Baby in top hat with 2019 sash in a cage looking scared

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” stated George Santayana. We’ve heard this often the past three years, mostly in reference to the rise of Nazi Germany. The rigged U.S. election system and antiquated and undemocratic Electoral College system has produced the most “perfect” presidential pomposity in political history. The genocide is not as overt but getting closer as more immigrants are interned at our borders while their kids are stripped from their families and caged. We need to understand that all the horrendous draconian laws, corporate dominance, and wealth inequality we face now did not begin with Donald Trump. He is just the predictable outcome.  

2020 is almost here. It’s not the end of the world as we know it, just the end of a dismal decade that continues its incremental climb to inverted fascism in the US. The planet is in peril.

Here in Ohio we rang in the “teens” with John Kasich’s election in 2010. His initial actions were unfathomably tragic for our state. He gave back $400 million from the Department of Transportation for Triple-C (Cleveland-Columbus-Cincinnati) train service. He attacked working people’s wages triggering the successful labor movement against Senate Bill 5. He unleashed unfettered fracking across the state including beneath state forests. He devastated the hope of a clean Ohio environment by cutting subsidies for renewable energies. By 2017, Kasich has signed 19 bills attacking women’s reproductive rights. There were some bright spots during his tenure – like when Roger Stone outed Kasich as the man to go to for a $5 bag of pot in the Reagan campaign of ’76.

Still, refusing to go to the Republican convention held in his home state to protest Trump’s nomination is worthy of a salute. By the end of the decade, Kasich qualified as a “never-Trumper” by calling for Il Duce’s impeachment.

The nightmare scenario painted in the infamous 1971 Lewis Powell memo – that established the blueprint for an emboldened U.S. reactionary movement centered around the network of right-wing think tanks like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the Heritage Foundation – is upon us with the point-and-click downloading of far-right legislation and policy. The gerrymandered Ohio Republican Statehouse is the quintessential culmination of the neo-liberal economic dream.

Through the decades, the Free Press has challenged the mainstream media narrative that has allowed the relentless growth of inverted fascism, a corporate merger with the government to control the masses.  

U.S. Senator and former Ohio Governor George Voinovich’s last year in office was 2010. TheFreep pointed out how his 43-year tenure as an elected official centered around cronyism and making money for his family business, while the Dispatch portrayed him as one of the greatest public servants in Ohio history. 

The Occupy movement rocked 2011. A handful of diverse activists and “Uncle John’s Statehouse Band” set up outside Ohio’s capitol to protest the inequality between the one percent and the rest of us. Columbus had the distinction of holding the longest continuous local “Occupy” at our Statehouse. During the movement, seven local Occupiers entered a downtown Fifth Third bank and were arrested and charged with misdemeanor trespassing Curiously, the bank had never called the police, but CPD was already at the bank awaiting the activists. Snitches and spies, oh my!

Not much has changed since the Occupy movement other than the further concentration of wealth and power, the globalized economy causing more inequality and the rich getting richer off of endless conflicts and wars.

More than 40 years after the Vietnam War ended, we’re still struggling for peace in the world

Sadly in 2011, Nobel Peace Prize winner Barack Obama became a war criminal. On March 19 that year he blessed a multi-state NATO coalition in support of jihadist terrorists in Benghazi. He killed Gaddafi and destroyed the wealthiest state in Africa. Apparently, Barack was having too much fun smoking a little dope and doing a little coke that he missed the class on international human rights at Harvard Law. Barack Hussein Obama needs to be reminded that we hung the Nazi generals at Nuremberg for waging similar aggressive war. The worst thing was his giddy hysterical Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton laughing and spouting “We came, we saw, he died.” French President Nicholas Sarkozy masterminded the plot to destroy a pan-African currency, the gold dinar. Government documents from Wikileaks, exposed in the Freep, explain it all. No wonder the elite are torturing Assange.

Regime change continues unabated with Trump’s all-out assault on Venezuela and Bolivia. The U.S. has reverted to 19th century-style imperialistic occupations of whole nations like Iraq and Afghanistan. US soldiers set up high-tech drones in places like Mali and Niger, policies re-invigorated in the aftermath of 9/11 under the dubious guise of fighting terrorism.

Our longest-standing terrorist organization still flourishes unfettered in this country and are invited to make policy in the White House – white supremacists.

A half century after the Civil Rights Act, we find ourselves still fighting racism

In response to the 2013 acquittal of Trayvon Martin murderer George Zimmerman in Florida, the Black Lives Matter movement exploded. As police forces are increasingly militarized and mostly unaccountable for their actions, black people have been continually shot dead, some here locally: John Crawford, Tamir Rice, Henry Green, Ty’re King…the list goes on. A Free Press article on 2011 statistics showed that among big cities, only Las Vegas reported more police killings than Columbus.

