Fascist Police State

Where we now live–a very large apartment building next to the National Zoo in Washington–there is a story night which occurs via Zoom every so often.I volunteered and told one of my favorite stories, which if you know me, you may have heard before. I thought it might be worth hearing again.

This story takes place in 1967 in New York City where I was a graduate student at Union Theological Seminary. Embry was a senior at Barnard College. We had been married about a year.
Now the country in 1967 was going through some challenging times—similar in some respects to the times we are in today. The Civil Rights Movement had split into many groups some of which, like the Black Panthers, were advocating violence. Cities were burning from violent protests— Los Angles, Newark and Detroit had all experienced what was called by some civil disturbances and by others race riots. The Vietnam War was heating up, and all young men had to sign up for the draft. At Union, many of my fellow students were burning their draft cards, not to avoid the draft but to protest the war and the fact that it was being fought mainly by the working class and African Americans. Anti war protests were happening all over the country and far left groups like the Weathermen were talking about overthrowing the government. Police brutality was an issue then as it is now though the issue of brutality against African Americans did not gain the attention that it has now. And it was just the beginning of the long hair fad for men and the hippie movement.
It was a heady time.
This is the environment that Embry and I found ourselves in when this story took place.
We lived off campus in an old, five-story apartment house, showing its age. Though it had a Riverside Drive address, it was only about a block from 125th Street in a neighborhood very near Harlem that at the time could be called seedy. Almost everyone we knew had been robbed at least once, and being robbed was a usual topic at get-togethers and cocktail parties. In fact we were robbed ourselves when someone broke into our apartment from the fire escape in the middle of the day and cleaned us out. When I called the insurance company to report the devastating loss, the representative was very sympathetic and agreed to send out an insurance adjuster right away.
“And how much do you think you will be claiming in losses?” he asked.
“Oh, it is awful, just terrible. We have lost just about everything.”
“So how much money do you think it all amounts to?”
“I would guess about $500.”
“That’s it?”
“Well, yeah.”
“Forget the adjuster. I will write you a personal check and send it out this afternoon.”

We lived in a rent-controlled, studio apartment probably around 400 square feet with two windows opening up to an airshaft. The only way to know what the weather was like was to call the weather lady. Our rent was $75/month including utilities.
And we loved that apartment.
The story begins around 5:00 PM when I thought I smelled smoke and walked out into the hallway where, sure enough, there was smoke coming out of the trash chute. About the same time our next door neighbor, Don, opened his door and came out to figure out what was happening. Don was a 20-something, skinny guy who only wore tee shirts and jeans and had really long, curly blond hair. He was a prototypical early hippie. He had invited me into his apartment once, and the only furniture he had was a mattress on the floor next to an amplifier, loud speaker and a guitar. We knew he had a guitar because his favorite time to play—and which we could hear—was between two and three in the morning. Almost every morning.
“So,” I turned to Don. “Do you think the building is burning down? Maybe we should call the super.”
“I don’t know,” he said, “but I am sure not going to call Poitras. The guy hates me. If it turns out to be a false alarm, I know he will throw me out.”
Joe Poitras was the super for the building. He was probably around 50, bald, and had a huge pot belly and always had a two- or three-day beard and could not get out a sentence with fewer than a half dozen profanities. He wore grease-stained undershirts and dirty work pants. Most people we knew in the building were terrified of the man—both because he was known for chewing people out if they ever asked for help or filed a work order and also because almost every night you could hear him and his wife having violent arguments, shouting at each other from their basement apartment. We could hear them all the way up on the 5th floor. The arguments would usually end with bangs that we figured were from pots thrown at each other.
“You are right,” I said, “We better not call Poitras. The smoke seems to be diminishing anyway.”
Don then shrugged his shoulders and in a matter-of-fact way, said, “You know, we live in a goddamned, fascist police state.”
“Pardon?”
“What I said was that we live in a goddamned, fascist police state.”
“Really?”
“Yeah, take last night for example. I was not bothering anyone, just playing my guitar, and at three AM, I hear these loud knocks on my door and these three cops come bursting in and go straight to my bathroom. Then they start flushing the toilet over and over and then come over to me. I know the routine. Up against the wall motherfucker. So when I see them coming at me I go up against the wall, spread eagle, arms out wide. They didn’t have to search me because all I had on was my jockey shorts. But I knew they were going to hit me. I know what cops are like.
But no, they didn’t hit me. They just looked at me. Then one of them said, ‘Ok, you goddamn hippie, you try this trick again and we are hauling you in.’ Then they slammed the door and left.”
“Oh my goodness.”
“Yeah, this is deliberate intimidation. And it is psychological warfare. I am not sure I am going to be able to sleep. And it’s just because of my long hair, and they think I am a hippie. I tell you it is fascism. We live in a goddamned, fascist police state.”

