In the interest of fairness, I would like to preface this by saying that I don’t object to the institution of marriage. I’m a married person myself and it’s an arrangement that I highly recommend. I certainly don’t object to the happy couple. By all outward appearances they are two charming young people and very much in love. A good fairy tale escape is something we can all appreciate. God knows everyone on this side of the pond needed a break from the daily trainwreck on television that is Donald J. Trump administration. But make no mistake, this was far from the storybook fantasy all of us in America make it out to be. There were a lot of problems around the Royal Wedding that nobody likes to talk about. None of which are necessarily about the two people involved, but rather with the institution surrounding the ceremony…and what it represents. As pretty as it was to watch through eyes made bloodshot from waking up too early on a weekend, I found the Royal Wedding to be objectionable, and while the flush of the champagne and Earl Grey tea everyone was drinking on Saturday is still rosy on our cheeks, I may as well raise them.
First, I object to the British Monarchy as an institution. It’s an anachronistic colonial relic whose usefulness in the modern age has long since worn out its welcome. Political legitimacy today no longer arises from a hereditary sovereign. It comes either from republican institutions that place the authority to govern squarely in the hands of the people themselves by the imposition of brute force by a despot both within and outside his borders. The power of the “constitutional monarchy” in Britain exists on paper alone. The Royals themselves are now merely conduits for a massive national commercial enterprise aimed squarely at tourists; a way to sell cheap tea sets and every other kind of bric-a-brac you can name. It should also be noted that what it costs the British taxpayers to maintain the luxurious lifestyles of those in the House of Windsor does not justify the income that is being generated from tourism and merchandising. Yes, people come to visit Britain because of the Royal family. But they come to see the castles, suits of armor on display and buy tchotchkes emblazoned with the Royal seal. They don’t come hoping to bump into the Queen.
Other great nations in Europe have done away with their royal families and prospered. I can see the Palace at Versailles in France without having to concern myself with the affairs of Louis Alphonse, the Duke and Anjou and the French Royal pretender. The fact that the British refuse to jettison their royalty is a reflection of just how differently they perceive themselves from their cousins on the continent. They’re not European. They’re British. Either that or they realize that their once great and vast empire has truly collapsed and all they ultimately have to prop up their economy is the reliable stream of starry-eyed yokels from America yearning to see men in frilly collars and buildings made before 1900.
Second, I object to the already “celebrity obsessed” society that exists in our country today that this media spectacle only exacerbates. I will concede that a healthy curiosity about institutions that don’t exist here is only natural. But ever since the days of Grace Kelly, Americans have become more and more fascinated with European royalty. The late Diana, Princess of Wales cemented our obsession with the current generation of British royals to the point where I honestly wonder if we as Americans want a real, hereditary aristocratic class of our own. Don’t the rich, famous and powerful in Hollywood and elsewhere already constitute a de facto one?
Consider the guest list. Why were Oprah Winfrey and George Clooney there? Are they friends of the family? No. It’s because they are as close to aristocracy this country has. The only thing missing are hereditary titles. Think about that for a moment. There are people today with enough power and wealth to beg the question as to whether they should, by birthright, command deference and servitude from the rest of us. That is a thought that should revolt you…in more ways than one. As for the rest of the attendees: David and Victoria Beckham, Idris Elba, Serena Williams and James Blunt…well, it appears they were there just to be seen and not because any of them knew the bride and groom since they were knee-high. I presume Elton John was there simply because, wedding or funeral, you can’t have a regal British ceremony of any kind without him anymore. Maybe he should have married one of the royals.
I would have been able to stomach this extravaganza more if we could at least admit what we were watching was just fun and fluff. It’s not, though. You got up before dawn on Saturday to watch the nuptials of taxpayer subsidized, ultra-rich people with no purpose in life other than to stand and wave at polo matches. The British taxpayers had to shell out approximately £32 million ($43 million US) for this, of which it is estimated that at least £30 million ($40 million US) was just for security. Part and parcel of the nearly £368 million ($494 million US) they pay just as an allowance for the expensive clothes, jewelry, luxury holidays and highbrow educations the royals get by virtue of just being born. Let’s be honest with ourselves. This wasn’t a wedding. This was a taxpayer-funded costume play to keep the tourists happy. It’s absurd to pretend otherwise.
Third, I object to notion that Americans have that somehow Meghan Markle, now the Duchess of Sussex, is a transformational figure: an American woman of color destined to turn the monarchy upside down and boldly usher it into the 21st century.
