Civility in a Time of Panic

AT LENGTH--It’s starting to become a regular occurrence for me: being stopped by people who preface their remarks with, “You probably won’t agree with me, but…” and then they go on about giving Trump a chance or complaining about the lack of bi-partisanship or that the leftists should chose another word other than “resistance” in opposing #45.

All of this becomes more confusing when #45 fires FBI Director James Comey with no warning. Comey learns of his firing from a news report that flashed on a television screen while he was in Los Angeles speaking to employees at an FBI field office. This happened while the investigation into Russian interference in our national elections was just beginning to pick up traction. It makes one wonder if Trump protests too much?

One older gentleman who recently stopped me said, “I just don’t think that these people who are protesting should be calling it ‘resistance.’”

“And just what would you call it?” I asked. There was a pause.

From what I could tell by his age and the fact he was having drinks in an upscale restaurant on a Monday night, he was likely a retiree living off of Social Security and a pension. He was likely more financially secure than those out protesting.

So I ask him, “What if it was your health care that was being threatened? What if it was your family at risk of being deported?”

The questions could go on because the list of threats keeps growing.

“Resistance,” I conclude, “is the natural response to acts of oppression by a tyrant.”

On another occasion, a different older guy, a political insider and a lobbyist who has worked with all levels of government, complained about how there’s no bipartisan collaboration anymore.

“I just don’t understand it,” he said, “I’ve worked with Republicans my entire career and always found common ground. But now…?”

“Those were different times,” I replied. “We haven’t ever had a real fascist in the White House before. When there is this kind of repression going, on people resisted.”

“Do you remember the opposition to the Richard Nixon presidency and the Vietnam War?” I asked. “How much collaboration would you propose if you were living in pre-WWII Germany?”

“What we have here and now is much more than a disagreement on policy. It’s literally an existential threat to our republic by a man and a caucus within the ruling party who are intent on eroding our rights, denigrating public institutions, destroying long-accepted protections and gutting public benefits. This would be like attempting to find common ground with Hitler,” I concluded.

This country stands divided, much like it was in the 1960s over civil rights and the Vietnam War. Even though those wounds have healed, they left lasting legacies, scarring our country and our democracy. Trump doesn’t even seem to know why the American Civil War was fought. His tweet about Andrew Jackson was the ultimate display of his ignorance.

The last older guy to interrupt my day admitted that he actually voted for Trump, but only because he couldn’t vote for Hillary.

“So you would have been OK with voting for a social democrat like Bernie Sanders?” I asked.

“Oh no. I grew up in Vermont back when it was a conservative state,” he replied.

“So you are all right with Trump firing the FBI director?” I pressed.

“I don’t agree with much that he’s said or done,” the man said.

All of these conversations were in public places and were quite civil and polite in tone — not like much of the acrimony coming out of Washington, D.C. these days where incivility is tweeted, repeated and made news-worthy as the topic du jour.

Comey’s firing from the FBI can be considered a distraction from the investigation into Trump’s Russian connections. Wouldn’t someone with the power to subpoena his tax records think that there might be some relevant details included in those returns?

What seems increasingly evident is that the American public is continually being played and  manipulated through false or misleading accusations and propaganda. This drama rises to the level of a Shakespearean tragedy.

However, out here in La La Land, the city blithely moves forward with its well-intentioned liberalism, while violating the rights of the homeless, curtailing free speech at city hall and pressing for a misguided Measure C charter amendment which has been criticized by the groups who have historically lobbied for police reform.

It is an imperfect solution to the intractable problem of Los Angeles Police Department oversight. It should be voted down. The real solution is to set up civilian review boards in each of the police divisions, with members appointed by the locally elected neighborhood councils who then send their decisions to the police commission for confirmation. It is doubtful whether either the police or the city council would share this kind of power with the neighborhood councils, but the time will come when neighborhood empowerment actually means something more than a few words on a website.

(James Preston Allen is the Publisher of Random Lengths News, the Los Angeles Harbor Area's only independent newspaper. He is also a guest columnist for the California Courts Monitor and is the author of "Silence Is Not Democracy - Don't listen to that man with the white cap - he might say something that you agree with!" He has been engaged in the civic affairs of CD 15 for more than 35 years. More of Allen…and other views and news at: