Friday, July 17, 2020

 Well, it’s Friday and we’ve managed to make it through another week without being struck by the asteroid we probably so richly deserve. I’m a bit hesitant to knock this out before the evening comes around for fear of the President pulling something shifty again after everyone’s gone home from work. Still and all, there’s plenty enough to get weird about besides all that, so let’s get started.

 Let’s talk about Portland because Portland’s worrying me to death. I’ve only been to Portland once and that was just spending an afternoon while passing through the city. Still, I dug the burg. It does indeed seem to be a groovy little town with a lot of character and soul. Plus, Powell’s is one of the niftiest bookstores I’ve ever been in and I hope once this COVID-19 burns its way through us, the joint is still a going concern.

 Now, I’m sure there’s a good reason behind it, but Portland’s one of those towns that’s always a hotbed of protesting. Like Seattle or San Francisco, it’s one of those places that seems to want to act as the conscience of America, letting us know that all is not quite well for the Shining City on the Hill. Whether it’s WTO or the Occupy movement or the ongoing protests against police brutality and institutional apathy to such, Portland’s just one of those towns and conservatives hate that. Protesting having to pay your fair share by illegally occupying public land is fine, even admirable. The cops stomping the Christ out of people who’re told that if they fight back they’re the problem? That’s just anti-American, right there.

 Anytime conservatives want to sneer at what they see as the evils of American life, Portland is one of those towns they chose. Granted, my own personal experiences were too brief to say, but I’ve heard enough from folks on the ground there to know that, once again, wingnuts whistling Dixie in looking for something about Their Fellow Americans to fear and loathe. And Oregon’s a weird state, beyond all that. Apart from a few cities and college towns, I’m told it’s pretty provincial and conservative. What little I saw when I drove through seems to sync with that, and in any event, it was originally founded as a state white folks who weren’t Southerners could live in without all those pesky black people. Initially, anyway.

 Now, I said all that to say all this. Whatever is going down in Portland is awfully worrying and the national reaction to it maybe even more so. In short, this week saw a number of instances were uninformed if unidentified “federal agents” snatched up private citizens off the street, taking them off in unmarked vehicles to federal buildings with their vision obscured. While at that building, these people were read their Miranda rights and searched thoroughly and questioned. If they ask for a lawyer, as is their Constitutional right, the interview ends and they’re cut loose. Most if not all of the people being snatched were involved in the recent round of protests and a couple were journalists for Oregon Public Radio.

 Now, that doesn’t sound like much to most of Our Fellow Americans who still think the police can do no wrong and the Law is always on the side of the Just. But for those of us who paid attention in history class, it’s awfully concerning. The United States has plenty of black marks on its history when it was less than a bastion of free speech and expression. While just who these camouflaged stormtroopers were is still unknown, the U.S. Marshall has denied it. It comes in conjunction with a visit from Chad Wolfe, Acting Secretary of Homeland Security, checking out a federal courthouse and deciding that it being graffitied up is cause to declare all-out war on teenagers with spray cans, I guess.

 That’s worrisome enough. Ever since the most recent round of nation-wide protests in responses to George Floyd’s murder by Minneapolis police sat on the already stressed out United States, the federal government and particularly the Trump Administration has shown itself increasingly open to the idea of using military force to quell discontent in the name of “law and order”. The New York Times famously kicked off the latest round of op-ed writers making six figures pretending they’re an oppressed minority when it ran a full-on fascist screed by Arkansas Senator and pencil-necked geek Tom Cotton.

 Trump is looking for re-election, and as of right now, Joe Biden is feeding him his lunch. Whether it’s simply his ego or an attempt to keep his ass out of jail by keeping the job, he’s not looking to dodge the gig and anyone who tells themselves otherwise is fooling themselves. He can’t run on the economy anymore, because that particular illusion has been destroyed by the unprecedented number of people who’ve lost their jobs in the last couple of months. And why have they lost their jobs? Well, it’s because the administration completely and fully bungled the response to the COVID-19 epidemic that’s killed almost 140,000 of us and, in the process, made it so that far too many of us refuse to do the bare minimum to put a lid on it because we don’t really understand what “freedom” or “liberty” means.

 As for foreign policy? Whew, son, forget about that. He’s been rooked by everyone he’s tried to get on top of, from North Korea to China to Iran. Most of our former allies are crossing their collective fingers that we get rid of him before he sets off the nuclear armory trying to order a pizza. In any event, they don’t want our pandemic-ridden selves in their countries and the only “allies” we have are places like Brazil or Poland, ones run by two-bit, cheap thugs with low foreheads and lust in their hearts.

 He’s been bleeding support the past six months and pretty much only the Base is safely in his pocket, which isn’t saying a whole lot. They get off on him being a rotten son of a bitch to their neighbors and have been waiting for just his sort of thick-witted tin dictator for at least my entire adult life. They’re done and are ready to shoot you and yours in the head if you vote against him. They say all they’re waiting for is the word.

 And that’s what worries me the most about Portland. How much do the vox populi dig on this? How fine are we with this? Again, Trump supporters and other such dingbats are rubbing themselves through their cargo shorts at the idea of federal troops shooting dead unruly kids with pink hair and a lack of respect for their authority. How widespread is that, is what I wonder. Is this something that we’ll be willing to live with sooner than later if he actually tries it to save his re-election chances?

 After all, we became fine with Homeland Security and ICE fairly damn quickly when we all thought Muslim terrorists would come screaming down Main Street any day now. Will we be as quick to cheer for the actual suppression of free speech and association if the Administration decides it’s necessary?

 I don’t know. Friends and neighbors, that is what bothers me the most.


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