No she isn’t and no she won’t.
This is a dance the British have done before. Americans marrying into the royal line is not unprecedented, but when it happened, it was not a story that Walt Disney would have approved of. In 1934, Wallis Simpson of Baltimore began a love affair with the future King Edward VIII. Their romance ultimately forced his abdication in 1936 after only a year on the throne so he could marry the twice-divorced native of Blue Ridge Summit, Pennsylvania.
Now, at first glance, that may sound terribly romantic. The King relinquishing his crown to marry a simple woman he truly loves. In reality, however, the story was less fairy tale and more protracted catastrophe. Her ambition to change the monarchy by sheer dint of will; to force an institution that has been in place with little interruption since 1066 to accept her, a foreign commoner, as Queen Consort left her marriage in shambles. Rumors of affairs and a clear disdain for one another left the Duke and Duchess of Windsor miserable for the rest of their natural lives. They smiled very nicely in public, but according to one observer, they became “international society’s most notorious parasites for a generation”, the result of having no purpose in life except to attend cocktail parties.
That may have been fine for Edward. But as a woman, Simpson was even more useless than her husband the former king. The monarchical system in Britain is such that a woman’s true usefulness lies only in her womb. That is assuming, of course, that your womb is of any use to the kingdom in the first place. And yes, the word is use. Kate Middleton’s only function in the royal family was to have children who would one day sit on the throne. Afterwards, she would become useless. Possibly even a nuisance…much like her late mother-in-law after she gave birth to William, the father of her children. If this sounds less like Cinderella and more like The Handmaid’s Tale, you aren’t far off.
This is the world that Meghan Markle now finds herself in. Her husband will never be king and so at least she will be spared from the obligation to raise progeny to continue the royal bloodline. That fact, however, will not free her from the extraordinarily tight controls that being a member of the House of Windsor demand. Her travel will be rigidly scheduled. Her friends and associates carefully vetted to even be in the same room with her. What she wears, what she eats, and yes, what she says, will be carefully choreographed and scripted according to protocols hundreds of years in the making. She isn’t even granted the basic dignity of a last name.
Meghan Markle no longer exists. She is Meghan, Duchess of Sussex. It doesn’t matter in the slightest to her new family that she was once a California-bred TV actress. Her education from Northwestern University, her internship abroad with the US Embassy in Argentina and her popularity among people of color in the United States are of no consequence. Even her social media presence as an individual has been deleted in its entirety by Kensington Palace. All that is left of what was once an intelligent and vivacious young woman is a persona; part of a peerage that King George III, America’s first sworn enemy, created for one of his wayward children in 1801. But won’t she look great on a collectible serving tray?
This is the price of the fairy tale that everyone got to squeal with glee at on a bright May morning in London. A woman who few people had heard about until recently, unless you were a fan of Suits on the USA Network, has been permanently lost to her native country for the affections of a man, although wealthy and famous beyond comprehension, has no actual purpose in life. They are both forever relegated to acting as mere ornaments; backdrops for his older brother, the future King William V, who is himself doomed to rule a Commonwealth over which he has no real authority.
If you are hoping that she will the instrument by which the British Monarchy will be led into a new millennium, then you’re nursing a delusion. It is an outmoded behemoth, buttressed over time to withstand unwarranted change from any one person. It’s not something you can just throw a new coat of paint on and make it seem new. It is old and ugly, fundamentally irrelevant and totally unnecessary. The introduction of a biracial American woman into the family is just putting lipstick on a pig. No real change can occur. She likely would have had greater influence if she remained a minor television celebrity in this country. Her newly acquired title will grant her no greater platform to speak from. Her celebrity will surely fade as she will eventually have to cede the stage for King William and Catherine, the Queen Consort. The issues that she is currently so passionate about will now no longer affect her in any meaningful way. The things she cares about will simply be dictated to her from Buckingham Palace. Her big day is now over. Things will go back being all about William and Kate again…the way it was always meant to be.
If anyone had the power to change such an entrenched system, it would have been Diana Spencer. She tried to be her own woman, speaking with conviction about important matters to herself and a great many people from across the globe. A passionate advocate for children, a fashion icon, beloved by millions. As exceptional as she was, however, it was ultimately impossible, even for her, to break loose from the role she had been cast in on another royal wedding day in 1981. Her exit from the House of Windsor was heartbreak, scandal, a failed marriage and death in a Paris tunnel.
