What Is To Be Done? A Message to the Left

I imagined the mood of the American people this morning to be like a bad hangover where none of us were quite sure what we did last night. Instead I hardly remember ever seeing this much optimism and triumph in people’s faces. It could be short-lived, or could be a prolonged sense of victory. But the important thing now is that all people, specifically the left, stay vigilant.

The republicans control both the house and the senate (albeit by a small margin) and the presidency. Trump is in position to manipulate a reactionary judge into the supreme court, raping the American people for decades. The question now is, what is to be done?

The first thing to do is to organize. The left has been in pieces for decades and this is the best chance to finally unify. Many people were content with the idea of a Clinton presidency merely to avoid a Trump regime, but that has all changed now. If Clinton had won I expected no real movement to spawn simply because there would be a universal feeling of dodging a bullet. But there can now be a shared feeling of anger. Anger towards Trump and anger towards the reactionaries that elected him, a feeling that could be shared by all on the left. But the danger here is to rebel through the establishment, meaning we cannot just hope for a new progressive hero to come from the democrats. If nothing else this election the democrats have proved they are unwilling to change when they need it most. The mistreatment and abuse of the Sanders campaign have shown that the DNC and the RNC alike must burn, this is what they asked for.

Why can we not accept the democrats anymore? Regardless if Bernie could have beaten Trump or not, the DNC manipulated the race and chose one of the most hated politicians in the country as their leader. Whether they were fully aware of it or not, they chose Trump instead of Bernie. They were unwilling to change. It is foolish to think that real change, the change we desperately need, can come from a party that is part of the problem. They are not the lesser of two evils, they are just evil nonetheless.

When we organize, what exactly do we need? Many will already call for grassroots action to help facilitate change but there are serious limitations to this approach. The absolute ideal is for top-to-bottom change. Grassroots action can be useful for specific issues, such as protesting the DAPL or for higher wages, but it cannot bring the systematic change that is needed. If we wish to truly change the political, economic, and social corruption that we face, we need first focus on the broadest issues that we can. Mass civil disobedience is now needed, not a passive resentment.

Part of the outrage last night was that Clinton did not speak at 2:00 am, that she waited until morning to give her speech. I hoped with all my heart that she would not concede, but of course that never happens. Previously I had little respect for Clinton but that would have changed immensely if she had just stood up for herself. But she’s spineless. She stood on stage and told millions of people that we’re “Stronger together” and that she accepted a Trump presidency. What would have happened if she did not?

First of all she would have jump-started the wave of protests that are sure to come. Her defiance would have meant everything, but instead she chose to crawl away in passivity. She gave the message that we should merely accept our position and try to make the best we can, but this is folly. The true message, the message they don’t want you to hear, is that you can reject this altogether, that you can revolt. This is not the time to work with our enemies. Don’t accept the decaying image of our country they want to push, we can still change it.

Organizing is crucial to the rebuilding of the left, but it is not the only factor. The second step is to learn. If we want to build a movement we must have the philosophical, political, and economic foundation firmly set if we are to avoid the mistakes made by leftists of the 20th century. We must read, learn, and know as much as we can to fight against the demoralizing propaganda and deliberate misinformation that will be shoved down our throats. We must no longer be subjects to the misinformed elite, they have shown with all fervor they cannot help the country any more than they can help themselves.

We cannot be afraid to express our opinions just because we are in the minority. This is one of the most important things I’ve learned being in the South, with my views being largely in the minority of my peers it’s clear their own beliefs can be without foundation and based on faith. The ruling elite, the ruling elite, cannot justify itself. It cannot stand up to scrutiny and that’s why an open discussion about the greatest issues we face are often suppressed. To quote Martin Luther King Jr:

You can’t talk about solving the economic problem of the Negro without talking about billions of dollars. You can’t talk about ending the slums without first saying profit must be taken out of slums. You’re really tampering and getting on dangerous ground because you are messing with folk then. You are messing with captains of industry. Now this means that we are treading in difficult water, because it really means that we are saying that something is wrong with capitalism.

This gets to the heart of the issue, if you question one aspect of the ruling ideology you must question the entire thing, and that is exactly what they don’t want you to do. People can be fight ferociously if the values they’ve been told they believe in all their lives are put into question.

