Things To Hold On To

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Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Some Big Picture Parts

Hey! It's another super long post! This one puts some of the pieces together in one place that we're not all talking about as a big picture. Here goes -

People who have been at protests are going to start getting sick any day now. Media and cops too. And we've got a country in increasing chaos. A president looking to seize power. Looks like he's finally figured out how to use the government. He chooses every day not to use the US government to help with the pandemic in all of the ways that it could. That is an active choice. Meanwhile, he's choosing to find the ways to that he can use it to be more of an authoritarian strongman type.

Lots of people are freaking out. For good reason. It's hard to imagine that we could have gotten here. But some of us did see that we could have, and have been getting ready.

I'm getting some really good feedback on what I write about all of this (this was originally on Facebook.), even though I have mostly been offline for the last 2 weeks.

Many of you who have been connected with me for the last year or so know that I have tried to do some civic engagement work to help make political change. This spring I retooled it for the pandemic but nobody was ready for it just then. Early on there was some denial that things could get this bad, and then everyone was adjusting to the new realities.

Well, here we are. It's bad. I knew we could always be in multiple catastrophes and would not be ready for it from my work in government. I knew from studying Trump from the fall of 2015 and watching the kind of fear he activated and amplified how dangerous he could potentially be if he got into office. The Boogaloo boys and the wyt supremacists and the civil-war pushers were supporting him back in 2015. They were threatening that if he lost they would do a civil war anyway.

Many think that had Hillary won that everything would have been sunshine and flowers up until this pandemic. I don't think that's true. I think those civil-war-pusher people were fired up enough and could have done some serious damage, especially when inspired to do so by an angry Trump who would have lost. And Russian backing. (We might be seeing some of what they had been planning in some of the actions they are taking to escalate things at protests around the country. It's unclear how much they are behind, and we may never know. Communities with more of an intelligence function in their law enforcement capacity may have better tracking on this, but that's an unusual capability in LE. Given the level of activity and overwhelm over the past week, we may never know for sure.)

So had Hillary won in 2016, she might have had to deal with civil unrest or worse from the Boogaloo crowd + Trump then. She certainly would not have been able to magically solve the problems of systemic racism and poverty that are behind so much of the rage we are seeing come forward now. No more than Obama could. There's no magic pixie dust that a Democratic president can come and sprinkle into Washington and make everything better. That people act like that is possible is part of the problem.

So now we're in some shit. It's bad.

Last night we had the former Secretary of Homeland Security and former head of legal stuff at DOD interpreting the president's actions and threats about military deployments in the domestic space. When Jeh Johnson is not sure what could happen it's a little unsettling. He's practically the definition of the institutions of government, having been in both DHS and DOD, and tied to the intel world as both are.

If you pay attention to the law enforcement pundits, there are a few who are talking about the Boogaloo boys and the wyt supremacists. NBC reported yesterday that at least one person from the wyt supremacist crowd has been masquerading as an anarchist. That's one connection in one person, but it's a data point.

Here's something few are talking about.

Russia's disinformation efforts ramped up at the beginning of this pandemic. That has been confirmed and reported. Some (not all) of the crappy medical advice on social media that is counterproductive and could be dangerous if people followed it is suspected to come from Russia.

Russia is known to support the US's wyt supremacy movement. There is also some recent reporting on that

One of the things the Trump Administration has done is to actively disassemble and unfund domestic counterterrorism work, including the Office for Countering Violent Extremism in DHS, and work in other parts of the government. Years of institutional tracking of wyt supremacist groups by law enforcement were reported to have been unfunded, leaving the tracking of such groups to outside organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center. Yet they would have nowhere near the kinds of files and info that law enforcement would have had.

On the subject of Russia, Russia's goal has always been to destabilize their competition, especially the US. Russia is also an oligarchy, with power centered around big money and criminal enterprise. Their goal in the 2016 election was sow discord and division in the US. We may never know the level to which they are influencing the current discord and division, but we can assume that it is a factor here. They have positioned themselves to be able to take advantage of and inflame and amplify division in moments like we are currently in.

The Russian threat is well-documented, particularly through the impeachment hearings. We have well-documented information from the United States intelligence community of Russia's intentions and goals, and of their active interference in the 2020 election.

Putin talked with Trump yesterday.

Trump also made a series of outrageous moves yesterday that show that he is starting to better understand how to use the parts of government that he wants to use. So far, the government has responded. If he keeps at it, we will have to see if the government fights him on those aspects which are more clearly unconstitutional and less in gray areas. Considering the level of institutional erosion over the past 3.5 years, there's a risk that it won't push back.

We're never going to know what's going on behind the scenes.

Years from now if we manage to hold enough of the institutions together to keep records of this time of chaos, we may be able to assemble some of it. Some of it we won't ever know. We may get more whistleblowers coming forward. Perhaps some are working their plan now.

We have a demagogue in the White House who wants to be a strongman type, and who has been corrupting and eroding the federal government since the day he was elected. He has essentially followed the steps of how to be a successful tyrant. He has a cabinet of allies making oligarchical moves. He runs an Administration that refuses oversight. He has actively eroded the institutions of the government that are intended to serve its citizens and not its president.