I hope I’m wrong, but I think it would have been better for today’s Royal couple to be together simply as Meghan Markle and Harry Windsor. Ordinary people with the ability to make your own way in the world is better than one day as an international spectacle that defines who you are for the rest of your life followed by obscurity and silence.
The fact it isn’t this way for them makes the Royal Wedding objectionable.
Enough is enough. My fellow progressives, we need to quit navel gazing, break up the circular firing squad and just stop. Especially you…and you know who you are.
You need to stop quoting Federalist Paper 68, which not a single person here has probably read. If you had you would not be trying to hinge a wholesale Electoral College revolt on this all too brief of an essay (one of 85) written by Alexander Hamilton among others, under a pseudonym no less, for the benefit of making an argument to ratify the Constitution…in New York. There will be no abolition of the Electoral College. It will not happen and why? As I once wrote, it’s very difficult to alter the Constitution to accomplish that. The Founding Fathers designed the Constitution to make that sort of thing extraordinarily hard to do. If it was as easy as you are hoping and praying it is, then the Republicans would have already changed it to get rid of gay marriage, ban abortion, flag burning, etc. and all of the other culture war issues they have threatened to use Constitutional amendments against. As for us? We would have abolished “dark money” in electoral politics, enshrined universal suffrage, guaranteed equal pay for equal work, etc. and all of the other issues we have threatened to amend the Constitution for over the years. The last time the Constitution was amended was in 1992 and it was regarding Congressional salaries. Look it up. It took 202 years for that to get ratified. The drive to abolish the Electoral College is a waste of time. Just stop.
You need to stop leaving scripted phone messages and sending canned emails addressed to members of Congress, the U.S. Attorney General or the Attorneys General of Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Florida or whomever. Absolutely nobody except some poor unpaid interns are going to read prefab emails sent from terrified liberals who still can’t accept that millions of people simply didn’t vote on Election Day. Quit trying to find excuses for why we didn’t come out in large enough numbers for Hillary Clinton, or wound up voting for people like Gary Johnson or Jill Stein who could never, repeat, never win the Presidency. It’s over and done with. Donald Trump is the going to be the 45th President of the United States. We put him there and no public official, court officer or arcane law is going to come and save you from him. You were warned. All of these emails and electronic petitions you are “signing” on sites like Change.org or MoveOn are worth absolutely nothing. The electors will not read them and God knows Trump and the GOP, who are still in charge of Congress right now incidentally, do not give a damn about these petitions. It’s a waste of time. Just stop.
You need to stop trying to change state laws that govern how their electors are chosen. It’s far, far too late for that now and besides, in doing so we may shoot ourselves in the foot again one day. Do you really want to risk this nightmare a second time? You can’t hope for or rely on “faithless electors” changing the result either and you really shouldn’t. This is how we choose our Presidents and Democrats, I’m sorry…but we lost. As appalling and frightening as his administration is going to be, this country earned and deserves this President because we weren’t paying attention. We thought this would be a cakewalk. It wasn’t and it is completely our fault. Not the Russians. Ours. We took our eye off the ball. Well, never again. We all need to admit that over the last 8 years, we have been in a bubble. We are still in a hermetically sealed media bubble telling us exactly what makes us feel good as surely as conservatives were over the last 20 years. If you are in this bubble (God knows I was), you need to get out and now. We were listening to the talking heads at MSNBC and reading progressive “news” sites like Blue Nation Review and US Uncut and we stopped fighting as if our lives depended on it to stop Trump. These “Daily Actions” everyone is taking on Facebook are terrific, but they are aimed at completely the wrong target. They are a waste of time. Just stop.
Fellow progressives, you need to START. You need to start thinking about the real target which is 2018. After that, the target is 2020.
You need to start raising money, making phone calls, sending emails, signing petitions in ink, knocking on doors and all of the other things you are currently doing in some vain effort to deny Trump the White House. Break out your wallet, checkbook, PayPal account or the sock under your mattress stuffed with rainy day cash and start giving until it hurts. The rainy day is here and the storm’s name is Hurricane Donald. You need to give and give and give to all those organizations who will be taking fire for us over the next 4 years. Organizations like the ACLU and the Southern Poverty Law Center will need dollars now more than ever. So will Planned Parenthood, the Human Rights Campaign and the Sierra Club to name a few. Money talks. Even a moron like Trump knows that. If progressive values are to remain alive under his regime, it will mean being in court. A lot. Lawyers cost money, even progressive ones, so don’t be stingy.
