Defeating our own monsters

If your supporters inhabit a messaging bubble, mountains of evidence against you need not matter. That is the operating principle when Vladimir Putin threatens America for providing weapons to Ukraine and when Republicans fabricate stories of voter fraud to justify their own theft of elections. When this era is made into a musical, the big opening number should be called “Projection.”

Putin’s cynical portrayal of Ukraine and the West as the true aggressors employs the same logic by which rape victims are blamed for tempting men.

Lynching is in the news, and not just from liberals like me who apply the word to police killing black men at traffic stops. Some conservatives actually call for lynchings. David Dietrich, the Republican chairman of the Electoral Board in Hampton, Virginia, called for the lynching of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin for his efforts to “rid our ranks of racists and extremists,” as Austin put it during his confirmation hearing.

Dietrich was forced to resign. But in the real lynching of Patrick Lyoya by a Grand Rapids cop during a traffic stop on April 4, justice is harder to attain. The fact that Lyoya was unarmed, and that video shows the cop failed to de-escalate before shooting him in the back of the head, will somehow be dismissed by the officer’s attorney. Victims of racist policing are routinely portrayed as deserving what they got.

Events can connect us in seemingly random ways. My paternal grandfather was part of the Dutch immigrant community in Grand Rapids before settling in Washington, DC. My fiancé is Congolese like Lyoya. I think of the millions of Congolese who died under the brutal rule of Leopold II of Belgium, one of history’s less famous mass murderers.

Humanity’s continuing impulse to subjugate, plunder, and murder without consequence gives fresh meaning to old words like colonialism and lynching. Slavery by other means continued for a century after the Civil War despite the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments. Now, as Rev. Dr. William J. Barber puts it, Jim Crow has merely become James Crow, Esquire.

Police insist that their use of force should be up to their own discretion and they should never be questioned over it. There is currently a nasty television ad by the Fraternal Order of Police blaming DC Council officials for an uptick in crime, simply for legislative efforts to hold police accountable.

Raising grievances as a cover for oppression is an old trick. We see it when politicians stoke fear and hatred of transgender people. Fortunately, decent voices are being raised. Openly gay Pennsylvania legislator and US Senate candidate Malcolm Kenyatta said in opposing a bill to bar trans kids from school sports, “There is not a thing in this world wrong with trans kids, not a thing. There is a lot wrong with hateful, cruel adults.”

The reason America does not heal its wounds is that those who sow the seeds of selfishness and vindictiveness find fertile ground. When Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas kidnaps undocumented migrants and buses them to Washington as a political stunt, he is backed by smirking trolls who don’t care at all that they themselves are living on stolen land. It’s always one rule for “us,” and another rule for “them.”

Under the District of Columbia Compensated Emancipation Act of 1862, former slave owners were paid for their loss of property. No compensation was given to those emancipated after generations of bondage, torture, and unrequited toil.

Many white people are outraged by calls for reparations, as if they are accused of personally whipping Kunta Kinte. Dear Karen, no one thinks you are two hundred and fifty years old. The simple fact is that the legacy of the Peculiar Institution lives on in unmerited white skin privilege and in the theft of black wealth that persisted via bank redlining and other practices long after Emancipation.

We are months away from seeing control of Congress be retaken by Republicans in the grip of fascism. This was on the minds of people who attended the LGBTQ Victory Fund national champagne brunch in Washington on April 10. Just as the brunch consisted of more than sparkling wine, the battle ahead requires more than expressions of horror and mockery of Marjorie Taylor Greene. The Victory Fund touted the out candidates they have endorsed in races at all levels across the country.

This is crucial. Of course we should thank and support our allies; but we ourselves need to be in the thick of the fight.

Richard J. Rosendall is a writer and activist at [email protected].

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