Bob Franken: The mob job

If Bob Dylan had been a reactionary, his song “The Times They Are a-Changin’” would instead have been called “The Times They Cannot Change and to the Extent They Do, We Must Unchange Them Because We Need to Make America Great Again.” Chances are, it wouldn’t have been such a big hit, but it certainly would capture how the Trumpsters consider “progress” to be a dirty word. In fact, they use the same tactics that their segregationist ancestors employed to maintain their system of black oppression during their glory days of Jim Crow. The segs reacted loudly to the “mob” of “outside agitators” who came from throughout the country to challenge their systems of white discrimination. What’s fascinating is how Trump supporters use the same phrases to defend against the crowds that protest and demand change. In modern times, Mitch McConnell and their other descendants constantly proclaim their outrage over, you guessed it, the “mobs” who roamed the halls, chanting and being otherwise “unruly.” Never mind that these were “mobs” of soccer moms protesting sexual assault, they were just “not able to intimidate the Senate.”

Then and now, society’s regressives desperately try to preserve the old-fashioned traditions of legal domination by whites, particularly white males. African-Americans, or whatever else they were called, were expected to “know their place,” which was at the back of the line — literally at the back of the bus. Women, too, are expected to submit to their role as playthings or breeding stock. They should simply accept any “boys will be boys” invasion of their body. How dare they demand change, and how dare they get uppity about it?

Hey, at least Sen. McConnell didn’t order fire hoses to be used against those who came to “the people’s house,” as the Capitol is called, to express their grievances. But in his subtle way, he’s really a modern-day “Bull McConnell.” Maybe the fuddy-duddies would have been happier if the demonstrators were more demure, like “girls” are supposed to be taught to be.

Meanwhile, that champion of subjugation, meaning our president, is busily worrying out loud about how it is “a very scary time for young men” these days. Oh, how frightened we are because no longer can we engage in sexual assault whenever we want. Yes, there always will be those who take advantage of efforts to establish fairness, those who falsely accuse, but isn’t it time to rethink our history of making women just objects? From a political point of view, the objectifiers need a rallying cry. Exploiting a sense of grievance is always effective, never mind that the male of the species is more likely to be the victimizer and not the victim. Nevertheless, the whining works really well for Trump and his supporters, who are feeling put upon by a sense that the world is passing them by. Or perhaps Trump is motivated by the fact that he stands accused of being a serial groper himself, and even was caught bragging about it. Whatever, he’s the voice of unreason, consistently on the wrong side of history, just like his fellow conservatives, trying to get self-righteous about the “mobs.”

The issue is whether the misleading tactic will work, like it has for generations. Either the “mobs” from the pro Trump side will be the ones to turn out on Election Day, or it will be the ones disgusted by how the nation is careening backward. The Brett Kavanaugh fight is over; the damage has been done. The question is, Which side will be damaged the most? Will history repeat itself? Will misleading rhetoric succeed in distorting fundamental issues of unfairness? Will it continue to camouflage our slide backward, or can we once again proudly ensure that the times really are a-changin’?

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