You need to start putting your time and effort into helping Democrats capture the House and Senate in 2018 and later the White House in 2020. There needs to be a progressive legislature as a check against Trump because without one, this lunatic and his administration will have virtually zero obstacles to destroying everything we have fought for generations to achieve. Do you really think a Republican controlled Congress will have any meaningful investigations into anything Trump does that are blatant violations of law, ethics…even the Constitution? We all know what’s at stake. We all know what the issues are because God knows we debated them long enough among ourselves during the year. Everyone needs to immediately cease and desist from any more finger pointing because in the end we will wind up right back where we started, with Kellyanne Conway’s stupid face gloating on TV that “I’m a winner”.
You need to start supporting good, strong candidates who believe in the issues…and in the people whose lives they affect every day. Find candidates who have broad appeal among all progressives who can win. Here’s a good test. If you have run for the Oval Office before, go away. Hillary Clinton is never coming back, people. Ever. Start looking for someone else to be President. And in case you get any funny ideas, Bernie Sanders isn’t coming back either. He might have shown up with Chris Hayes recently, but come on. The guy will be 79 in 2020. He may very well be dead by then. And leave poor Joe Biden alone. He is never going to run for President because it’s not in the cards for him and he has told us as much. Quips on the Senate floor are simply not enough to start making yard signs, OK? Hasn’t he been through enough? Gary Johnson is an idiot. If you insist on somebody from the old Libertarian ticket from this year, try Johnson’s running mate who is a lot smarter than he is. Jill Stein has gotten rich over our foolish panic to grasp at any straw that could deny Trump his victory and it was stupid of us to fall for it. She also can’t win any elected office above town council and she has the last 8 consecutive losses including this year to prove it. Let her go. How about finding some new, fresh and great candidates every progressive can rally around? How about Elizabeth Warren? How about Cory Booker? How about Tammy Duckworth? How about Sherrod Brown? Hell, show me why we can’t get behind Kamala Harris? We need to start working to fight Trump’s administration at every turn and at the same time do all the hard work we failed to get done in 2016 to make sure this does not happen in 2018, 2020, or ever again. We need to do this now and enough with trying to undo what has already been done.
The first step to beating the son of a bitch is to admit he that beat us. Period. STOP your crying and START getting to work.
Illegitimi non carborundum. Don’t let the bastards grind you down.
I live in a Post-Explanation America and so do you. This is a country where if you are wondering about how a real estate developer and television personality with virtually no qualifications for elected office (outside the Constitutional requirements) ascended to the Presidency of the United States, you are liable to be sitting like Rodin’s “Thinker” wondering for all time. There a million theories as to how this happened and regrettably even more finger-pointing and blame than theories. Since Election Day, progressives have been groping for answers as to why so many white working-class Americans, once Democratic mainstays, voted overwhelmingly for a man who shows little interest outside of media stunts in pursuing policies that will work for their economic benefit. But maybe that was never the basis for their vote. Maybe all of us, sitting on our high horses with our fancy educations, completely misunderstood these people and what motivates them.
The following was reprinted with permission from John Paul Brammer, a writer, speaker, and activist based in New York City. His work has been published in The Guardian, Slate, Vox, BuzzFeed, NBC and many other outlets. According to his website, “His work blends the deeply personal with the political.” Mr. Brammer brings personal experience and profound insight to help answer a question that all of us need to consider at length. Follow him at johnpaulbrammer.com and on Twitter @jpbrammer.
How Poor Whites See Themselves
So I’m a Mexican-American from a poor, rural, mostly white town in Oklahoma. What’s missing from this debate? How poor whites see themselves. If you’re wondering how poor, exploited white people could vote for a guy with a golden elevator who will fuck them over, here’s how.
They don’t see themselves as poor. They don’t base their identity on it. They see themselves as “temporarily embarrassed millionaires”. The stigma against poverty is incredibly strong. It is shameful to be poor; to not have the comforts of the middle class. So they pretend that they aren’t poor. They purchase things to make it seem like they’re not. They are willing to lie to make it seem like they aren’t poor. In my town, wealth wasn’t associated with greed, but with hard work and inherent goodness. You are blessed if you have material wealth. When they see Trump, they don’t see an extortionist who is rich because of the very conditions that keep their own communities in poverty. They see someone who worked hard and was justly rewarded with wealth. Most men, especially, think they too could be Trump were it not for the unfair obstacles put in their way. White men who don’t consider themselves successful enough have so many excuses for their “failures”. The idea that immigrants are the reason they are poor and not wealthy like Trump is so appealing. It takes all the shame and blame away. And here we have a man who, they think, “tells it like it is” and is willing to name the things stealing prosperity out of their hands. If these people saw themselves as an exploited class of people, if American culture didn’t stigmatize poverty so much, it might be different. But America has so entangled wealth with goodness and poverty with moral deficiency that they can’t build that identity. They won’t.
