America Rises Up

We begin with observations on Trump’s intolerance for dissent within his ranks and on our streets, and then we shift to examine how much of America is reacting quite differently to the protests.

Before we dive into the reactions to George Floyd’s murder and the possible implications, I want to remind you that Retake will be Zooming on Tuesday evening. If you’ve been confused by the conflicting debate around the Public Regulation Commission, the Energy Transition Act, and PNM, you will not want to miss this.

Tues., June 9, 6:30- 8:00 pm: How PNM Runs Circles Around Our Legislature and PRC, and How A Group of Local Shareholder Activists Are Exposing PNM’s Dissembling.

Five years ago a group of local activists purchased shares in PNM stock and formed PNM Shareholders for a Responsible Future. Every year since then, the group has introduced resolutions at the PNM Annual Meeting to seek more transparency in PNM’s operations, decision-making processes, especially regarding fossil fuel investments, and the negative impact of those actions for ratepayers and on the environment. The resolutions were all voted down, in large part due to PNM Board and Executive opposition.

Undeterred, the shareholder activists recently used the annual shareholder meeting to submit probing questions embedded with statements and facts that reflect PNM’s manipulation of the legislative process (ETA) and their misleading or false testimony at the PRC. Members of the group will share how they have used their shareholder status to hold PNM’s feet to the fire.

If you want to get clarity on what is really going on at the PRC and the truth about how PNM is running circles around our legislature and the PRC, you won’t want to miss this discussion. In short, we will get to the truth. Click here to pre-register. You must Pre-Register to secure a “seat” in the Zoom Room.

America Rises Up

Donald Trump has made it clear that he will not tolerate dissent, whether from his own cabinet, from members of his own party, or on the streets. This intolerance has reared its head yet again as Trump childishly dismissed General Mattis’ withering comments on the Trump presidency. In his immature reaction, Trump actually proved Mattis’ point. From General Mattis, Trump’s first Defense Secretary:

“Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people—does not even pretend to try. Instead he tries to divide us. We are witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort. We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership. We can unite without him, drawing on the strengths inherent in our civil society. This will not be easy, as the past few days have shown, but we owe it to our fellow citizens; to past generations that bled to defend our promise; and to our children.”

Gen. James Mattis

Senator Lisa Murkowski reacted to Gen. Mattis’ comments with:

“True, and honest, and necessary and overdue. Perhaps we are getting to a point where we can be more honest with the concerns that we might hold internally and have the courage of our own convictions to speak up.”

Sen. Lisa Murkowski

Trump immediately made it clear just how little he tolerates dissent among his ranks with a slew of childish name-calling of Mattis and a promise to campaign against Murkowski in Alaska in 2022. “Get any candidate ready, good or bad, I don’t care, I’m endorsing. If you have a pulse, I’m with you!” Set aside that Sen. Murkowski has voted with the president’s agenda 100% of the time. One questioning comment from her and she is persona non grata. I’m thinking the Senator is not terribly worried about what Trump may be tweeting in 2022, and my fondest hope, perhaps the silent hope of many Republicans, is that Trump is tweeting from prison in 2022.

Trump’s intolerance for internal dissent is a microcosm of his views of wider political protest. After an initial expression of sympathy for Floyd’s family, Trump has since gone on a rampage with “when the lootin’ starts, the shootin’ starts,” threatening the use of troops, hectoring Governors to dominate, and demonstrating his own willful insistence to dominate, using secret service and armed troops to disperse a peaceful protest outside the White House 30 minutes before the curfew was to begin. And what was the reason for clearing the crowd? An utterly pointless photo op.

Bishop Mariann E. Budde commented on Trump’s appropriation of one of the most venerated churches in America:

““He did not pray,” the bishop, Mariann E. Budde, said in an interview. Referring to the death of the black man in police custody that set off the protests, she added: “He did not mention George Floyd, he did not mention the agony of people who have been subjected to this kind of horrific expression of racism and white supremacy for hundreds of years. We need a president who can unify and heal. He has done the opposite of that, and we are left to pick up the pieces.”

