taking ever more of their power away. God does not bless such an America, trust me. If we are to be blessed, we must make those blessings happen by doing good, by distributing Trump’s wealth and that of his Wall Street cabal, by welcoming in refugees and immigrants and servants and slaves, the very people who have always built this nation and made it strong in the first place. That is the only kind of America that any kind of God could bless.]

See also NPR’s annotated guide to the diatribe speech.

Headline image, of Donald Trump during the inaugural address of January 20, 2017, via LA Times.

Another Personal Note, on My Return

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Welcome back to Spark!  It’s been a while, and I had many adventures that took me away from writing, but it’s time I got back into it.  Since I last ended with a “personal note” explaining my upcoming absence, I’ll return with another such.

I left my writing last year to work for the Hillary Clinton campaign, something that I may write more about in days to come.  Despite the disappointment of the results, the shock and dismay that, yes, people actually did vote for that, I have to say that my time on the campaign was, quite simply, “the toughest job I ever loved.”  I worked 12-16 hour days, every single day for about 80 days in a row.  I met some great volunteers in my area, and some amazing fellow organizers and campaign staff.  Whatever some (including Sen. Bernie Sanders) have said about Hillary suffering an enthusiasm gap, those at least that came to the campaign were very enthusiastic, full of energy, and ready to fight.  In the upcoming couple of years, as my state of Michigan gets ready for a gubernatorial and state senate race (not to mention the race for state and US representatives) in 2018, this kind of enthusiasm will be needed to take back our state government from those, like the DeVos family and the Republican administration of Governor Snyder, who have sold off the public good to the corporate hunger for cheap resources.  Michigan has great Democrats, liberals, progressives, ready to fight for what we believe in and to build our City on a Hill.  This campaign built an amazing team in Michigan, and I was proud to fight alongside them.

After the campaign, I took a brief break, and then was called back by the campaign to work – and then not – on the Michigan vote recount.  Then, again, I went back home and perused my options.  My wife and I took a great trip down south to visit some friends and family in Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, and Ohio.  And I’ve been slowly reinserting myself into the political life by attending events like the huge Rally to Defend Healthcare in Warren, MI, on January 15.  This enormous rally (over 6,000 people braved Michigan’s 20-degree cold for this outdoor event) was addressed by Senators Bernie Sanders, Chuck Schumer, Debbie Stabenow, and Gary Peters; various Michigan state and US Representatives; Cecile Richards of Planned Parenthood; and many private individuals chosen to share their stories of how the ACA saved their lives.  This coming weekend, my family and friends will be descending on Washington, DC, to protest against the inauguration of He Who Shall Not Be Named.

In the meantime, I’ve been considering other career options, gathering thoughts on the numerous fights to come and which ones to apply my energies.  I did not want to get back in with too much of a “think piece,” instead dipping back in with a soft parade of thoughts about where we go from here.  As many of my campaign comrades are also taking it easy before we all dive back into this year’s local fights (for mayorial and other local campaigns coming up this year, as well as building a resistance mechanism to neutralize the Orange Office before it can get any momentum), I thought about maybe escaping with a movie.  What should we watch?

How about 1962’s The Manchurian Candidate?  Don’t know it?  It’s a fanciful story, something almost impossible to conceive.  A mindless conservative politician turns out to be controlled by political masterminds in Russia, and is Moscow’s tool for turning America from a liberal democracy into an authoritarian dictatorship.  You see,…  Oh.  Awkward.  Okay, right.  Maybe not.

What about Red Dawn, then?  The Russians invade, after the US withdraws from NATO and unsuspectingly opens its doors to its enemy.  What’s that?  Yeah, you’re right.  Also a little too close for comfort.

I guess we should also rule out the 1980s TV miniseries, Amerika.  The US is not so much “invaded,” as relatively peacefully taken over by the Russians and the KGB in the wake of a divisive election and the nation’s failure to remember why it cared so much about maintaining a democratic federal government.  Yeah, not quite what we’re looking for in an “escape.”

Okay, let’s maybe step away from Cold War paranoia.  How about a nice classic like Gone With the Wind?  Can’t go wrong with a multiple Oscar-winner, right?  A nice, relaxing story centering around a romance, that takes place during a turbulent time as our nation is torn between two sides fighting against each other, and systematized racial violence is kept quietly in the background…  Okay, moving on, then.

Maybe instead of a movie, I’ll just watch some TV.  Rather than focus on the present, maybe a nostalgic trip to the past on the History Channel.  Hey, here we go!  A documentary about a demagogic leader in the 1930s rising up amidst a populist movement, having no political leadership experience or knowledge whatsoever, but lying his way to political victory by blaming an ethnic group for his nation’s failure to experience the greatness that it should…  Oh, for the love of…  Really?

It’s like someone was trying to tell us something.  If you want the longer version, you could of course choose to read The Federalist Papers.  But our culture has been warning us for decades against exactly the thing that we let happen last year.  And history has warned us about what happens when we let it go and assume it will all be okay at the end.  What makes things “okay in the end” are the fighters for justice from our history, like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. whose church in Atlanta I had the good fortune to visit last month, and whose mission we celebrated this past week (in the case of our next occupant of the White House, by insulting one of MLK’s most determined allies, Representative John Lewis of Georgia).  And in the end, there is no “end.”  History doesn’t get a period, but an ellipses.  We have to keep fighting, even (especially) when we’ve won a  great victory.  MLK and John Lewis pushed the US into a variety of great reforms (and many half-assed ones); like the Voting Rights Act that last year was emasculated by a Supreme Court that this year (try not throw up) is going to get another justice added to it by our new Pussy-Grabber-in-Chief.  A victory won can be lost down the road by complacence.  We have to get back to fighting for the things we’ve won and are about to lose (or already have lost).

Now that I am back, I will be writing more about what we can do in the days ahead, and how we can fight the battles before we lose the war and before our nation sells its soul to its own devils.  As Rachel Maddow likes to say, keep watching this space for more.

Thanks for your patience, and welcome back to Spark!

Headline image: Owen Roper, the author, Senator Debbie Stabenow (MI-D), and Tashawna Gill, on Election Day, 2016.  © Sparkpolitical, 2017.