California and, in particular, the San Francisco Bay Area, including Oakland and Berkeley, are fast emerging as the epicenter for the resistance against the authoritarian presidency of Donald Trump and the nauseating stench of neofascism in this country.
New York and Chicago are important as well with their historical protest traditions, and there are other hotbeds of dissent, of course, but the counter-culture movement that arose in San Francisco in the 1950s and 1960s forged by the Beat Movement, with its acceptance of gay rights, its protest of the Vietnam War and its embrace of peace, psychological realism and a clean environment is a framework and a call to duty for what now must be done in the Trump era.
It’s difficult to imagine the 1967 Summer of Love happening at that point in our country’s history anywhere but the Haight-Ashbury area of San Francisco.
The San Francisco Jammer seeks to help the resistance against Trump here and elsewhere through reporting on the local protest movement while focusing as well on local and overall California political issues. Already resistance supporters have violently clashed with white supremacists, emboldened by Trump, on the campus of the University of California in Berkeley. San Francisco has declared itself as sanctuary city, drawing the wrath of the Trump administration. Marches supporting the rights of women, a clean environment and safe havens for immigrants have attracted thousands upon thousands of people here in the Bay Area.
There’s more to come, a lot more, both from new outrageous policies, initiatives and edicts of the Trump administration and from us resisters, who realize these are not normal times. Trump is a compulsive liar and egomaniac, who has reached out to and identified himself with despots throughout the world, and no one—and that includes the mainstream media caught up in its formulaic reporting styles—can stop him, except for ALL of us. The mainstream media can help, and it will help, and with some notable exceptions they are not “the enemies of the people,” but resisters have to take to the streets and reclaim them for democracy.
Woody Guthrie wrote, “This land is your land/This land is my land.” Years later Allen Ginsberg, the famous Beat poet who wrote “Howl,” screamed out in the 1950s at the Six Gallery in San Francisco, “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness . . .” We have always existed within a spectrum of these two statements but now more so than ever. Guthrie saw the deep income equality in this country and spoke out against it and pushed for reclamation of our land and social justice. Ginsberg, echoing Guthrie, saw how the military-industrial complex had created a form of collective mental illness among rational people, “the best minds,” and worked tirelessly as an liberal activist his entire adult life to rectify that dynamic.
The band Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young released Ohio in 1970 after four unarmed students were killed and nine injured after the Ohio National Guard fired 67 rounds into a protest at Kent State University. The song, written by Neil Young, proclaims, “Tin soldiers and Nixon coming/We’re finally on our own.” The repeated line, “Four dead in Ohio,” resonated then across the world. Today’s resistance needs to embrace the historical traditions of protest while inventing its own methods, its own lyrics. One thing remains consistent, however. We have to take it to the streets.
So, yes, we’re again finally on our own. We all must take risks now. Government violence against people in this country is hardly a new phenomenon, and who among us would doubt Trump and his cabinet of billionaires wouldn’t resort to massive violence to quell dissent, to shut us up. It’s much more predictable than possible.
A noted Yale University historian, Timothy Snyder, goes even as far as saying it’s “inevitable” Trump will try to completely take over the government by declaring an emergency of some sort if catastrophe strikes or is manufactured by his administration. When a leading intellectual at one of the leading universities in the world is speaking out in this way against a United States president we know we’ve entered a very dangerous place.
We must unite. Don’t believe anyone who tells you identity politics is destroying the resistance movement. Our diversity is a strength against Trump, authoritarianism, oligarchy and neoliberalism or, to state it another way, a non-democratic but a very real strategy by large corporations to increase income disparity to benefit a relatively few rich families. We share much more in common than the various factions on the right, factions such as moderate Republicans, social-conservatives, religious fundamentalists and the alt-right, which fragment and lead always to schism and chaos.
I’ll begin to end this inaugural post by introducing myself. I’m a retired English professor and former journalist, who has blogged for the last 13 years and published liberal political commentary in a variety of publications. I have taught a course on The Beat Movement each year since 1994. I ended up in San Francisco at an opportune time after my wife, also an academic, took a job at a local university here. I lived in California as a child, and I’ve always loved it here.
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Solidarity. Show up. Speak up. We got this, but those of us who live here in this wonderful place and have any common sense at all have to lead the way.