Sunday, November 20, 2016

How much longer will we have the right to protest? A federal judge told new citizens that they must like Trump or leave the country.

Above: In this video clip, we see top Nazi judge Roland Freisler viciously scolding a man for speaking out against Nazi atrocities. Is this where we're heading? Towards a judicial branch that holds political ideology above American values? In the coming years, Donald Trump and his right-wing extremists will be shaping the federal judiciary to their liking. Youtube link:  

This past Friday, November 18, a federal judge told a group of new citizens, "I can assure you that whether you voted for [Trump] or you did not vote for him, if you are a citizen of the United States, he is your president. He will be your president and if you do not like that, you need to go to another country" ("Judge Tells New Citizens They Can Leave The U.S. If They Don’t Like Donald Trump," Huffington Post, 11-19-2016).

This reminds me of a statement by top Nazi judge Roland Freisler, made when trying members of the White Rose (a small group of young Germans who spoke out against the Nazis): "The days when every man can be allowed to profess his own political beliefs are past. For us there is but one standard: the National Socialist one. Against this we measure each man!" (Inge Scholl, The White Rose, Wesleyan University Press, 1983 edition, p. 127.)

According to a local news station, the federal judge said he intended the comments about Trump to be "unifying and respectful to the office of the president." Interestingly, Roland Freisler said disrespect was not allowed in Nazi Germany: "Whoever, as teacher or student, vilifies the Fuhrer in this way no longer belongs to us. Whoever slanders National Socialism in this way no longer has a place among us." (The members of the White Rose received various punishments, including imprisonment, torture, and beheading.)

Above: A Japanese-American family at Manzanar Internment Camp, California, 1943. President Roosevelt's biggest mistake in office was signing executive order 9066, forcing Japanese Americans to leave the west coast and live in government-run camps during World War II. Roosevelt suspended the order in 1944, but many Japanese-Americans had trouble returning to their previous lives. A prominent Trump supporter recently used the internment of Japanese-Americans as justification for a Muslim registry. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress

  Above: Not all of Roosevelt's allies agreed with the internment camps. Harold Ickes, Secretary of the Interior and prominent New Dealer, said the camps were "both stupid and cruel" and told the president that they were "turning thousands of well-meaning and loyal Japanese into angry prisoners" (T.H. Watkins, Righteous Pilgrim: The Life and Times of Harold Ickes, 1874-1952, 1990, pp. 792-793).

Above: Many Japanese-Americans fought bravely during World War II. Here, we see the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the "most decorated unit of its size in U.S. military history. In less than two years of combat, the unit earned more than 18,000 awards, including 9,486 Purple Hearts, 4,000 Bronze Stars and 21 Medals of Honor" ("Unlikely World War II Soldiers Awarded Nation's Highest Honor," The History Channel, November 3, 2011). The service of Japanese-Americans during World War II, and the fact that Muslim Americans have played an instrumental role in America's fight against terrorism, shows that the best policy is not to scapegoat minority groups, but to love them as fellow citizens and ask them for help with national concerns. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

There have been other troubling signs that dissent will not be accepted by the Trump Administration. For example, David Clarke, the sheriff of Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, who appears to be under consideration for chief of Homeland Security, suggested that the National Guard should haven been used to stop people who were protesting Trump's election (although, earlier, he said it was "pitch forks and torches time" if Trump wasn't elected). A state legislator in Washington, also a Trump supporter, recently introduced legislation to increase the penalties for certain acts of protest, calling such acts "economic terrorism." Tony Schwartz, who co-authored Trump's book Art of the Deal, said a Trump presidency could lead to martial law. And Jeremy Stahl, senior editor for Slate, points out that Trump's pick to head the CIA, Tea Party politician Mike Pompeo, "is a major backer of an increased surveillance state, pushing for Congress to roll back reforms limiting the mass collection of metadata... On top of that, Pompeo called for the death penalty for Edward Snowden..." (so much for the Tea Party's ideology of "limited government").

Donald Trump himself once said, "One of the things you should do in terms of success: If somebody hits you, you've got to hit 'em back five times harder than they ever thought possible. You've got to get even. Get even. And the reason, the reason you do, is so important…The reason you do, you have to do it, because if they do that to you, you have to leave a telltale sign that they just can't take advantage of you. It's not so much for the person, which does make you feel good, to be honest with you, I've done it many times. But other people watch and you know they say, 'Well, let's leave Trump alone'" ("Donald Trump Is Completely Obsessed With Revenge," Mother Jones, October 19, 2016).

Above: Striking workers at Woolworth department store, 1937. The importance of protesting against bad government policy, striking against harsh working conditions, and rebelling against injustice dates all the way back to the colonies' rebellion against the authoritarian rule of King George. During the New Deal, policymakers created the Wagner Act, which protected the rights of unions. Donald Trump and his fellow right-wing bullies, however, don't seem to appreciate the importance of protest and dissent. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

We are seeing all the signs of a coming fascism, where the right to free speech is limited or ended, the right to protest is limited or ended, freedom of the press is curtailed, and the freedom to exercise one's religion is restricted (think about the proposed Muslim registry). All this despite our First Amendment, which states:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

In other words, what seems to be on the horizon is completely unconstitutional and completely un-American.

