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A Free Train Ride

adolfeichmann1

Yesterday, I woke up to find that my Twitter feed had been inundated with anti-Semitic threats. People using anonymous handles referencing 20th century as well as contemporary neo-Nazi culture flooded my mentions. They let me know that I was being explicitly targeted because I was a Jew. They let me know that I was being explicitly targeted because I spoke out against white supremacist hate speech. Which is all to say, they let me know I was being targeted because I was willing to defend myself and and to mobilize others that were willing to do the same.

I’m going to include the most upsetting of the comments as an image below this sentence. I am warning you ahead of time about anti-semitic hate speech being included in this post.

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gramsci

Yet another federal judge has issued a nationwide restraining order on the president’s unlawful executive order regarding immigration. However, people shouldn’t necessarily get their hopes up about this latest ruling from a member of our federal judiciary. Trump has already willfully ignored four other rulings from the judiciary branch regarding this law. He has proven that, under his government, the separation of powers that is a fundamental constitutional element of our government and the sole thing that keeps the presidency from being a dictatorship, doesn’t exist anymore.

However, this ruling (and the rulings before it) do matter if they can mobilize the left and any liberals who are finally willing to recognize that Trump has no respect for the rule of law. I sadly don’t know how many liberals are willing to reject legalism for personal/radical moral reasoning and resistance.

That said, here’s a thing that I 100% mean and might go to jail for saying: it is a deontological right (which is not the same thing as saying it is something that is the tactically/consequentially right decision for reasons that I’ll elaborate on in a moment) for any citizen to conduct a citizen’s arrest of any law enforcement official who refuses to comply with this latest court ruling. They are deliberately flouting the law.

They are tasked with “law enforcement” but their actions say that they have no respect for the law. It is written into the marrow of our Constitution that the courts are tasked with deciding any disputes that arise because the actions of the executive/legislative branches have called the constitutionality of those actions into question. Any law enforcement official that does not side with the judicial branch in these moments is declaring its disloyalty to our Constitution.

Now, we reach the practical/consequential part of the moral reasoning of this conversation which is the part of the conversation that is more about how you “should” act as opposed to how you are metaphysically morally justified to act. Both conversations are important to consider but it is this latter area that should determine how you behave.

There is obviously no practical way for citizens as things exist right now to commit a citizen’s arrest of rogue law enforcement. Law enforcement has access to lethal force that citizens do not have. And it would be a catastrophically poor tactical decision at this stage in events to wage all out war on law enforcement agencies that choose despotism over their actually duty of defending the Constitution and the citizens/residents of this nation. They would crush any and all resistance.

But, rhetorically, it must be on the table that if law enforcement embraces lawlessness, it is on the people to take law enforcement back. And, if it is on the table rhetorically, it then follows that folks who believe this to be true must begin organizing so that they can take law enforcement and our nation back if/when we reach certain flash points of oppression. You must decide for yourself when those lines have been crossed.

This shouldn’t be a radical position. But people seem to think law enforcement is infallible when it is, in fact, the home of most of America’s most virulently white supremacist and pro-authoritarian impulses. If they begin to flagrantly flout the law, you have no obligation as a citizen to respect the power they claim to wield.

I’m not an anarchist. I’m not a communist. I just want American citizens who are capable of questioning and standing up against oppressive institutions even when American citizens have historically understood those institutions to protect them. Although, the only people you have to talk to in America are people of color and queer people and trans people to know that, as an institution, the police have never cared about the well-being of large-swaths of the American population.

But, to counter-balance my discussions of consequential moral reasoning, you should never have to ask yourself the question “if I defend myself against a dictatorial power play, will the tyrant oppress me more?” Those motherfuckers do not need an excuse to oppress you. They want you to sit back and do nothing. What they are actually scared of is a movement of solidarity that is willing to do whatever it takes to defend itself.

The lives of people of color are at stake right now. The lives of queer people are at stake right now. The lives of women are at stake. If anyone in those groups or an ally decides that they’re making the right decision to use carefully considered and consciously escalated force to defend those lives, that is just decision making.

We aren’t talking about some anarchist revolution. We’re talking about an honest recognition of what it means when the government betrays its duties to protect its people and usurps more and more power illegally for itself and what the duty of citizens then becomes if they are serious and honest about protecting themselves and others from despotism.

This is the honest truth. Great masses of people will die if we sit back and do nothing as this administration flouts the law. Muslims will die. More people of color will be killed by the police domestically with no consequences. Queer youths will die under the guise of “religious freedom.”

And I promise you that if I have to choose between being painted as a “thug” by the current administration and weak-willed “liberals” who don’t understand that the very core of their values is at stake versus defending myself, I will defend myself to the last breath.

I make no apologies for this.

frenchresistance1

[Author’s Note: Once again, I’m sharing something that I originally posted on social media. This is a very brief statement on why more Americans need to be concerned that our government has officially ended its fight against white supremacist/white nationalist terror groups. Only the Antifas can save us.]

A thing we aren’t talking enough about right now is the fact that yesterday our new President removed white supremacist hate groups from the purview of domestic counter-terror surveillance programs. The federal government is giving actual Nazis free reign to commit terror on American soil.

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captainamerica1

[Author’s Note: For the second time this week, I’m publishing a post that is a formal response to a comment that someone left on my Facebook wall. I believe these sort of micro-scale interactions with others are a necessary step moving forward in the fight against fascism, and I’m going to include the comment that this person left so that you, the reader, can understand the brief argument I give for why violence — carefully considered and escalated rationally — is justified against actual Nazis. More of us should be punching Nazis.]

