American Carnage, Captain Kirk, and so Long to Shinzo Abe
Japanese PM Shinzo Abe is out, William Shatner is raging against the dying of the light, and protests in America turned violent
Hello and welcome to Angry Planet’s weekly catalogue of a world in conflict. Every week Jason, Kevin, and Matthew watch the news and sort through the signal and noise so you don’t have to.
This week Matthew kept his eye on America as political violence bloomed in its cities and Jason cast his glance across the Pacific to Japan where the prime minister has stepped down for “health reasons.”
The New American Sectarianism
America is two months away from its presidential election and less than a week away from Kyle Rittenhouse taking two lives during a small street battle in Kenosha, Wisconsin. It feels like things are only getting worse out there.
Protests took place in more major cities this weekend than we can properly catalog here. Police arrested five people in D.C. after a night of violence and fire. The cops used flash bangs, chemical sprays, and tear gas to disperse the crowds. As of this writing, protests in the nation’s capital are ongoing.
But the eyes of the news and the eyes of the country were on Portland, Oregon, again, where it feels like the extreme end of our current political theater continues to play out. A pro-Trump rally of 1,000 people and some 600 vehicles gathered in the parking lots of suburbia outside of Portland on Saturday.
After gathering strength, the caravan cruised its way into the city proper in a scene reminiscent of Hezbollah rallies in Lebanon. Flags waved, crowds cheered, and calls for Trump’s re-election dominated the highway.
As Saturday wore on, the violence escalated. Two dudes fought on the highway itself. A truck full of Trump supporters bowled over protesters while spraying mace out the window. By the evening, one man had been shot and killed.
Early reports have identified the victim as part of the Patriot Prayer movement, a a far-right group that frequently holds rallies and battles left wing activists in Portland. The details of his death are unclear and the Portland police are asking for witnesses to come forward.
Angry Planet has heard people call the protests LARPs or cosplay, in an attempt to diminish their impact. Well, “we are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.” Revolution and battle is all fun and games until it happens to you. The romance really fades when the people you care about start getting hurt. Kevin has been through refugee camps full of people who lost it all.
Some wars are worth fighting, but only after you’ve exhausted every other conceivable option. This isn’t Dumbledor’s Army or Call of Duty. It’s not adventurous and it doesn’t make you cool. It makes your friends and loved ones dead. This doesn’t have to happen.
The national mood is one of despair and anger. Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf told ABC that “all options are on the table,” when considering how to end the violence in Portland. NPR’s Code Switch interviewed the author of In Defense of Looting. In Chicago, black community leaders have called on the National Guard to protect local businesses. It’s a sentiment echoed by immigrant and minority business owners in Los Angeles, Minneapolis, and other cities across the country.
In D.C. a group of overwhelmingly white protestors demanded diners at a restaurant raise their first in a show of solidarity with Black Lives Matter. Following Trump’s speech closing out the RNC, police escorted Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) from the White House as protestors swarmed him and demanded he acknowledge the shooting of Breonna Taylor. Paul is a sponsor of the Justice for Breonna Taylor Act—which would end no-knock raids by police—and has spoken to Taylor’s family.
Everything sucks. Everything is complicated. Everyone has been trapped inside for too long, millions of Americans are out of work and facing eviction, Covid-19 is killing us in record numbers, and it increasingly feels like we’re sliding into sectarian political violence.
Is Trump the modern face of fascism? He’s demagogic, authoritarian, and loves othering America’s Black and Latino citizens. Is he like the famous fascists of the past? Yes and no, but the times rhyme, they don’t repeat.
In some ways, what’s happening now in America looks more similar to the Troubles in Ireland, but there, too, the ratio isn’t one-to-one.
It was never going to be. Our Troubles were always going to be uniquely American and uniquely grotesque. Our violence would always come with the wave of a Gadsden Flag and cloaked behind the black mask of the anti-fascist. Our narratives were never going to be simple. American carnage was never going to stop, only accelerate.
I don’t know when the fever will break, but I don’t think it will be soon. This is where we live now. These are the fights that are before us.
A lot of what we know about Japanese soon-to-be-former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in the United States is that he played up to Donald Trump when the president visited, complete with burgers and golf; he tried to revive a moribund Japanese economy with mixed results at best; and he also had mixed results in reviving the country’s armed forces.
Why is he leaving office? Well, it could be ulcerative colitis (which sounds nasty), it could be because the Japanese people have come to loathe him, and it could be to stay one step ahead of the law.
Why do we care here at Angry Planet? It’s the military, of course.
Japan hasn’t had an official Army, Navy, Air Force, or Marines since they lost World War II. In fact, the post-war constitution—written by the United States—says they can’t. Just a small Self-Defense Force. In case you’re wondering why the rest of the world preferred it that way, we can’t recommend enough Dan Carlin’s “Supernova in the East” series on Hardcore History.
Abe tried to amend his country’s constitution to go back to the future, complete with a full-fledged military. That may be because he’s part of a small off-shoot of Japan’s Shinto religion that wants to make the Empire great again.
And while he failed to do that, he was able to grow the force he had and make some big changes, enlarging the budget and refitting a couple of ships to turn them into “de facto” aircraft carriers. The force has also become more focused on China.
Japan’s existing military is super popular and respected at home. How they’ll be deployed, or even whether they will be, will be up to whoever comes next.
William Shatner went to war with Star & Stripes over the U.S. Space Force this week. Yes, really. Cpt. Kirk started by tweeting lamentations about the Space Force not using Naval ranks, y’know like in Star Trek. Chad Garland over at Stripes wrote up Shatner’s bad opinions, then Shatner penned an emoji-laden op-ed for Military Times about the whole affair. Then things got real dumb on Twitter.
Authorities have arrested an Orange County man who allegedly spent five years impersonating a federal agent.
War On the Rocks breaks down the benefits of recruiting gamers into the military and the big push into esports.
In Mali (remember Mali?), the junta has delayed a meeting that would help establish when ruling power would return to civilians.
Hezbollah and Israel are clashing in Lebanon, just what the embattled country doesn’t need. More on this in this week’s episode.
Belarus is kicking out international journalists, including those working for the Associated Press and BBC.
The U.S. Navy is interested in creating a “hardware factory and hardware pipeline” to keep its technical systems up to date.
Covid-19 rates are public information in Guam, Japan, and Korea. But not in Hawaii.
In Berlin, hundreds of members of far-right groups attempted to storm the Reichstag. Yes, in 2020.
top image: a fire burns in Syria. Kevin Knodell photo
“Supernova in the East” is fantastic. Can not recommend it enough. The link to the PBS story from June regarding mayor Lightfoot’s and the aldermen meeting.... wow