Who will Call the Question?

This Man who is President is breaking all imaginable standards of basic decency, respect and responsibility.
Many of us have known this, been obsessing about it, and been trying to figure out what to do since his ascendence into power. But the Republicans have enabled him at every turn.
Where was the intervention when he spoke so cruelly about immigrants, women, people of color? When he passed rules and regulations that destroy honorable diplomacy? When he bullied and lied every day?
Trump has been dragging the entire country down the proverbial “slippery slope” since his illegitimate electoral “victory” 20 months ago, enabled by cowardly(at best), and collusive (at worst) Republican enablers.
STOP. Enough.
The Republicans in Congress have all the power. The Courts have other judicial restraints. The opposition cannot be “loyal”, even a little bit, for even a minute more.
Congress can meet and censure him. Congress can demand that he resign. A group of Bipartisan leaders can visit him unofficially, and/or with police escort, and demand his resignation. They can declare him unfit for office. Pence can denounce him and call for him resign, or threaten in own resignation.  But this has to stop.
If Republicans at every level don’t demand this now, shame on them.  Same on us all if we allow it to continue as if it is normal.  The world is waiting, and watching. Our children and grandchildren are waiting.
Enough. No excuses.
If we don’t do all we can to stop him now we are ALL guilty.

Ann Withorn, Citizen, Outraged inhabitant of this state, this nation this world. July 2018.

Acting Up, Not Out


On May 3,  I gave this as Keynote Conversation at York University in Toronto http://ppw.info.yorku.ca

Acting Up, Not Out: Facing the Perils and Possibilities of Radical Practice

Kieran Allen, Chair, Co-Animators: Ifrah Ali, John Clarke, Sandy Hudson, David McNally, Petra Molnar, Justin Podur, and Sheila Regehr


1. What can we learn from the history of radical movements, and where do we fit into this history?

2. What constitutes a Radical Practice for us today?

3. Who are we up against, and how do we face the implications of their assumptions and goals?

4. How do we respond to internal disagreements within our movements and still Keep on Keeping on?

5. How can we continue to move and act with radical vision and skills — in the face of these Very Bad times with all their accompanying pressures to settle for “realistic” options?

6. What are Some Radical Specifics for Radical Policy Changes? —–A Working List: Modify and Add to it…
See Ann’s website for more context https://radicalreentry.com

QUESTION ONE: What can we learn from the history of radical movements, and where do we fit into this history?

• We can’t learn without history, AND we must not romanticize it. We do so with real stories, with real people in them. Remember those times when identification with “The Movement” brought out the best in us.

• The Abolitionist Movement was the “touchstone movement” that set the model of bedrock commitment to radical equality. At its best, it exposed white supremacy as profoundly toxic –even if most white Americans didn’t all learn this lesson deeply enough.

• The Abolitionist Movement was inspired and led by people who experienced slavery personally, and who taught others to engage in “the movement” in myriad ways, setting an example for broad-based movements that has not been equaled.

QUESTION TWO: What constitutes Radical Practice for us today

• What is radically wrong must be examined carefully, and collective means for achieving change must be presented openly, without downplaying costs, or denying consequences. Otherwise our Movement should not be trusted.

• Inclusiveness and Openness about methods and standards for Radical Movement Practice are essential, as is a self-aware, committed base. Written expectations are good: “What is to Be Done and How do we know we are doing it?” — but folks must avoid danger of “the form remaining while the spirit passes away.”

• Assumptions of Radical Reformism (Gorz) are essential — failures MUST suggest the next radical change — not de-legitimate radical goals, even as they are subject to constant self-criticism

QUESTION THREE Who and What are we up against? and how do we face the implications of their assumptions and goals?

• The Opposition is composed of real people with fundamentally reactionary values and goals. Acknowledge, don’t dismiss, nor demean their commitment and the seriousness of their cause. Read their literature. Be prepared to expose the dangers, without fear of being “rigid.”

• Trump is NOT a joke, neither are his sycophants, followers and enablers — they knowingly hurt real people every day, and frighten those already in jeopardy.

• We cannot see individual Right-wingers as just “mistaken” or “misled”. Until they publicly apologize, it’s not worth the effort to try to change closed minds. BUT, we must gather evidence and prepare sharp counter arguments.

• White Supremacy blocks people from considering other explanations for what hurts them. We cannot forget this, and must figure out how to talk about and fight it everywhere, all the time

QUESTION FOUR; How do we respond to internal disagreements within our movements and still Keep on Keeping on?

• Don’t deny our disagreements. They are reasonable and should be examined — even if they finally lead to rearrangement of relationships. We can disagree respectfully and part without acrimony or making all “choose sides.”

• Constantly seek new alliances, and forge collaborative relationships, built on explorations of differences and openness about past tensions. The message: we don’t all have to agree but we can’t deny the implications of our arguments

• Remind ourselves of original goals, and specifically ask ourselves if they need rethinking — because of changing circumstances and new members. Anticipate internal change.

QUESTION FIVE: Nothing to IT, but to Do it — How do we continue to move and act with radical vision and skills — in the face of these Very Bad times, with all their accompanying pressures to settle for “realistic” options?

• Know what has changed. Don’t be fooled — keep seeking a wider net of potential comrades. Get to know each other as fellow human beings.

• Assume that leadership and demographics of power within our movement will, and MUST change over time. White people, especially men, must stand aside and assume supporting roles. LBGT presence is a Positive asset, as it lots of variety of cultural inclusion. Accept that this is not temporary, and is substantively essential. Respect and early questioning of past assumptions are our only hope.

• Keep track of ourselves, our tensions, our changes. Create the primary material for future history. Keep on Keeping On


Don’t shy away from proposing because they seem “impossible;” or it is not clear how to fund them. Of course, we will need more Public money — So What? AND be open for Critical Questioning from within.   KEEP CORRECTING, AND ADDING TO THE LIST, BUT STAY THINKING BIG
  •  Universal non-categorical Basic Income for All
  • Free Higher Education and a Student Loan Debt Jubilee
  • National Service for All — beyond military service, all non-profit community, educational and social service — with equivalent national benefits for two years before or after high school equivalency
  • Health Care for All — keep expanding the vision of “public”, and lowering regard for “private”
  • Open Immigration — why boundaries?
  • End Mass Incarceration, the criminalization of poverty and the Prison Industrial Complex
  • End Disability exceptionalism which relegates people with disabilities to a side issue
  • Gender Parity in leadership — Exceptions are not Allowed, otherwise we never get there
  • Universal environmental protections


Freedom is always, and exclusively, freedom for the ones who think differently.”―Rosa Luxemburg

“To be truly radical is to make hope possible rather than despair convincing”
― Raymond Williams

“Next time, ask: What’s the worst that will happen? Then push yourself a little further than you dare. Once you start to speak, people will yell at you. They will interrupt you, put you down and suggest it’s personal. And the world won’t end.
And the speaking will get easier and easier. And you will find you have fallen in love with your own vision, which you may never have realized you had. And you will lose some friends and lovers, and realize you don’t miss them. And new ones will find you and cherish you. And at last you’ll know with surpassing certainty that only one thing is more frightening than speaking your truth.
And that is not speaking.”— Audre Lorde

Fascism on our Doorstep? Crazy to think so? even if it may not be true (yet)…

Timothy Snyder is a Yale historian whose writing about Fascism and authoritarianism in Europe has reinforced my long-held defense of a state, with publically recognized rules, as essential for protecting ourselves in the worst of times. Without an identifiable public state system of some sort, it is harder for anyone to claim rights, name wrongs, and build movements for economic or social justice.

In Bloodlands: the Holocaust as History and Warning, (2016), Snyder offers a telling analysis of how this works. I draw upon his thinking when I challenge my more anarchist comrades’  blanket denunciations of “the state” or the “welfare systems.” I use his historical analysis of how the rendering of Jews as “stateless” allowed Nazis in Eastern Europe to destroy people much more efficiently and quickly than they were able to do in Germany,.  I cite him when I argue that many refugees in the US today are especially vulnerable because they often cannot claim any “rights of citizenship;” anywhere.  We can’t even deport people back to “failed states” that will not  or cannot claim to protect them.

Because I find his writing so powerful, I sometimes call myself a “Timothy Snyder groupie.” I try to hear him whenever he speaks locally, or on NPR, or anywhere on the web. I read what he writes, and am increasingly comforted by how he too fears so many of the same things I do.  And he seems increasingly willing to speak out.

Snyder sees the deep, radical danger posed by Trumpism — not just because of his particular fixations regarding health care, reform, or “Islamic terrorism”, or Russia, or whatever else he decides is “bad” on this day. . Snyder too is willing to label Trump’s whole approach to governing,  and to the state he now controls, as incipiently “fascist”. He sees it as coming out of the same cesspool of white supremacy, nationalism, and misogyny that has been present since the founding of this nation.. He is even willing to suggests possibilities that may not work out.

We should all listen, hard.  .

Please read this interview, share it if you will, and tell me what you think.

If We Don’t Act Now, Fascism Will Be on Our Doorstep, Yale Historian Timothy Snyder warns;

By Steven Rosenfeld / AlterNet 3/ 7/2017

How close is President Donald Trump to following the path blazed by last century’s tyrants? Could American democracy be replaced with totalitarian rule? There’s enough resemblance that Yale historian Timothy Snyder, who studies fascist and communist regime change and totalitarian rule, has written a book warning about the threat and offering lessons for resistance and survival. The author of On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century talked to AlterNet’s Steven Rosenfeld.

Steven Rosenfeld: Three weeks ago, you said that the country has perhaps a year ‘to defend American democracy.’ You said what happens in the next few weeks is crucial. Are you more concerned than ever that our political culture and institutions are evolving toward fascism, resembling key aspects of the early 20th-century European regimes you’ve studied?

Timothy Snyder: Let me answer you in three parts. The first thing is that the 20 lessons that I wrote, I wrote on November 15th. The book, On Tyranny, was done by Christmas. Which means if people read it now, and people are reading it, and it’s describing the world they are in, that means I’ve successfully made predictions based on history. We’re going to talk about what is going to come, but I want to point out that timeline—it was basically completely blind. But the book does describe what is going on now.