While Don and I were having our conversation, Embry was in the basement doing the laundry. When the smoke petered out, Don went into his apartment. When Embry returned, I immediately told her the story. “I am telling you,” I said, “we live in a goddamned, fascist police state. What else could explain this intimidation and just because the guy has long hair!”
Embry immediately burst out laughing.
“What is so funny about that?”
“Well,” she said, “let me tell you my story. When you were talking with Don, I was talking with Mrs. Finkelstein in the laundry room.
Mrs. Finkelstein was a shy, tiny woman in her mid 80s, who used a cane and had lived in her two-bedroom, rent controlled apartment for as long as anyone could remember. Her husband had died several years ago, and she rarely left her apartment—mainly to go to the grocery store or drug store. Her apartment was directly across the hall from Don’s apartment.
“Well, I heard the saddest story from Mrs. Finkelstein in the laundry room. She told me about this awful experience she had last night. In the middle of the night her toilet started running. She was afraid to call Joe Poitras because the last time she called him and woke him up he screamed at her. So she called the police instead. But you know what? This time the police never came. She had to stay up all night flushing the toilet until mid morning when she could safely call Joe Poitras.”
“You know,” she told me, “the police just don’t care anymore. They used to, but nowadays they won’t help an old lady like me. What has the world come to?”
We never got to tell this story to either person. Don mysteriously left the building permanently the next week leaving behind his only possession other than his guitar—a mattress on the floor. And Mrs. Finkelstein never ventured out of her apartment again at the same time we did. We tried knocking a time or two, but she never answered, probably fearful it might be the police or worse, Joe Poitras.
And so it is possible to have a valid opinion about a bleak world where fascist police break into your apartment in the wee hours of the morning to intimidate you, where hippies and other counter culture types harass police, and a world which is uncaring and where police do not respond to emergencies. But thankfully, not always is the world what it appears to be. It all could boil down to getting one digit of an apartment number wrong.

The Great American Divide

So how do you feel now about voting for Trump after hearing about the damaging Atlantic Magazine article saying how Trump devalues the military and the Michael Cohen book last week which says Trump is a liar and a cheat and the Woodward book this week which proves (along with the audio tapes) that Trump knew all along that Covid-19 was a killer and lied to the American people about it?
I have no idea what you are talking about. I have not heard a word about this on Fox News, and even if I had, I would not believe it. Trump is the greatest president we have ever had. What he said was just trying to keep America from panicking. He is our hero and our only hope for fighting the Satanic deep state.

“Let’s Kill All The Lawyers.” Shakespeare’s Henry VI, Part 2

Reader take note: This is pretty close to what happened to your Faux News editor and extended family yesterday.

 

Yes, Mr. and Mrs. Jones, it is true that you have paid my fee of $600 for one hour of consultation to answer  your ridiculously easy legal question. But I am not going to answer it unless you pay my retainer fee of $15,000 and an ongoing monthly retainer fee of $1,800  until the legal issue is fully resolved. Furthermore, do not try to answer this yourself by going to the internet. You could step on a landmine and end up in jail yourself.

What do you mean, why not answer it if it is easy? Magic tricks are easy once you know how they are done, but do you expect a magician to reveal his magic? Of course not. That is the way it is with lawyers, so get over it.

It Is Time For A Change

So what I am saying to the American people is this: the violence that is happening all over the country by leftist criminal groups supporting Biden is unacceptable and would never happen under my watch. Never. You want an end to this mob violence? Re-elect me. And the covid epidemic. You want that to end? Elect me. It has been handled so poorly by Biden. He has just been sitting in his basement sulking. Plus no more masks. Ever. I will make them illegal. If you elect Biden it will just get worse. And all the unemployed, you want to get them back to work? Elect me. We can’t have four more years like the ones we have had.

But Mr. President, weren’t you the  one who was in charge during the past four years? Wasn’t this on your watch?

Police, arrest this man.

