Making America Smaller

By Andrej Mrevlje |

Examining the changes Trump’s one-month-old government inflicted on this country, I shudder. The list of repressive measures generated by the president’s executive orders, and by idiosyncratic interpretations of now unleashed local politicians and law enforcement is long and painful. Unfortunately many reports the news measures are fragmentary, making it hard to evaluate their true entity… Another obstacle that blockades a more accurate picture of the kind of impact these measures have on society is their quantity, and the rapid succession this government churns them out every day.

The executive order on the travel ban during the first week of Trump’s presidential office, and the aggressive push from federal agents for immigration enforcement created fear, panic, and uproar across the country. It was as if America, in one night, changed from the land of opportunity to a prison, just as the harshest opponents of this government seemed to be suggesting. While it’s evident that current government is enjoying the chaos their deconstruction of the administrative state has created among the populace, the dispersed opposition is not capable of planning or pinpointing a strategy, or at least a tactic of productive resistance. The newly elected Democratic Party’s leadership demonstrates the incapacity to comprehend where this country is heading. Rather than listening to society, the elected Perez represents a hiccup of Clintonism that will lead to the inevitable burial of the Democratic party as we know it. On the other hand, the insurgency of society is spontaneous. It’s loudest voices being neoliberal thinkers and media that can hardly stop the bulldozing of American institutions, and tamper with the fundamental human rights of people of color. In “The Return of American Race Laws” Christophe Hedges gives the complete list of deviations that exemplify what may lead the United States towards fascism, as he calls it. Here they are:

The warmup act for a full-blown American fascism and orchestrated race war is taking place in immigrant and marginal communities across the United States: Racial profiling. Random police stops. Raids at homes and businesses. People of color pulled from vehicles at checkpoints. Seizures of individuals with no criminal records or who never committed a serious crime. Imprisonment without trial. Expedited deportation hearings and removal proceedings that violate human rights. The arrest of a beneficiary of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, Daniel Ramirez Medina, 23, who along with the program’s other 750,000 successful applicants had revealed all personal history to the government in applying for DACA status. Parents separated, perhaps forever, from their children. The hunted going underground. The end of the rule of law. The abandonment of the common good. The obliteration of a social state in which institutions and assistance programs—from public education to Social Security and welfare—make justice, equality, and dignity possible.

If half of this lengthy list were accurate, then Trump’s America would be compared to any of the former military regimes in Latin America. It is impressive how fast deconstruction can happen, and how backward this new society is moving – away from the ideals that have been built in us. Just as Peter Thiel justifies his reflections on the past while looking for a better social model for the future:  “What happened to America, the country that invented the modern assembly line, the skyscraper, the airplane, and the personal computer, why has lost its belief in the future. Thiel thinks that Americans who are beguiled by mere gadgetry have forgotten how expansive technological change can be. He looks back to the fifties and sixties, the heyday of popularized science and technology in this country, as a time when visions of a radically different future were commonplace.” It is this former model of American society that Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller, and Sebastian Gorka are trying to bring back by deconstructing the present, advising, and leading the hand of the 45th president.  

In the early 80s, shortly after I returned from China, I went to Paris to do my master’s degree in Chinese studies. It was a period of my life where I traveled a lot for various conferences and meetings to cities like London, Leiden, Tubingen-all while working and living between Paris and Brussels. I remember spending time with my fiancée and a mutual friend of ours. It was an autumn day in Brussels, and we were returning from a Pierre Ryckmans conference. His alias was Simon Leys. Ryckmans was a Belgian sinologist who was transplanted to Australia. He was the first to debunk Mao’s regime with a couple of books that unmasked the oppressive system established in China during the Cultural Revolution. At that time Leys stood alone against Marxist-Leninist groups who believed that Mao was creating a new, alternative world order. But those times were bygone and that day in Brussels Leys was less brilliant. The professor then moved on to a new topic, abandoning contemporary China, since during the conference he was repeating his old Cultural Revolution material, apparently ignoring what was happening in China under the new leader Deng Xiaoping.

It was 1983, and on that particular night, I crossed the street in the center of Brussels to get to the nearby ATM. But before I could get any money for dinner, I was stopped by a policeman because I crossed the street a yard or two away from the pedestrian crossing.I had no identification on me something I now know never to do in Brussels and was pushed against the police car with my hands over my head, and body searched on one of the most congested streets in Belgium’s capital. I got arrested. The Flemish policeman called a police van, and they pushed me in, but I somehow managed to plead with the driver to stop across the street to let my fiancée and friend know they were taking me away. They did, but without much talking or explaining. Then they drove me around Brussels for an hour, hoping to shake the car with my worried friends vehemently following. We ended up in a large police station with lots of prison cells, where I was interrogated by a second officer who was of French origin. He apologized, accepting the ID my girlfriend had brought. If it weren’t for him, I would’ve to end up in prison, and undoubtedly deported to Yugoslavia-banned from Belgium. It happened to a person who went to buy cigarettes but left the house without his ID card. He was missing for three days, but all turned out well when he finally called his wife. He was freed in Belgrade.

If this could happen to a Caucasian, tall, wannabe intellectual who speaks many languages, and most of the time wears a happy face, you can imagine what was probably happening to less privileged people. At this time there wasn’t the European Union, nor strong community rules on freedom of movement. I did not take the incident personally, knowing that Belgian police were the toughest in Europe, executing the country’s old colonial frustrations, and acting xenophobically towards everyone foreign. After all this time I can remember, personal identification on hand, observing cops patrolling public transportation and promptly taking away anyone who did not have a ticket. It was a way to blacklist minorities and immigrants without documents. This was before the European Union, before Schengen when the European borders collapsed. It was a time before Belgian police were ordered to respect freedom, the rights of European citizens, and even tolerate advocate farmers who bring their cows to the streets of the EU capital to get their message across. It was for this reason that my small country decided to break away from Belgrade and join Europe. We wanted to belong to a freer and more open community, and to obtain more rights for our citizens. We were raised with those ideals and sought to see them through. When I say “we” I mean the human race, or at least the Western society. Now, in what seems overnight, all of this seems to be crashing down to dust.   
What we are witnessing is an extreme effort to transform our contemporary, modern society into absolute plutarchy. It cannot work, and whoever thinks that it can is stupid. There is no master plan, no perfect warfare that can hold back a human spirit for more than a limited period. This government is also not a center of the dark force. It has been in power for only a month, and from what I can see it has already touched its limits. Trump and company have already said and repeated what is on their minds. Their movement is not a reform movement, but a brutal deconstruction that is being carried out by the installation of the fixed egos of power-hungry billionaires, corporations, and generals. This, at least, is their plan. It’s on us to stop it.

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