Yet, if the Trump Administration creates a Muslim registry; or calls the National Guard on those who protest his administration; or creates internment camps for Muslims or political opponents; or creates a larger mass surveillance state, thus putting a chilling effect on the First Amendment, who will stop him? The right-wing Congress? The right-wing Supreme Court? The state legislatures, 42 of which leaned further to the right this year? Federal judges, like the one who told new citizens to leave if they don't like Trump? The military? (history shows us that soldiers often do as they're told, whether it's right or not). Law enforcement? Like the law enforcement agencies that are shooting American Indians with rubber bullets, and gleefully dousing them with pepper spray, to protect a corporation in North Dakota that is (along with the Army Corps of Engineers) bending environmental impact statement rules to fast-track the construction of a dangerous pipeline?

Above: Though he made some serious blunders, President Roosevelt also orchestrated the allied victory over the Axis powers, thereby saving millions of Jews from certain death, and millions of other people from harsh Imperial Japanese rule. For her part, Eleanor Roosevelt helped draft the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights after the war. Article 12 reads, "No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks." Now, think about a Muslim registry, and also the surveillance state that we've created - which the Trump administration wants to double-down on. Is this the world over 400,000 Americans gave their lives for in World War II? Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

An authoritarian administration is currently being assembled--an administration that is being praised by various white supremacist groups, including the KKK and neo-Nazis--and even more frightening than that, we have lost critical components of our system of checks and balances. And, as if all this were not bad enough, the political right is one state legislature away from calling a constitutional convention, where they can begin the process of re-writing the constitution to accommodate their extremist ideology - where they can make Christianity the official state-sponsored religion (and then persecute all non-Christians, as theocracies always do); where they can do away with the words "general welfare" (so they can give even more tax breaks to their billionaire masters); where they can get rid of prohibitions against intrusive searches & seizures (recall Mike Pompeo's preference for more government surveillance); where they can replace the "right" to bear arms with the requirement to bear arms (gun manufacturer's would love this - more gun sales!); and where they can get rid of that pesky 13th Amendment (recall all the times that a Republican has been caught saying that African Americans were better off when they were slaves).    

If you are not concerned, you should be. If you are asleep, you need to wake up. If you are more interested in the color of underwear that Kim Kardashian is wearing today, than you are in politics & government, you need to snap yourself out of it before you lose your fundamental rights, before you are not allowed to say, "I don't like Trump."

Above: In this video clip, a scene from the movie Sophie Scholl: The Final Days (2005), we see Scholl being executed for speaking out against the Nazis. The video is in German, but you don't need to know German to understand the timeless struggle of good vs. evil depicted in this scene. Scholl, along with her brother Hans and their colleagues, wrote of the Nazi regime, the war, and the Holocaust: "We are not in a position to draw up a final judgment about the meaning of our history. But if this catastrophe can be used to further the public welfare, it will be only by virtue of the fact that we are cleansed by suffering; that we yearn for the light in the midst of deepest night, summon our strength, and finally help in shaking off the yoke which weighs on our world" (from the second leaflet of the White Rose). Will we be as brave as Scholl in the coming years? Youtube link:

"What Mr. Trump proposes, in this case targeting all Muslims, is a horror movie that we Jews are quite familiar with."

--David Harris, Executive Director, American Jewish Committee, Christian Science Monitor, December 6, 2015

"The Constitution and the government exist in large measure to protect against the excesses of democracies. This is particularly salient when, in an atmosphere of fear or mistrust, one group is singled out and vilified, as Japanese Americans were during World War II and as Muslim Americans are today. How terrible it is to contemplate, once again, that the government itself might once more be the very instrument of terror and division. That cannot happen again. We cannot allow it."

--Actor George Takei, "They interred my family. Don't let them do it to Muslims." Washington Post, November 18, 2016.


  1. All this fear about a handful of pathetic losers, while we have had fascism since 2001. Unending wars of aggression, bank bailouts (corporatism); a health care plan written by the insurance companies, killing thousands with drones--including American citizens without due process--, NSA spying. All this from Cheney and Obama.

    In the scope of things, the economic breakdown will bring about this reaction, just as the Fascist movements were largely just enforcement protection for the financial dictatorship of the Bank of England following WW1. In this case the major difference is the that the BRICS exist as an alternative to the collapsing wall St./London financial casino and Trump wisely has stated that rejecting the geopolitical hostility towards Russia and China and normalizing relations is the way forward. Note the ravings of John McCain for example over this issue.

    1. I agree that current events, to some degree, are simply a continuation of what has been laid down before, these past many years. I think Trump and his crew, however, are going to take it to a level that might cause enormous pain for a lot of Americans (much more than before). I hope I'm wrong, but the people he's bringing aboard are amazingly awful. Can you imagine if Sarah Palin is made Secretary of the Interior. That would be funny if it weren't so tragic.

    2. The BRICS as an economic model, a solution or even a temporary workaround appears dubious unless and until rights and disparity in those countries are fixed. A third world exists within those countries, although South Africa and Brazil show some promising signs due to organized activist intervention.

      The rise of fascism was and is now an infectious epidemic, which seems to be a retro-disease easily revived when extremist capitalism wants another bubble of growth.

      In 1988, the US Government paid reparations to the Japanese Americans who were forced into the prison camps. That was the final precident setting event, justice amidst the injustice. Trump would likely argue that Japanese Americans were deserving via their hard work, good behavior and direct link to the economic rising star that was Japan in the 1980s.
      Economy has to become the moral philosophy it was meant to be when it was conceived as such thousands of years ago by dangerous people who made it work for everyone, in isolated and short-lived instances. Knowing that makes the fact of the New Deal in close proximity to us in this century a gratifying sense of hope.
      BTW, Islam via the Koran has a strong sense of economics as a oral philosophy, which gained its most visible expression to date in Syria of th 1960s an 70s.

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