Category Archives: Rebellion and Resistance

The Most Dangerous Man in America


The clarion call of the new right-wing was all about liberty and freedom. This was, according to Justin Ling, in his podcast aptly called The Flame Throwers, “the language of revolution.”  1998 was time for a New Tea Party. Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich saw themselves as right-wing revolutionaries. In fact Gingrich invited Limbaugh to come to Washington to fire up the new troops that had been elected. This was going to be the politics of extremism with no holds barred.

Limbaugh advised the newly elected Congressmen in 1998. “This is not the time to be moderate, this is not the time to be liked, this is no time to seek to gain the approval of the people you have just defeated.” American politics had entered the age of extremism where there was no room any more for moderation, reasonableness, or humility.

The incoming class of Republican Congressmen and women presented Limbaugh with a plaque that said, “Rush was right.”  They also assured him that there was not a single Feminazi in the bunch.  The right in America was nothing if it was not hyper- masculine. Only wimps would give in to feminists. Women were one of Limbaugh’s most consistent targets of verbal abuse.

At the time Limbaugh’s radio shows were shown on more 600 stations in the USA. He had a television show on another 225 stations. As Ling said, “Tens of millions of Americans were hanging on his every utterance. He now basically runs the Republican Party.”  This was a role later taken over by Donald Trump. As much as he loved being adored by the Republican party, there was one endorsement that he treasured above all others—he got a personal letter from Saint Ronald Reagan himself. He was in heaven. Not only that it was the best heaven of all—Republican heaven.

This is what that blessed epistle from the Saint of the Right said:

“Thanks Rush for all that you are doing for promoting Republican and conservative principles. Now that I have retired from active politics, I don’t mind that you have become the number one voice for conservatism in our country. I know the liberals call you the most dangerous man in America, but don’t worry about it. They  used to say the same thing about me. Keep up the good work. America needs to hear the way things otta be.

Sincerely, Ron”

In many ways, Rush Limbaugh was in fact the most dangerous man in America. He was ready to blow it up—in the world of ideas of course. Though it would have ramifications beyond that.


The Religious  Mob


In the amazing novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, when it is discovered that a slave has escaped from his master, a mob of white people—mainly good Christian white people—got excited and gave horrific chase to the slave aided and abetted by his young white friend. These were good ordinary citizens of America. They believed it was their religious duty to give chase to an escaped black slave and return him to his owner. Of course, it helped that they might reap a $40 reward from the owner. Is that all it takes?


Azar Nafisi was a Muslim woman living in Iran who taught Huckleberry Finn to young Islamic men and women.  By and large these students were respectful of the tyrannical regime in their country. Like good American citizens, they were good citizens and good Muslims? What would they think of Huck Finn?

The book, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, is as I have been saying a book about freedom and resistance to authority.  Those are both characteristics that have usually been absent in Iran. At least that was true until recently, when there have been some rebellion led by young women resisting the authority of the government to impose dress requirements upon them, as well as other even more important impositions on their freedom. The women have demonstrated uncommon bravery in the face of that tyranny. A number of them have been killed by the government for their opposition.

Mark Twain in that brilliant book showed how an uneducated white boy and his black slave friend revolted against the “conscience” of the nation. Most people in America, at the time, believed in the racial superiority of whites and in their absolute right to do as they saw fit with the inferior black race in their midst.

Nafisi said this about the book:

“It looks at how ordinary decent people, or outcasts like Huck and Pap, could abandon their hearts and take the easy road, embracing ugly thoughts and prejudices when they are sanctioned by society. Could such horrors as slavery or the Holocaust happen without the complicity and voluntary blindness of decent, ordinary people, those who go to church and volunteer for good works and yet can easily turn, as they do in Huck Finn, into a murderous mob? It might have been the question that gave Huck such a dramatic sense of urgency when I taught it in those violent revolutionary days in Iran”.


How can good people wreak such havoc on other more vulnerable good people? Is a $40 reward all it takes?

Yet the young students of Iran largely supported the rebellious position of Huck. They applauded his actions in refusing to return the slave to the master.

Even though they were good Muslims, they did not support the religious mob! I found that interesting.




