A few words about “tactics”

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In the current climate, I have no doubt I can piss off a bunch of different people for a variety of reasons in only a few words. Let’s see. But, before I talk about tactics, a few words about Boston.

Boston has a troubled history regarding race relations, more troubled than many Northern big cities and nearly as troubled as a few Southern ones. Don’t believe me, read the magnificent book by J. Anthony Lukas entitled Common Ground (1985) that chronicles the lives of three Boston families during the busing/ desegregation era.

That time wasn’t that long ago and I have no doubt things are still problematic, but 40.000 Boston folks showed up yesterday in counterprotest to the planned “Unite the Right” rally. That’s a nice number – on short notice – and is a fairly good indication of who’s winning the war of hearts and minds. Four hundred something doofuses with tiki torches in Charlottesville versus 40,000 folks in Boston inviting them to go home.

Numbers are important. They provide perspective. But numbers are increasingly hard to come by because the media often chooses not to supply them, hoping to gin up interest in an event (including, maybe especially, on social media) by magnifying its relative importance. If I were a Catholic, I would term the dearth of numbers in the mainstream media as a sin of omission rather than commission. But it’s still a sin. Tight camera shots are another malefactor.

Those are media tactics, which we should at least be aware of. They want popular stories to have “legs,” run a long time on those legs, and hopefully turn into a miniseries. It has always been thus, back to the little girl or boy who fell down the well in Radio Days while America listened glued to the set, praying for her or his safe return. But watching the miniseries … or listening to the rescue efforts … doesn’t provide us with the necessary information to make moral or even practical decisions regarding current events and their implications. That’s where longer magazine and newspaper pieces come in. Where books come in.

I’m fairly well versed in the “alt-right” movement and its antecedents. In the main room of my memory is a timeline of the American Civil Rights Movement and a map of Vietnam. In the near future, I plan to read up on the antifa (antifascist) group, the decision of the ACLU to withdraw support for the Unite the Right assembliers if they come armed, and I can’t wait for the arrival of longer magazine pieces on Charlottesville, for the first book on Charlottesville if it’s not a poorly executed rush job. I want to know more. I want the blanks of real-time media coverage filled in. Their lenses adjusted. Wider shots. I hate not knowing as much as I should know because things are always, well, ginned up. And then people start tweeting (i.e. taking a virtual pee) and, well, forget about it.

I told you the good news from Boston yesterday, here’s the bad news. The Unite the Right rally speakers were never able to speak. I had hoped they would be able to voice their hate as planned, so that folks could hear how stupid they are, make jokes about their hair, ask during breaks what’s up with Steve Bannon’s mouth (herpes?), speculate on when exactly was the last time any of these alt-white righties had a date.

The New Right Nation will, apparently, be an all dude thing. That’s gonna be a tough sell, even in the reddest parts of the South and middle America. No par-tay either. Just a lot of speeches and chest-beating and marching across bridges to nowhere. I wish we’d heard them talk. Hearing the bald guy with the weird mouth talk and talk (on that VICE video that’s been making the rounds) was the best non-advertisement for Unite the Right I’ve ever seen. Let Stupid talk. He’ll hang himself.

Stupid didn’t talk in Boston because scuffles broke out, the White Righties fled, the police shut things down. Better that than the barely supervised chaos of Charlottesville over an expanding time frame that was destined to lead to violence eventually. But better still would be letting them speak to a handful of hooded clappers while Smart and Reasonable speaks across the park to that crowd of 40,000.

Tactically, for me, the most effective counterprotest is to rally in opposition to the speakers you detest. Telling what you perceive to be the truth (while dissecting what’s wrong with what they profess) to a crowd ten, a hundred, a thousand times as large.

My ideal “better” entails no street fights. No physical attacks. No violence. Which is where antifa and I butt heads … metaphorically, of course.

