It would not be controversial to say that these are bad times. Maybe even the worst? But let’s say, at the very least: bad. Yet it is not enough to merely recognize when times are bad, and to hope they improve. It is important to know why they are bad, and, to put a finer point on it, how.
The government version of events is this: Dozens of cities across the U.S. are burning with anger over… something. (Not clear what, also not important.) This has led to destruction and looting, which means any gathering in these areas is “unlawful,” which means the time has come to impose harsh curfews, use “non-lethal” weapons on the populace and call for additional military support. In fact, there are as many National Guard members active within our borders right now as U.S. troops on duty in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan. It’s too bad, really — “outside agitators,” evidently dispatched from every locale in America to every other one, brought this upon us with their appetite for anarchy. Law and order must be reestablished.
Except that’s not the truth of it, not at all. You’d know as much from attending a march, or seeing tanks in your neighborhood, or listening to the president talk, or watching videos like these:
The style of repression we’re seeing — militarized police departments attacking civilians unprovoked, brutally dispersing free assembly and going berserk in communities they’re supposed to protect — is probably familiar to the handful of Middle East nations we’ve invaded. That’s because they aren’t in the streets to maintain the peace, but instill the terror of occupation. When even the mayor of the largest city in the country is too afraid to condemn the police union that doxed his daughter following her arrest for demonstrating, and the U.S. Army is flying a Blackhawk helicopter below roof level in Washington, D.C., to intimidate and scatter people, it might be a sign that certain forces are making a power grab. Enabled and directed by Trump’s cowardly rhetoric on “dominating” those who seek justice for victims of state violence, cops and the armed forces are treating them as insurrectionists without the right to resist.
In the days and weeks ahead, it is essential not to lose this framing, particularly as the media and political classes continue to denigrate the protesters as agents of chaos without a concrete agenda or meaningful demands. By escalating their engagement to create literal warzones, the occupiers have only demonstrated the corrupt and baseless power of which they must be stripped. For decades they have stockpiled the weapons of subjugation, borrowed from the many scenes of American empire abroad and paid for by taxpayers held hostage to their fever dreams of junta rule. Make no mistake: We are not even compatriots in their eyes, only rebels.
And they await, though impatiently, the final order to put us down.