News, notes, and observations from the James River Valley in northern South Dakota with special attention to reviewing the performance of the media--old and new. E-Mail to

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Protesters without rifles

The Occupy Wall Street movement set off a number of Occupy demonstrations throughout the country.  Its participants seemed to retreat in the face of police actions to remove them from public places.  But they re-emerged at Bernie Sanders rallies.  They also showed up at the Dakota Access Pipeline protests at Standing Rock.  Although some of their opponents at these events claimed they were engaging in violence,  the overt acts of aggression and violence were on the part of the people sent to vanquish them.  

The behavior of the protesters has in large measure inspired comments about their non-violence and their generally peaceful demeanor.  People who have visited the protests, such as at Standing Rock, note the tension, however.  For the most part, when law enforcement decides to make physical arrests,  the protesters have been passive in their resistance.  Use of force has largely been at the hands of law enforcement personnel.  The protestors have had limited encounters with anti-protestors.  

What confrontations involving violence we have had recently have been at Trump rallies prior to the election.  Even then, the incidents of violence have been between individuals, with no notable large scale engagements between large groups.   We have seen nothing that approaches the rioting  of the kind the country experienced during the civil rights and Viet Nam War protests, or those in Los Angeles following the Rodney King incident.  Even the protests over police shootings of black men have been peaceful and subdued compared with past reactions.  However,  a few armed attacks on police officers have occurred, but have not been part of organized campaigns of revolt.  

Commentaries in the news media have treated the relative peacefulness with great delicacy.  The people who study the kind of communications circulating among people for signs of explosive reactions see all the conditions for social upheaval present at this time.  The country is divided and the opposing factions want nothing to do with each other.  

There are more than 300 million guns in America with gun manufacturing increasing sharply in the past few years.  At the same time, the number of homes with guns in them have decreased.  The assumption is that the ammo-sexuals are hoarding firearms for that big orgy when liberals are supposed to confiscate them.  But social researchers note that a preponderance of liberals are also firearms owners and sports people and have some concerns about self-protection, but do not choose to wear their firearms to church or as a nice broach at cocktail parties.  In fact,  a number of comments on Facebook indicate that they are more concerned about being able to protect themselves from the conceal-carry bubbas who like to get off by getting off a clip or two when provoked.  So,  people who are peacefully protesting might submit to law enforcement, but be ready to defend themselves against violence by those who oppose and detest them.  

Those are the conditions that keep social observers on edge.  The number of aggressive actions by Trump supporters reported in the media are of concern to the social researchers because each incident intensifies the perception that people need to prepare to defend themselves.  The analysts who monitor society for signs that it is about to erupt fear most that something Donald Trump says or does will trigger violence.   When the president of the country flouts the law and the basic rules of decorum,  many people will take it as a signal to follow suit.  That's why law enforcement experts and the media treat the potential for violence so gingerly.  We are so close to open rebellion that they fear mention of the possibilities will spark the act.

The country is ready for open warfare.  That is a subject that Barack Obama stayed away from in his farewell speech,  although he deflected the anger at having a wretch like Trump as president and encouraged people to take positive action rather than respond in anger.  His lofty approach to political adversity might well be a restraining influence,  but having a president who represents everything that families, teachers, and religious leaders tell children not to be is a strain.  People cannot ignore the offense to decency that is Donald Trump,  an offense that is beyond the reach of words and reason.   They have nothing to say to those who support Trump because of the despicable values involved.

It is absurd to deny the racial hatred that motivates many Trump supporters.  Trump launched his campaign as a birther who denied Obama's citizenship and displayed a constant disrespect that is rooted in racism.  And his supporters are the products of Limbaugh brain-washing who hate liberals as much as they do n****ers,  Conversations with these people are simply not possible.  Efforts to communicate will produce only the false accusations of what liberals are and the insult and abuse that  is all they can intellectually muster.  

Trump's subversion of the truth set up a condition that made his election possible.  He started the birther accusation against Obama, tells lie after lie beginning each day with a twitter rant, and persists throughout the day with a daily dose of falsehoods.  However, when the dossier was released alleging his ties to Russia,  the people who fell victim to his lies are so inured to matters of the truth that they dismiss any accusations against Trump.  A man in Iowa explains it:  The way it is nowadays, unless I see positive proof, it’s all a lie."  Another says, "He’s getting responses; things are happening. 

But to the 73.8 million people who voted for someone other than Trump, the attitude of Richard Cohen prevails:  "He is a braggart and a liar. He is a bully and a demagogue. He is an ignoramus and a deadbeat, a chiseler and either a sincere racist or an insincere one, and his love for himself is matched only by my loathing of him.”

But while people may prefer to take the high road,  the smart ones keep their weapons clean and their powder dry.  Many have the weapons,  the knowledge of how to make more, and the tactical knowledge of guerrilla warfare.  As a veteran of the civil rights movement suggested,  people did not take the protests seriously until some extremists went to the streets with firearms and bombs.  

The educations of the right wing are not in the application of reason and fact-based language.  It is in the rage of hate and the use of language as weapons, which results in the brandishing of actual weapons as the only language they can command.  America is primed for civil war.  There is a chance that Trump can be found so unfit to carry out the duties of president that he can be dismissed under the reasons and the process provided in the 25th Amendment of the Constitution.  There are few who think that can happen,  and it is foolish to think that there will be no resistance to Trump.  The protestors do have their weapons,  if they are needed.

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Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States