I only know a little, so I concede in advance I may not know enough, but some of the antifa activists advocate instigating violence against the alt-right and actively shut down their events. In a lot of localities, the alt-righters and the antifas have scuffled at events in the past, yell at each other by name, so it’s like a monthly reunion of the Jets and Sharks but without the dancing. It’s parochial and not helpful at all.

I would prefer no scuffles, no physical attacks, no violence of any kind. From anyone. The Black Panthers (to name only one group from the past) did not run around instigating violence. They merely let it be known that force in their neighborhoods would be met by force. Not free speech in their neighborhoods. Force. Violence. And all or nearly all of the violence associated with the Panthers was started by police, up to and including the police murder of Fred Hampton.

Let the other side be the ones to instigate violence. Be the bad guys. Be the ones who do time. It worked during the Civil Rights Movement and it will work now. Not to mention that violence and the threat of violence begets more violence.

I heard people say they felt that the antifas at Charlottesville had “protected” them from Unite the Right members intent on violence. Maybe, but it also endangered them and others. The violence of the first days … some of which appears to have resulted in the alt-wrongers showing up heavily armed the last day … put hundreds of people in jeopardy. Watching all those stupid fuckers with automatic weapons in a tense crowd of mostly noncombatants was a nightmare. One I hope does not become a recurring dream.

Which brings us to the ACLU. They made a decision not to support Unite the Right type groups in their right to assembly if they choose to assemble armed. I know I am good with their support of the rights of such groups under peaceful pretenses. I think I also favor withdrawal of that support because of guns.

Providing legal support to their armed assembly … even in an open carry state (God how I hate guns!) … might open the ACLU up to legal action. And lawsuits if gun violence occurs. I think the ACLU also feared losing a significant part of their donor base like what happened to them after Skokie even though no significant violence occurred there. I think it was a business decision – on the part of ACLU – awaiting a philosophical justification, but I’m cool with that. Did I mention how much I hate guns?

My few words turned into a wide-ranging screed, which happens a lot with me. Sorry about that. As Pascal said, if I’d had more time, I would have written a shorter letter. I’m open to corrections on facts and differences of opinion, but I’m not sure how much I’ll engage back and forth. I’ve posted too much this week and I’m sick of hearing myself talk.

It appears to be a nice sunny day outside. I think I’ll take a closer look.

Ruby & Oswald: Texans with Guns

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Texas has had a long and proud history of gun ownership. And finally – thanks to God, the NRA, and the state legislature – folks residing in the Lone Star State can carry their guns right out in the open. I mean, guns aren’t private parts, for pity’s sake, no reason on earth to cover ‘em up. And Texas has always been eminently reasonable – and forgiving – about which of its residents can purchase and keep firearms.

Lee Harvey Oswald, for instance, had defected to the Soviet Union in 1959 and lived there for two and a half years (during a period when the U.S. was at Cold War with the U.S.S.R.). His wife was a Russian national. He’d been court-martialed in the Marines for incidents involving gunplay and had some scrapes with the law after discharge. But Texas in 1963 wasn’t gonna let a few little things like that get in the way of a man and his guns.

Oswald employed a P.O. box and an assumed name, A. Hidell, to mail-order the rifle he used to assassinate President Kennedy and the .38 revolver with which he murdered Officer J.D. Tippitt.  He paid $19.95 plus postage and handling for the Mannlicher-Carcano rifle with a 4x scope. The handgun – a Smith & Wesson “Victory” .38 special revolver – was pricier at $29.95. Lee Harvey Oswald had his own reasons for concealing these purchases. But, if he’d wanted, he could have walked into any gun shop in Dallas and filled up his cart.

Jack Ruby – who died of cancer on this date (January 3rd) in 1967 – was a Dallas nightclub operator with mental health issues, Mob connections, and a series of arrests throughout the years. But Ruby needed protection in his line of work, owned lots of guns, and usually carried at least one concealed weapon with him at all times.  The revolver  he used to kill Lee Harvey Oswald was his .38 special Colt Cobra, known as a lightweight carry or back-up gun for off duty Dallas police officers.