The Stakes

We are about to enter the home stretch of the 2020 race for President. In 2016 Hillary had a comfortable lead over Trump on Labor Day. Few gave Trump any chance of winning.  On Labor Day 1988 Michael Dukakis had a comfortable lead over George H.W. Bush. Then came the Willie Horton negative ad campaign. Bush carried 40 states and won by a landslide. A lot can happen in September and October. Remember the Comey, last minute, October surprise in 2016? Biden looks pretty good right now, but we should not take anything for granted. The Republican convention is a signal of the divisive times to come.

What we do know is that in our lifetimes the stakes have never been higher. In some ways democracy itself is on trial.

There are three potential outcomes as I see it:

Biden wins by a comfortable margin. The results are clear on election night even though it will be weeks before all the mail-in votes can be counted. Trump calls foul play due to mail-in balloting and calls for a new election. Weary Republican leaders and confidants say enough is enough and persuade Trump to call it quits. He bitterly protests that he was robbed but realizes he will never win, and his time now can be better spent on reality TV shows and developing new hotels. He bitterly concedes on the third day after election day, vehemently arguing that he really won and that he will go down in history as the best U.S. President ever.

The Democrats also take the Senate and control the legislative branch as well as the executive branch of government.

This best-case scenario results in a Biden mandate and the equivalent of a New Deal ushering in a new wave of progressive legislation addressing climate change, income disparities, universal, affordable health care, fair tax policies, and racial inequities.

This does not mean that it will be smooth sailing. Congress will still be divided; and with the filibuster, it will still be hard to get progressive legislation passed. But compared to what we have now? Oh, my goodness!

Biden wins by a thin margin. It takes weeks for all the mail-in ballots to be counted, and Trump refuses to concede when the final tally favors Biden, who narrowly wins the electoral college while piling up a five million popular vote margin. This results in a Constitutional crisis, and the country finds itself on the verge of civil war. Right wing militias and paramilitary groups take to the streets and  plot ways to reclaim the White House. Trump eventually concedes but urges his followers to take up the mandate and restore his rightful place as president, but for almost two months the country is bordering on anarchy.

Under this scenario, the country continues to be deeply and bitterly divided. The Democrats gain seats in the Senate but not enough to control it. Progressive legislation remains at a standstill. A period of uncertainty follows but gradually improves when it becomes evident to both political parties that the pandemic and the economic crisis are worsening, resulting in more deaths, business failures, massive evictions, homelessness, and despair for tens of millions of Americans. The Democrats ditch the filibuster, enabling progressive legislation to pass, preventing another Great Depression and strengthening the social safety net. The next three-plus years are a slog, but despite conflict, progress is made. Two progressive Supreme Court judges are sworn in, and some progress is made on job growth, tax reform, climate change, mending wounds with our allies, and reigning in the police. The election of 2024 promises to be a continuation of the fight for the soul of America.

Trump wins by a thin margin. Biden wins the popular vote by almost four million votes, but Trump pulls out another miracle win by narrowly carrying four of the six key battleground states. There is evidence of wide-spread meddling by the Russians and other foreign powers along with a successful effort by Republicans to reduce voter turnout in minority precincts, curtail mail-in voting, and disallow tens of thousands of votes from inner city precincts due to slow mail delivery. Trump declares martial law to try to restore order. To save the country from civil war Biden concedes once the final vote tally is in, but it takes many weeks for this to happen, during which time the country is paralyzed resulting in increased rates of infections and more business failures, layoffs, evictions and massive protests.

The second Trump Administration is a continuation of the first except more sinister and corrupt with little or no progress made on fighting climate change, achieving racial justice, reforming immigration, reforming tax policy, creating good jobs, strengthening the social safety net or uniting the country. He disses our allies and cozies up even more with Putin and other authoritarian leaders. Many more than should die of covid-19 absent a national pandemic policy. Two extreme right-wing, Supreme Court Justices are sworn in setting the stage for the end of Roe v Wade.

This time it is the Left Wing of the Democratic Party who rebel. Massive demonstrations take place in the nation’s capital and across the country, some turning violent. Using the Insurrection Act, Trump calls out the U.S. Army to restore order. Under emergency martial law, there are restrictions on freedom of the press. The Left abandons the Democratic Party and forms a new movement, called The Resistance. The Radical Left calls for violence. Some believe the country is already in a civil war. The 2024 election is seen as the only viable way to change course, but now the progressive wing of the Democratic Party is deeply divided. Trump taps his son, Don Junior, to be his rightful heir. Biden announces he will not run, and everything is again up for grabs.

