A year in review: hope, hatred, and hegemony in 2020 America

This year draws toward the end of an cultural cycle in the American Presidency, George Floyd and police reform bills, and the coming of age of new activism for all of us. The crescendoed voices of change, separatism, hatred, and unity, combined into a noise that saturates the headlines. It is as though an unseen hand were manipulating the moral scaffold of our society. Michigan stands out as one of the most heatedly active members of the union, as our friends, neighbors, covens, and families process the political turmoil. Every age, faith, class, etc. bears its mark.

The drama spilling onto our pages and phone screens alarmed many. One man expressed his view at the TCF center, as a refugee from the Soviet Union. His words, upon witnessing the crowd shout “stop the vote” were chilling.

Transcript via YouTube.

Transcript on YouTube. EXPLICIT LANGUAGE

This writer attended protests, demonstrations, and events on every point of the array. I participated in roundtables with anarchists in Eastpointe. I marched, embedded, with protestors regarding police brutality in Detroit, Sterling Heights, and Shelby Township. I walked with a rolling protest in Centerline. My camera, and self, stood outside in the midst of pollwatches, activists, and foreign press correspondents at the absentee ballot counting location in Downtown Detroit. I attended the rallies in Lansing, while militant and agitating speeches were made on concrete steps manned by armed open carry activists.

In private places, interviewees poured out heartfelt stories of brutality, shock, pain, and terror. Broken bones, sutured skin, and traumatized hearts bled before the camera. Much was never published, as it would subject them to more danger through targeting. In fact, one subject’s interview to a major news group wound up garnering them death threats. Copies of handwritten letters came into my care that detailed plans and operations that exposed how truly harrowing things were in Washington, Wisconsin, and Michigan. The weight of the decision to not print them is one I do not regret.

In Saginaw, bore witness and planted small wooden crosses in the soft, silent feathery embrace of the grass on the lawn of the courthouse. The cold damp no match for the graves memorialized there. The names of the dead rang like mournful birds as the microphone amplified them. Dressed primarily in white, the voices of these mothers, and others, gave birth to their memories in that place, like soul midwives.

Suburbs across the state electrified pavements with activism. Gen Z and Millenials filled the corners and curbs with fiery voices. Gen X and older opened windows to the sounds of the future leaders of our nation coming into their own. Marches and caravans filled the streets.

The summer nurtured alternative networks into the forefront of social justice. A trio of young Black activists mobilized what may be the largest march held in the area for social justice.  Chippewa Valley High School students, they went by AMA, Angel-Mary-Ariana, and organized an event that created a groundswell of such support that local officials had to run to catch up to the flow, lest they be left scratching their heads as to what happened. Officials quickly jumped onto the media event and were hungrily chasing after the trio in hopes of politically connecting themselves to their future projects. At 4,000 participants, the use of Instagram for organizing such a thing was phenomenal as an introduction to activism.

While part of the citizenry were in favor of their project, many others saw it as something to attack. Phone chains arose, warning of danger and possible attacks against marchers. Postings of open, and subtle threats littered social media like trash after a parade. 2020 defined itself as the year of the mobile phone as message and media.

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While Michigan marched, Wisconsin was on fire. Seattle formed citizen held zones. Waves of protestors and counter protestors screamed, shouted, wailed, and lobbied. A person with eyes on the ground in Washington state sat down for a phone interview earlier this year, which we held. You can read the transcript here.

One point in the discussion echoed the statements by many moderates on all sides of this year’s demonstrations very clearly. When asked if there was a concern that the leadership and creators of the actions were overshadowed, Zen was practical but optimistic.

Oh certainly and that is something that is currently occurring it has been. The general consensus by the average protester is that the movement has be co-opted and nearly from the beginning by people who are known or very strongly assumed or you know um instigators or external agitators things like that or people working with the Seattle PD or the Mayor’s Office . So, yes that is happening, but there is also a wonderful sense of there are wonderful groups working down there that are taking of sanitation that are taking care of social services. There is a lot of wonderful things happening there outside of the uh I wanna say well outside of the false show of these meetings with the ‘leaders’ of the organized protest. So there are, like one thing I have got to say about they got farming areas, I say farming but it is really gardening areas and sorry I was getting off track there

Back in Michigan, in what seems like the plot to a movie, a group of 14 men plotted to kidnap, and possibly assassinate, the Governor Gretchen Whitmer. Billed as right wing exremists, these alleged domestic terrorists were stopped by the a months long investigation.

The latest accusations include the charged threat that Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer was to be kidnapped and possibly killed; now government court records cite subplots to stage an armed takeover of the state capitol in Lansing and televise the executions of politicians.

Disturbing new details in alleged plot to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer

By Chuck Goudie and Barb Markoff, Christine Tressel and Ross Weidner

With the election drama coming to its boiling point, no one could anticipate the bizarre and twisted events that took place around the ballot counting conflicts. Though the Supreme Court struck down attempts to void the election results, lawsuits grew like evening mushrooms in a forest. In a crushing blow to President Trump loyalists, their decision upheld an unprecedented year of mail-in ballot challenges. The nation awaits January for the last stage of this election cylce to complete.

Practical, but optimistic describes what took place for many of us this year. Whether wearing masks, or choosing not to do so, it came down to little practical decisions with massive implications on what we decided our moral scaffold looks like in America today. For the last few weeks, an unprecedented fight for the overhaul of our future left the ballot box and entered the courts, both legal and of public opinion. A look back on what 2020 brought seemed to be in order as we prepare for 2021.

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