Not only was Powell’s memo from 1971, the racist Drug War was officially born on June 17, 1971 when President Nixon pronounced drugs to be “public enemy number one.” This was all about Nixon pandering to the white Southern vote. This led to more than 40 million arrests from then to now, mostly for drug possession overwhelmingly targeted at minorities giving rise to a Stalin-like gulag we refer to as the prison industrial complex. All was admitted to by Nixon’s domestic policy advisor John Ehrlichman said in 1994, “…by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities….” Though some of these laws are loosening, there are many states where people in prison and/or ex-felons are not allowed to vote.

A half century after the Voting Rights Act, we are still fighting for voting rights

At the national level in 2010, in a 5-4 decision the US Supreme Court told us that money equals free speech and that “dark money” could invade campaign financing with Citizens United. All this was covered in Powell’s memo.

The big local issue has been the push for Columbus City Council to adopt ward representation. Citizen initiatives to reform Council continue to fail when up against million-dollar campaigns by the Republican-lite central Ohio Democratic Party machine. Corporate developers control of Columbus and the Democratic Party’s symbiotic relationship with them remains the key issue in the city today.

In the run-up to the 2012 presidential election, the Free Press obtained public records from all 88 Ohio county boards of elections documenting that 1,092,392 voters were removed from the voting rolls since 2008. Over a quarter million were purged in Cleveland alone. In Franklin County, more than 93,000 were deregistered. During the decade, over 2.5 million Ohio voters alone have been purged. As we continue to embrace voting technology over hand-counted ballots, US elections don’t meet minimal standards of transparency as we allow partisan for-profit corporate entities to secretly count our votes.

In 2013 the Republican state legislators, in fear that a Libertarian would draw votes from Governor Kasich’s re-election, banished all four of the state’s minor parties: Green Party, Socialists, Constitutional Law and the Libertarians. Ohio also has the distinction of being the most gerrymandered state in the country. The trend of the two corporate parties to eliminate all other ideas from the political debate further erodes our democracy and leads to the purging of ideas like the purging of poor and minority voters.

A half century after the first Earth Day, we still need to fight to save the planet

Environmental disasters became apocalyptic in scale at the beginning of the decade with the Deepwater Horizon oil explosion forever polluting the Gulf of Mexico and the unprecedented tsunami-provoked nuclear meltdowns at Fukushima that continue to pour radiation into the Pacific Ocean today. Signs of climate change continued when Hurricane Sandy hit in 2012.

Meanwhile in Ohio, the fracking industry flooded our farmlands and groundwater with poisoned frack water, radiated landfills in central Ohio and caused earthquakes in Youngstown. When this was pointed out by the Ohio Department of Health and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA), Kasich sought to rescue the toxic industry’s regulation from the Ohio EPA to the Ohio Natural Resources Department, the latter wholly and conveniently unqualified to address the ecological implications. 

Anti-fracking activist Madeline ffitch chained herself to an injection well in Athens County to protest toxic fracking water being brought into southern Ohio from Pennsylvania. She was arrested on a felony charge, which was later lowered to a misdemeanor. She was granted “diversion” and allowed to do community service. Madeline showed up in a 2014 FBI Philadelphia Joint Terrorism Task Force and Pennsylvania State Highway Patrol report labeling anti-fracking activists as “terrorists.” Ten protestors who tried to block Pennsylvania frackwater from coming into Ohio also appeared in the report.

Water crises occurred in Flint, Michigan and Toledo, Ohio in 2014. Flint’s situation is clearly a symptom of crumbling infrastructure and government-imposed austerity, caused by the unelected emergency city manager who changed Flint’s drinking source from Lake Huron and the Detroit River to the less costly and highly polluted Flint River. The city has yet to overcome this tragedy. A massive toxic algae bloom caused by agriculture runoff left 500,000 people in Toledo, southern Michigan and Canada without water for three days.    

Thankfully at our bleakest moment, the Native Americans of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and their allies turned water protection into another Wounded Knee resistance. Facing mass arrests, police harassment, and water cannons the Dakota Access Pipeline protest became a new symbol for protecting Mother Earth.

Decades of resistance lead to empowerment

With people taking regularly to the streets and winning monumental victories with the legalization of gay marriage and marijuana, started by the sixties counterculture, we can have some hope for the future. As the saying goes, we need “Pessimism of the mind, but optimism of the spirit.”

There are several reasons for optimism. The rebirth and acceptance of democratic socialism in this country (thanks Bernie); courageous high schoolers taking on the gun lobby; those working toward passing “community bills of rights” that guarantee clean water, air and soil; the great victory by the people of Toledo to gain rights for Lake Erie, establishing that ecosystems have rights – as Ecuador put in their Constitution; and a women’s movement that has grown and expanded as many more women are elected, as millions marched in pussy hats, and so many refused to remain silent about sexual assault and exploitation with the #metoo phenomenon.

Our ultimate salvation may lie with the millennial generation who understand that “Mean People Suck” and need to be voted out of power.

Appears in Issue: