Thursday, May 28, 2020

Echoes of 1970, fear and anxiety in 2020.

Some of you have asked asked what moved me to make Kent State. Think about America 1970. An authoritarian regime and a brutal, often deadly, police response to anyone who stood up and raised their voice in protest.

Now think about America 2020.

Stand up to those in power, stand up to the cops, and you feel their full military force. Didn't take long for the Minneapolis cops to use gas and rubber bullets and clubs, did it? They murder a man in public, in front of a dozen witnesses who beg the smirking killer to let the man breathe. A day later cops attack a crowd of people protesting that murder. And the following night, the city was on fire. Well done, officers. You had a chance to ease tensions, to let people peacefully have their say, to demand justice and real systemic change. Instead you lit the fuse.

"Those who make peaceful revolution impossible, make violent revolution inevitable." –John F. Kennedy
Wouldn't extreme police restraint be the order here? Let the people have their say. punish the criminal cops, reform your ranks, change your practices. Be better at your jobs! Does the Minneapolis mayor have any control over this police force at all?The great cautionary lesson of Kent State is that when protests threaten those in power, the price of dissent will be bitterly high.
Especially, then as now, if you're black.
One of the biggest issues of the Black Panthers in 1970 was police brutalizing the black community. The police and the FBI, under orders from Nixon, unleashed a secret war against the Panthers. Their leaders were arrested and jailed, forced into exile in other countries, or gunned down in cold blood. This war was then expanded to include Nixon's long list of enemies, virtually anyone left of the Republican Party. It involved every layer of the intelligence services, FBI, CIA, the IRS, Military Intelligence, and filtered down to state and local authorities. It's the same punishment Trump has vowed to unleash on HIS enemies.
This war on US soil was noted for its sweeping unconstitutional, often illegal, methods spread over nearly a decade of abuse. Thanks to the Patriot Act we foolishly allowed to become law, many of these things are now perfectly legal. That was the point of the Patriot Act! Dick Cheney, who started his political career in the Nixon White House, remembered the scandal of CointelPRO (the name of the illegal war) and wanted to ensure any abuses in his War on Terror would be excused.
"Mission accomplished."
The lesson then that the government learned from the Kent State era? Not what we had hoped. Law enforcement (from local to fed) has spent 50 years militarizing their forces, perfecting crowd control techniques, and arming up with weaponry specifically designed to crush protests. The government will never again allow the kind of mass unrest we had in 1970, which filled the streets of every city and roiled every campus, and forced US policy to change. If you try, as we're seeing in Minneapolis, they will immediately move against you with overwhelming force. They want people to be afraid to protest.
Unless, of course, you're a bunch of white far-right protestors waving guns and QAnon signs. That's different.
Gee, wonder why?
It's my fear, especially with an increasingly desperate, anti-democratic president who feels his grip on power slipping away, is that we have circled right back around to 1970. The partisan hatred is the same. So the story of Kent State is, sadly, as relevant now as it was in 1970. We've learned little as a society in those 50 years.
We are perilously close to another Kent State.