Sunday, July 5, 2020

Sunday Reading

Speaking of Shithole Countries — Anne Applebaum in The Atlantic.

There is a lot of learned material written about nationalism—scholarly books and papers, histories of it, theories of it—but most of us understand that nationalism, at its heart, at its very deepest roots, is about a feeling of superiority: We are better than you. Our country is better than your country. Or even—and apologies, but this is the precise language deployed by the president of the United States: Your country is a shithole country. Ours isn’t.

In this sense, nationalism is not patriotism, which is the desire to work on behalf of your fellow citizens, to defend common values, to build something positive. Nationalism is not community spirit either, which seeks to pull people together. Nationalism has nothing to do with democratic values: Authoritarians can be nationalists; indeed, most are. Nationalism has nothing to do with the rule of law, justice, or opportunity. At its core, nationalism is rather a competition, an ugly and negative competition. There’s a reason nationalists build walls, denigrate foreigners, and denounce immigrants: Because our people are better than those people. There’s a reason nationalism has so often become violent in the past. For if we—our nation—are better, then what right do others have to live beside us? Or to occupy land that we covet? Or even, maybe, to live at all?

Sure, people pretend otherwise. We’re just defending our right to be unique! We just want everyone to stay in their own country! We just like our own culture! But that’s not really what nationalists think, and everyone knows it. They can nod and wink at equality among nations, but really they are motivated by, driven by, addicted to a feeling of superiority. Our county is better than your country. So stay out.

I hear this when Donald Trump uses the slogan “America First”: This is why he needs a physical wall at the Mexican border; this is the source of his dislike for immigrants, for people with unfamiliar surnames or different skin colors. He regards all of them as lesser, inferior people who somehow got inside our borders and made our country worse. He and the claque who support him repeat these things over and over again because this kind of nationalism requires reinforcement. It thrives on stories and pictures, songs and chants, repetition. It needs a constant stream of evidence, constant proof of superiority.

But what happens when the stream stops? What happens when the stories and pictures no longer match? More to the point, what will Trump do, what will his followers and admirers do, when their understanding of the world is flipped on its head? What will happen when they realize that other countries are building walls between them and the United States?

Here it’s worth pointing out a genuine oddity: The world in the age of the coronavirus should be a nationalist’s paradise. Borders have slammed shut. Countries have fallen back on their own resources. Multiple international institutions have failed, in major and minor ways, starting with the World Health Organization, the one group that was explicitly created for this moment, and continuing on to the G-7, whose members can’t even manage to meet for coffee.

And yet, has there ever been a more global moment? Everyone in the world is living in the same isolation, with the same fears. Everyone is working on the same vaccines, exchanging notes about the same cures. Everyone is trying to solve the same medical, psychological, and economic problems. Everyone is dealing with a virus that seems completely uninterested in the national origins of the people it infects. More to the point, everyone can look at everyone else’s country, read its media and social media, see how its institutions are coping with the crisis. We can’t leave our houses, but we can meet in cyberspace, where we can keep talking.

While we are there, we can see how other countries are dealing with the pandemic. Some are doing well, especially those that have decent bureaucrats, respect for science, and high levels of trust: South Korea and Taiwan, Germany and Slovakia, much of Scandinavia, New Zealand. Some countries are not doing well, especially those run by divisive populists on both the left and the right: Russia, Brazil, Mexico, and, of course, the United States. But even within this latter group, we stand out. Out of all these countries—out of all the countries in the world—the U.S. has the largest number of cases and the highest death toll. The U.S. isn’t merely suffering; the U.S. is suffering more than anybody else.

The numbers of American sick and dead are a source of wonder and marvel all over the world. They also inspire fear and anxiety. The European Union has decided to allow some foreigners to cross its borders now, but not Americans. Uruguayans and Rwandans can go to Italy and Spain, but not Americans. Moroccans and Tunisians can go to Germany and Greece, but not Americans. For the first time in living memory, Canada has kept its border closed with the United States. On July 3, the governor of the Mexican state of Sonora delivered the coup de grace: She announced the temporary closure of the border with Arizona and banned Americans from Sonoran beaches.

How will American nationalists cope with this new situation? I’m guessing many will pretend, like the president, that this isn’t happening: Months into the crisis, he has once again expressed the belief that the virus will magically “disappear.” But for some, it will be difficult to prevent the intrusion of reality: The stupid and pointless competition among nations continues in their heads—and they are losing. A major reckoning is coming. It can’t arrive too soon.