Trump is rich, and so according to American criteria, he is also:
He has to be.
Capitalism and the American Dream teach that poverty is a temporary state that can be transcended with hard work and cleverness. To fail to transcend poverty, and admit you are poor, is to admit that you are neither hardworking nor clever. It’s cultural brainwashing. So if an exploited class of people doesn’t want to admit that they’re exploited, to blame themselves for their oppression, what manifests? Xenophobia. Hatred of anyone who is “different”: queer people, people of color. These people are eroding the “goodness” of America. And if they would just stop ruining America, then the perfect design of America could work again and deliver prosperity. I’m telling you, as someone who has spent almost his entire life in this environment, that if you think cities are a “bubble”? Good God. But the reality is, of course, that these exploited people are indeed exploited, even while they victimize others, when they victimize us, they are still victims. How do you balance those realities and what conclusions do you reach to improve the lives of both? Well, I’m not smart enough to have the answer. Still, we need to understand that the identity white working class people have built for themselves is diametrically opposed to, well, reality.
Because Trump won’t make them rich. Even if he deports all the brown people, it won’t bring them what they’re hoping for.
The original piece, written as a series of Tweets, can be found at https://storify.com/positiveforcedc/how-poor-whites-see-themselves
I am absolutely, totally and completely opposed to any attempt to audit the vote count in any state from the 2016 General Election that chose Donald J. Trump 45th President of the United States instead of Hillary Clinton. It doesn’t matter that Clinton’s vote tally is now 2 million more than Trump’s. It doesn’t matter if the difference reaches 3 million, 5 million or 10 million votes. There is a principle involved here. We don’t elect our Presidents by popular vote. We choose them in the Electoral College at the state level and Clinton lost.
There will be no abolition of the Electoral College because it’s very difficult to alter the Constitution to accomplish that. The Founding Fathers designed the Constitution to make that sort of thing extraordinarily hard to do. Also, you should forget about trying to change state laws that govern how their electors are chosen. It’s far, far too late for that now. And by the way, you can’t rely on “faithless electors” changing the result and you really shouldn’t. This is how we choose our Presidents and Democrats, I’m sorry but you lost. As appalling and frightening as his administration may turn out to be, this country earned and deserves this President.
If you don’t like President-elect Trump, consider that an estimated 41.6% of eligible voters did not cast a ballot in 2016. That’s 96,421,324 people who simply decided not to vote. That means nearly 1/3 of you didn’t care enough on November 8, 2016 to make your voice heard. Why are people in support of some stupid idea made by a bunch of idiot election lawyers and egghead computer geeks that is 100% doomed to fail? If you think you may have made a mistake by not voting and are traumatized that Trump and his jolly pirate crew are going to be calling all the shots for the next 4 years, well…you should have thought of that 2 weeks ago.
And by the way, why would a politician with the long experience and savvy of Mrs. Clinton subject herself to an even more humiliating loss than we, the voters of the United States, gave her earlier this month? I urge her to stay out of politics and reject this call for a recount. The American people clearly do not want her in public office and I implore those behind this ridiculous notion to stop trying to find magic tricks that will upend the election process so you can put her in the White House.
I know this all sounds terribly harsh. Well, it is. I’m no fan of Trump either but I know when I’ve been beat. I ask that the great masses of broken-hearted progressives out there who still can’t believe it to please stop this madness. If you don’t like your new Republican national government, fine. Whine and complain about them about them to your heart’s content. Whatever. But if you don’t vote, don’t expect some legal or technological miracle to save you post-election. Focus on 2018 when the entire House of Representatives is on the ballot and most of the Senate. Concentrate on getting your local GOP statehouses and governors flipped from red to blue. Oh, you say Democrats can’t win the House because of gerrymandering? You say the Democrats have 23 seats to defend in 2018 to the Republicans 8? Well, Donald Trump was supposed to get crushed in this election. The Senate was supposed to go blue and even the House was supposed to be in play. Since when are we going to believe anything Nate Silver has to say anymore?