In 1943 Jean Paul Sartre wrote “If war breaks out, it is in my image, it is my war and I deserve it” and this can be true of today as well. This fate is our fate and we deserve, we all could have done more to prevent it. But the important thing now is to change the future, the future that we believe we deserve we can have if we just fight for it. Unification of the left is our only hope at this point as the wave of reactionaries continues to grow throughout the world. We are in uncertain times and we must fight to keep our hopes and dreams alive.

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What Does it Mean to be American?

With the presidential election seeping into every normal day-to-day conversation, the idea of ‘American’ is tossed around as a given. The candidates appeal to the fact that they stand for American values, which is supposed to somehow be a persuading argument. But as with most things the term ‘American’ is so ambiguous that it requires further analysis into its true meaning.

The first source in understanding the question better was to read other essays that people had written on the subject, and to be quite honest I don’t think that I’ve ever enjoyed research more. The answers that people give to the question stated above range from humorous to infuriating. For instance one of my favorites comes from the always fair and scholarly New York Times. Mr. Damien Cave writes that after completing his travels he feels that: Read More »

Aftermath of the Paris Attacks

After the night of fury and chaos in Paris, the world is still dazed. It’s being reported that 129 people were murdered, but with many more still injured and in critical condition. President Francois Hollande called the attacks an “Act of war“. And although the French government has only just begun to identify the attackers (You can read the passport nationalities further down in the Reuters article) ISIS has already claimed responsibility for the attack. It is too early yet to know anything for sure.

This attack comes just months after the ruthless slaughter of the Charlie Hebdo office in France. Using the recent past as a guide, it is possible to make assumptions on the aftermath of the attack.

What was unique about the Charlie Hebdo attack was that since it specifically targeted the magazine, the event sparked a wave of free speech sentiment. But what was typical about it was the jailing of 69 people that spoke differently by the French government, most notably the French comedian Dieudonne. This was mostly ignored. Alongside of this came the rise in right-wing fascist activity in Europe, calling for the removal of Muslim immigrants. Of course a surge of Nationalism took place in many other groups as well.Read More »

Can a Secular Nation Ever Exist?

Following the supreme court ruling on gay marriage, it wasn’t too difficult to predict the whole Kim Davis incident. The friction between the religious agenda and secular agenda has been at a special high these last few months, and will likely continue for the coming months. Just for some specific background on the U.S. a poll in 2012 found that while 95% of the nation said they would vote for a female president, only 54% said they would vote for an atheist. Interestingly enough, 91% said they’d vote for a Jewish person, 80% said they’d vote for a Mormon, and 58% would vote for a Muslim.

Early in our American History, many of the immigrants that first came to the new world were religious refugees leaving persecution in Europe, mainly puritans. Considering this it’s obvious why the founding fathers wanted religious freedom for the country because they didn’t want to see a repeat of what happened. To reinforce this, the country was founded on the idea of a secular government – the separation of church and state- so that people would be free to practice whatever religion pleased them.Read More »

The Art of Keeping Silent

One thing I’ve discovered is that words truly do have power. There are two things that give words power: 1) The meaning behind its use, 2) the way the words are used. It’s a crude example but consider this. Nobody likes hearing a derogatory phrase in daily life, like the N-word. I don’t have to explain the meaning behind the word, the hate and the history that goes with it. That is the meaning behind its use that makes it unpleasant. But say you’re watching an old west movie and a character mentions it because that’s just how they spoke, then its use  is understandable. In today’s world that would be unacceptable and rightfully so, but in the movie it is the context of it that counts. That’s what confused so many people about Obama’s use of the N-word last month, the word itself is obviously full of hate but the President of the United States using it in a non discriminatory way took people by surprise.

