June 14th 2020
In front of Parliament in London, they encased the statue of Winston Churchill in plywood and put barricades around it to protect it from defacement and possible destruction at the hands of demonstrators. Just a few weeks ago, such a situation would have been unthinkable, let alone that it could have arisen from the murder of a black man by police in Minneapolis, four thousand miles away and three weeks before.
But in a social convulsion analogous to the Arab Spring, the mass demonstrations sparked by the murder of George Floyd have spread beyond America and throughout the west.
The Churchill statue is under threat much the same way the Confederate statues are under threat in America. There are quite a few distinctions that can be made, of course: Churchill didn’t fight for the enemy, and the statue wasn’t put up to try to keep alive a racist legacy. Now, if a statue of Klaus Barbie
had been erected in Coventry as a not-too-subtle reminder to the Jewish population to know their places, then it might make a lot more sense that people might want to pull it down.
Churchill had a lot of baggage, to be sure. He was a bigot, contemptuous of the peoples the English subjugated, and had a track record of enormous incompetence. But he was also one of the main reasons the United Kingdom still exists today. When England needed a heroic leader, he rose to the occasion. So unlike the Confederate statues that dot the US, there are actually legitimate reasons to honor Churchill with such.
Unfortunately, movements like this tend to overreach, and hopefully common sense will prevail in London. Teach Churchill’s flaws, but honor the man for his greatness.
In the United States, the groundswell of discontent is still taking shape. A lot of what we’re seeing is hopeful. African-Americans deserve far better treatment than they’ve been getting, and have a right to walk the streets and drive their cars without fear, just like the rest of us. The role of police in society needs to be rethought from the ground up. In the 60s and 70s, when society was obsessed with crime and social unrest, the concept arose of cowboy cops who didn’t play by the rules and didn’t mind breaking a lot of eggs to make an omelet. It became fashionable to have out-of-control cops protected by a ‘thin blue line’ mentality that took care of their own, no matter how corrupt and self-defeating it might be. Few noticed or cared that there were no omelets, just plenty of broken eggs, and the police were seen, more and more, as vicious bullies and swaggering cowards. Community relations, in far too many places, was seen as being for weenies.
Additionally there was the racial component. Cops in far too many places were there to uphold white privilege. And subjugate black people. Police batons were called ‘night-sticks’ even though they were most often used in broad daylight, and had worse names. The war on drugs, itself a tactic of racial oppression, made things even worse. So did increasingly draconian laws, such as ‘three-strikes’ which overwhelmingly targeted African-American populations.
It wasn’t enough to attack minorities, though; police were useful for attacking other vulnerable parts of the population, those seen as unprofitable by capitalist leaders. So more and more, police were sent to deal with homelessness, mental illness, poverty, and any other social problem that presented itself. They weren’t just the bully boys of capitalism; they became its janitors, as well.
Black Lives Matter and the rest of the movement hope to address that, and that can only be an improvement.
But there are two other elements of American society that also scream for reform, and without them, the chances of success are much slimmer.
First, there is the problem of capitalist domination of society. No fascist society is free, and a fascist society is one in which the people serve the economy, rather than the other way around. Capitalism requires a large pool of economic outcasts in order to threaten the workers and consumers. Its morality is not the morality of human beings, and bullying and subjugation are essential to maintaining control. Putting jails and the justice system on a “make it pay” basis ensured a vicious abattoir of oppression and viciousness in lieu of justice.
The GOP, now a Nazi Cult, insists that Americans must be prepared to die in the hundreds of thousands in order to protect billionaires from becoming millionaires, as witness Trump’s determination to pretend the coronavirus has gone, and America can resume business as normal. His Nuremberg rally, the Repulsa in Tulsa, planned now for the day after Juneteenth, will require that attendees not wear masks or practice safe distancing, but also sign a waiver relieving the Trump campaign of liability if they become sick from this plague that [cough] doesn’t exist.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but America must reduce the role of the upholstered parasites who use racism and unfairness as means of control.
The other major item is guns. That the President is a cowardly racist who thinks it’s fine for disgusting white neo-Nazis to carry weapons of war, but hides in a bunker behind 12 foot high fences at the thought of black people chanting, clearly demonstrates the racist and vicious nature of “gun rights.” Far too many of the wrong people have weapons meant to terrify and harass the rest of society—including cops. Cops are constantly being afraid because so many howling nuts have so many weapons, and that in turn makes them more trigger happy. I’m not saying that to excuse the behavior of pigs who think that killing blacks as a warning to the rest is legitimate police work—this is a problem in addition to that, one that affects good cops as well as bad. We saw the white trash Nazi movement in action in Michigan; America needs to rethink a philosophy that allows such cretins to have .50 cal machine guns.
It’s scary, and nobody knows where it’s going to go, but one thing is certain: America needs this social tsunami. It wasn’t survivable in its present form.