Look, it’s this simple. If you really and truly believe that “I wasn’t given any real choice” so you stayed at home instead, then may I suggest you and your fine sensibilities move to Russia? I can guarantee that you won’t ever have to worry about what your vote means or doesn’t mean there. One-way flights from New York to Moscow on good, reputable airlines start as low as $399.
Do you know what Privilege is?
It is the ability of being able to vote for someone like Donald Trump and yet insist that you are not a bigot.
It is the ability to say “I Matter”, “I’m Being Left Out” and “I Want My Country Back” when people like you have been running this nation ever since it was founded.
It is the ability to ignore that if you are a white, straight, Christian man that you have never had occasion to fear who you are in this country and that so very many people because of the color of their skin, because of where they came from, because of what they believe, because of who they love or simply because they are women have had a very long time to become afraid of you and with good reason.
It is the ability to say something absurd like “The millions of people who voted for Trump can’t all be bigots”, including your family, friends and neighbors based solely on the belief that half the country can’t be so brazenly racist, sexist, xenophobic, anti-Semitic, misogynistic and ultra-nationalist. Yes they can and yes they are, regardless of how as shockingly high a number that appears to be.
What allows us to rise as one people is the understanding that all of us are bigots to some extent. Nobody likes to think they are a bigot but to some degree everyone is. I’m a bigot. You’re a bigot. Everyone is somehow prejudiced and it is something that each one of us must strive to overcome.
What many of us fail to understand is that prejudice does not require intent. All it requires is the refusal to acknowledge that there are so many people who hate and despise other people solely because of their race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, etc. and then justify their hatred as something other than plain and simple bigotry. We must acknowledge once and for all that racism comes in many forms. It comes as traditions, rules, laws, codes of behavior and all manner of things above and beyond calling someone a cruel name or using an arcane label.
It is saying “You people are lazy”, “You people aren’t strong enough”, “You people cheat and are miserly”, “You people are an abomination against God”, “You people are all violent” or just “You people don’t know your place” and not understand that this is bigotry in its purest form. It is the delusion that by depriving basic human rights from others that you are just protecting your heritage, your religion or your “way of life”. It is excusing your own hatred as “just my opinion”. It is this belief that “No, it can’t be me. I’m not a bigot.” which permits institutions that allow bigotry to stand, function and grow unabated.
What is Privilege? It is the ability to excuse a man who divides the country using every form of bigotry there is and then speaks about unity only after he wins. It is believing that by having women and minorities in his inner circle will somehow make him immune to the charge of being a sexist, a misogynist or a racist. It is ability to ignore the reality that this same man who by filling his cabinet with known racists, white supremacists and eugenicists sends a powerful signal to many in this nation that he intends to hold his grip on power by continuing to divide with fear and prejudice. And it is the inability to acknowledge that by supporting him you have taken sides with a terrible man who has said terrible things against millions of your brothers and sisters and appears prepared to continue to do terrible things because he like all of us is a bigot. Only now he has near limitless power to act on his bigotry.
What was the Great Sin his opponent committed that you couldn’t live with? Perceived dishonesty? The potential for graft? The failure to acknowledge that These People Don’t Belong Here? The desire for vengeance and punishment for crimes that for over four decades the law could not see but somehow you could? What was it that for all the danger, the hatred and the bigotry that this man represents you still found him a better choice? How comfortable will you feel about what you have done a year from now? Five years from now? Ten?
We are asked by you to give him a chance. How much of a chance do you want us to give and how long do you ask that we wait? The next election cycle will undoubtedly be too late for some.
Maybe for all.
The Dakota Access Pipeline has “environmental disaster” written all over it. It’s a senseless destruction of land and culture and a blatant disregard of treaty with the Standing Rock Sioux Nation. I hate this pipeline and would love to see it scrapped. But it’s time to be truthful. The protest against it near Cannon Ball, North Dakota is a tragic exercise in futility.
Many of the “police” at the site are privately contracted security guards, not unlike the ones the US military had in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are a heavily armed, paramilitary force and really answerable to nobody other their employers who pay them very, very well. Local and state government stand to benefit greatly when the pipeline is operational so they are going to be of no help. Quite the contrary, they apparently are all too thrilled to throw as many of the protesters behind bars and to be blunt, people are crazy to think they will lift a finger to stop any violence when it happens. Some in this country may even welcome a forcible crushing of this protest, the First Amendment be damned. As such, in the absence of direct intervention at the Federal level, the self-described “water protectors” out there are sitting ducks. When the time comes that the corporate overseers of this project back in Dallas decide they are bored with this nuisance, those guards will be given leave to do whatever they want.