Doonesbury — Paying for it.

Saturday, July 4, 2020

The Glorious Fourth

Flags in the Rain 07-03-14When I was a kid I was very outgoing in putting up displays for the holidays — Memorial Day, Christmas, the Fourth of July. I liked the flags, the lights, the stuff. It was cool to make a big splash. But as I grew up I grew out of it, and today I don’t go much for things like that. I don’t have a flag to fly on national holidays, and the most I’ll do for Christmas is a wreath on the door because it has good memories and the scent of pine is rare in subtropical Florida.

I suppose it has something to do with my Quaker notions of shunning iconography — outward symbols can’t show how you truly feel about something on the inside — and more often than not they are used to make up for the lack of a true belief. This is also true of patriotism: waving the flag — or wrapping yourself in it — is a poor and false measure of how you truly feel about your country.

There’s an old saying that there is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come. As Benjamin Franklin noted, no country had ever been formed because of an idea. But when the Continental Congress met in Philadelphia in 1776 and passed the resolution embodied in the Declaration of Independence, that was what was being done: create a nation not based on geographical boundaries, property, tribalism, or religion, but on the idea of forming a new government to replace the present form because the rulers were incompetent, uncaring, and cruel. The American Revolution wasn’t so much a rebellion as it was a cry for attention. Most of the Declaration is a punch-list, if you will, of grievances both petty and grand against the Crown, and once the revolution was over and the new government was formed, the Constitution contained many remedies to prevent the slights and injuries inflicted under colonialism: the Bill of Rights is a direct response to many of the complaints listed in the Declaration.

But the Declaration of Independence goes beyond complaints. Its preamble is a mission statement. It proclaims our goals and what we hope to achieve. No nation had ever done that before, and to this day we are still struggling to achieve life and liberty, and the pursuit of happiness goes on with no sign of let-up.

That is the true glory of America. Not that we complain — and we do — but that we work to fix those complaints. To put them right. To make things better than they were. To give hope to people who feel that they have no voice, and to assure that regardless of who they are, where they come from, what they look like, who they love, or what they believe, there will be room for them to grow, do, and become whatever it is that they have the capacity to be. It’s a simple idea, but the simplest ideas often have the most powerful impact.

This nation has achieved many great things. We’ve inspired other nations and drawn millions to our shores not to just escape their own country but to participate in what we’re doing. And we’ve made mistakes. We’ve blundered and fumbled and bullied and injured. We’ve treated some of our own citizens with contempt, and shown the same kind of disregard for the rights of others that we enumerated in our own Declaration of Independence. We have been guilty of arrogance and hypocrisy. But these are all human traits, and we are, after all, human. The goal of government is to rise above humanity, and the goal of humanity is to strive for perfection. So if we stumble on the road to that goal, it is only because we are moving forward.

I love this country not for what it is but for what it could be. In my own way I show my patriotism not by waving a flag from my front porch but by working to make things work in our system and by adding to the discussion that will bring forth ideas to improve our lives and call into question the ideas of others. It is all a part of what makes the simple idea of life, liberty, and that elusive happiness so compelling and so inspiring, and what makes me very proud to be a part of this grand experiment.

Go forth!

Photo: The Avenue in the Rain by Frederick Childe Hassam 1917.

[This post originally appeared on July 4, 2005.]

Friday, July 3, 2020

Happy Friday

It’s the long Fourth of July weekend.  So what do you do when you’re supposed to stay home and social distance?  Watch from your back porch.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

If You’re Gonna Go…

All the signs, tea leaves and all, point to a hammering defeat of both Trump and the GOP in November.  Of course the election is still four months away — a geological age in campaigns — but it looks more like a wave or a landslide against the Republicans to the point that even Mitch McConnell is going against Trump and wearing a mask.  It’s to prevent the spread of Covid-19, of course, but it also may be so that he can slip by unnoticed.

Then again, the RNC and the House Republicans seem to think that if they’re going to go down, they’re going to do it in blaze of flaming wreckage like the Hindenburg landing on fireworks factory.  So they’re embracing all the nutty candidates that the right wing can throw at the wall and see what oozes out.