The year figure is there because we have to recognize that things move fast. Nazi Germany took about a year. Hungary took about two and a half years. Poland got rid of the top-level judiciary within a year. It’s a rough historical guess, but the point is because there is an outside limit, you therefore have to act now. You have to get started early. It’s just very practical advice. It’s the meta-advice of the past: That things slip out of reach for you, psychologically very quickly, and then legally almost as quickly. It’s hard for people to act when they feel other people won’t act. It’s hard for people to act when they feel like they have to break the law to do so. So it is important to get out in front before people face those psychological and legal barriers.

Am I more worried now? I realize that was your question. No, I’m exactly as worried as I was before, in November. I think that the people who inhabit the White House inhabit a different ideological world in which they would like for the United States not to be the constitutional system that it now is. I was concerned about that in November. I’m concerned about it now. Nothing that has happened since has changed the way I see things.

SR: Let’s talk about how this evolution takes place. You’ve written about how ‘post-truth is pre-fascism.’ You talk about leaders ignoring facts, law and history. How far along this progression are we? I’m wondering where you might see things going next.

TS: That’s tough because what history does is give you a whole bunch of cases where democratic republics beco regimes; sometimes fascist regimes, sometimes communist regimes. It doesn’t give you one storyline: A, B, C, D. It gives you a bunch of clusters of A, and a bunch of clusters of C. But factuality is really important and more important than people realize, because it’s the substructure of regime change.

We think about democracy, and that’s the word that Americans love to use, democracy, and that’s how we characterize our sem. But if democracy just means going to vote, it’s pretty meaningless. Russia has democracy in that sense. Most authoritarian regimes have democracy in that sense. Nazi Germany had democracy in that sense, even after the system had fundamentally changed.

Democracy only has substance if there’s the rule of law. That is, if people believe that the votes are going to be counted and they are counted. If they believe that there’s a judiciary out there that will make sense of things if there’s some challenge. If there isn’t rule of law, people will be afraid to vote the way they want to vote. They’ll vote for their own safety as opposed to their convictions. So the thing we call democracy depends on the rule of law. And the things we call the rule of law depends upon trust. Law functions 99 percent of the time automatically. It functions because we think it’s out there. And that, in turn, depends on the sense of truth. So there’s a mechanism here. You can get right to heart of the matter if you can convince people that there is no truth. Which is why the stuff that we characterize as post-modern and might dismiss is actually really, really essential.

The second thing about ‘post-truth is pre-fascism’ is I’m trying to get people’s attention, because that is actually how fascism works. Fascism says, disregard the evidence of your senses, disregard observation, embolden deeds that can’t be proven, don’t have faith in god but have faith in leaders, take part in collective myth of an organic national unity, and so forth. Fascism was precisely about setting the whole Enlightenment aside and then selling what sort of myths emerged. Now those [national] myths are pretty unpredictable, and contingent on different nations and different leaders and so on, but to just set facts aside is actually the fastest catalyst. So that part concerns me a lot.

Where we’re going? The classic thing to watch out for is the shift from one governing strategy to another. In the U.S. system, the typical governing strategy is you more or less have to follow your constituents with legislation because of the election cycle. That’s one pulse of politics. The other pulse of politics is emergency. There’s some kind of terrorist attack and then the leader tries to suspend basic constitutional rights. And then we get on a different rhythm, where the rhythm is not one electoral cycle to the next but one emergency to the next. That’s how regime changes take place. It’s a classic way since the Reichstag fire [when the Nazis burned their nation’s capitol building and blamed communist arsonists].

So in terms of what might happen next, or what people could look out for, some kind of event that the government claims is a terrorist incident, would be something to be prepared for. That’s why it’s one of the lessons in the book.SR: You have talked before about that kind of emergency justification—and even with Vladimir Putin in Russia. Is that what you think would happen here? Because with the exception of the judiciary, a lot of American institutions, like Congress, are not really resisting. They’re going along.TS: They’re going along… but my own intuition would be the emergency situation arises because going along isn’t going to be enough. Paradoxically, Congress is going along and is going to pass a bunch of stuff, which is not actually very popular. Right? It’s not going to be so popular to have millions of people lose health insurance, which is what’s going to happen. The ironic things about the Republican Congress is now it has the ability to do everything it wants to do, but none of what it wants to do is that popular. Except with the few big lobbies, of course. The freedom the Republicans have is the freedom to impose their agenda on down.

The same thing goes with Mr. Trump. The things that he might do that some people would like, like building a wall or driving all the immigrants out, those things are going to be difficult or slow. In the case of the wall, I personally don’t believe it will ever happen. It’s going to be very slow. So my suspicion is that it is much easier to have a dramatic negative event, than have a dramatic positive event. That is one of the reasons I am concerned about the Reichstag fire scenario. The other reason is that we are being mentally prepared for it by all the talk about terrorism and by the Muslim ban. Very often when leaders repeat things over and over they are preparing you for when that meme actually emerges in reality.

SR: I want to change the topic slightly. You cite many examples from Germany in 1933, the year Hitler consolidated power. So what did ordinary Germans miss that’s relevant for ordinary Americans now? I know some of this is the blurring of facts. But when I have talked to Holocaust survivors, they often say, nobody ever thought things would be that bad, or nobody thought he Germans would go as far as they did.

