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Tom H. Hastings: Hammers are for building, not harming

By Tom H. Hastings

By Tom H. Hastings

Antifa comes swarming into the street, hurling full soda cans at cops and at windows, believing they alone have the right to “burn it down,” ala Pol Pot, start over, Year Zero.

Trump’s MAGAts – Proud Boys, Oathkeepers, et alia, strut around with big weapons, use gender slurs, religious slurs, racial slurs, shoot a few Nazi salutes, wave a Confederate battle flag, and hoot about Free Speech – and they are doing this at political rallies as well as polling places.

No offense, you guys, but none of you are doing a single bit of good. You are feeding hate, enabling violence, and for every act of bullying or senseless destruction any of you engage in, you turn off more folks by far than you convince.

Some scholars have decreed that what we used to call nonviolence must henceforth be referred to as “civil resistance.” Well, I still like nonviolence, but I use civil resistance to describe resistance that is not merely technically done by unarmed civil society, but by groups who remain civil, both collectively and individually.

Or, as Joe Biden said, “Enough is enough is enough!” When some far-right addled man attacks the 82-year-old husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and when it turns out that the attacker is a devoted follower of Trump’s election denial lies, we need to sit up and pay a bit of attention to our methods.

We are subjected to an enormous amount of highly individuated advertising because the sophistication of algorithms makes it possible. What we need to know, Facebook, Twitter, and the rest of you social media profiteers, is how much of the disinformation that is delivered to us originated in Russia? After all, the Trump agenda, from at least 2016 forward, has been in virtual lockstep with Vladimir Putin’s. Trump is a tool. His followers are as well.

What is the common thread tying the far right who support the cruelest form of capitalism as practiced by Trump to the legacy of authoritarian communism carried on by Putin?

Violence. That is the commonality.

The intellectual lightweights who rail daily against any threat to the dirtiest, most exploitive forms of “free enterprise,” such as the late Peter Collier and the still-active David Horowitz, were rooted in the most violent ideation of the left decades ago, writing in support of armed opposition to America, supporting the Vietcong, the Black Panthers, the Irish Republican Army and other far left violent actors. That both the communist origins and legacy of violence should smear across the Putin-influenced MAGA world and its Oathkeeper/Proud Boy spawn is dismaying yet unsurprising.

Because, in the end, the anti-social right and the anti-social left share so much more than they don’t. Trump has dictatorial ideation, fed by his Bossman role, first in business and then Republican politics. No dictator has ever cared whether his rhetoric should be left (Lenin, Stalin, Putin) or right (Mussolini, Franco, Amin) and in the end it is all about populist demagoguery. Hitler, after all, was as far-right as one might get and yet he led the National Socialists, the Nazis.

Do the hammer-wielders who attack moderate leaders come from the left or right? In the end, the real crosscut is between violence and nonviolence, between democracy and dictatorship.

Let us hope democracy prevails. I don’t want to be part of a nation that supports our right to bear hammers to hurt rather than to build.

Dr. Tom H. Hastings is Coordinator of Conflict Resolution BA/BS degree programs and certificates at Portland State University, PeaceVoice Senior Editor, and on occasion an expert witness for the defense of civil resisters in court.