Republican leaders stood by the upset winner of the GOP primary in a competitive House seat despite the gun rights activist’s openness to the pro-Trump QAnon conspiracy theory.

The National Republican Congressional Committee, overseen by top GOP leaders, embraced Lauren Boebert as their nominee Wednesday following her defeat of five-term Rep. Scott R. Tipton (R-Colo.), whom she characterized during the campaign as insufficiently supportive of President Trump.

“Lauren won her primary fair and square and has our support. This is a Republican seat and will remain a Republican seat as Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats continue to peddle their radical conspiracy theories and pushing their radical cancel culture,” Rep. Tom Emmer (Minn.), chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, said in a statement.

Boebert is the ninth individual to win the Republican nomination for a seat in the House or Senate who is either a full supporter of the QAnon movement or has voiced support for some of its tenets, none of which have a foundation in truth. Conspiracy theory experts consider it a webbed network filled with activists who wrongly believe a secret group of elites inside of and outside of government is working against Trump, as well as other false allegations of pedophilia among top Democratic officials.

“Everything I’ve heard of Q — I hope this is real,” Boebert told the QAnon-aligned Web interview show “Steel Truth” last month. “Because it only means America is getting stronger and better and people are returning to conservative values.”

Q is how the conspiracy theorists refer to the leader of their movement, although they do not know who it is or even if Q is one person or many people.

For weeks, as these fringe candidates won nominations, Republicans tried to dodge the issue, believing most of these candidates would not raise much money and lose in heavily liberal districts.

But Boebert’s victory comes in a district Tipton won with just 52 percent of the vote in 2018. Democrats, who renominated former state representative Diane Mitsch Bush, held the seat as recently as 2010 and have signaled new interest in competing against the inexperienced GOP nominee.

“Not even multiple endorsements from President Trump could save Congressman Scott R. Tipton from his extreme, QAnon caucus challenger. Washington Republicans should immediately disavow Lauren Boebert and her extremist, dangerous conspiracy theories,” Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.), chairwoman of the House Democrats campaign arm, said in a statement Tuesday night.

Most prominent Republicans stayed silent on the trend of conspiracy theory-supporting nominees running under the GOP’s banner, but the 2012 Republican presidential nominee expressed concern that the party’s voters were swimming in these political waters.

There are a few Republicans who are unsettled by this movement — Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) is “worried” — but he’s sure the party will “remain steady” despite the occasional “departure.” Yeah, like Trump. How’d that work out for you, Senator?

I’m not quite convinced that the people of western Colorado will flip the seat to the Democrats, so Ms. Boebert will replace the likes of Steve King of Iowa and Michele Bachmann and squeeze into the clown car with Louis Goemert and Matt Gaetz: noisy, obnoxious, full-on whack-job.  But it’s a sign of desperation on the part of the Republicans. They’re grasping at any straw they can find to hang a claw on power, and if they were willing to back the likes of Trump on a national level, they might as well do in on the local level. If anything has been proven over the last four years, they know how to commit arson even if they’re lighting themselves on fire.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Fatal Ignorance

Of course he was told about the Russian bounties.

American officials provided a written briefing in late February to President Trump laying out their conclusion that a Russian military intelligence unit offered and paid bounties to Taliban-linked militants to kill U.S. and coalition troops in Afghanistan, two officials familiar with the matter said.

The investigation into the suspected Russian covert operation to incentivize such killings has focused in part on an April 2019 car bombing that killed three Marines as one such potential attack, according to multiple officials familiar with the matter.

The new information emerged as the White House tried on Monday to play down the intelligence assessment that Russia sought to encourage and reward killings — including reiterating a claim that Mr. Trump was never briefed about the matter and portraying the conclusion as disputed and dubious.

But that stance clashed with the disclosure by two officials that the intelligence was included months ago in Mr. Trump’s President’s Daily Brief document — a compilation of the government’s latest secrets and best insights about foreign policy and national security that is prepared for him to read. One of the officials said the item appeared in Mr. Trump’s brief in late February; the other cited Feb. 27, specifically.

Moreover, a description of the intelligence assessment that the Russian unit had carried out the bounties plot was also seen as serious and solid enough to disseminate more broadly across the intelligence community in a May 4 article in the C.I.A.’s World Intelligence Review, a classified compendium commonly referred to as The Wire, two officials said.

