Childhood’s End: The young have become the moral voice of America

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Students of Hellgate High School in Missoula, Montana stage a walk-out. One sign reads, “Protect kids not guns.” Dozens of similar protests have erupted across the country in the past week.

For the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, Valentine’s Day will forever memorialize the massacre of 17 of their classmates and teachers at the hands of a disgruntled man with a legally acquired AR-15. While shootings of varying severity are now depressingly common at American schools, this incident stood out from others. This is partly because of its high body count, but it’s been unique in another, more important way: it birthed some courageous student activists.

No longer content for their bodies to be the “price of freedom,” nor to accept the now-familiar deadly cycle of school shooting followed by thoughts and prayers followed by NRA hysteria followed by political inaction followed by school shooting, children are aware that it’s their lives at risk and they are doing something about it.

Since last week, students have conducted multiple demonstrations to protest the lack of congressional action on the problem of gun violence. On Monday, dozens of students and their parents staged a lie-in in front of the White House to symbolize people killed in mass shootings. Students in Boca Raton, Florida, held a walk-out on Tuesday, and similar demonstrations have happened in districts all over the country. Many more protests are already planned, including a nationwide student walk-out on April 20 – the anniversary of the Columbine killings.

Conservatives have responded to the demonstrations with condescension, conspiracy theories, victim-blaming and punishment. A Texas superintendent, Curtis Rhodes, threatened students who protest during school hours with a three-day suspension, warning, “every choice has a consequence whether it be positive or negative.” Former Representative Jack Kingston picked up on a meme that’s common among the far-right after mass shootings, accusing the kids of being co-opted by left-wing actors – as though the violence they witnessed couldn’t be enough to spur them to action.

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Donald Trump, Jr. took the shooting as an opportunity to attack a survivor and smear the federal agency investigating his father.

Donald Trump, Jr. took the conspiracy theories into Alex Jones territory. He zeroed in on one shooting survivor in particular, David Hogg, whose father works for the FBI. Trump Jr. “liked” two tweets that accused Hogg of being part of a conspiracy, including one from a far-right radio host who wondered if the kid was “running cover for his dad who Works as an FBI agent at the Miami field office Which botched tracking down the Man behind the Valentine day massacre?” Hogg’s family has since received death threats from far-right fanatics.

Whenever a mass shooter executes a classroom full of kids, conservatives’ first move is to cover for the NRA and question the victims. This time, some children’s decision to text loved ones and post their ordeal to social media were criticized, despite these offering a horrifying and important glimpse into the deadly reality of school shootings. Conservatives are more concerned about protecting children from the horrors of sharing a public restroom with a transgender person.

Superintendent Rhodes is right: every choice has a consequence. His decision, and the decision of the entire Republican establishment, has been a negative one: to suppress democracy and tell kids their only choice is to follow authoritarian orders. Kids in high school today have lived their entire lives in a world of routine mass violence and witnessed silence from politicians in response. The kids have made a courageous choice, and the consequences could be transformative. They are to be supported and encouraged.

But it isn’t just on guns that young people have taken the lead. A number of children have joined a lawsuit against the federal government for its inaction on climate change; their case is currently working its way through courts, and could become a landmark in legal history. Other kids have protested the deportation of parents, friends, classmates, and others. And students across the nation walked out in solidarity to protest state violence against young African-Americans in places like Ferguson.

Republicans and the Washington establishment are building a world that is cruel today, but will be calamitous in another generation. Young people see what’s coming. They see the proliferation of ever-deadlier weaponry in their hometowns and the carnage it’s caused. They know they will have to deal with the worst effects of climate change. They witness firsthand the barbarism of the state as it tears friends and loved ones from their homes. And unlike so many of the pitiful rest of us, they aren’t willing to stand by.

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America’s new battle with Nazism is only beginning

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Self-described “identitarian” Peter Cvjetanovic denies being a racist. His face went viral as he marched alongside torch-bearing neo-Nazis and white supremacists.

Neo-Nazis, white supremacists, the alt-right – call them what you will, this group of angry, white men had a busy weekend. Hundreds of them descended on Charlottesville, Virginia, for a Unite the Right rally. Demonstrators began a torchlit march on Friday night and by Saturday had turned the city into a warzone, culminating in an act of right-wing terror that caused one death and injured 19 others. In response, President Trump couldn’t bring himself to denounce one side more than any other. Continue reading

Violence at Berkeley is less about free speech than it is white nationalism

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Gavin McInnes, founder of the political street gang Proud Boys, reads what would have been Ann Coulter’s speech at Berkeley.

On April 27, far-right polemicist Ann Coulter was scheduled to give a speech at the University of California at Berkeley. After a lot of back-and-forth, during which Coulter was disinvited, re-invited and rescheduled, the group that sponsored her ultimately backed out. Security concerns, including a near-guarantee of violence, prompted both Coulter and the Young America’s Foundation to decide that her appearance would jeopardize people’s well-being. In a statement, Coulter said, “It’s a sad day for free speech.” Continue reading

Why we can expect political violence in the Trump era

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Neo-fascist and alt-right figurehead Richard Spencer was punched in the face at Donald Trump’s inauguration.

Last week, ultra-right radio host Michael Savage was involved in a physical confrontation in a San Francisco-area restaurant. No one was charged, but Savage insists he was assaulted because of his political beliefs. He might well have been. A prominent Donald Trump supporter who interviewed the candidate several times during the campaign, Savage is infamously outspoken about three issues: borders, language and culture. Like so much of the far-right, Savage is a crypto-white nationalist.