TS: The German Jews then, and people now, don’t understand how quick their neighbors will change; don’t understand how quickly society can change. They don’t understand the fact that a life that’s been predictable for a long time, doesn’t mean that it will be predictable tomorrow. And people like to think that their experience is exceptional. German Jews might have thought, ‘Well, there were pogroms [ethnic cleansing] in Russia, but surely nothing like that could happen here.’ That’s what many German Jews thought. So one issue is people need to realize how quickly things can change.

The second thing that German Jews were not aware of, or Germans were not aware of, was how new media can quickly change conversations. In that way, it’s not exactly the same, but radio at that time often ended up being a channel for propaganda. There are parallels with the internet now, where there were hopes that it would be [primarily] enlightening. But in fact, it turns out that with presidential tweets, or with bots, or isolated habits of viewing, it isn’t necessarily enlightening. It’s the opposite. A lot of us were blindsided by the internet in much the same way that people could be blindsided by radio in the 1930s.But here’s the other view. The one that we have that German Jews didn’t have in 1933 is we have their experience. That’s the premise of the whole book; the premise is that the 20th century showed us what can happen, and there’s lots of wonderful scholarship by German historians and others, which breaks down what can happen and how. And so, one of the first things that we should be doing is taking advantage of the one opportunity that we really have that they didn’t, which is to learn from that history. And that’s the premise of the book.

SR: All of your book’s lessons are very personal: Don’t obey in advance. Believe in truth. Stand out. Defend institutions. Be calm but as courageous as you can be. Yet the change or oppression that you are talking about is systemic and institutional. What do you say to people who say, ‘I’ll try, but I may not have the power here.’ There’s that cliche, tilting at windmills. …

TS: Well, if everyone tilted against a windmill, the windmill would fall down, right? Party of the tragedy of Don Quixote is he’s tilting against the wrong thing. So that’s not our problem. We’re pretty sure what the problem is. But he was also alone except for his faithful companion. We’re not really alone. There are millions and millions of people who are looking for that thing to do. Just by sheer math, if everyone does a little thing, it will make a difference. And much of what I am recommending is—you’re right, they are things that people can do, but they also involve some kind of engagement. Whether it’s the small talk [with those you disagree with] or whether it’s the corporeal politics. And that little bit of engagement helps you realize that what you are doing has a kind of sense, even if it doesn’t immediately change the order.

And finally, a lot of the political theory that I am calling upon, which comes from the anti-Nazis and the anti-communists, makes the point that even though you don’t realize it, your own example matters a whole lot, whether it’s positively or negatively. There are times, and this is one of those times, where small gestures, or their absence, can make a huge difference. So the things that might not have mattered a year ago do matter now. The basic thing is we are making a difference whether we realize it or not, and the basic question is whether it is positive or negative.

Let me put it a different way. Except for really dramatic moments, most of the time authoritarianism depends on some kind of cycle involving a popular consent of some form. It really does matter how we behave. The danger is [if] we say, ‘Well, we don’t see how it matters, and so therefore we are going to just table the whole question.’ If we do that, then we start to slide along and start doing the things that the authorities expect of us. Which is why lesson number one is: Don’t obey in advance. You have to set the table differently. You have to say, ‘This is a situation in which I need to think for myself about all of the things that I am going to do and not just punt. Not just wait. Nor just see how things seems to me. Because if you do that, then you change and you actually become part of the regime change toward authoritarianism.’

SR: You cite in the book something I read in high school: Eugene Ionesco’s existential play about fascism, Rhinoceros, where people talk about their colleagues at work, in academia, saying stuff like, ‘Come on, I don’t agree with everything, but give him a chance.’ Ionesco’s point is that people join an unthinking herd before they know it.

What would you suggest people do, when they run into others who fall on this spectrum?

TS: There are a few questions here. One is how to keep yourself going. Another is how to energize other people who agree with you. And the third thing is not quite Rhinoceros stuff, but how to catch people who are slipping. Like that CNN coverage last week of the speech to Congress, where one of the CNN commentators said, ‘Oh, now this is presidential.’ That was a Rhinoceros moment, because there was nothing presidential—it was atrocious to parade the victims of crimes committed by one ethnicity. That was atrocious and there’s nothing presidential about it.

Catching Rhinoceros moments is one thing. I think it’s really important to think about. The example that Ionesco gives is people saying, ‘Yeah, on one hand, with the Jews, maybe they are right.’ With Trump, people will say something like, ‘Yeah, but on taxes, maybe he’s right.’ And the thing to catch is, ‘Yeah, but are you in favor of regime change? Are you in favor of the end of the American way of democracy and fair play?’ Because that’s what’s really at stake.

With people all the way over at the end of the spectrum who are now confident about Trump—that’s a different subject. I think it’s important to maintain impossible human relations across that divide, because some of those people are going to change their minds. It’s harsh. But some will change their minds, and if they have no one to talk to, it will be much harder for them to change their minds. At different points on the spectrum, you have to think in different ways. My own major concern right now is with self-confidence and the energy of the people who do have the deep—and, I think incorrect—conviction that something has gone wildly wrong.

SR: The people who have the conviction that something has gone wildly wrong—that can describe Trump supporters and Trump opponents.

