Tag Archives: Battle of Seattle

A Way Forward

I have not posted to this blog in the last year. There certainly is a lingering feeling reminiscent to the experience of leaving the music department at Cal State Long Beach, when for almost two years afterward I could not enjoy music, did not listen to music while driving, or generally throughout my day. Music academics have a way of draining passion and creativity. Similarly, in the two years since finishing graduate school I have found it very difficult to write, to engage the process of it, or even to enjoy reading. However, these past few months I’ve rediscovered passion, gained momentum, and will hopefully be much more active on this page. I have no illusions that there is much of an audience here, but I will attempt to continue regardless.

Now, to the elephant in the room; as in, the “bigly,” orange elephant that has forced itself into the room…

Around this time, two years ago during the AWP conference, I found myself on the third floor of the Seattle Convention Center staring down at the corner of Pike and 7th Street. I recalled images of paramilitary police attacking protestors, blood, fire. I spent the whole week walking up and down Pike between the Green Tortoise and the Convention Center, the same street where it all happened in November 1999. “All told, there were about 600 arrests,” and most of them were released because of lacking evidence and “reasonable doubt.” Meaning, they were arrested without probable cause. Nonetheless, they were removed from protests, their 4th amendment rights clearly violated. Years later, staring down into the intersection, I watched a police officer shoo away a street artist, a man dressed in a pink gorilla suit drumming on a plastic bucket, then immediately give a ticket to a homeless man panhandling in front of the cafe below me.

There should be no romanticizing of it, no sentimental memories of these events.

Yesterday a dark, shameful cloud descended upon this country. It is a cloud that has been approaching for some time. Now it is here.

As, I’m certain, many others are, I’m struggling to consider the ways forward. That struggle is characterized, defined by shame, disappointment, uncertainty, disgust, and yes, fear. The conservative party now has claim to every branch of the federal government, and is the majority of state governorships. There is no telling how far neoconservative ideology will reach henceforth.

A former classmate of mine from graduate school, Kenny Connally, posted a brief summary of his thoughts to social media. I certainly look up to him, for he was, by far, the best of us in the program (not to stroke your ego, Kenny). I’d like quote his post here because I think it bears repeating, and poignantly summarizes the nature of the dread that has sunk in these past few hours:

Three lessons from tonight:

1. Opposition to abortion and homosexuality, and nothing else, is the central teaching of evangelical Christianity.

According to tonight’s exit polls, north of 80% of evangelicals voted for Trump, despite Trump being perhaps the farthest thing imaginable from a traditionally Christian role model. Evangelicals will happily jettison every other moral principle if abortion and gay rights are at issue.

2. In the Internet Age, you can fool most of the people most of the time.

Trump began his political career by making a movement out of the utterly groundless birther conspiracy. Having found success there, he moved on to make easily debunked claims the foundation for every aspect of his presidential campaign and his policy proposals. At every stage, the mainstream media doubted he could keep it up; surely a platform composed of pure nonsense would not fly in a general election. But it did. With print journalism dying and more and more people engaging with politics only from within a partisan social-media bubble, we’ve passed a tipping point where Americans can no longer assess the basic facts of any politicized issue. Look to see many more national politicians in the near future copying Trump’s attitude toward facts: they’re irrelevant.

3. Republican voters predominantly support a strong, authoritarian federal government and oppose free trade.

Though educated Republicans tend to be pro-business neoliberal types, Trump has run very successfully on the most naive kind of protectionism; his proposals terrify economists and markets. And after 8 years of accusing Obama’s administration of fascist authoritarianism and trampling on states’ rights, Republicans have gleefully voted in a candidate who openly idolizes foreign dictators and promises that he alone can restore “law and order” to the lawless wilderness that is our country by expanding police procedures that courts have ruled violate civil rights, torturing suspected terrorists, killing their families, and cracking down on the free press.

It’s clear that the neoliberal agenda has taken center stage in our country, though, I’m confident that most would not be able to identify it as such. Neoconservatives will vehemently protect that agenda  through the practice of “law and order.”

I am trying, in vain it seems, to reconcile the grace– which I’ve spent the last number of years learning to embrace –with the sense of justice, the moral imperative to act against the zeitgeist that has hijacked this country. It’s very difficult not to point fingers, succumb to anger, because in restraint, I feel, we risk apathy, we become complacent, passive. At this moment I see no medium between rage and humble concession.

Now, scrolling through articles from the winter of 1999 and 2000, seeing those images again, it’s very difficult to imagine a way forward that isn’t defined by mass incarceration, blood, violence, especially considering the newly elected conservative party leader has promised it.