Speakout is Truthout's treasure chest for bloggy, quirky, personally reflective, or especially activism-focused pieces. Speakout articles represent the perspectives of their authors, and not those of Truthout.
As I observe the fractious political debate consuming the Republican Party I can't help but try to place the clash in historical context. Of course there are many examples in the development of the American party system when there were seismic shifts when parties split and evolved in new directions. The Federalist Party self-destructing in the aftermath of the War of 1812 and the eventual split in the Jeffersonian Republicans into the National Republicans of John Quincy Adams and Henry Clay on one side and the Democratic Republicans of Andrew Jackson on the other.
Here in Russia, where I have been traveling as part of a small delegation organized by Voices for Creative Nonviolence, the people with whom we have spoken have no illusions about war and its effects. "We remember what war is like," Nikolay, a scientist and businessman, told us. "We have a genetic memory," referring to close relatives -- parents, grandparents -- who passed on their experience of the Great Purge and/or the siege of Leningrad, when nearly a million Russians died of starvation and disease because Germany cut off all imports and exports.
Yesterday, November 10, was the birthday of the US Marine Corps. Today is Veteran's Day. These back-to-back days are filling me with mixed emotions. On the one hand, there is a sense of pride and a continuing sense of loyalty to the Corps. On the other hand, there is the knowledge that the Marine Corps mostly works for the corporations and always has, just like the National Guard is now working for Energy Transfer Partners here at Standing Rock. General Smedley Butler, the late Marine Corps Commandant and two-time congressional medal of honor winner, documents this in his book War is a Racket.
Merriam-Webster, the successor to the first US dictionary published by Noah Webster in 1806, defines a coup d'etat as "a sudden decisive exercise of force in politics." Translated from French, it means "blow to the state." This is what the United States experienced last night. Now we, too, can add Donald Trump to the list of despicable leaders such as Benito Mussolini, Leopold II, Pol Pot, Joseph Stalin, Mobutu Sese Seko and Rafael Trujillo. In fact, if I were following this definition correctly, this technically would not be the first "blow to the state." Let's envision the white settlers who invaded the land of the Arawak, Cree, Navajo and so many other groups.
In 2008, in response to what were called the "xenophobic riots" in the townships, we argued that only complete reform of the economy can provide solutions to the despair and desperation of the majority black population who have been living in horrific poverty. At that time, we called for a Justice and Reconciliation Commission, which Professor Mahmood Mamdani and myself [Sampie Terreblanche], had already argued in 1998 was absolutely necessary for a full review of the supply-side capitalist economics that had already come to dominate the economic policy in South Africa.
To be fair, the Affordable Care Act has brought some kind of coverage to about 20 million Americans, in good part through the expansion of Medicaid in 32 states (including DC) and the subsidized exchanges. But its negative results far outweigh its gains. Given this dysfunctional reality under the ACA, it's remarkable that neither major political party has a plan to truly fix the situation.
Who in the United States can provide the best solutions for promoting democracy: is it the majority of the people, or the nine Justices of the United States Supreme Court? One of the checks and balances the Constitution provides is a method to amend the Constitution, ensuring the people have the last say and most power in our political system. In United States history, this check has been used as a response to Supreme Court decisions that hurt democracy.
In his famous Black nationalist speech, "The Ballot or the Bullet," Malcolm X encourages organizing Black political and economic power, with a scathing critique on accountability and return on investment to African Americans for being loyal Democrats. How can Black people place their hopes in a Democratic president offering empty promises, who will ultimately take their votes for granted?
The largest police union, the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), adores and endorses Trump because of his outspoken support of law and order, his promise to "give the power back to police," his praise of "stop-and-frisk" and his dismissal of allegations of police brutality as a false narrative. My forthcoming book, Blue Mafia: Police Brutality and Consent Decrees in Ohio, gives a vivid and disturbing portrait of what to expect in terms of police brutality under a Donald Trump presidency.
It is always difficult, philosophically speaking, to establish what we can know, of ourselves, others and the world around us. Diagnosis, like interpretation, is difficult. If both miss the mark, remedy and understanding remain ineffective. Our search to understand in the realm of politics already assumes the existence of a common understanding for which we are in search. Dictatorial regimes do not have to make this effort because there is no clashing partisanship, no need to package an understanding that will confront a challenging packaged understanding.