TS: That’s a good point. So much of this is personal. In the book, I don’t actually mention anybody’s name, except the thinkers who I admire. So much of this is personal that people think, ‘Well, if you say anything critical, it is about you as a person, and how you don’t like anything about someone who likes Trump.’ That’s a way for there to be no political discussion.

I think it’s useful, even though you will never win the argument, when you are talking about people who support to the administration, to stay at the level of the Constitution. To stay at the level of freedom, or stay at the level of basic issues, like, is global warming really going to be so great, when the entire Pentagon says that it is a national security threat? Or, is it really such a good idea to treat Muslims like this? Or, is it really going to be so good when millions of people lose health insurance?

Keep it at the level of issues as much as possible, because what I’ve found is the pattern that people shift to is, ‘Why are you going to be so hard on this guy? Give him a chance.’ But the issues of what’s constitutional, what is actually American, and what’s going to be a policy that they are going to be proud of a year from now—keep the conversation closest to the Constitution. It’s easiest to be dismissed when it’s personal. And fundamentally, this is the trick. It isn’t personal. It doesn’t matter who’s in charge. What matters is the system, which people of very different convictions take for granted, is now under threat.

SR: You have said that the Muslims are being targeted as the Jews were targeted in Germany. But out here in California, it also feels like the deportation machinery is getting ready for undocumented immigrants. On Monday, Reuters reported that Homeland Security officials said they might separate mothers from kids when making arrests. Germany did that as it rounded up Jews. Don’t they face just as grave a threat?

TS: With the Muslims, the resemblance to anti-Semitic policy in Germany in ’33 is that if you can pick some group and make them stand in for some international threat, then you can change domestic politics, because domestic politics then is no longer about compromises and competing interests, domestic politics is about who inside the society should actually be seen and outside the society. Once you get the wedge in with the first group, them you essentially win. It could be the Muslims. It could be somebody else, is the point. The political logic is basically the same.

With undocumented immigrants, I think the logic might be a little bit different. I think the goal might be to get us used to seeing a certain kind of police power. And getting us used to seeing things happening to people in public. And then if we get used to that, then we might be more willing for the dial to turn a little bit further. It’s too soon for me to speculate confidently about all of this.

I think you’re right though, it could be the Muslims, but it doesn’t have to be the Muslims. The crucial thing is to get some kind of in [political opening] where people go along with or accept stigmatization. And the logic is there’s always some kind of threat that comes from beyond the country. And that we can fix that threat on a group of people inside the country. And if you go along with this, what else are you agreeing to go along with?

SR: To go back to your book, what you’re saying is that people should be vigilant, should know their values and participate at some level with making those values known, because that is what ordinary people can do.

TS: Yes. The point of the book is [that] we are facing a real crisis and a real moment of choice. The possibilities are much darker than Americans are used to considering. But at the same time, what we can do is much more important than we realize. The regime will only change if the gamble of the people in the White House is right: That many of us despise many others of us and that most of us are indifferent. If it turns out that there are emotions and values that are more numerous and more vibrant than indifference and hatred, things are going to be okay. That depends on us. That depends on us making certain realizations. It depends on us acting fast. In that sense it’s a test, not just collectively. Maybe there’s no such thing as a collective test. But it is a test for us individually.

Most Americans who haven’t been abroad haven’t been faced by something like this. And hopefully they won’t be faced with it again. But we are faced with it as citizens and as individuals. And I think, five or 10 years from now, no matter how things turn out, we’ll ask ourselves—or our children will ask us—how we behaved in 2017.









Trying to Keep on Top of the Craziness

The barrage of stories from the first month of Trump’s Reign of Reaction has been intense.  I wake up ready to respond to the latest outrage.  But before I can compose myself, others have done so, with more clarity than I can muster.  For example, just last week, I was ready to write a broiling post entitled:  Republicans to Elizabeth Warren: “Shut Up, Girlie. We don’t even want to hear your shrill voice”: Our response:”We are women, Hear us Roar.”  But by then Maureen Dowd, Michelle Alexander,  or Gail Collins, and lots of others had already roared. So who was I to think my voice was so special?

Still, I guilt trip myself: why did I miss a meeting, or a resistance conference call: “How can I not be there? Will I miss a crucial act in the Seizure of Power? Or the chance to hear the One Good Idea that will show us the way to act, or at least to think?  I, who declare myself to be “Radically Reentering”? I obsess. I forward enough emails for my friends to block me.  I irritate my loved ones — one of whom said quietly to me “Mom, I read the news too.” I don’t write in my blog often because it seems too public, unpolished, and since I am so hyped up, I may have to apologize within a day for what I said, or didn’t say.

I remember being this worked up 45 years ago. As a budding historian I had never thought this county could launch a revolution from the Left, although as a White Southerner I was always ready for any  Rightwing rebellion.  But then, on a Movement bus to hear some Black Panthers speak out against the War, and racism, and “Amerika”,  I heard myself say: “maybe we will have a Revolution, because I just can’t take it anymore.”