We’ve been told since elementary school the phrase “If you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything at all,” which for the most part nobody follows. What that phrase leaves out is that our silence can have as much power as our words do. Think about the controversy this summer with the confederate flag, how did the story play out? Well the same way as every major news story. First there was an incident that sparked it, then the blame falls on somebody. In this case it was the confederate battle flag, at the Aurora shooting it went to how much ammunition people could buy, after Columbine it went to violent media. Often times these accusations are justified but regardless the blame has to go somewhere. After blame was placed there was an immediate backlash of people defending the item being blamed. The controversy grew and other stories were spawned from it, and suddenly the whole thing disappeared. People got tired, they stopped talking about it and moved on to something else.Read More »

Nationalism and the Confederate Flag

I don’t think I need to go over too briefly about the shooting in South Carolina, but as expected, it’s created quite a stir. By this time it is known that the shooter was an obvious white supremacist and this caused an outcry for many on the use of the confederate flag in the South. Well Southerners in defense of the flag argue that many don’t know what it’s like to live in the south, and it’s a matter of preserving heritage. But since I’m a Northerner that moved to the south, I imagine I have a pretty unique view on the issue.

The confederate flag was originally designed by William Porcher Miles in 1861 was actually rejected as the official flag.
The confederate flag was originally designed by William Porcher Miles in 1861 and was actually rejected as the official flag.

It’s true I see a lot of confederate flag license plates, and most locals that abhorrently oppose prejudice thought see no problem in this. It’s simply a part of the culture. But the larger question is it unique to the South? Sure, many bloodlines go back to confederacy soldiers, and I guess that could be something to be proud of if you look past the atrocities of the confederate South, but this doesn’t cut it. Think of the uproar if a man in Germany flew a Nazi flag from his house on the grounds that it’s celebrating his heritage. Of course it is in his family history, but that leaves him little to be proud of.

Maybe it has to do with the social-political attitude of the South. There is a big emphasis on family values, respecting elders, god and church, and heritage, among other things. Maybe it’s that they feel the need to respect their family tradition in some way, despite what that tradition really is. I should mention that the Confederate South did do other things besides own slaves, but this is primarily what history remembers them as. People can say it’s everything else about the South that they are representing, but at that point it would make more sense to fly the American flag.

So if many southerners are following this tradition blindly, I assume few of them are truly racist (even though as we’ve seen in the news, many are). This presents a more disturbing reality, the compliance to follow a nationalistic principal while denying the atrocities of that nation. If southerners admitted that the Confederate flag in the modern day represents injustice and racism then they would stop flying them. This may not have been the flag’s original meaning, but society has seen fit to alter the depth of its meaning. Again: nobody in Germany flies the Nazi flag on the grounds that things weren’t all that bad or they were good in the beginning.

It chills me to think of all the atrocities done in the name of nationalism. It is almost as powerful force as religion: and when combined it is a time-bomb. An example I often give people on nationalism would be the rape of Nanking. Thousands of women and babies were raped on orders. Two soldiers were actually recorded having a contest to see who could reach 100 decapitations first of their victims. The two officers contest was featured in the daily newspaper.

This is an example of nationalism driving man. Even today there is hot debate on the issue of Nanking, many even stating the event never took place. There is not a nation on this earth that has not committed any sort of injustice or misery, because this is inherent of government itself.

So looking past the atrocities of a nation, when is it just to fly their flag? The simple answer would be whenever you feel like it, the more acute answer would be to fly a flag when a government is free of injustice, which would be never. Think of Johnny Cash’s song man in black, he refused to wear bright colors until all was good in the world and he went on to die as the man still in black. I propose the same thing. We not burden ourselves with the primal forces of nationalism and instead protest until the government is just enough to earn our nationalism. But we must be critical. Even if the U.S. who we claim to be the free world, still commits atrocities and murder overseas. It is all well to love your country, but to not be critical of it would mean complete submission. The refusal of flag bearing would prevent just this.

And back to the case of specifically the confederate flag. I understand it is a Southern tradition to respect and acknowledge your heritage, but blindly flying a flag is not the way to do it. The most beneficial thing you could do would be to study the history of the South. Study their way of living and their way of life outside slavery, because I’m sure they did some things arguable right in the create of their new state and way of life. Take the good bits of all history and try to practice them to benefit everyone, that’s what your heritage would want.

One last thing: this will make me extremely unpopular down here, which I understand. I am as much of a foreigner to Southern life as I’ll ever be, so I might as well say what I think while I am.