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The Year of Donald Trump Time

December 23, 2016

What better time than in The Year of Donald Trump Time to have the Ryerson Image Centre at Ryerson University take us back – through photography and film – to the Attica Prison riot of 1971, when 2200 mostly Black inmates rebelled in demand of civil rights and better living conditions.

Civil Rights and better living conditions.

Civil rights, and, better living conditions.

Civil rights.

Better living conditions.

Baby, if you don’t see that in the “two steps forward, one step back” kind-of-way that we understand History, and that we are about to enter the one-step back part of History in America, than I have some fantastic swampland up here in Eastern Ontario to sell you.

I’ll even sell it to you at the going rate the government recently offered the Algonquin Indians in treaty negotiations. $20/acre.

That’s a 99% markdown from market value – but that’s how sure I am that almost immediately after being sworn in on January 20th, Donald Trump’s henchmen will come trampling on your civil rights and living conditions. $20 an acre.


We are returning to the Era of the Aristocracy – any undergraduate History student can tell you that. What other era can you call it, when 99% of the money is in 1% of the hands?

Of course America has always been aristocratic, the people descended from the Brits afterall. But there is not even the illusion of meritocracy with Donald Trump. His team has no problem exposing themselves for who they actually are. Neighbourhood bullies who always want/get their own way, and have no qualms taking all the lunch money for themselves.

Donald Trump doesn’t give a fuck about meritocracy or rational debate. Money is Power. That is all that matters.

Trump is not yet even in power and some Republicans are already calling for the government to “register” all Muslims in America. Intern camps. New tax cuts for the rich. The House tried to pass a late-night resolution last week cutting social security benefits in half.

We know that the ‘alt-right’ wing of the Republican Party is now in control of the Republican Party, and these good-ole White boys have been waiting 50 years to take back what they think is rightfully theirs.

You may be surprised to find, over the next couple of years, that there are a lot more people with fascist tendencies living amongst us than we though possible.


It was exactly 100 years ago that Europe was blasting itself to smithereens over empire and glory – and that was only Round One of what men will do to each other, and to women and children, for tribal power and fame.

Hitler was a German soldier in 1917. The KKK was at the height of its power 100 years ago. And for women, if the backstreet illegal abortion didn’t kill you, the state would when they found out about it.

400 years ago we burned witches at the stake. Now we have Quantanimo Bay where we just leave them in the sun to fade away.


Ryerson’s entire winter se140407084248-restricted-08-civil-rights-horizontal-large-gallery.jpgason is devoted to the photography and video of repression and Black protest.

The images just kind of stun you. The dogs. The firehoses. The resilience. The defiance. The call to community action.

Yet, in the Ferguson to Toronto exhibit, you are reminded that the protest for civil rights can not only be observed as a historical artifact trapped in amber. The Civil Rights Movement is not just a historical commodity to be consumed at your local university gallery – that from Ferguson to Toronto the protest for Civil and Economic Rights the power of the community is on the move for justice.

Led by our youth – as all street protest is – influenced by History and personal America Never Great protest_3129147_ver1.0_640_360.jpgexperience – sometimes guided by wiser folk, sometimes pure reactionary riot, the protest movement is again on the rise.

How could it not?

Societies have tipping points, usually related to disparity. When too few people have all the money, inversely and directly related in so many obvious ways, it means that too many people are poor.

Just look at the statistics. 60 million Americans live in poverty. Another 60 million are two pay checks away from homelessness. That is almost 1/2 of all working aged Americans, and 1/3 of the overall population.

The numbers are verging on tinder fire.


Rather than thinking smugly that the Civil Rights Movement ended with the ’60’s (if you are of a certain age), that we somehow seem to leaving the good-ole-days of civil violence and ended some sort of economic peace, that some of us try to re-remember the ’70’s, 80’s and ’90’s as, we realize instead that it was only a respite, in a battle that has been recorded and repeated since before the Bible.

Our oldest stories, dating back before the Babylonians, is of war, and power, and greed, and despair at the violent consequences of our innocence.

At the Nuremberg Trials the refrain was “we only did what we were told.”

Southern Apologists say “we didn’t know any better.”

Donald Rumsfeld, when asked by a reporter about the possible consequences of invading Iraq, a country that had nothing to do with 9/11, said “we do not know, even that which we do not know.”

Last week a man drove his truck into a crowded Berlin Christmas market, killing at least a dozen people, and wounding 50.

A suicide bomber walked into a crowded Iraqi market killing 200, and wounding 500.

ISIS took all the credit (for these and many others that also happened this last week).

ISIS did not exist before the invasion of Iraq.

We do not know what we do not know.


But we do know.

Our libraries are crammed with all that we know.

We know how to make sustainable communities.

We know about Human Rights and Equality and Social Justice.

We know the costs of war. We daily have reminders from Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Detroit, Ferguson, and Toronto. All of central America. Any Aboriginal community.

They are there daily to remind to that which we will later plead “we did not know.”

Innocence if a lie. A false shield. A perpetual neurosis that allows the reptilian side of our brains to rule (my apologies to reptiles) – to kill with lust, with no thought for the future, or for consequences that rain sorrow and pain on everyone.

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