Luckily, I figured out quickly how foolish, and self-absorbed, this was.  “We” had no plan, no strategy, no sense even of who constituted our “we” — and certainly we had no analysis of who would be the losers if we radicals were wrong in declaring that the Time was Now. We white radicals had no ideas about how to get out of the way so that those who would be most in danger in any revolution could take leadership. We simply were not the ones to lead any revolution in this so badly compromised USA.  We shouldn’t try to do so; we couldn’t do so, and if we tried, we would fuck up and others who were poorer and darker would pay the price for our arrogance.

SO I kept trying:  trying to live with a sense of purpose, to teach, write and act as part of the Resistance.  To be someone who never expected or wanted to fit in.  Sure , because I was a white, heterosexual and married, I was able to find a base within a public university in a Northern state and city.  So I was able to be ok.   I tried to stay oppositional in words, if not always in deeds. But this was seldom more than an internally generated necessity.  I had no community demanding radical resistance from me, no one to really hold me to account.

But that doesn’t feel true now.

These are crazy-making times.  I have no excuses.  Even more, I have deep obligations to resist to a point of intensity that makes others uncomfortable, or to avoid me. I don’t know what this means, really.  But I have to keep at it, with help from my friends and those who must insist.  Exactly because I know that the Forces of Reaction will win a lot more before they can be pushed back, I have to keep at it, in any way this poor 70 year old mind and body can manage.

New resources for resistance

I submitted this to the Boston Globe:  Who Knows If it will be printed?

Globe coverage of Donald Trump’s first days in office has been strong. The reportage and editorial commentary were pointed, especially in regard to his most immediately endangered targets — refugees, immigrants, all Muslims, and the Affordable Care Act.Keep it up.

BUT, at the same time, please focus also on the people who will continue to be victims of his policies and politics. African Americans, Latinos and poor people will remain every day losers in his “great again” America. Your white readers especially must reminded of this, not just offered new daily victims to protect and defend.

Trump himself often says, “you know what I mean.” So we do. As do Globe writers and readers. Do not pick only the day’s most vulnerable to write about. Pay attention to all in harm’s way. Otherwise, this man and his handlers will slip more meanness through the cracks of any walls he proposes to build.       Ann Withorn, Professor of Social Policy emeritus

ALSO Check out the new additions to the Resources Pages of my website…More to come, but these seems especially useful today

Trump and Whiteness November 11

Trump and Whiteness


It’s been 72 hours since the Election from Hell stopped, but didn’t really end. I have the sad feeling that I am at the beginning of Faulkner’s past that did not end.. It is not even past.

I am prompted by Boston activist Harry Spence’s insightful Facebook post:

The amazing thing is that after Trump’s total defeat in the debates and the revelation of his predatory sexual behavior, support for him seemed to collapse. But in a few short weeks, he regained all of his earlier support and more, even after there was no longer any question about the kind of person he is. Three quarters of white men and over half of white women voted for him with full knowledge of all his qualities. What does that tell us?

A majority of those making less than $50,000 a year voted for Clinton. Trump’s support was strongest in the $50-250,000 population. This was not a revolt of those most victimized by globalization; it was a revolt of those who feared their status endangered—by a changing economy, by racial and gender diversity, by America’s changing place in the world. Angered and terrified by a rapidly changing world, they grabbed at the promise that they could go backward in time, and return to a time when they were certain of their relative status. “There is no rage like the rage of the privileged” and the fear of losing privileges that accrued to people due to their national, gender and racial identity overwhelmed their moral judgments of the candidate they selected.

When fear overwhelms moral judgment and constraints, we are in a dangerous time.

Yes Harry, and I thank you for saying this so well.

For me, it’s whiteness that is the most important among the people you identify: “those who feared their status endangered—by a changing economy, by racial and gender diversity, by America’s changing place in the world.”

It’s white people we have to look out for and, yes, disempower. If white men and women can’t get over themselves and accept that their America was never great, and that their White Privilege was neither real nor superior but rather is, and always was, a curse, then the only thing everyone else who disagrees can do is to move on and push white people, as such, to the margins.

The “British Empire” was powerful and arrogant and is now is a joke. White power is an anachronism, despite the Trump-induced reactionary death rattle.

There are still people living in Britain — they just don’t own and rule the waves, or the world.

There is no country to “take back,” only a better, more interesting multi-colored world to join, if it will accept us in spite of our historic crimes.

White people can admit this and join with the whole human race, or keep resisting it and keep looking more and more pathetic, like the Donald. Either way, it’s over.

As a white person I can feel immense relief.. Good riddance. I just hope it’s not too late for some of us to seek, and be granted, forgiveness for accepting the undeserved, unearned benefits of whiteness for far too long.

And we can only earn such forgiveness by fighting back against Trumpism within (but not leading) a full blown movement that is demanding a more just world.


More thoughts about the election emerged from my fevered brain as I obsessively wrote after election day. They may or may not make sense, but they were all I could manage in the fog of what felt like despair.  I don’t like despair.

November 9:

On the one hand, it is not so hard for me to process Hillary’s loss. She was an uninspiring candidate because she was so scripted and so mainstream neoliberal.  Despite being a woman, she WAS not the change we needed. Yet Hillary wasn’t evil. She could have governed, as well as Obama did, probably better, for better and for worse — despite her hawkishness and elitist We-know-betterism.”  She was qualified, sane and wasn’t defending whiteness nor xenophobia. Objectively we would all have been ok if she were elected, and still facing a struggle for more.

