IT CAN’T HAPPEN HERE
Frank Zappa assured us, 50 years ago.
Everybody’s safe and it can’t happen here, no, no, it won’t happen here, I’m telling you my dear that it can’t happen here.
Of course, he was being sarcastic, and he was referring in the mid-’60s to the youth of America becoming “freaks,” meaning… well, you know what it meant. Sex, drugs and rock and roll. Turning the establishment on its head, in every cultural and political way. Freedom. Creative self expression. And no violence or hatred. (Yes, things did change, but that is a whole other story.)
What I didn’t know at the time was that he took the title and theme from the 1935 Sinclair Lewis (“Main Street,” “Babbitt,” “Elmer Gantry”) anti-fascist novel, which featured a protagonist who whips up a following among angry voters through fear mongering populism, firebrand rhetoric and anti-Mexican sentiment. If I suspected Donald Trump had ever read a book… (Maybe he came across the Classics Illustrated comic.)
Who could have known that there were just enough fools to vote P.T. Barnum in. It was a fascist campaign from the get go, and condoning, even urging violence against anyone not in the fold. So it should have been no surprise that the ultra right, the white supremacists, the neo nazis, felt legitimized by this President and emboldened to come out from their holes to take their despicable hatred to the streets. And then, of course, he doubled down by saying some of them were “very fine people.” Instead of what he should have said about the whole lot of them and anyone who would even be seen with them.
A BAD DREAM NOW…
Where once the American dream, battered and beat down, certainly in the 21st century, still clung to life. Washington has always been a crazy place, with its power corrupting absolutely. Sometimes you are tempted to just ignore it and enjoy a sunny day at the beach. But lately, those days have been clouded over by Trump’s white supremacist thumbs up washing ashore here. Yessir, we got trouble, right here in River City.
And it’s landed at our venerable Church in Ocean Park. The Reverend there, Janet Gollery McKeithen, has been very involved in a local organization called the Committee for Racial Justice (CRJ). Their last two monthly meetings have been hijacked by swarms of white supremacists, she told me, “around 50 at the last one, and they are promising even more for this Sunday’s September meeting in Virginia Park,” which begins at 6 p.m.
“It’s a public meeting so we can’t exclude anyone,” she explained. Last month most of the white supremacist demonstrators remained outside the library meeting room, and “the epithets and hate and violent things they were yelling and chanting, in front of children no less, was pretty shocking and hard to hear,” she said.
She said there are hundreds of far right hate groups but the one that claimed responsibility for organizing the marches in Charlottesville, where a young woman was murdered and 19 injured when a man drove his car into the crowd — the Red Elephants — is the same one involved in the Santa Monica protests.
“WE KNOW THEIR NAMES”
“They seem to come mostly from Orange County, particularly Laguna Beach,” said Rev. McKeithen, “but they have branches in several California cities. They’ve posted bad things about us on social media, claiming we’re a bunch of rich Jews from Brentwood who are going into the schools teaching children to hate whites.” She chuckled, very slightly, certainly ironically.
“They’ve gone after the CRJ board members, claiming they are anti-white racists,” she said. “They probably don’t know that the board is evenly split racially, five blacks and five whites.”
McKeithen said representatives of CPJ met with the Santa Monica Police Department, the City Attorney’s office and other city staff including parks, prior to the last meeting, and anticipating the one this Sunday. They also organized an introduction to nonviolent training and two workshops, today at 2 and Friday evening at 7, at the Church, urging everyone who planned to be at the CRJ meeting Sunday to prepare by attending those trainings.
Ordinarily, McKeithen said, all their energy and preparation now would be for their 19th annual Communities celebration, which “honors individuals who are making the world a better place,” 4:30 Saturday at the Church. “But you do what you’ve got to do, when you’ve got to do it,” she said.
There’s some other cheerful news originating from the Church in Ocean Park. There is a folk singer of unique talent and grace, voice and words, who used to perform in Santa Monica and is returning this Friday, to McCabe’s. You should definitely get yourself there to hear him.
His name is Tom Brosseau and unless you are deep in the folk world you may not know about him. He’s pretty famous there, tours the world. Or, if you are one of the followers of the Church in Ocean Park’s Sanctuary music night, you may have been fortunate to catch one of his occasional but regular appearances there. His high, clear tenor is kind of magical, and his latest CD, “North Dakota Impressions,” a delight that grows more dear with every listen.
Sanctuary itself is a bit irregular. It’s held once a month on a Friday night, but randomly, for the last 10 years or so. The last time I saw Tom there he brought along actor-musician John C. Reilly for duets, and it was a pure delight.
“Tom’s crowd was always a little different,” McKeithen told me. “Contemplative. Sit down and really listen. They seem to like him not only for his music but for who he is.”
I say amen to that.
QUESTION OF THE WEEK: Did you notice a huge change in the “new” Whole Foods? I didn’t either. A mound of rock hard small avos “on sale” for a buck 49 each, a burger or veggie burger off the grill out front for 8 bucks, and they were no longer giving teeny tiny sliver tastes of the pizza. Feh. The best thing about Whole Foods is still DJ Dave’s “It’s Getting REAL in the Whole Foods Parking Lot” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2UFc1pr2yUU — 6M views and still funny and true. You will recognize the parking lots, yo.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “It’s a marvelous night for a moondance, with the stars up above in your eyes, a fantabulous night to make romance ‘neath the cover of October skies.” — Van Morrison
Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 31 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at firstname.lastname@example.org