This piece introduces a new series of essays, ventura_at_4am, specifically focused on
Resistance and Vision
during this crisis of the Republic.
The Bill of Rights shall be appended to the end of these essays as they appear.
And So Began A Night Of Many Days
On election night, when the result was clear, my brother David called. I made notes as he spoke: "If you vote for a misogynist who wants to jail women for having abortions; if you vote for an abuser who jokes about his sexual assaults; if you vote for a racist who popularized the “birther” movement; if you vote for a rich businessman who stiffs his contractors; if you vote for a phony ‘educator’ who defrauds thousands; if you vote for a man who disrespects veterans; if you vote for a man who chooses a homophobe vice president; if you vote for a man who wants to criminalize Muslims and Mexicans; if you vote for a man whom white supremacists support – then that is what you are."
Trump supporters have their reasons for excusing and ignoring his immoralities; they also have the naiveté to believe that, because they voted for him, he will never focus his many-faceted immorality directly at them. The problem, historically, is that a vote is not merely an opinion. A vote is a gift of power.
The problem, historically, is that a vote is not merely an opinion.
A vote is a gift of power.
So 62.9 million giddily belligerent, glaringly white Americans gifted the most powerful office in history to a morally impaired,
intellectually shallow, reflexively impulsive, emotionally immature, moody, vengeful, bullying, compulsively lying neo-gangster – and that fact is our zeitgeist’s party-hat.
The poet Peggy Aylsworth has noticed that sometimes “the inevitable makes mistakes.” On election night, I felt that somewhere in the realm of what the Founders called Providence, an enormous mistake had been made, or rather: across the spectrum of American life thousands and thousands of individual choices rooted in willful blindness, brazen greed, shameful compromise, craven cowardice, helpless ignorance, heartless egotism, unconscious insecurity, uncontrollable fear, inflated superiority, vicious intolerance and all-consuming anger cohered into one monumental, vehement, mean mistake of unimaginable weight, a mistake such as few nations have ever possessed the power to make, a mistake that surely shall consume and thwart the lives of many millions.
One sentence said itself to me over and over into the wee hours of election night:
The coming years will test the moral code of each and every one of us.
And there was one question I had to face, like it or not:
When the roundups start, what will we do? What will I do?
Remarkably, the day after the election, several people – first separately, then in concert – knew what to do. Teresa Shook, Evvie Harmon, Fontaine Pearson, Bob Bland, Breanne Butler and others began organizing the Women’s March. The Women’s March excited this Republic and the world with its commitment to resist this White House, and its offshoots continue to excite and resist – on a scale that, frankly, I did not believe possible. (It speaks volumes about my gender that no such energy could have been inspired by a call to a Men’s March.)
It’s beyond doubt that the Women’s March has stiffened the spines of judges, journalists, citizens of every sort, and even some politicians. The Women’s March and thousands of subsequent actions demonstrate that there is a constituency for resistance to Trumpist travesties and that no resistor is alone. That is why taking to the street, in peaceful assembly, is so much more important than writing or reading this page.
But . . . the roundups started within days of the Women’s March and the roundups continue, every day, unabated. The media blare is about Russian connections, the cruelty and mendacity of Trumpcare, and the daily distractions of absurd lies all up and down the Trump administration. Yet the most ugly and violent acts of this administration happen every day with the roundups, without the coverage and close reporting that they merit.
… the most ugly and violent acts of this administration happen
every day with the roundups, without the coverage and close reporting that they merit.
The roundups show no sign of stopping. Mothers, fathers, grandmothers, common hard-working people, whose offenses were minor to begin with and often occurred a decade or more in the past – these people are swooped down upon by quasi-military squads; arrested with virtually no due process; their families and communities are disrupted and frightened; the children of those communities are terrified. In the policy itself, in those who carry out the policy, and in this policy’s supporters, there is an utter lack of kindness, a stark absence of mercy.
Even many who did not vote for Trump excuse the roundups with, “But those people did break the law.” Is law about vengeance? Or is law more properly about order? The vast majority of these undocumented human beings have fitted themselves into our society in an orderly, hard-working manner. What kind of a people are we, to visit punishment upon them now?
Without mercy, what are we?
Without kindness, what’s the point?
We may give thanks to the Trump administration for making such questions a matter of political urgency.
But the roundups beg questions that may be even more urgent.
Trump has proven, by these roundups, that he has ample personnel at his disposal to gradually round up all whom he wants rounded up. But why has he called this a “military operation”? Why is he demanding a far larger “mass deportation force”? And what, exactly, is ICE?
The ICE question is easily answered, but you may be surprised.
Wikipedia: “U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is an American federal law enforcement agency under the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) responsible for identifying, investigating, and dismantling vulnerabilities regarding the nation’s border, economic, transportation, and infrastructure security. … ICE is charged with the investigation and enforcement of over 400 federal statutes within the United States, and maintains attachés at major U.S. embassies overseas. … ICE is the second-largest criminal investigative agency in the U.S. government after the FBI.”
