The Fire Next Time
Charlottesville. Photo by Steve Helber/AP
After a few days' absence from the news, it's startling to behold the current madness. It's also heartening to see a growing defiance of it, alongside an insistence it be named, shamed and held accountable. The opposition comes from many quarters. In the last couple of days, at least seven of the country's largest non-profits - including the Salvation Army, Red Cross, Autism Project, Susan B. Komen Foundation and American Cancer Society - have announced they will move hugely successful fundraising galas that for years have been held at Mar-a-Lago. Of course we have to wonder why it took swastikas in the streets to effect that change, but okay - the NRA and Russian mafia can have the place now.
This week also saw the disbanding of three White House business panels after CEOs of some of the country’s largest companies withdrew their support. In the further disintegration of anything resembling a functioning administration, members of Trump's Arts and Humanities committee also quit en masse in a blistering letter charging that, "Ignoring your hateful rhetoric would have made us complicit in your words and actions." "Supremacy, discrimination and vitriol are not American values," they declared, creating an acrostic that spelled out 'RESIST'. "Your values are not American values."
Joining the throwdown: Johnny Cash's offspring, who rejected the use of their father's name by bigots in Charlottesville: "To any who claim supremacy over other human beings: we are not you"; Lehigh University, the second school to possibly revoke an honorary degree given to Trump; Arnold Schwarzenegger, who witnessed German atrocities in his native Austria and called out Trump's complicity: "There are not two sides to bigotry"; and Larry Whitmore, who as a black man likened the experience of seeing Confederate statues to a Jew in Germany getting directions to Goebbels Lane and Mengele Parkway. Confederate imagery, he charges, is the airbrushing of history: "(They) are not symbols to remind Southern whites of their vaulted history. These are images to remind black people that they are n*ggers."
Decades ago, James Baldwin likewise passionately called out this country's innate racism by documenting the violent history of every black person - a past of "rope, fire, torture, castration, infanticide, rape; death and humiliation; fear by day and night; doubt that he was worthy of life; sorrow for his women, for his kinfolk, for his children...this endless struggle to confirm a human identity (and) assault the mighty and indifferent fortress of white supremacy." Decades ago, he called on good people not to "falter in our duty now," to "end the racial nightmare, and achieve our country." Finally, considering failure, he quoted the Bible: "God gave Noah the rainbow sign/ No more water/ the fire next time."
Just to be clear: Here's what these symbols mean....
From the former home of the Nazis, the President of the United States