A National Security Council spokesman declined to comment on any connection between the Marines’ deaths and the suspected Russian plot. The White House press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, did not answer when pressed by reporters on Monday whether the intelligence was included in the written President’s Daily Brief, and the National Security Council spokesman pointed to her comments when asked later about the February written briefing.

Well, there’s the problem: they put it in writing. Unless it’s on Twitter from the Klan or Fox News, he doesn’t hear about it. Or want to hear about it.

And it’s not like it’s breaking news.

Top officials in the White House were aware in early 2019 of classified intelligence indicating Russia was secretly offering bounties to the Taliban for the deaths of Americans, a full year earlier than has been previously reported, according to U.S. officials with direct knowledge of the intelligence.

The assessment was included in at least one of President Donald Trump’s written daily intelligence briefings at the time, according to the officials. Then-national security adviser John Bolton also told colleagues he briefed Trump on the intelligence assessment in March 2019.

The White House did not respond to questions about Trump or other officials’ awareness of Russia’s provocations in 2019. The White House has said Trump was not — and still has not been — briefed on the intelligence assessments because they have not been fully verified. However, it is rare for intelligence to be confirmed without a shadow of a doubt before it is presented to top officials.

Bolton declined to comment Monday when asked by the AP if he had briefed Trump about the matter in 2019. On Sunday, he suggested to NBC’s “Meet the Press” that Trump was claiming ignorance of Russia’s provocations to justify his administration’s lack of a response.

“He can disown everything if nobody ever told him about it,” Bolton said.

The revelations cast new doubt on the White House’s efforts to distance Trump from the Russian intelligence assessments. The AP reported Sunday that concerns about Russian bounties were also included in a second written presidential daily briefing earlier this year and that current national security adviser Robert O’Brien had discussed the matter with Trump. O’Brien denies he did so.

It’s one thing to be clueless about the intricacies of how things work.  It’s another thing to ignore the news because it makes you look bad or threatens your chances for re-election.  And when people are dead because of your willful ignorance, that’s criminally negligent homicide.

To reaffirm what I said yesterday, compared to this, impeaching him over Ukraine was like arresting him for double-parking. This fits the the Constitution’s requirement for treason.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Ukraine Was Small Potatoes

Via the New York Times:

WASHINGTON — United States intelligence officers and Special Operations forces in Afghanistan alerted their superiors as early as January to a suspected Russian plot to pay bounties to the Taliban to kill American troops in Afghanistan, according to officials briefed on the matter. They believed at least one U.S. troop death was the result of the bounties, two of the officials said.

The crucial information that led the spies and commandos to focus on the bounties included the recovery of a large amount of American cash from a raid on a Taliban outpost that prompted suspicions. Interrogations of captured militants and criminals played a central role in making the intelligence community confident in its assessment that the Russians had offered and paid bounties in 2019, another official has said.

Armed with this information, military and intelligence officials have been reviewing American and other coalition combat casualties over the past 18 months to determine whether any were victims of the plot. Four Americans were killed in combat in early 2020, but the Taliban have not attacked American positions since a February agreement to end the long-running war in Afghanistan.

The details added to the picture of the classified intelligence assessment, which The New York Times reported Friday has been under discussion inside the Trump administration since at least March, and emerged as the White House confronted a growing chorus of criticism on Sunday over its apparent failure to authorize a response to Russia.

Mr. Trump defended himself by denying the Times report that he had been briefed on the intelligence, expanding on a similar White House rebuttal a day earlier. But leading congressional Democrats and some Republicans demanded a response to Russia that, according to officials, the administration has yet to authorize.

The president “needs to immediately expose and handle this, and stop Russia’s shadow war,” Representative Adam Kinzinger, Republican of Illinois and a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, wrote on Twitter.

Appearing on the ABC program “This Week,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she had not been briefed on the intelligence assessment and had asked for an immediate report to Congress. She accused Mr. Trump of wanting “to ignore” any charges against Russia.

“Russia has never gotten over the humiliation they suffered in Afghanistan, and now they are taking it out on us, our troops,” she said of the Soviet Union’s bloody war there in the 1980s. “This is totally outrageous. You would think that the minute the president heard of it, he would want to know more instead of denying that he knew anything.”

Spokespeople for the C.I.A., the director of national intelligence and the Pentagon declined to comment on the new findings. A National Security Council spokesman, John L. Ullyot, said in a statement on Sunday night, “The veracity of the underlying allegations continues to be evaluated.”

