Driving along the nighttime streets, you see them on the storefront windows. Some stand nailed to public buildings guarding smashed glass panels. And many bear graffiti’s deep scars; angry, black-scrawled slogans giving downtown a ghostlike air.
I’m speaking of Portland, Oregon, the site of countless anarchist and Black-Lives-Matter demonstrations that turned into riots throughout last summer. It’s also the home of my oldest daughter, to whom I recently paid a visit. At my request, she gave me a tour of the city’s blemished and pockmarked innards. The most disturbing news was that the riotous protests continue.
Which brings us to America’s current condition; political violence, both spontaneous and orchestrated, seems to have become an earmark of our era. The Jan. 6 mob-like seizure of the U.S. capitol, of course, drove that painfully home. Far less reported, however, was the uprising in Portland two weeks later by a left-wing mob protesting, yes, the inauguration of the new Democratic president, Joseph Biden. Washington DC got 25,000 National Guard troops and a sturdy fence surrounding Congressional chambers. Portland got lots more graffiti and a few more boarded windows.
I understand that an attack on the capitol feels more threatening than anarchist slogans spray-painted in Portland. Taken together, however, the leftist violence in that and many other American cities has wreaked far more destruction—and death—than the right-wing uprising in Washington. Yet media coverage and condemnations by government officials, both federal and local, has gone almost entirely one way.
Which brings us to my second point and gravest fear; that the left-leaning party now holding the country’s reins of power will use the capitol attack to justify—or at least shut its eyes to—major losses of civil liberties long taken for granted by Americans. In fact, it’s already started.
Most of us have heard of former President Donald Trump’s banishment from Twitter and Facebook. Less known, however, is that various social media platforms have also silenced or banned dozens of other conservatives nationwide. Five hundred professors, authors, and other industry professionals recently signed a petition demanding that publishing houses refuse book deals with former members of the Trump administration. And one New York literary agent got fired, not for anything she said, but simply for having an account on a social media platform favored by conservatives.
“I thought I was going to die,” a well-known Democratic congressional representative declared after the capitol attack. “There were… frankly, white supremacist members of Congress… who I felt would… create opportunities to allow me to be hurt.” A week later, she said that a Republican colleague “almost had me murdered” and demanded his resignation.
Neither she nor anyone else has offered evidence to substantiate those claims.
History buffs may be reminded of the Alien and Sedition Act of 1798, a law banning wide ranges of political speech and publication passed by the then-ruling Federalists to suppress the rival party. Until recently, most scholars pointed to it as the quintessential example of an unconstitutional grab for power. “The Federalists never thought that they were a party,” historian Gordon Wood told the Wall Street Journal in 2018, but that “they were the government.” Any opposition to which, of course, amounted to treason.
And yet the venerable Washington Post recently ran an Op-Ed purporting to explain “what the 1798 Sedition Act got right.” And it’s no accident that the latest liberal heartthrob—founding Father Alexander Hamilton—supported and fought for that law.
All of which strikes me as a new—and super virile—form of McCarthyism; a more recent suppression of rights that dealt my own father a life-changing blow. Dad was a merchant seaman who, as a young man, had attended several meetings of the American Communist Party. Years later in the early 1950s, after Republican Sen. Joseph McCarthy famously waved a list in front of cameras containing what he claimed were the names of 57 “subversive” Communists “infesting” the U.S. State Department, my father—like many others—lost his job. From then until the day he died, his major advice to me was “never sign your name.”
I pray to God that he was wrong.
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David Haldane’s latest book—a short-story collection called “Jenny on the Street”—is available on Amazon. A former Los Angeles Times staff writer, he is an award-winning American author, journalist and radio broadcaster currently dividing his time between homes in Joshua Tree, California, and Northern Mindanao, Philippines. His 2015 memoir, “Nazis & Nudists,” explains how that happened. https://www.davidshaldane.com
Originally Published in Mindanao Gold Star Daily