The incident recalls President Trump’s inauguration when Richard Spencer, the white nationalist who coined the term “alt-right,” was punched in the face by a protester. Later that month, riots shut down a speaking engagement by disgraced Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos at Berkeley. Mainstream commentators argue these incidents stifle free speech. But what’s so often left unsaid is that Savage, Spencer, Yiannopoulos and others are figureheads of American fascism, the most violent movement in the country today. Continue reading

Why liberals protest and Republicans stay home

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Even for a billionaire like George Soros, it must have cost a pretty penny to pay all those protesters and buy them all hats.

Concerned citizens have been antagonizing Republican lawmakers in state town halls for the past several weeks. Their concerns range from worry about how they’ll survive when Republicans take away their healthcare to wondering how our fragile civilization will survive with a lumbering, fascist orangutan in the White House. Republicans have done such a terrible job addressing their constituents’ concerns, many are simply skipping the events altogether.

So-called President Trump hasn’t tweeted much lately, but he did say, “The so-called angry crowds in home districts of some Republicans are actually, in numerous cases, planned out by liberal activists. Sad!” Trump is right that the confrontations are, to some extent, planned. That hardly makes them illegitimate. If Trump didn’t want to contend with an organized citizenry, he should not have sought public office in a democracy – even one as flawed as ours.

Republicans insist that protesters are paid agitators, even the millions of Americans who protested Trump’s inauguration. Protesting isn’t easy, so to believe that is to believe they’re being paid well. In reality, many protesters take time off from work to march, and many don’t have jobs with generous leave policies. Walking, shouting, braving harsh weather, making signs, risking a confrontation with the police – all of it is a sacrifice compelled by concern for the country and the world. Continue reading

Conciliation is not the right response to Donald Trump

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President Obama shaking the hand of a huckster who entered politics by promoting a racist conspiracy about his birthplace.

The 2016 presidential campaign was the most bitter in recent history. Donald Trump was so loathsome that Hillary Clinton’s attack ads consisted of little more than the bigotry and sexism that came out of his own mouth. Clinton was so corrupt that Trump threatened to jail her. And after it was over, everyone decided to play nice. The loser called the victor, the winner thanked his opponent, the current president wished Trump luck, and talking heads encouraged us all to give the president-elect a chance.

Tens of thousands of Americans weren’t having it. Protests erupted the day after Election Day in Chicago, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Portland, Austin and elsewhere. In New York, some 100,000 people demonstrated their opposition to the incoming president. In Austin, protesters chanted “Immigrants are welcome here.” Graffiti saying “Fuck Trump” and “Black Queer Trans Lives Matter” was found in Chicago. For such marginalized individuals, there is a palpable sense of worry about their rights and status. Continue reading

DAPL standoff is textbook little guy vs. big business/big government

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On one front, militarized police in riot gear; on the other, protesters with drums.

While the news cycle remains fixated on Washington politics, the biggest story in America is unfolding in a remote region of North Dakota. In the small town of Cannon Ball on the Standing Rock Sioux Indian reservation, activists are defending sacred burial ground and their community’s water supply against construction of a major oil pipeline. Militarized police and private security forces are there to ensure the project is completed, arresting reporters and assaulting protesters.

In America’s hotly divided political and social climate, it’s rare to find a conflict in which one party is so clearly right and the other so clearly wrong. Continue reading

Sanders won’t cost Clinton the election – she will

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Sanders supporters voice their outrage at the Nevada Democratic Convention.

Intra-party turmoil among Democrats is at a fever pitch. Despite an overwhelming media narrative that the party’s nominating contest is over and Hillary Clinton has won it, Bernie Sanders continues to pick up primary victories. The Democratic establishment in media and politics are worried that Sanders’s continued presence in the race is hampering Clinton’s prospects against Donald Trump in November. And a season-long feud between Sanders supporters and the DNC erupted last week at a chaotic state convention in Nevada. Continue reading

How Bernie’s movement should ‘support’ Hillary Clinton

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Sanders’s grassroots-driven campaign drew record-breaking crowds and donations, which famously averaged a mere $27.

Hillary Clinton had a huge night on Tuesday, winning four out of five states and expanding her already substantial delegate lead. From here Bernie Sanders needs to win about 1,000 of 1,200 delegates remaining to clinch the nomination. Not even the most inspired idealist can fail to recognize the rapidly shrinking prospect of Sanders becoming the Democratic nominee. Tradition dictates that a losing candidate’s supporters vote for the party’s eventual nominee in the general election, but this election has been anything but traditional. Continue reading

Corporate media ignores massive Democracy Spring protests

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Activists gather on the steps of the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. to protest money in politics and fight to overturn Citizens United.

Those who get their news primarily from the television may have missed the record-breaking protests going on in Washington, D.C. over the last week. Activists hoping to bring a “Democracy Spring” to the U.S. have been demonstrating against the corrupting influence of money in politics. More than 1,400 of them have been arrested since protesting began on April 11, breaking the arrest record for “non-violent direct action protests in Washington for a single week,” according to The Nation.

But mum’s the word in corporate media. According to The Intercept, in the days following the start of protests the three major cable networks devoted less than 30 seconds of coverage to them. CNN didn’t mention them at all. MSNBC talked about them for 12 seconds. FOX News talked about them for 17 seconds. Even then the networks missed the point, characterizing the activists as pushing “for improved ballot access and voting rights.” Continue reading