Let me say that again. They can and will do whatever they want.
If those security contractors, or the Morton County Sheriff’s office, or the North Dakota State Police, or any of the myriad enforcers with a badge and a gun out there decide to go in and kill fifty protesters, they will likely do just that and there isn’t a single court with any jurisdiction in these United States that will send a single one of those men to jail. The law, right or wrong, will call the protest “trespassing on private property” and that is all that will be required to initiate a legal mass execution. At the rate we are going, there is nothing to indicate that this will not end in a brutal and violent crackdown. Why? There has never been a point in our national history where the needs and rights of Indigenous Peoples have ever trumped private interests. This pipeline is 60% completed, has cost almost $4 billion and despite the injunctions currently in place, construction will resume sooner than later and it will resume through Indigenous land. It’s oil, people. Nobody is going to get in the way of the flow of oil which everybody needs and loves. And ugly as it sounds, obscure petitions on even more obscure websites, appeals to the United Nations or a protest that is smaller than the average Grateful Dead concert will do little if anything to dislodge a powerful oil developer like Energy Transfer Partners.
I’m very upset at this. Not so much because of the construction of the pipeline itself. I’m upset because it’s only when the abuse of the Indigenous people of this nation reach an absolutely horrendous point such as this exigency do white people start to care and that is the rub. This is why it’s now acceptable for the rich and famous to now make “appearances” in opposition to the project. Rarely, however, are the elite of Hollywood’s activist class actually going anywhere near North Dakota. Some do, but it’s always best to play it safe. Protests in New York and Washington, DC are great. So are interviews on YouTube, primetime cable news shows and of course, what could be better than the ever popular hashtag activism on their Twitter feed? They want you to know that they “stand with Standing Rock”.
Well, so what?
Well-known entertainers and media stars don’t want trouble. They just want exposure. Honestly, who wants to go to where there’s the potential for real danger to life and limb? Especially theirs, since they have a vested interest in maintaining those faces and bodies that keep them so very well compensated at the box office. Does anyone think these celebrities will go to North Dakota and stick it out long-term to fight a real injustice? Hell, no. They want a photo-op and then they are gone. Lawrence O’Donnell will not lose a day of sleep once the protest has been successfully terminated. America barely knows who Amy Goodman is now much less cares. So when she was arrested for reporting on this travesty, it was hardly noticed.
Worse yet, the endless parade of celebrities who never trouble themselves with Indigenous matters at any other time will still be able to enjoy their lives of luxury when this protest inevitably ends. It’s a disgusting spectacle. Think about it. What do Leonardo DiCaprio, Susan Sarandon, Pharrell Williams, Rosario Dawson, Mark Ruffalo, et al really have to lose if the pipeline goes through? Not a damn thing. Riley Keogh is out there taking promotional selfies with people there like she’s at a family barbecue, for God’s sake. Now, I’ll give credit where credit is due. Shaliene Woodley went to Standing Rock and got herself arrested and humiliated and brought attention to the cause. Good for her. On the other hand, Ms. Woodley is privileged enough to have the best of attorneys at her disposal to get her out of jail as quickly as she can get thrown in. Plus, as soon as her agent calls with the latest Divergent script, she is on the next plane back to Los Angeles. Guaranteed. Who do the people who live there all the time have to turn to when they get beaten, strip searched and imprisoned? Nobody, that’s who.
Dr. Jill Stein has been out there, but seeing as her future in politics is up in smoke, she may as well take up professional activism full-time. As for the Rev. Jesse Jackson? He just goes where the cameras are and has for the last thirty years. As nice as it may appear, it’s all just famous people making themselves feel good by going somewhere to have a camera pointed at them and say “Look at me! I’m progressive! I care about issues! And by the way, check out my new movie.” Don’t believe me? Then ask Ben Affleck about the attachment of this protest with promotion of the new Justice League movie set for 2017 release. Wow. Now that’s what I call heroism.
So what’s the solution? Let the Dakota Access Pipeline go though.
Let it go through and wait for catastrophe to strike. When white people start dying after the pipeline breaks down, which at some point in the future it will, you can rest assured that the Powers That Be will get their collective asses in gear and fast. When rich white people are getting hurt then things get done. That’s a fact. Things never get done when the people who were here thousands of years before America even existed are the ones getting hurt.
