I know many of you have been glued to the TV or other screens, unable, in some degree of shock, to look away from the trainwreck more awful than most anticipated, the history we prayed we’d never be making.
But like many of you, I may be horrified but not much surprised. From the moment Donald Trump pinched the Republican nomination for President, considering his deplorable path there marching across the backs of so many minority groups, I anticipated the worst. Forget deadly deregulation and the worst possible judicial appointments, I feared foremost that this inexperienced, egomaniacal narcissist would get us into a war, if just to save his predictably sinking ratings. We are still careening towards it, thanks to his macho rhetoric and complete and willful ignorance of history and diplomacy.
But my fearful imagination did not run to fully armed, fully armored alt-right columns marching in the streets of AmeriKKKa, some with arms thrust skyward in a shocking sieg heil salute, emboldened to show their faces to the world. No need for white hoods anymore. They feel legitimized.
Many of us have been praying, from day one, that Trump would be impeached before he could start a nuclear war, likely over nothing. Give me even the reprehensible Pence if it means peace. But the GOP has become America’s worst enemy, and the
Democrats the culpable enablers. I know investigations are moving glacially
forward, but we may not have that much time. Not to draw too close a parallel to unspeakable horror, but I have increasingly a more experiential understanding of how the Jews trapped in Europe in the late ‘30s must have felt under burgeoning fascism, being subjected to escalating terrors and wondering, when is someone going to DO something? I feel increasingly shoved into a corner by angry mobs of depraved thugs, a small minority with the power of violent means they easily, willingly exercise, and now it seems sanctioned. And I’m not even one of those minorities at whom their hate is directed.
BUT DON’T WORRY
I know you’ve been inundated by the videos and the commentary, and I won’t add much to it here. But I do have a couple of thoughts I want to give voice to.
I am one of the most adamant defenders of the right to free speech that you will find. I cringe when well-intentioned demonstrators block a speaker on a campus who preaches damnable, hateful ideas. But when you make exceptions and say, this speech is hate speech and we won’t allow it, you have to look at who is going to be the arbiter of where the line is drawn. It may well be that your ox is the next one gored, and that it gets way out of hand. I believe true freedom of speech means we let anyone speak their mind, and let the free marketplace of ideas be the judge of its worth. With certain strict exceptions, of course.
The Supreme Court has ruled that obscenity (“applying contemporary community standards” — whatever that is) and child pornography (much more easily determined) are not protected free speech. Nor are false statements of fact, also with conditions. Nor is speech owned by another (intellectual property). Nor is defamation or libel, but those get sticky in the application as well.
Then there are “fighting words,” defined as “tending to incite an immediate breach of the peace” by provoking a fight. It would seem our homegrown nazi-KKK marchers may not have that protection. Another very important point to remember, for even free speech advocates like me: the very first amendment to our Constitution declares that “Congress shall make no law… prohibiting… the right of the people peaceably to assemble.” Peaceably. Estimates were that up to ¾ of the alt-right marchers were armed. Many with automatic weapons. Or carrying large sticks or batons. Shields and helmets. And wearing body armour, many. And combat outfits. And that was all legal, because Virginia is an open carry state. Ah yes — the fruits of the rabid defenders of the second half (but not the first half) of the Second Amendment have ripened and this is what we get. It’s what you wanted, Virginia. And all you other states with open carry and other insane gun laws.
DON’T WORRY, ALMOST DONE
Which brings me to the second thing. I watched coverage of the alt-right demonstration in Seattle Sunday. Well, hardly any of that because for whatever reason there was little video originating from that stage. But there was plenty of video showing the police there very effectively blocking every street and alley leading to that demonstration, so that protesters could not reach them — to exercise their Constitutionally-protected First Amendment rights “peaceably to assemble” to protest the damnable ideas of the alt-right group in the park just down the street.
I know the Seattle city government folks who made that decision were trying to avoid violence, such as we witnessed just the day before in Charlottesville, VA, horrible violence INITIATED BY ONE SIDE, let’s make that clear. The side that came armed and dangerous, ready to wreak mayhem. Tough call. But I found it so disheartening to see a
police force protecting the free speech rights (and perhaps what they were saying was not
protected speech) of bigots and haters so anathema to the American way, and preventing the citizens who wanted to stand up and protest those ideas from doing so. What’s wrong with that picture? And by Monday I found no coverage of that on TV. (They were all focused on Trump’s alarming omission of condemnation of those hate groups, for two full days.)
This is just beginning. There are more alt-right marches planned. And as we all know, that evil has landed in Santa Monica very recently, and we must find a way to defeat it.
Look for my new mostly-music column “Noteworthy” in tomorrow’s SMDP, and I will prescribe two terrific plays appropriate to these times. Hint: one in Topanga Canyon, one at our airport.
QUESTION OF THE WEEK: The NFL’s Colin Kaepernick is reviled by many for making a gesture to protest racism in this country, but neo-nazis are protected by the police in Seattle?
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “The future of architecture does not lie so much in continuing to fill up the landscape as in bringing back life and order to our cities and towns.” — Gottfried Boehm
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