The Coup-shaped Elephant In The Room

I’ve tried to keep politics out of my memoir and The Owl Journal — my comments on the Medical Industrial Complex and Death With Dignity (post 1, post 2) notwithstanding — and my old Twitter account — a remnant of my old blog, Fish & Bicycles — has been an effective release valve for my political angst, helping me to mostly attain that goal.

It’s not that I’m trying to hide my political beliefs, best described as Progressive Flaming Liberal Tree-Hugging Hippie-Dippie Democratic Socialist, it’s just that I’d be shocked if my denomination, so to speak, wasn’t already easily inferred from all I’ve previously written here on this site.

I mean, I used to be in a Grateful Dead cover band!

Obvious, right?! 😊

But Then…

IMG-4998On Wednesday, January 6, 2021, the once-impeached, now twice-impeached, President of the United States — unambiguous loser of the 2020 general election popular vote and Electoral College — incited a mob of his sycophantic followers to storm the Capitol building in order to stop the certification of the election results.

The mob:

  • Erected a gallows outside the Capitol, followed by calls for the death of Vice President Mike Pence and the whereabouts of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi;
  • Broke through the criminally unprepared security, vandalized and pillaged the building, including smearing of their own feces on the floor and walls in the halls of the Capitol;
  • Carried with them Molotov Cocktails, tasers, an undetermined number of guns, zip-ties, and they planted two bombs;
  • Killed a Capitol Police officer, got four of their fellow mob members killed in the attack, and several days later, another Capitol Police officer committed suicide;
  • Forced members of the Senate, House of Representatives, the Vice President, and staff into hiding, where at least 3 members of Congress contracted Covid-19 from Republican colleagues who refused to wear masks while sheltering in place in close quarters.

When something like this happens, my Jewish upbringing kicks in; like a reflex, the poem based on German Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller’s First They Came… Holocaust confession, unbidden, comes to mind, with its admonition to NOT stay silent in the face of rising tyranny, even if the tyrants don’t initially come after you.

To Write, Or Not To Write?

Regardless, I almost chose not to write this post because for some days after the ‘Save The Steal’ putsch I could not think of anything that felt worth saying amidst the din of all the news and opinion journalism I’ve been consuming.

But then, inspiration came in a very strange package:

It was just three characters in this tweet that caught my attention — “UFC,” an acronym for Ultimate Fighting Championship, a barbaric mixed martial arts competition — and the proverbial lightbulb lit up over my head!

But first, at the risk of acting like an obnoxious tease, let’s take a step back for a bigger picture.

No really, I promise to get back to the pugilism. 🤪

‘This Is Not Who We Are’

American exceptionalism is a persistent myth, and even President-elect Biden responded to the insurgency saying:

“The scenes of chaos at the Capitol do not reflect the true America. This is not who we are.”

Um, excuse me, but how can that be?! How can any elected official, much less the incoming president, a Democrat, believe this, when 74 MILLION Americans voted to re-elect the man who incited the insurgency?

The “We” in ‘This Is Not Who We Are’ includes those 74 million people, including, yes, the mob that stormed the Capitol, as well as the insurrectionists who are, the FBI reports, planning “armed protests” at all 50 state capitols this weekend, ahead of Inauguration Day, and, finally, a growing number of dangerous, radicalized white supremacists who believe that America is meant to forever be a majority white and/or white-ruled nation, and is being overtaken by people of color.

It’s not easy to accept that our nation’s problems aren’t simply the fault of a small lunatic fringe. Oh, the lunatics exist, and the overwhelming majority of them vote Republican, but the remainder are complicit, enabling a Trump presidency simply by voting GOP in support of their pet issue(s) — abortion, deregulation, low taxes, privatization, etc. — and a new poll out today suggests the Republican Party isn’t going to change anytime soon:

Oh, and before my fellow Democrats cast stones — whether we utterly abandoned our FDR heritage and jumped on the neoliberal bandwagon during the Reagan & Clinton years, retreated from civic engagement and activism, or simply embraced a spineless centrism that sounds reasonable and bipartisan but only ever scratches the surface of the deep problems in this country — we are not without sin.

Who Killed Davey Moore?

No, as long as we assume a self-righteous position, merely pointing our fingers of blame at others, we might feel like we’re on the right side of history, but it takes a lot more than angry tweets, empty or even false platitudes like ‘This Is Not Who We Are,” hell, even more than voting Democrat.

