Trump’s looming crisis: too much democracy!

Back in 1975, an influential think tank called the Trilateral Commission issued a report titled “The Crisis of Democracy.” The report gloomily described the problems of governance in the major western democracies. According to the report, the problems stemmed “from an excess of democracy” caused primarily by the “new activism” in the United States, especially the robust antiwar movement.

You read that right. Too much democracy was causing headaches for the ruling elite. Poor things.

Today, Trump and the morally bankrupt Republican Party are facing a similar crisis of too much democracy. This time the excess of democracy arises from the growing calls to have universal mail-in balloting for the November presidential elections. Mail-in voting is, in fact, the number one recommendation of the Centers for Disease Control for keeping voters safe in the age of coronavirus.

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My first protest march: 51 years ago

Although I had spent most of the previous year working for the Gene McCarthy for president campaign — the leading anti-Vietnam War candidate of the 1968 election — I didn’t get to personally participate in a mass anti-war demonstration until April 5, 1969, fifty-one years ago. As a 17-year-old, I was impressed.

The march was held in New York City. I and two friends drove up together from our New Jersey suburbs. We rented a double room at a YMCA (in or near Greenwich Village, as best as I recall). We managed to increase the sleeping capacity of the small room when we came upon another room that was in the middle of being cleaned. The door was wide open and the beds were stripped. Most importantly, no one was around. So we grabbed one of the mattresses and ran down the hall to our room. Voila! Accommodations for three.

On Saturday the 5th, we protesters gathered in Bryant Park and eventually marched up Sixth Avenue (the so-called Avenue of the Americas) to Central Park, where the rally was held. The march was kept to one side of Sixth Avenue so traffic could continue to flow. Every once in a while, police would hold up the march to allow crosstown traffic to cross the road. It was all very polite. Somewhere between 50,000 and 100,000 people participated.

I don’t recall any of the speeches or speakers. I don’t recall any of the musical performers, although I’d bet that there were some big names involved. It was New York City, after all, in 1969. What I do remember quite clearly is feeling something I’d never experienced before — the feeling of being part of a movement. A mass movement. It felt powerful. It was exhilarating. It was inspiring. I wanted more. 

The arc of my life started taking shape in 1968 during the McCarthy campaign. The anti-war march in New York cemented it. I’ve been marching ever since. And when this coronavirus thing is finally over, we all better be marching again.

Letters from lockdown: Let’s call it “physical” distancing and practice social “solidarity”

One thing that’s been bothering me from the start of this virus outbreak is the use of the term “social distancing.” Obviously, its widespread use has worked pretty well. People are definitely learning to keep their distance from one another, students on Spring Break in Florida being a notable and regrettable exception.

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Letters from lockdown: We’re up first. Let’s get this right.

Okay, California. We’ve given the world skateboarding, Napa wine, sourdough bread, valley girls and hippies. How about we make this social distancing thing the next hot trend? To do that, we need to take it really seriously. Without losing our California cool, of course.

I think Rose Aguilar summed it up best on her radio program this morning. Rose said she had been “struck” by something she read, that what we need to focus on is setting a good example for the rest of the country. 

That hit home for us, as well. We’re up first. Let’s get this right.

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Rose Aguilar’s program, Your Call Radio, is a key part of the daily routine in our house. We highly recommend it. She’s focusing on the coronavirus emergency these days, of course, and is bringing great resources — and inspiration — to the community. https://www.kalw.org/programs/your-call  In the Bay Area, 10:00 AM Mon – Fri, KALW 91.7 FM.

Letters from lockdown: The announcement

We heard it on the radio in the car, on our way to the horse pasture at the top of the hill, a front row seat overlooking  multiple verdant hills. Sandwiches were on board, packed for a quick picnic lunch — al auto — during what would surely be but a brief break in the rain.

Our radio informed us that starting at midnight, we would not be allowed to do what we were about to do. We were going on lockdown. It appears the San Francisco Bay Area will be the first region in the country to take this step. And our home county is the hot zone right now.

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Other Voices TV: Handicapping the candidates’ positions on Middle East issues

So many hot spots, so little time. I decided to approach this interview using the stances of the Democratic candidates for president as a lens. I think it worked pretty well.

We covered Israel-Palestine, Iran, and Yemen pretty thoroughly, even with only an hour. There’s also a fascinating segment on Sudan, which Prof. Zunes recently visited.

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Years later, a taste of justice for El Salvador

As we walked from El Mozote, where we had just met with the sole survivor of the massacre, we came across an FMLN patrol. That’s me with the camera.

Late last month, in a crowded courtroom in the eastern part of El Salvador, a small taste of justice was granted to survivors of the worst slaughter of civilians in Latin American history. The courtroom in San Francisco Gotera, in the heart of what had been known as the “conflictive zone” during the years-long civil war in El Salvador (1979 – 1992), heard testimony from a former military commander that, for the first time, tied the Salvadoran government and its armed forces to the El Mozote massacre.

Thirty years ago, as the war still raged, I visited El Mozote in the company of the only survivor, Rufina Amaya. It was one of the most emotionally wrenching experiences I’ve had.

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