NY Times: Protesters Dispersed With Tear Gas So Trump Could Pose at Church

Bishop Budde had the courage to speak up. The Mayor of Washington, D.C. had an even better idea, having Black Lives Matter painted on the streets leading to the White House. But it is interesting how even after Gen. Mattis’ criticism and Sen. Murkowski openly encouraging her colleagues to speak up, the GOP response has been silence. Brow-beaten since his candidacy began, the GOP has shown a total lack of moral principles. Trump will not tolerate dissent and they will not object. So we must. Thank you Bishop Budde and Mayor Bowser.

But as noted by Franklin Foer in his article in The Atlantic, “The Trump Regime is Starting to Topple,” an autocratic leader requires the acquiescence of key institutions and individuals to retain power. Foer examines successful uprisings in places such as Serbia, Ukraine, and Tunisia, where the sudden withdrawal of support from key institutions led to the demise of dictators Milošević, Yanukovych, and Ben Ali. He also references the work of Gene Sharp, a 93-page handbook, From Dictatorship to Democracy, which Foer considers a how-to guide for toppling autocracy. From Foer:

Sharp’s foundational insight is embedded in an aphorism: “Obedience is at the heart of political power.” A dictator doesn’t maintain power on his own; he relies on individuals and institutions to carry out his orders. A successful democratic revolution prods these enablers to stop obeying. It makes them ashamed of their complicity and fearful of the social and economic costs of continued collaboration.”

The Atlantic, “The Trump Regime is Starting to Topple”

And so in this past week, we have seen representatives of faith institutions, police institutions, military institutions, and even a lonely GOP Senator express dissent. Is it possible the dominoes are falling? To read the very interesting Foer article, click here.

The Arts Rise Up

The rest of today’s post is a series of videos: song from Playing for Change, dance from Alvin Ailey’s American Dance Theater, and commentary from Trevor Noah and Killer Mike. But I leave you with one parting thought: The reaction to George Floyd’s murder seems different than in the past and I wonder why. Historically, elected officials have expressed sympathy only then to watch as the system fails to hold police accountable. Police commissions and police unions support police who commit the most brazen acts of violence and police commissions turn a blind eye.

But as I have watched the news the past few nights, it does seem different. Police unions have published statements calling for criminal justice reform. The Atlanta Mayor redirected funds from law enforcement to programs addressing the social determinants of crime. And on an individual level, one community after another has witnessed expressions of solidarity between protesters and police.

In Portland
Taking a knee together

I recognize that these are gestures, not actions, but the president aside, there appears to be something decades overdue stirring in America, something different. What needs to be kept in mind is that this seeming shift has come for one reason: Americans have rebelled in the streets with a clear expression of outrage. Out of that mostly peaceful dissent has arisen some semblance of collective conscience, and out of this could come meaningful change. May it be so. May it be so.

In solidarity,

Paul & Roxanne

“Not all the works are political, but they certainly reflect my feelings about what goes on in this country. I mean I can’t get over that, I’m a black man living in this.” —Alvin Ailey

As a black man living in this and as the Artistic Director of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater I come to you and say, our destiny is calling—one without hate, oppression, and violence—and it is our turn to answer.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater was born out of the Civil Rights Movement, a struggle that called for black people to be seen as human and asked those who believed in equal rights for all to use what they had to push the cause forward, peacefully. Mr. Ailey chose dance as his weapon of protest, creating a legacy of artistic activism. And it is a weapon we have continued to use over the last 62 years. Our arsenal has grown with the addition of Ailey II, The Ailey School, Ailey Extension and Ailey Arts in Education and Community programs. We mobilize and galvanize every time we step into a school or perform anywhere in the United States or around the world. We have radically changed the environments in which we operate, and yet we are clear there is more to do.

Mr. Ailey once said, “one of the worst things about racism is what it does to young people.” Yet we see that it is these young people who are leading the force for change. We stand with those who are on the front lines and those who put themselves at risk combatting hate and injustice. In unison with our community, we rise to fight racism and demand equal justice. For our entire Ailey family, we are here to provide you the space, the hope, the example, the balm, the strength, and the revelations you need through this struggle as we move forward together in answering the call.