But, thoughts about Hillary mellowed as I became ever more aware of who Trump is and what he represents. He is not your usual capitalist, conservative Republican. He is dangerous to all of us and can’t be opposed in the usual ways.

Hillary did not lose because she is not a socialist nor an opponent of neoliberalism;  Trump won because of who is. When he says knowingly, “you know what I mean,” he is correct; he is truly a racist, misogynist, xenophobic bullying demagogue, No doubt about it. We do know what he means.

As a white Southerner,  I recognize and am frightened, up-close and personal, by the cruelty and deep reactionary forces he stands for. I don’t think any of us can know what he will do. That in itself is scary.

Even more unsettling, is that so many of my fellow citizens would actually go into a polling place and vote FOR him. David Duke supports him; his followers are the kinds of white people who have kept this country from EVER being great over its entire history. They have always been there, but seldom if ever so fully represented the whole nation. As Lincoln said, the “better angels of our nature” usually pushed such folks to the side, except in the whitest places–like the South I grew up in and in other places defined by racial entitlement and white separateness.

Sure, some white folks have real reasons to be frightened, to feel left behind, disrespected and undervalued. But they aren’t the only ones who are hurting — a social fact that they pointedly miss.

Black people have always in all circumstances been at greater risk, as have gay people, and most identifiable immigrants from anywhere. And in large part, their pain has been directly connected to the actions, structures and words of the very white people who feel so aggrieved by the personal misery that they blame on the “others” who dare to claim equality with them.

Trump claims (however falsely and manipulatively) to speak for such people. He proclaims that he alone can lead them “to take our country back.” Now he is fairly elected President with no limits of party or creed to contain him–that terrifies me. The rage and sense of righteous woundedness that the white people who chose him embody leaves me frozen

.I have seldom, if ever, been able to talk rationally with such folks, whether in my birth family, or on the bus, at social gatherings, or in the park.  Now it feels impossible.

  • At U.Mass. Boston, I could foster discussions in my role as professor, but now I’m not there;
  • With union comrades, with whom I worked in various settings, it was easier because we came together out of a sense that solidarity mattered, that class unity was primary;
  • I’m an atheist, but could sometimes find ways to connect with people in “interfaith” dialogue, out of some shared history of humanitarian religious values — “do unto others, as”, “god is love”, “judge not lest ye be judged” etc. etc.

But now I feel pretty isolated, safe only with those I know aren’t hateful, and fearful of being around anyone who could actually vote for Trump.

Nov. 10:

Last night I went to a spontaneous rally/march on Boston Common. I felt safe chanting “Trump’s not MY President” with hundreds of young “socialists” of all stripes and colors, in front of many, many cops, I didn’t know a soul, but I belonged there. It was at the exact same place where I was once hit by police (after chanting “fuck you, men in Blue,” at an anti-police violence rally in 1970). I didn’t want to be anywhere else.

Last night we were all just glad to be together and outraged that this white man, this rich charlatan, could have won–elected President by the most dangerous elements in America.  We weren’t them. We all had at least one thing that upset us most, that brought us to yell louder–his anti-immigrant threats, his violence, his racism, or his attacks on women and anti-abortion rights. But we were all there together, angry, and unafraid, and part of a real “movement” based on shared solidarity, and knowing that “love trumps hate.”

It was the right place to be, not at an endless meeting focused on strategic plans, by-laws, and position papers. There is always time for that.





It’s not just Boston (Vote ‘no’ on Question 2 – The Boston Globe)

The article below was written by Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and was printed in the Boston Globe as an argument for VOTE NO on Expanding the number of Charter Schools in MA —         Chttps://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/2016/10/18/vote-question/G9mDK1u7xe8TG4PNlN1QbK/story.html

“By Martin J. Walsh OCTOBER 18, 2016
AS A FOUNDING board member of the Neighborhood House Charter School in Dorchester, I’m a longtime supporter of Boston’s charter schools. Last year, as mayor, I proposed state legislation to raise the cap on charter school growth while also giving charter schools access to state building funds for the first time.

It may surprise some, then, that I am voting “no” on ballot Question 2 — and urging everyone in the Commonwealth to do the same.

My reasons are clear. Question 2 does not just raise the cap. Over time, it would radically destabilize school governance in Massachusetts — not in any planned way, but by super-sizing an already broken funding system to a scale that would have a disastrous impact on students, their schools, and the cities and towns that fund them.

This impact would hit Boston especially hard. Twenty-five percent of statewide charter school seats, and 36 percent of the seats added since 2011, are in Boston. Each year, the city sends charter schools a large and growing portion of its state education aid to fund them. This funding system is unsustainable at current levels and would be catastrophic at the scale proposed by the ballot question.
For one thing, state reimbursements to cover the district’s transitional costs have been underfunded by $48 million over the last three fiscal years, a shortfall projected to grow into the hundreds of millions if the ballot question passes.

On charter schools, a new partisan divide
With just weeks to go before voters consider a plan to expand charter schools in the state, Democrats have swung against the question in large numbers.