David French described Kyle Rittenhouse’s conduct this way in his illuminating article in The Atlantic:

“He didn’t impose order. He didn’t stop a riot. He left a trail of bodies on the ground, and two of the people he shot were acting on the belief that Rittenhouse himself was an active shooter. He had, after all, just killed a man…without any meaningful training, he was engaged in remarkably dangerous and provocative conduct. But that dangerous and provocative conduct did not eliminate his right of self-defense, and that self-defense claim is the key issue of his trial, not the wisdom of his vigilante presence. But that brings us to the danger of Kyle Rittenhouse as a folk hero. It is one thing to argue that the law is on Rittenhouse’s side—and there is abundant evidence supporting his defense—but it is quite another to hail him as a model for civic resistance.

It was frankly to be expected that an American jury, composed mainly of people who appeared to be white, would acquit a young “brave” hero, as Trump described him, who wanted to protect them from the black hordes. It would have been surprising had they not done that. It is also not surprising that the jury accepted the claim that Rittenhouse was acting in self-defense, even though he created the dangerous conditions by showing up where he did not belong with an automatic rifle. Did his victims not have the right to use self-defense to protect themselves against him? That’s how the law, especially in the United States, works when the police and justice officials are also infused with the same mythology. As a result, the law in its majestic manner arranged for Rittenhouse to walk away a free man while 2 men were left to die on the street as a result of his highly unreasonable actions.


Mythology of the Vigilante


The problem in the Rittenhouse case is that the prosecutors had to contend not only with a very limiting self-defense law in the United States, but also a deep and very real mythology of the vigilante. That mythology has justified some of the most astonishing acts of violence conceivable. That was nowhere more clearly displayed than Cormac McCarthy’s brilliant book Blood Meridian which described acts of nearly unimaginable violence involving vigilantes on the Mexican border. That mythology has been reinforced in recent decades by the Marvel comic universe where every young boy is allowed to be a defender of the people. I thought Rittenhouse was astonishingly foolish in bringing the danger upon himself, but in law, people are allowed to be foolish. As David French pointed out in The Atlantic,

“The narrow nature of the self-defense inquiry is one reason people can escape responsibility for killings that are deeply wrongful in every moral sense. Take, for instance, cases in which bad cops create danger and confusion through incompetence or excessive aggression, and then they respond to the danger or confusion they created by using deadly force.”


The power of the right to self-defense, particularly in the US, much more so than in Canada, was evident a couple of years ago in the case of Breonna Taylor. In that cases cops with a “no-knock warrant” in hand, without warning, in the middle of the night, crashed into her apartment she was sharing with her boyfriend. Unsurprisingly, in the dark of night he fired a shot at the police in self-defense and they fired an incredible volley of shots into the apartment in return, but still also  supposedly in self-defense. Even though the police had foolishly and dangerously created the incident that mothered the ensuing violence, the Grand Jury refused to authorize charges against the police.

Rittenhouse was just as foolish and just as much the author of his own misfortune, but none of that mattered in the law of Wisconsin.  Even though 17-year old Rittenhouse inserted himself into a potentially violent situation, swinging an AK-15 style automatic rifle and elicited a reaction by the protesters/ rioters to defend themselves, when they chased Rittenhouse to such an extent that he feared for his life, in effect the jury called shooting his pursuers self-defense.

A man, or even a boy, with an AR-15 assault style weapon cruising the streets of America looking for damsels or others in distress has become part of this vibrant mythology. These are American patriots, even though they unleash inevitable violence and seldom perform the magic they have learned in their FantasyLand to expect.

Even if they leave a trail of dead bodies in their wake, accomplish absolutely nothing to bring about law and order, protect no one, they can become instant  heroes invited by right wing politicians to be their aides and a former president call them “brave”.

The mythology of self-defense is so potent it can turn vinegar into wine.

Patriot or Martyr


I understand that the jury has still not rendered its verdict in the case of Kyle Rittenhouse and will resume deliberations tomorrow.  Yesterday I posted about why I thought there was a good chance he would be acquitted and made a hero.  Today I want to talk about the less likely  chance that he will be convicted and made a martyr. If he is a patriot for his actions as his supporters allege and many on the right believe to be the case, then if he is convicted  he will be hailed as a martyr. Which is it?

Personally, I don’t think a young man who travels from out of state carrying an automatic AR-15 style rifle  to an area of heated dispute   that some call riots and others protests, depending on which side of the great divide in America (and Canada) they lie, is a hero so should not be welcomed as a hero if successful  or a martyr if not.  Instead, he was a foolish young man who took a dangerous chance while endangering the lives of many others that led in fact to the deaths of 2 Americans while injuring a third.  He was not trained for this job and took it upon himself as a vigilante to “help” the police to do their job. He made things much worse as the trail of devastation behind him made clear. It is part of their belief that “the system” cannot be trusted and only private vigilantes or warriors can be trusted.