Mr. Trump said Sunday night on Twitter that “Intel just reported to me that they did not find this info credible, and therefore did not report it to me or @VP.” One senior administration official offered a similar explanation, saying that Mr. Trump was not briefed because the intelligence agencies had come to no consensus on the findings.

But another official said there was broad agreement that the intelligence assessment was accurate, with some complexities because different aspects of the intelligence — including interrogations and surveillance data — resulted in some differences among agencies in how much confidence to put in each type.

Several geological ages ago — last December — Congress impeached Trump over his coercion of Ukraine in order to get dirt on Joe Biden. In the aftermath of the pandemic, the economic collapse, and the racial unrest brought about by criminal activities in several police departments, we should be so lucky as to have the problem of quid pro quo between Ukraine and the United States. But this is the real deal.

Adam L. Silverman in Balloon Juice:

If it was in the Presidential Daily Brief and neither the President, nor the Vice President read it because they can’t be bothered to read them, then they are derelict in their duties and need to be removed from their positions. What we know now is not the end of this story. I expect more information will come out, it will continue to be damning, and the President and his surrogates will try to ignore the underlying reality while lashing out at those who are reporting it. All while we have US and allied coalition forces in contact with the enemy in Afghanistan. An enemy that is being monetarily incentivized to kill them by the GRU/Russian military intelligence. If this failure to do anything to make Russia stop what they’re doing, from the most basic issuance of a démarche telling Putin to stop, let alone anything resembling real pushback, is not a clear example of a high crime and misdemeanor, then nothing is.

Fox Lied, People Died

This comes as no surprise at all.

It’s another one of those Trump Era realities best described as unsurprising but nevertheless shocking.

Three serious research efforts have put numerical weight — yes, data-driven evidence — behind what many suspected all along: Americans who relied on Fox News, or similar right-wing sources, were duped as the coronavirus began its deadly spread.

Dangerously duped.

The studies “paint a picture of a media ecosystem that amplifies misinformation, entertains conspiracy theories and discourages audiences from taking concrete steps to protect themselves and others,” wrote my colleague Christopher Ingraham in an analysis last week.

Here’s the reality, now backed by numbers:

Those who relied on mainstream sources — the network evening newscasts or national newspapers that President Trump constantly blasts as “fake news” — got an accurate assessment of the pandemic’s risks. Those were the news consumers who were more likely to respond accordingly, protecting themselves and others against the disease that has now killed more than 123,000 in the United States with no end in sight.

Those who relied on Fox or, say, radio personality Rush Limbaugh, came to believe that vitamin C was a possible remedy, that the Chinese government created the virus in a lab, and that government health agencies were exaggerating the dangers in the hopes of damaging Trump politically, a survey showed.

“That’s the real evil of this type of programming,” Arthur West of the Washington League for Increased Transparency and Ethics, which sued Fox News in April over its coronavirus coverage, told the Times of San Diego, a news website. “We believe it delayed and interfered with a prompt and adequate response to this coronavirus pandemic.” (A Fox News lawyer called the suit “wrong on the facts, frivolous on the law,” and said it would be defended vigorously; a judge dismissed the suit in May.)

Beyond the risks the general public faces from consuming this nonsense and misinformation, there’s the fact that the president himself has been picking up these same ideas and using them to steer policy. Instead of tapping experts in the medical and scientific community — many of whom are on the government payroll — he has chosen to educate himself by watching right-wing news outlets.

Not only that, those who believed the lies or disregarded the truth have been attacking — literally — people wearing masks and businesses that are enforcing the CDC guidelines for social distancing. So they’re not only endangering themselves, they’re threatening the lives of other people.

It’s one thing to have a media outlet spew lies and disinformation; there’s not a lot that we can do to stop that, and the Constitution is pretty clear about that.  But to have the people who have sworn an oath to be responsible for the health and welfare of the people of this country not only go along with them but actually feed the lies is willfully negligent and criminal.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

On Pride

I got a very nice note from a young(er) gay friend who said “Thanks for being you when it wasn’t easy to be you.”

He’s right; it wasn’t easy. I won’t bore you with all the details of what I went through when I was a kid and knew I was gay when I didn’t know what being gay was and all the bullying and shit that I and every other queer kid went through. I made it through and came out — pun intended — with the scars, stories, and AA and Al-Anon chips to prove it, not to mention material for a lot of plays and at least (so far) one very long novel. I was fortunate to have supportive parents and meet a man who would change my life, and that helped make me what I am today.