Let me make this perfectly clear. You can vote for whatever third-party candidate you want to. It’s your right as an American to vote for whomever you please so long as they meet the qualifications set forth in Article II of the Constitution. But here is your quandary. None of those candidates have any mathematical hope of winning the Presidency and that is an inescapable fact. A protest vote in this election is crazy, petulant and above all extremely dangerous.
In case this frightening reality managed to elude anyone, Donald J. Trump is the Republican nominee and he may very well win. It’s easy to say “If not now, when?” OK, that’s a fair question. How about when you don’t have a certifiably crazy demagogue who demeans and insults every person he comes into contact with, calls for racial profiling, banning all members of a religion totaling 1.6 billion followers worldwide from entering the U.S., building a wall on the southern border and forcing another country to pay for it, punishing women who exercise their right to choose and holds foreign dictators in high esteem as models for “strong leadership”? Do it when Paul Ryan is the Republican nominee in 2020, that’s when.
Has anyone else noticed that so many people who want to cast a “protest” vote are young, mostly white and can’t imagine that a Trump presidency will be all that different from the 44 that preceded it? Well, it’s easy when you have enough advantages or privilege granted to you from birth that you feel insulated enough from the machinations of Donald Trump and his ilk. It’s easy when you’re somebody like Susan Sarandon and can watch society burn from the comfort of your penthouse in New York because you have enough money to shield you. It’s easy to shout slogans like CORRUPTION! OLIGARCHY! CORPORATE MEDIA! It’s easy when you think a Trump presidency won’t affect you that much.
Believe me it will and not for the better.
Yes, yes, yes, we all know that money is the root of all evil in politics. But let’s also be a little realistic. You need it to run an effective campaign and neither of the two major “third” parties have much of it. As of August 22, 2016, Jill Stein and the Green Party had $1,876,899 in their campaign coffers. You can purchase two taxi medallions in New York City with that but it’s going to be awfully hard to run a full-blown presidential campaign with the same amount. The Libertarians don’t fare much better. As of the same date, they have $2,953,292 in their campaign war chest. That’s less than the amount of money proposed to upgrade the public swimming pools in Lexington, Kentucky.
Also, consider this. There are 8,163 Federal, state and territorial offices in the United States, starting with the President, Senate and House of Representatives all the way down to state and territorial governorships and seats in their respective legislative bodies. Do you know how many the Green Party holds? Zero. The highest public official in the United States who is a member of the Green Party is Bruce Delgado, who is the mayor of Marina, California. How about the Libertarian Party? Nope. They don’t have any either. Libertarian Robert Stephens is the mayor of Springfield, Missouri. A third-party needs to have far more candidates at the local, state and Federal level if they want to begin building coalitions and working with Democrats and Republicans to get effective and positive legislation passed. Just shooting for the top office isn’t enough.
It would also help to not have candidates who appear as crazy and unprepared as Trump. Libertarian Gary Johnson doesn’t know what or where Aleppo is and was under the impression that nobody was hurt in the recent bombing in New York. These aren’t gaffes. They’re ignorance. Green Party candidate Dr. Jill Stein, the ultimate liberal conspiracy theorist, states that Donald Trump would be better than Hillary Clinton or even Barack Obama, that unemployment figures are manipulated as part of a government cover-up to oppress the masses and is more concerned with childhood vaccines and GMOs than how to combat terrorism. Come on, people. You can find more qualified candidates than that.
Here’s something else. Do you know how many electoral votes the Green Party has won in their entire history as a political party? The answer is none. How about the Libertarian Party? They can boast one electoral vote and that was courtesy of an unfaithful elector in 1972. But any third-party can sure throw a monkey wrench into an election with disastrous consequences. Just ask Ralph Nader.
I can sympathize with many eager revolutionaries who were crushed when Bernie Sanders wasn’t the nominee of a party he eschewed for the whole of his political career. But let’s be honest. He was as cold and calculating a politician as any of the other big-ticket candidates for President. His campaign was pure political calculus. He remained either an Independent or a member of the old Liberty Union Party stretching all the way back to 1981 and became a Democrat in 2015 solely because he knew you can’t win the White House as an independent. But for so many people left enthralled by his campaign, they came to the conclusion if they vote third-party, even at this most dangerous time in our history, you could conceivably have everything you and the rest of the country is entitled to: free education, a decent place to live, free medical care, good jobs, etc. because they have it Denmark, right?
This Isn’t Denmark.