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It Has Happened Here

pierrelaval1

There are two great myths of World War II. The first says that there was something intrinsic to the national characters of Germany and Italy, a flaw that made them uniquely susceptible to the destructive id of fascism. The second myth evangelizes the existence of a unified, democratic resistance to fascism even amongst the nations occupied by the Nazis.

Marcel Ophüls’ 1969 documentary, The Sorrow and the Pity, demolishes both myths and, in the process, serves as a harrowing reminder of the ease with which liberty and human prosperity can fall when they aren’t safeguarded through constant vigilance. Few historical documents of the 20th century offer as intimate a peek into the constant struggle to identify, combat, organize against, and educate others about political oppression.

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“It Requires Revolt”

camus1
A family member just accused me of caring too much about politics right now and argued that by caring as much as I do, I’m not helping the political situation in the slightest. I’m simply injuring my own mental health.
 
It is entirely possible that the former is true. I’m just one person. I have a platform as a professional writer, but it’s very small. And it is certainly as true as it can be that the individual words I write will probably have no substantive impact on American policy and American politics.
 
It is also true that caring as much as I do right now is negatively impacting my mental health.
 
I’m scared.
 
My anxiety is through the roof. I haven’t felt this off-kilter since my depression was at its worst circa 2009-2011 and I was on the verge of failing out of college. I honestly have no idea how long I can keep up this level of mental stress. It’s affecting my schoolwork. It’s affecting my professional life. I can not deny for a second that caring about the state of America right now is causing me severe mental harm.
 
But if I am forced to choose between my own mental well being and the knowledge that my actions are moral and just and that I can live with myself and sleep at night because I did them, I must refute the nihilism that nothing I do matters. Because even if I am crushed by oppression, I will have the knowledge that through myself I affirmed the ability of people to be better.
 

How much less suffering would exist in the world if more of us were willing to recognize that every person — regardless of the color of their skin, their sex, their gender, their religion, their country of origin, their ethnicity — is worthy of respect as a human being and that we should build our society in such a way that defending the fundamental humanity of all was a skillset we were taught from a young age and taught to value above virtually all else?

But, instead, we have a system where when the political goings get tough, we’re taught that the system isn’t worth fighting. And that is a belief to which I can no longer submit.

Suffering exists because we selfishly choose to advance our own interests at the cost of others well-being. This is a fact that can no longer be ignored. And if you view your fellow man as equal to you and due the same protections under the law as you, you must then also feel that it is your duty to do something to eradicate suffering. Choosing to do nothing makes you complicit.

I wrote about this idea in a broader sense in an article I wrote for Vice which you can read here. We all, every last one of us, have a moral obligation to think about what our actions mean for others and, even more importantly, what it means when we aren’t willing to do something to help others. If you get to do nothing as suffering exists, then the continuance of that suffering is on you. I know that many people will read these words and not internalize them. They might give lip service, but they will not know how to engage with them in their heart as true. But I write to anyone who hasn’t been asked to think about these things before and who has the capacity to envision their actions leading to a more just world.

Because if we can’t envision a better world and better, more just versions of ourselves, then there isn’t a reason to keep going. I refuse to believe that’s the world that we live in. To quote Camus for the second time in two weeks, “it requires revolt.”

declarationofindependence1

“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

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constitution1

There’s nothing magical that holds American democracy together.

I think that’s something that we take for granted. American democracy works — in the flawed, half-broken sense that it’s ever worked — because competing functions of our civil society implicitly agree to respect the constitutionally described powers of the other branches of our government while also respecting the enumerated limitations of their own branch.

This is basic civics. We have a government with three branches. The executive, legislative, and judicial. Each branch has certain powers that can be reduced (perhaps perilously) simply: the legislative branch decides what the laws are, the executive branch is tasked with enforcing/enacting these laws, and the judicial branch is tasked with interpreting these laws. Each branch has ways of keeping the other branches in check. It was one of the most carefully deliberated design elements of the Constitution. The legislative branch can impeach the executive branch and judicial branch. They have confirmation powers for many of the people  appointed to either of those branches. The executive can veto legislative decisions. They appoint the judiciary. The judiciary can decide if the laws or actions of the other two branches are unconstitutional. And if these laws are unconstitutional, it’s the purview of the judiciary to tell the other branches of the government that they have to change their behavior.

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hitman1

Hitman 2016 is a game that does many things very well, but it is also a game that does one thing exceptionally well.

I’ve been feeling unenthused lately about a lot of AAA game narratives because the fundamental disconnect between how the games play and the story they’re trying to tell you became too vast.

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is a game about guilt and relationships and family but it’s also a game where the main character — a happy-go-lucky treasure hunter — kills hundreds of people and doesn’t really lose his trademark smarminess. Slaughtering people is never interrogated; it’s just how Nate achieves his goals.

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We meet Laurie who wakes in G.R. dorm

On HBO’s The Leftovers, 2% of the world’s population vanished without a trace. It was not the Christian “Rapture.” There was no rhyme or reason to who was taken. Rich, poor, black, white, Christian, atheist, good, evil, gay, straight. They were just gone. The only thing that remained behind of them was the physical and emotional emptiness of those who were spared.

The show uses this “Departure” as a tool to examine depression.

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