To illustrate this dynamic, we arrive back at the sad, ancient tradition of humans beating each other up for sport. When I saw the reference to UFC in the above tweet, I immediately thought of a song written by Bob Dylan in 1963, about a boxer, Davey Moore, who earlier that year died from head injuries incurred during a World Featherweight Championship match that he lost to Cuban fighter Sugar Ramos.

Requiring no more introduction, the lyrics are very clearly self-explanatory:

Who killed Davey Moore
Why and what’s the reason for?

“Not I,” says the referee
“Don’t point your finger at me
I could’ve stopped it in the eighth
An’ maybe kept him from his fate
But the crowd would’ve booed, I’m sure
At not gettin’ their money’s worth
It’s too bad that he had to go
But there was a pressure on me too, you know
It wasn’t me that made him fall
No, you can’t blame me at all”

Who killed Davey Moore
Why and what’s the reason for?

“Not us,” says the angry crowd
Whose screams filled the arena loud
“It’s too bad he had to die that night
But we just like to see a good old-fashioned fight
We didn’t mean for him t’ meet his death
We just meant to see some sweat
There ain’t nothing wrong in that
It wasn’t us that made him fall
No, you can’t blame us at all”

Who killed Davey Moore
Why and what’s the reason for?

“Not me,” says his manager
Puffing on a big cigar
“It’s hard to say, it’s hard to tell
I always thought that he was well
It’s too bad for his wife an’ kids he’s dead
But if he was sick, he should’ve said
It wasn’t me that made him fall
No, you can’t blame me at all”

Who killed Davey Moore
Why and what’s the reason for?

“Not me,” says the gambling man
With his ticket stub still in his hand
“It wasn’t me that knocked him down
My hands never touched him none
I didn’t commit no ugly sin
Anyway, I put money on him to win
It wasn’t me that made him fall
No, you can’t blame me at all”

Who killed Davey Moore
Why and what’s the reason for?

“Not me,” says the boxing writer
Pounding print on his old typewriter
Sayin’, “Boxing ain’t to blame
There’s just as much danger in a football game”
Sayin’, “Fistfighting is here to stay
It’s just the old American way
It wasn’t me that made him fall
No, you can’t blame me at all”

Who killed Davey Moore
Why and what’s the reason for?

“Not me,” says the man whose fists
Laid him low in a cloud of mist
Who came here from Cuba’s door
Where boxing ain’t allowed no more
“I hit him, I hit him, yes, it’s true
But that’s what I am paid to do
Don’t say ‘murder,’ don’t say ‘kill’
It was destiny, it was God’s will”

Who killed Davey Moore
Why and what’s the reason for?

Now, if you read that and/or listen to the song and your reaction is — “But I HATE boxing! I’m not the referee or the crowd or the manager or anyone else in that song!” — I get it. Me too!

But, 1.) That’s not the point. Think of boxing as a metaphor for any number of societal ills, as Dylan very likely did, and; 2.) Have you ever googled for information on anti-boxing organizations, that you might get involved in or donate money to their efforts? Well, I tried for a few minutes, found nearly nothing, suggesting you and I and others who find boxing and all forms of fighting-as-sport to be inhumane and shameful, well, we are in very short supply!

The Future Needs Some Nudging

Yes, some hold more responsibility for the mess we’re in than others, and regardless of whether or not it seems unfair, often those least responsible have to work harder to clean up the mess.

But, democracy is a verb, and if you don’t participate the plutocrats and theocrats and autocrats, not to mention Nazis and reality TV stars, will gladly step up to lead.

In May 2018, I wrote a post titled The Future Is Unstoppable, in which I claimed that, on my good days, when I’m not overcome by despair, I’m able to interpret events like the Trumpist coup attempt as the death throes of white American hegemony, ugly and scary, but death throes nonetheless. (Per the Pew Research Center, by 2044 white people will be a minority group in the U.S., and increasing numbers of Americans, just since 2016, say this is a good thing.)

As I said, I can see this glimmer of hope…on my good days!

But even then, the feeling is more like:

“I see the light at the end of the tunnel now
Someone please tell me it’s not a train.”

–from I See The Light by Cracker


1 thought on “The Coup-shaped Elephant In The Room

  1. Great read. What a long, strange trip it’s been in America. The deep roots and long term effects of classism and racism.

    Liked by 1 person

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