Maybe it’s the Quaker influence, but I’ve never been one to indulge in “pride,” although I support unequivocally the concept of queer pride. After all, there is nothing at all wrong with being proud of conquering a lot of hate, bigotry, and institutional desiccation and achieve what has been denied for so long: a life led on one’s own terms. So I temper my pride in the quiet awareness that a lot of people of every segment of our society and civilization have suffered, died, and sacrificed so much to get to the point where I can write this simple note on a social media site and not think about what the neighbors will say or do, and hope to be an example to those who know me. So call it pride if you like.

But temper that with the awareness that it is not over. Court rulings and corporate awareness doesn’t change the fact that we are still human, subject to the fears and blindness that come with it. We’re still struggling with the Confederacy, so how long will it take to get past Stonewall? But that doesn’t mean we give up or even accept the status quo now. As for me, the best I can do is live my life as best I can as who I am. No one ever promised it would be easy, but then, nothing worth doing ever is.


Sunday Reading

Back To Our Roots — Michael Schulman on liberating queer liberation from corporatism.

What’s so bad about a rainbow burrito? If you’ve been following the rift in the L.G.B.T.Q. movement over the corporate embrace of Pride, the question may have crossed your mind. Last June, the West Village was a labyrinth of rainbows, with every bank branch and Shake Shack festooned with messaging for Pride Month. Chipotle sold limited-edition Pride merch, including tank tops with a rainbow burrito and the slogan “¿Homo Estas?” The hoopla—always big, but this time bigger—marked the fiftieth anniversary of the Stonewall uprising and culminated in the annual NYC Pride March, which drew some five million revellers and boasted sponsors including MasterCard, Macy’s, Uber, and Diet Coke.

Amid the festivities, a group of activists staged an alternative: the inaugural Queer Liberation March—a smaller, rawer, more radical cousin to the established parade. In spirit it was closer to the roots of the Pride March, which was originally called the Christopher Street Liberation Day March, and began, in 1970, to mark the one-year anniversary of the Stonewall riots. The new march even re-created the original route, from Greenwich Village up to Central Park. There were no branded floats, no police contingent, no corporate funding. “One of our mottoes was ‘We’re here for queer liberation, not rainbow capitalism,’ ” one of the organizers, Natalie James, said recently. The group is now planning a second annual march, which will take place Sunday, while the main Pride March has been cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic—meaning that, by happenstance, the upstart march has usurped the Goliath in the space of a year, just in time to draw on a renewed spirit of spontaneous protest.

The critique that Pride marches have become corporatized and depoliticized has been building for years, part of a perennial tension in the L.G.B.T.Q. movement between assimilation and radicalism. “A lot of longtime activists had just stopped going to Pride,” another organizer, Jay W. Walker, said. “They were kind of sickened by it.” He brought up the concept of pinkwashing, in which “corporate bad actors” use a show of acceptance to buy good will while distracting from less savory practices. For instance, Walker mentioned Wells Fargo, which has had floats in Pride marches for years while maintaining (until recently) financial ties with the National Rifle Association, which opposed gun-control measures after the Pulse night-club shooting, in 2016. “A big part of our issue with the corporations is they’re not consistent in their support for us throughout the year,” Francesca Barjon, the group’s twenty-four-year-old social-media organizer, said. “It’s about being able to profit off of us in June.”

Cathy Renna, a NYC Pride spokesperson, countered, “We’re so far past that with these corporations. They know they gotta do better than that. This is not about waving a rainbow flag in June in your window.” The Chipotle merch, for example, benefitted the Trevor Project, which provides services to queer youth. “It’s really easy for Pride to be a target, because Pride is something that everybody has some sense of ownership in,” Renna said, adding, of the breakout march, “If we’re going to continue to make the kind of progress that we want to make, I think it’s important that we not—I’m trying to think of a way to say this that’s family-friendly—crap on each other, because some people like to do things differently.”