Texans are good-natured about guns and how things can sometimes go wrong. They love to laugh. That was no less true in 1963 than it is now.  On the day Oswald died leaving his jail cell, one of the Dallas police officers escorting him joked: “’Lee, if anybody shoots at you, I hope they’re as good a shot as you are,’ meaning, of course, that they’d hit him and not me. And he kind of laughed and he said, ‘Oh, you’re being melodramatic,’ or something to that effect. ‘Nobody’s going to shoot at me.’”

P.S. If you’re a JFK-Oswald-Ruby  conspiracy theorist, you’ve come to the wrong post. Please don’t comment here. Go make your own post.

Hey, Hey, NRA …

“Hey, Hey, LBJ, How Many Kids Did You Kill Today?”

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A crowd of demonstrators gather at the Washington Monument for a rally to protest the Vietnam War on Nov. 15, 1969.

At the height of the Vietnam War in the 1960s, U.S. casualties numbered 11,000 to 16,000 per year. Gun homicides now account for 11,000 deaths per year in the United States. When you add in accidental deaths and suicide, you’re looking at over 30,000 plus gun deaths annually or more than half of the TOTAL U.S. casualties in Vietnam (58,220).

During the Sixties, there were widespread, continual, and quite large protests against the Vietnam War. And the protestors had no problem assigning blame where it belonged: on U.S. Presidents and our other political leaders who supported the War. Along with corporations such as Dow Chemical, who supplied the napalm and other weapons of war.

The young protestors weren’t polite. They accused Lyndon Johnson and other American officers of murder and it got to LBJ , cost him sleep, was a major factor in his deciding not to seek a second elective term. Nobody wants to be called a baby killer.

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Wayne LaPierre is a baby killer. So are other advocates from the NRA gun lobby and their supporters in the general public. After the most recent Senate vote to defeat gun control legislation, Mitch McConnell has the future blood of children on his hands. So does Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Richard Shelby, Orrin Hatch, Max Baucus, and another 40 Senators who took contributions from the gun lobby to vote against the bill.

Not that their hands – and those of a myriad other Presidential aspirants, Congresspeople, and state and local politicians – aren’t already bloody enough. And let’s not forget the Roberts Supreme Court, which set two centuries of Constitutional precedent aside (google Justice Warren Burgher and “fraud” for context here) to please their political backers and friends. Blood is the new Black for Supreme Court robes.

So where are the pickets outside each of these politician’s offices? Outside NRA headquarters and its every branch? Outside the Supreme Court? Where are the rude signs and the ugly chants? Why haven’t we filled the streets of our bloodied cities with marchers?

When are we heading to Washington? How about next week? By then, only a few hundred more innocent Americans will have died from gun violence. By next month, only another nearly 3,000. Including, of course, kids.

And here’s the best part. If you defeat the politicians in the gun lobby, make their elective lives miserable, you also win on Planned Parenthood, climate change, criminal policing, raising taxes on the rich, and most of the other important issues. The men and women with gun blood on their hands are on the wrong side of those issues, too. And they’re also the ones who are always so anxious to send our young men and women off to die in foreign wars.

Young people, I’m staring right at you. You guys are always on the lookout for something fun and interesting to do. How about starting a Revolution? Or at least an organized, non-violent, protest movement to take America back from the gun lobby. Put down your cell phones and pick up signs. Get your exercise in the streets instead of at 24 Hour Fitness.

And it’s not like there are all these great jobs waiting for you. You got screwed there, too. By the same assholes who raised your tuition and jacked up your student loans. And, while you were busy ducking and covering or in lockdown, they stole your future and gave it to the rich.

C’mon, young folks, you can do it! And we old folks will help. With advice and guidance and funds. And we’ll join your marches, too. I promise. Limp along beside you.

Maybe it’s not time for another Revolution. Not quite yet. Maybe we won’t even need one if we do these other things. But it’s definitely time to hit the streets again. And not leave them until they’re safe.