The recent opinion piece by Matt Kokkonen on terrorists from Syria (“Stay home, terrorists,” Dec. 10) contains some sensible parts and a touching history of his and his family’s commitment to helping immigrants, and they themselves being helped by others when they were displaced years ago. Matt’s demands that would-be immigrants from the Middle East be thoroughly vetted and that holes in the present visa system be plugged up to prevent terrorist elements from entering the country are sound. But then he goes on and on about how Muslims in general are part of an alien, anti-democratic tradition that puts them, en masse, in automatic, irreconcilably hostile opposition to the U.S. Constitution and our way of life. He is widely off base, factually wrong, and just plain dangerous.
The horrific terror attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, and many other places over the decades, including against the Twin Towers on Sept. 11, 2001, justify a lot of anger and suspicion on the part of Americans and the peoples of the world. Such acts of barbaric violence must be stopped (as must massive bombings, the slaughtering of hundreds of thousands of civilians, and invasions of Arab countries and imposed regime changes by Western powers that are largely responsible for leading to the level of hatred that fuels the growth of Al Qaeda, ISIS, and other such fanatical and murderous forces). But care must be taken to not lump every member of certain religions and philosophies together in the same basket. Did the Nazis and the Italian and Spanish fascists, all spouting their dedication to “Christianity,” really represent Christianity? The KKK has always said it represents “white, Christian civilization.” Does it?
We are in a time when ultra right-wing forces, even out-and-out fascist ones, are on the rise in many parts of the world and here. France, Eastern Europe, and Greece are rife with them. Here we have Trumpism, which may or may not be fully fascistic right now, but it and he are steadily moving in that direction with his big lie smears against Mexicans and Muslims—and everyone else. We see violent attacks on Planned Parenthood centers following the release of phony videos accusing the organization of selling “baby parts,” after years of demagogic propaganda attacks on Planned Parenthood and on women’s rights. We have police murders of unarmed black men and a rise in random attacks against black communities.
Right here in SLO we have violent threats against racial minorities posted onto a “discussion board” at Cal Poly, and serious threats against the SLO Solidarity group on campus. Add to all this massive government spying on Americans, attempted intimidations against anti-war forces by the FBI a few years back, and the brazen break up of the Occupy Wall Street movement, led and urged by Obama’s Homeland Security Department, etc., and you have a steadily mounting picture of official and unofficial leaps to the right and toward repression and reaction.
Why is this happening? In times of economic collapse, massive unemployment and ruin, deep social and economic insecurity, and fears of violent disruptions of people’s lives, these kinds of impulsive, knee-jerk, fear-driven reactions become stronger. It’s easier to blame some real or imagined evil forces, scapegoats—the “other”—rather than to look for underlying causes, like the abject failures of systems and institutions, or the just plain greed-driven power-grabbing and massive wealth-grabbing by mega banks and corporations and their political servants. Under such conditions, arrogant buffoons like Trump can successfully spew their proto fascistic “I’m the strong man” filth.
What’s the antidote? Like always, the best way to defeat the ultra right in all its forms (and fanatical, phony religious terrorists too) is for forces of progressivism and reason, worldwide, to massively organize, mobilize, educate, recruit, and directly oppose and denounce the reactionaries, racists, homophobes, sexists, union busters, ethnic chauvinists, and “religious” zealots and haters.
Bernie Sanders has called for a political revolution. I would respectfully assert that we need, worldwide, a massive and deep-to-the-roots political, social, economic, and overall institutional revolution from top to bottom. Young people, as always, are leading the way with many emerging movements and inspiring protests (I was one of those young folks once, back in the Dark Ages of the 1960s and so on. I’m still in there, but with a few more aches and pains, sags, and no small amount of fatigue. I’m still willing to “man the barricades,” but at this point in my life I’m just not sure I could any longer actually climb onto the barricades.
Keep on keeping on!! Take care, and happy holidays to all.
Jim Griffin lives in San Luis Obispo and welcomes comments and criticisms to his opinion pieces. Email him at email@example.com.
-- Jim Griffin - San Luis Obispo
-- Jim Griffin - San Luis Obipso
-- Jim Griffin - SLO