The Queer Liberation March had its roots in the 2017 Pride March, which featured the disruptive début of the Resistance Contingent, a consortium of activist groups that formed in response to the Trump Administration. It included groups such as Gays Against Guns, which staged a die-in, and Hoods4Justice, which formed a blockade to prevent the N.Y.P.D. marching band from joining the parade, with banners reading “There are no queer friendly cops” and “Decolonize pride.” A dozen people were arrested. During the planning for the Pride March in 2018, Heritage of Pride, the organization that produces New York’s Pride events, tried “dissolving” the Resistance Contingent, James said. It was eventually reinstated, but the activists were disillusioned with what the march had become. “We realized we all were very dissatisfied with the event itself, the degree of corporate floats, the corporatization, the bank sponsorship, as well as having a fully uniformed police contingent given a place of honor right at the front of the march,” James said. The N.Y.P.D. presence struck the activists as particularly ironic, since the Stonewall riots had been provoked by a police raid. After delivering a set of demands to H.O.P., the mayor, and the police commissioner and getting brushed off, the group, calling itself the Reclaim Pride Coalition, took on the “colossal task” of organizing its own march.

James, who is an organizer for the queer caucus of the Democratic Socialists of America, helped arrange the first meetings at the caucus’s space at the L.G.B.T. Center, in the West Village. One point of contention was whether to allow the Gay Officers Action League, or GOAL, to participate. “Eventually we came out on the side of the fact that the N.Y.P.D. as an institution, as a whole, is a racist one, and therefore having any representation of it wasn’t proper,” James said, though police officers were welcome to march as individuals, out of uniform. (Renna defended the presence of GOAL at the main march, saying, “It’s a free-speech march. If you’re going to let the Communists march, you’re going to let the police who are queer.”) “We wanted to get rid of the barricades, and we wanted certain police-free zones within the area,” James said. A subgroup negotiated with the N.Y.P.D. “We didn’t get a formal permit,” she said. “But we did get an assurance that they would not interfere with our march.”

The start time was set for 9:30 A.M. That morning, things did not start off promisingly. “We were there at the intersection, and there was just us,” Jon Carter, one of the marshals, recalled. “We looked around and we could see empty streets, and there was a real question about what the day would look like.” Then, after thirty-five minutes, there was an “If you build it, they will come” moment, as marchers materialized. (The group estimates that forty-five thousand people attended.) “We were very intentional about having trans people in the front,” Barjon said. It ended with a rally on the Great Lawn, with speakers who included the ACT UP veteran Larry Kramer. Walker recalled, “Larry did his normal thing that he always does, which is to scream at queer people and go, ‘You’re not doing enough!’ ”

The group was busy planning a 2020 edition of the march when COVID-19 struck. After New York’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, temporarily banned large gatherings, the Pride March and its rambunctious challenger both cancelled. The Reclaim Pride Coalition decided to hold a virtual event, called Livestream for Queer Liberation. (The group also protested the controversial field hospital that was set up in Central Park by Franklin Graham’s organization Samaritan’s Purse, which asked volunteers to sign a statement opposing same-sex marriage.) But the calculation changed in early June, after the killings of George Floyd and other black Americans by the police sparked a wave of mass protests. “There was unanimity that we needed to have a march,” Walker said. “And we needed to have it centered on the movement for black lives.”

With only weeks to plan, the march’s scrappy, D.I.Y. quality worked in its favor. “The simplicity of our approach to organizing marches and actions makes things very fluid and flexible, and we’re able to pivot in a way that a more complex plan wouldn’t allow us to,” Carter said. The main Pride March, which Carter called a “polished spectacle,” is still not happening this year. It’s as if the COVID-19 meteor killed off a twelve-million-dollar dinosaur, and a smaller, more resourceful organism survived to fill the parade-size void. Nevertheless, the group has adapted to the new circumstances: it’s gathering masks and hand sanitizer and will still put material online for people who can’t take the health risk of attending in person. It isn’t seeking any type of police blessing, advertising only the starting point (Foley Square). Also, James said, “We have voted on a start time, 1 P.M., so for the queers that utterly took umbrage at our 9:30 start time last year, I’m sure they’ll be relieved.”

The group’s timing is apt. Outside Stonewall, there’s now a sign reading “PRIDE IS A RIOT!”

Doonesbury —  We’re puzzled.  (Click on the link to download a hard copy.)

The timing is terrific.  I’ve been bingeing on crosswords since March and I’ve already done all the Puns and Anagrams from the New York Times back to 1997.

Saturday, June 27, 2020