Watch Ailey’s Khalia Campbell in an excerpt of Darrell Grand Moultrie’s Ounce of Faith:

Trevor Noah: How an Unending Series of Dominoes Lead to the Fires, Broken Windows, and Looted Stores

An Emotional Plea from Killer Mike

Playing for Change: A Tribute to George Floyd

“This song was written in memory of George Floyd and all those whose lives have been affected by abusive, excessive and inhumane force. The lyric, wrapped around a thought Malcolm X expressed many years ago, is about the current and historic storm engulfing our nation and world. The melody and chord structure are in the spirit and structure of African-American work and protest songs.  This song is written as a call, in the enduring hope of a response,” 

Chris Pierce

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8 replies

  1. I have seen videos of Police Brutality being used against peaceful protesters from all over this country. This is not about one region or one city. This is about the continued wholesale beating and brutalizing of our fellow citizens. Every , every single white person should be appalled by what is happening to POC in this country. Don’t just be appalled start putting on the pressure at local levels to change how WE all are treated by Police who are supposed to protect and serve. We know NOTHING will happen at the Fed level while a White Supremacist is in charge. This is on us to make this change

  2. Hi Paul and Roxanne,
    Thank you for your very important work.
    There is a county commissioner’s meeting and vote on June 9th to approve the SF County Sur Capitol Plan Fixed Assets Summary. The plan includes an $88,000 allocation for rifles,tasers,and SWAT equipment.
    The SF County Commissioner site has all the info to make calls.
    Could you post the info if you haven’t already so we can voice our opinion.
    In Peace and Justice,
    Mary Ann Moser

  3. Thank you for sharing the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre! If anyone happens to have 30 minutes to spare, the below link has one of the greatest dance performances. I was fortunate to see The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre’s “Revelations” circa 1974 at Royce Hall UCLA,when Judith Jamieson danced the lead (and later fortunate to see a new generation of dancers at Lincoln Center only a few weeks before 9/11) . This is my recognition towards Black Lives and the power of dance to heal: “Revelations”

    • Great memories. I saw Alvin Ailey in Berkeley many times in the 70-80s. They are a national treasure. Thanks for sharing. We may have to watch this tonight.

  4. As bad as Trump and the republican party, and the democratic party too, are for the creation of a viable democracy in the USA, none compares to the danger posed by the likes of William Barr.

  5. I’d like to join the parade: Nan and I saw J Jamieson and AA troop back in the 70’s as well. Beyond that national treasure, let me add that I much appreiated the Trevor Noah clip — a powerful statement of social contract and who bears the responsibility for breaking it. I and sending it on to people who are mostly reasonably enlightened but we can all use a strong reminder and a call to action.

    Bless your work P & R.

    Very highest regards

  6. Alvin Ailey Dance Company is wonderful. Thanks for sharing that! How I wish that we progressives also had music that is “nutritious.” What I mean by this is that I empathize completely with all that has been said here on the issue of the president and the possibility that these protests will usher in the change we need. The music does not match that in terms of its impact on the spirit, however, at least not to me.

    If we want peace and harmony, then the music should reflect that – not just the lyrics, but the harmonies, melodies, and the general quality of these elements. My other half calls the genre usually heard at rallies “a TV dinner for the ears.” Another friend calls it 3-chord music, meaning it’s simplistic, repetitive, and superficial. We can do better, and I know people will resonate to music that delivers the message on a deeper level. Couple of examples: Samuel Barber’s “Adagio,” Tom Lehrer – great songwriter & lyricist, Ravi Shankar and his daughter, a whole host of jazz and blues greats of the past & present (Nina Simone, Lena Horne, Harry Belafonte, etc.).

    Responding to today’s blog articles, I believe that we need to remain vigilant. There is no question that things seem to be moving in a positive direction in our society, particularly around violence against black Americans and the prison-industrial complex. Trump does appear to be losing ground, finally. On the other hand, Hitler went to jail, where he wrote Mein Kampf, and was considered a non-contender in Germany until the Nazi Party came roaring back. So we need to ensure that this does not happen in the U.S.

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