So what is your take on the three scenarios? Can you think of an outcome that has a happier ending? Can you think of a more realistic or more likely scenario? Do you really think that Trump will concede the election without grandstanding or a fight? And what do you think will happen if Trump continues to refuse to step down and there is controversy in key states regarding whether all mail-in votes should be counted? How will the next president be selected when there is no playbook for anything like this?

Where I come out on the three scenarios is this: While the first scenario is a long shot, the other two spell disaster. The Democrats have to win, and we have to win big. Maybe a landslide would do it. Maybe it will be so obvious to Trump and to the country that he has lost to Biden that he will concede on election night or the morning after. Maybe he will rise to the occasion to prevent what could well be a civil war, which would end up ripping America apart. But would you be willing to place a bet on this happening? Would anyone?

Folks, we are in desperate, trying times. We are facing the greatest domestic crisis since the Civil War. What can we do?  Certainly, giving money to Biden and to Democrats in key Senate and House races is important. In these covid times, house to house canvassing is for many people not practical, especially for old folks like us. (Embry and I have done this in N.C. in the last three presidential elections but not this year, thanks to covid-19.) Calling and helping out with phone banks might help; but, frankly, I have to admit that I am sick of getting on average about six telephone calls a day along with 10 emails, text messages, and letters from Democrats begging for money. Embry and I are writing postcards in support of a progressive woman running for a house seat in the NC legislature. Will that help?

We know that voter turnout is the critical factor. Getting Democrats and independents and anti-Trump Republicans to vote and making sure these votes are counted will determine the outcome. There should be opportunities to help here—poll watching, driving people to the polls, telephone and email reminders. Will it be enough?

I want to be optimistic. I want to be hopeful. I do believe in America. We are a good people. We have been a beacon of light and hope for so many countries despite our many failures—especially in the areas of race and class. We can do it. We can beat back the nativists and those turning our country toward totalitarianism. We won’t succumb to these forces of darkness as did those in Germany, Italy, and Japan in the first third of the 20th Century.

But then what if Trump wins?

We will win this fight, won’t we? Tell me we will. The thought of failure is simply too much to bear.

The stakes have never been higher.

 

 

Practical Things You Can Do To Make A Difference

 

  • If you are voting by mail, do it very early to give it the best shot of being counted.
  • Give generously to the Biden/Harris campaign. If you have already been doing this, you know that they will continue to badger you on a daily basis for more money. No good deed goes unpunished. But keep doing it anyway.
  • Give to Democratic PACs and advocacy groups like Move On and the American Way. The Lincoln Project (Republicans who hate Trump) is also worth supporting.
  • Give to the DCCC (Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee) and the DSCC (The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee). They know the best places for your contributions to produce results.
  • Give money to the Senators who have the best chance of being elected in elections that are now too close to call or where the Democrat is at least given a fighting chance: Doug Jones in Alabama, Mark Kelly in Arizona, John Hickenlooper in Colorado, Jon Ossoff in Georgia, Theresa Greenfield in Iowa, Barbara Bollier in Kansas, Amy McGrath in Kentucky, Adrian Perkins in Louisiana, Sara Gideon in Maine, Joe Kennedy III in Massachusetts, Debbie Peters in Michigan, Tina Smith in Minnesota, Steve Bullock in Montana, Ben Ray Lujan in New Mexico, Cal Cunningham in North Carolina, and  Jaimie Harrison in South Carolina.
  • Give to Democratic voter turnout efforts in the six most critical states, all of which went for Trump in 2016: North Carolina, Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Arizona and Wisconsin. Biden has a fighting chance in every one of them.
  • Give extra money to defeat Lindsley Graham and Mitch McConnell.
  • If you live in one of the key battleground states or know anyone who does, talk up Biden and the Democratic candidates and the need to vote. Speak up. Use social media. Tweet. Blog. Tik Toc. Whatever it takes. Do this even if you don’t live in a battleground state.
  • Give even more money to defeat McConnell and Graham.
  • Contact the state Democratic Party in the state where you live and ask what you can do to help. They may need help on voter turnout on election day and on poll watching. Consider door-to-door canvassing if you believe the health risks are manageable.
  • Don’t give up. Never, never give up!

 

 

 

Trump’s Pledge To the American People

I accept your nomination and assure you that I will continue being the greatest president to ever live for at least the next four years because if I do not win, I will refuse to step down if mail-in ballots are allowed. They are fraudulent, illegal and unconstitutional and are being used by the Democrats for one purpose:  to defeat the greatest president ever. Me. It is my solemn duty to honor the will of the American people and continue being president.