And so now we have over a hundred thousand citizens dead because he won't use the government to serve us.

Meanwhile, conspiracy theories run rampant. Some people I am connected to make up their own pretty regularly.

The thing is, we don't need to make up conspiracy theories. There's enough going on right in front of our eyes that we don't need to make up more. If we could just stick to the facts that we have available - AND THOSE ARE BAD - it might help us get a little bit focused. Making up more fear when we've got plenty to go around doesn't really help.

Fear runs rampant. People are terrified. People are extremely angry. So angry that they are out putting their lives and the lives of others on the line in mass protests in cities everywhere. They're out there fighting for each other but not even consistently helping to protect each other by wearing masks and keeping distant. They're so fired up that they're not thinking clearly. Or they actively decided that they don't (or can't) care about the threat of the virus because of the threat of all the other things. Like the systemic, blatant racism. Like the violent policing. Like the poverty. Like the accumulation of wealth in the very few. Like the fact that communities people need to survive have been so heavily damaged over the last week. It's all too scary or enraging or overwhelming to comprehend. To make sense of. To make rational decisions within. And so people are out on the street, gathering together, in (mostly) complete contradiction to all public health guidance and to why we so heavily damaged our own economy in the first place by shutting things down to try and keep more people healthy and to keep our health systems from being overwhelmed.

News headlines are timid. "Experts Worry Coronavirus Could Spread Following Protests."

A more accurate headline would say:

"Experts Are Mortified Because Protests Will Exacerbate The Pandemic And Lead To Tens Of Thousands More Deaths."

And how are we going to do contact tracing on that? Nevermind. We're barely doing it anyway. Some of the states have decided - like the president - to just move on from the pandemic. Like that will work.

In 2016, for those who were watching, the threat of Russia was out there the whole time for anyone willing to pay attention.

Right now we've got WAY more going on than the threat from Russia, but we're only talking about pieces of everything that's going on. Few people are putting all of the pieces together. And so it goes.

There was an article in the Atlantic this spring about how countries were doing a poor job managing the pandemic because we don't understand complex systems.

We don't. We're terrible at it. Our media doesn't help. They are actively impeding public health advice and good science reporting daily.

But there are a million other factors. Because we're in a complex society. With complex systems. We've got a president who wants to oversimplify everything. He wants to make it easy. Easy for people to cede power to him. And many have. Many many many. Including the entire Republican Party.

It's harder to dig in and understand the systems that we need to have and protect to keep this country intact.

Historical research indicates that in countries with an emerging tyrant, those who were able to protect social institutions and civic society fared better on the other side after the tyrant was removed.

We're in that moment.

We need to protect a functioning, civil society. Right now it doesn't serve so very many. That's the energy behind so many of these protests.

To make it better, we've got to hold together what we've got and work on it while we go through. We have to have a solid opposition agenda that people will believe in for a path forward through all of this.

What can we fight for? We need some clear ideas on that. That's how you fight a tyrant. We need to know what we want. Not just what we don't want.

We need to do what we can to hold things together. but we need to know the direction we're going, too. That will be an important part of all this.

The tyrant offers abyss. That's all he can offer. Rage and anger.

We Need More

To counter the tyrant, you need more than rage and anger.

We need to amplify the leaders out there who have vision for the society we want. Those are the people that we need to be hearing from more and more now. Noticeably, it's not most of the federal elected officials on either side currently in office. It's people in cities and states. It's people on the street.

We need to find those voices that we need to lift them up. We've got a whole hell of a lot more than we did a week ago. If you're looking for somewhere to focus your hope, that's a starting spot. Any one of us can do that too. We all have to pull each other forward. We have to lift up each other's voices.

The vision we want us to be more powerful than the fear the tyrant is pushing.

The world we demand has to be a bigger sell for the general public than the power of the fear to keep people hiding out at home and terrified.

Fear doesn't defeat fear.

Hope does. Vision does. Love does. Yeah that's a whole lot of cheesy. It's also true. Look at the great civil rights leaders. Look at the great leaders throughout history who have countered emerging tyranny. That's the stuff.

It's demanding a society that serves all of us. So we can take care of each other. That's why we have government. That's what it's supposed to do. We have to make it do that. That's the challenge of this moment.

We have to get there. We have to make it clear what we want. What we demand. Together. Like pronto. This is urgent. This doesn't mean like in a few months.

And we have to hold it together now. We have to hold society together so that it can take care of all of us in the meantime while we work on getting it better. We're about to have some major medical system overwhelm. We need systems to hold. We need cities and states to hold. And while we're at it, we need to work on transforming them. So they serve us all.

Can't do any of that if we don't survive. Can't transform any of it if it all burns to ash. It's a lot harder to get systems to serve everyone if there are no systems.

What's before us is monumental. We're in a historical moment. But what matters more is what we make of it.

There's no going back.

So who do you want to be going forward?

Light it up. And do your best not to get dead, or to get anyone else dead.

More to come on a community and some civic engagement work that can help with all of this. Hopefully this week. Stay tuned. Stay alive. There are ways through.

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This post was originally published on the founder's personal Facebook page here.

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