|Inauguration Day : A young woman feels the effect of police pepper spray.|
HISTORIAN PETER KUZNICK co-authored with film maker Oliver Stone the 2011 documentary series The Untold History of the United States. On, somewhat ironically, Russia Today (RT) he was asked that if he had to write another chapter for the series in order to encompass Donald Trump, what would be its central theme. Kuznick didn't hesitate in his answer. He said that the chapter would be titled something along the lines of 'The Rise of the Populist Right, with neo-fascist tendencies.'
Kuznick, like a lot of us, had just listened to Trump's inauguration speech and probably recoiled in something close to horror. I certainly did. If our job is to ruthlessly criticise everything, there are times when you still just want to cry.
Right-wing populism isn't full blown fascism but it is ideologically similar to the classic fascist movements of the 1920s and 1930s. The Trump campaign allowed genuinely fascist elements in the United States — white supremacist organizations organised to physically confront unions, immigrants, native-born people of colour, and LGBT people — to emerge into the political sunlight and demand political legitimacy. Indeed we have one unreconstructed white supremacist, Stephen Bannon, sitting in the Trump cabinet. And it will come as no surprise that former Ku Klux leader David Duke triumphantly tweeted after Trump's inauguration that 'We've done it'.
Trump's repeated exhortations abut "putting America first" was a deliberate nod to the white nationalism that helped get him into the Oval Office. His promise to make America great again will be at the expense of groups he targeted throughout his presidential campaign. When he inevitably doesn't deliver on his promises, he will scapegoat them. In this context his call for a National Day of Patriotism is a sick joke.
The real patriots were to be found some two blocks away. They were the protesters who refuse to accept Trump's reactionary agenda for America. Naturally the corporate media wrung its hands and attacked some incidences of minor property damage that occurred- but they had nothing to say abut the indiscriminate use of pepper spray and tear gas by the militarised police.
I prefer not to listen to what CNN or Fox News have say about civil disobedience. The late Howard Zinn makes more sense. In an address that he made in 1972 Zinn said that the problem was not civil disobedience but civil obedience.
To be obedient, he said, was to accept a world where "the wrong people are in jail and the wrong people are out of jail, that the wrong people are in power and the wrong people are out of power, that the wealth is distributed in this country and the world in such a way as not simply to require small reform but to require a drastic reallocation of wealth."
Zinn said that the Declaration of Independence embodied a "spirit of resistance":
"What we are really trying to do, I assume, is really get back to the principles and aims and spirit of the Declaration of Independence. This spirit is resistance to illegitimate authority and to forces that deprive people of their life and liberty and right to pursue happiness, and therefore under these conditions, it urges the right to alter or abolish their current form of government-and the stress had been on abolish. But to establish the principles of the Declaration of Independence, we are going to need to go outside the law, to stop obeying the laws that demand killing or that allocate wealth the way it has been done, or that put people in jail for petty technical offences and keep other people out of jail for enormous crimes. My hope is that this kind of spirit will take place not just in this country but in other countries because they all need it. People in all countries need the spirit of disobedience to the state, which is not a metaphysical thing but a thing of force and wealth. And we need a kind of declaration of interdependence among people in all countries of the world who are striving for the same thing."
Donald Trump needs to be reminded time and time again that his "patriotism' is not the patriotism of the American Declaration of Independence. It is not the patriotism of the American people.