In addition, our charter school assessment is based on a raw per-student average that does not adequately account for differing student needs and the costs of meeting them. This system punishes Boston Public Schools for its commitments to inclusive classrooms and sheltered English immersion, as well as everything from vocational education to social and emotional learning.

If those factors don’t tilt the playing field enough, there’s a kicker. Because our charter school assessment is based largely on the district’s spending, the more high-needs students are concentrated in district schools — and the more we have to compensate for withheld reimbursements — the higher our charter payments grow. Currently, our charter school assessment is 5 percent of the city’s entire budget. Under the ballot proposal, it would grow to almost 20 percent in just over a decade. It’s a looming death spiral for our district budget, aimed squarely at the most vulnerable children in our city. It’s not just unsustainable, it’s unconscionable.

I have heard it argued that this kind of financial pressure is needed to force Boston and other districts into making long-overdue reforms. In fact, Superintendent Tommy Chang has advanced an ambitious and thoughtful change agenda. We are completing a long-term financial plan to focus our spending more effectively, efficiently, and equitably on classrooms. We are using an equity-and-data lens to make decisions about our facilities footprint and grade configurations. We are reducing transportation costs. We have increased school autonomy and modernized hiring practices, and petitioned the state for even more flexibility in these areas. Instead of accelerating reforms, the ballot proposal would undermine our planning and replace steady progress with increasingly bitter budget, facilities, and labor disputes.

My final reason for opposing Question 2 is as someone who values and cares about our charter schools. Massachusetts is rightly proud of how our charters have transcended the unremarkable performance and shocking scandals that have beset charters in many other states. That success is built on 20 years of sound growth. I know from experience how much planning it takes to launch and grow a strong charter school. Since the first schools opened, in 1995, the Commonwealth has added an average of 1,762 charter students each year. The ballot question could more than quadruple that rate, with increases concentrated in Boston and other urban districts. This reckless growth would change our charter culture and greatly increase the likelihood of school failures that hurt kids and discredit the reform movement.

The fact is, Boston has the best charter schools and the best district schools of any major city in the nation — both with long waiting lists and fiercely proud school communities. The way to continue our progress and bring it to all students is not through wholesale upheaval that pits school against school and family against family. It is through a sustainable funding system and greater collaboration.

This ballot question is not a referendum on charter schools. It is a deeply misguided proposal that is fundamentally hostile to the progress of school improvement, the financial health of municipalities, and the principle of local control. I urge everyone to join me on Nov. 8 in voting “no” on Question 2. Then we can get to work — together — to improve all our schools.

My response is:

……This is how the “elite leadership classes” classes do it today. Remember R.D. Laing? It’s a classic “knot”.

They back down by switching positions in the face of defeat — and then they claim victory. They almost deny they were ever on the other side. In fact, they seem to say that actually, there never was another side because the side they are on at the moment is always the right side. Until it isn’t…Mayor Walsh was for the Olympics, then he wasn’t. Because he never really was. He was always just for Boston.
He is for charters, but now he’s against Question 2 because it will really hurt charters, even if it claims to be pro-charter???? What’s the sense here?

I had not worried about the Mayor as a neoliberal before, he didn’t seem that astute. But he obviously has some as his advisors, at least. And the problem is, we DO need to stop this ballot question… as with the Olympics, and Trump.
But talk about reclaiming the narrative with a fast switcheroo.

This helps clarify my unease about the latest simplistic electoral shift. We can now all be against Trump (not Republicans, just Trump) because he is a misogynist.
He is. That’s true. But what about his Islamophobia? Or his white supremacy? His xenophobia? His radical capitalism? His patriotism? And “Making America Great again” is the biggest lie we are not calling him out about.
I hope he will lose.
But I fear he will lose and the only thing that will be discredited is himself, and his male crudeness. Not his real message, not his cohort of Republican obstructionist enablers.
And Hillary will triumph as the “good girl” victim….Who has stood her ground as a woman, but not as any kind of Progressive.

Oh dear

Radical ReEntry Enters the Blogosphere

Dear readers, I urge you to explore some of the material published on my website before you jump into this blog, Doing so should give you a sense of who I am and where I’m coming from. I hope the stuff I have presented as “data” from my life as an educator, speaker, writer and activist engages you. Get to know me and my ideas a little first, then you can introduce yourself and we can talk. I look forward to it…..

What’s Going On?

I’ve long feared the American Rightwing, being acutely aware of how real, scary and cruel it can be.  It represents an unbroken stream of thought, speech and action extending from the “Slave Power” of John C Calhoun, through the violent illogic of post-Reconstruction “Redeemers,”  and into the political powerhouse of Dixiecrats transformed into Conservatives/Republicans who embody a tradition of home-grown fascism.  No joke.

Now a large subset of the polity, the Right has morphed into a cross-class, white people’s movement that undermines any original Constitutional promise to “promote the general welfare.”

It has pushed back even 1950’s-style commitments to public investment in infrastructure, schools, higher education, etc, etc. Eliciting memories of the same decade’s Red Scare, today’s Right demands exclusion: by walling off the border, denying opportunities, incarcerating more people of color, and punishing more immigrants, women, LGBTQ people who are just trying to live full lives. It is scary.

Continue reading Radical ReEntry Enters the Blogosphere