Four hundred statutes, plus all the ways one may construe “vulnerabilities regarding the nation’s border, economic, transportation, and infrastructure security.”
ICE answers only to Homeland Security, the least accountable of all our government entities, with a vaguely defined mandate well beyond the reach of the protocols of checks and balances.
Now read this:
The New York Times, February 26: “The Migration Policy Institute reported in 2013 that the federal government spends more each year on immigration enforcement – through Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Border Patrol – than on all other federal law enforcement agencies combined . . . [exceeding] the sum of all spending for the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the Drug Enforcement Administration; the Secret Service; the Marshals Service; and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
“ICE and the Border Patrol already refer more cases for federal prosecution than the entire Justice Department, and the number of people they detain each year (more than 400,000) is greater than the number of inmates being held by the Federal Bureau of Prisons for all other federal crimes.
“This is blank-check, steroidal enforcement – and Mr. Trump and the Homeland Security Secretary, John Kelly, want more. . . . Mr. Trump ran on a pledge to expand the [Border Patrol] and triple the size of ICE; Mr. Kelly has obliged. His enforcement memos last week seek to increase the force by 10,000 ICE officers and 5,000 Border Patrol agents.
“Or maybe more, if you consider the administration’s trial balloon, recently floated, to mobilize 100,000 National Guard troops and add them to the mix.”
The Times failed to mention Trump-Bannon’s proposal to allow ICE to deputize our already militarized local law enforcement to supplement ICE from big city to rural county. Also, Trump intends to supplement an enlarged ICE by building many more federal prisons.
ICE becomes the Oval Office’s personal army.
When you add the National Guard and deputized local law enforcement to an ever larger ICE, you’re looking at an Army-strength domestic military answerable only to Homeland Security, which in turn is answerable only to the White House. I.e., ICE becomes the Oval Office’s personal army.
My dictionary defines “storm troopers” thusly: “historical – the Nazi political militia.” I’m writing to say that I don’t believe the Trump-Bannon administration cares a damn about immigration except as the issue that allows them to wield the forces of ICE and gets Americans accustomed to roundups and accustomed to standing aside as these roundups occur. ICE has all the makings of a political militia. The mechanism for a police state has been blueprinted and is in process of construction right before our eyes. A domestic military answerable only to the White House.
Combine all that with a traditional military swelled monstrously at the expense of all other functions of government. Then stir in Trump’s rants about wanting to win wars. This is the Trump-Bannon administration getting its ducks in a row. The plan: Keep up the daily absurdities that so fascinate the media, while accomplishing the steroidal build-up of ICE and our traditional forces. Then sit back and wait for an excuse to declare a national emergency.
So you can see, now, the logic of daily attacks on the free press, insisting that the press is an “enemy of the American people” that reports “fake news”? If the administration finds an excuse to declare a national emergency, whom does it arrest first? Those whom it has designated enemies of the American people.
No version of any “mass deportation force” in history has stood down
of its own will. Those who come for undocumented people today
will come for others tomorrow.
If history is our guide, we must recognize that Trump’s “mass deportation force,” once organized and energized, will not stop with immigrants. No version of any “mass deportation force” in history has stood down of its own will. Those who come for undocumented people today will come for others tomorrow. Maybe me, because I’m writing this. Maybe you, because you’re reading this. Maybe a friend of yours, because you’ve read this and that alone makes your friends suspect. Once these things get going, they really get going.
That said, the Trump-Bannon White House is a long way from wielding the full power of its dreams and they’ve arrogantly telegraphed their intentions. But we can’t afford to underestimate Trump again. The roundups need far more media coverage than they’re getting. ICE needs to be put in the spotlight; they need to know they’re being watched. Women’s March and its offshoots need to show up. We’re doing a lot. We need to do more. I said it before: More important than writing or reading this article is non-violent participation in the street.
Now is the time for every citizen to weigh the consequences of silence and inaction. There are moments in history – moments that may last years – when everyone matters, everyone is involved, everyone is implicated, like it or not, choose it or don’t. There are no sidelines.
Silence is collaboration. Inaction is collaboration. Non-resistance is collaboration.
No hiding place. Not in this America of menace. No hiding place down here.
If we don’t show up for resistance, in any non-violent way possible, well, you’ll run to the rock to hide your face and the ICE-man banging on your door will cry out, “No hiding place!”
Michael Ventura © March, 2017
Michael Ventura, a former staff member of the original Austin Sun, is a writer who lives in the mountains of northern California.
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Amendments 1-10 of the U.S. Constitution
(otherwise known as “The Bill of Rights”)
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.
No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner prescribed by law.
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment by a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.
In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial shall jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage other rights retained by the people.
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, or prohibited by it to the states, are reserved for the states respectively, or to the people.