I realize that many young American men have been raised in the Marvel FantasyLand where such actions are encouraged. They think they can stand up to the evils of a corrupt or inept system that fails to protect American citizens.

Rittenhouse should not be valorized. He was hardly a peacemaker. No one should encourage other young American men (and they are largely men who do this) to take such foolhardy and dangerous actions. Such actions are not helpful. They are pouring fuel onto an already raging fire.

Rittenhouse may or may not be guilty of murder or the other crimes he was charged with, but he is neither a hero nor a martyr.  And he might be much worse.


Kenosha: What happened?


A very interesting trial is going on in Wisconsin that is dividing the country.

In the summer of 2020, the city of Kenosha Wisconsin became the site of large and active protests after Jacob Blake, an African American man was wounded by Wisconsin police officers. The protests got carried away with widespread fears expressed on the internet that businesses might be looted and destroyed. Kyle Rittenhouse drove to Kenosha from his home in Antioch Illinois. He took with him two things one would not normally expect to go together. One was a medical kit and the other was a rifle.

Rittenhouse was charged with first-degree intentional homicide, which apparently what is called murder in Wisconsin, and as well attempted first-degree intentional homicide for the man who lived, and first-degree reckless homicide; reckless endangering; and illegal possession of a weapon by a person under 18.

All serious charges. Was he a murderer as many on the left alleged or was he a public warrior/defender as many on the right claim? This issue has captured national attention.

The protesters included many whites and blacks. Rittenhouse is white, as were those he shot. The jury, which appears to be mainly white, will make the decision. Inevitably, a large part of the US will be upset while another large part will be jubilant. It is guaranteed that many people in the US will not agree with the decision of the jury. The judge was adamant that this would not become a political trial, but many think that is exactly what it became.

Rittenhouse  said he was going there to protect businesses that had been ransacked the night before. The rifle, he claimed, was for self-defence. Rittenhouse was white, but so were the 3 men he shot. 2 of them died from the gunshot wounds. As the Associated Press reported,

“The case has stirred fierce debate over vigilantism, self-defence, the Second Amendment right to bear arms, and the unrest that erupted around the U.S. over the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and other police violence against Black people.”


That is a very important issue. Throughout American history vigilantism has been frequent, violent, and controversial. This case is no exception. It will be very interesting to learn what the jury thinks of the case.


In the Age of Anger loud Voices Prevail


Melissa Martin is a very good writer working for the Winnipeg Free Press.  Talking about Covid-19 and the antivaxxers and anti-mandaters, she said she found “Sadness amid the Madness.”  Why was that?

Specifically, she wrote an interesting piece about a man and woman with a child at one of the innumerable Covid-19 protest rallies in Winnipeg, who held a sign that read, “It’s my choice. Live with it. I will.” These people had gone to the Health Sciences Centre in Winnipeg, thinking there was protest rally there. One had been held there a few days earlier and the protesters disrupted health services. Some health workers were afraid to go to work to help others in desperate need. Not just Covid-19 patients either.  Not really the best place for a protest rally. So, organizers, sensing a lack of public support for a rally there, changed the location at the last minute and this man and his wife and young daughter were not aware of it. They were wandering around largely by themselves. Martin said it was sad.  She also said,  “Anti-vax protests point out a tragic societal fracture that seems beyond mending.”

I think she is right because this is no longer a health issue. It has probably never been a health issue. It is a political issue. In fact, it is a theological issue.  People hold anti-vax and anti-mandate views as they hold religious views.  They are held so tightly that no evidence and no reason can change minds anymore. Just like religion.

The family seemed lost and deflated. As Martin said,

“Imagine what led you there. Imagine what vicious rhetoric you’ve consumed that would allow you to see a hospital entrance as an appropriate place to make your stand. Imagine waking up that day ready to protest outside a hospital, only to find your family arriving alone, sign dangling from your hands.”


Martin also saw, what I have been seeing—the same type of people appear at anti-vax rallies as showed up at pro-Trump rallies and worse,  at places like the riot on Capitol Hill in Washington on January 6, 2021.  The people at the hospital rally, or the Winkler rally or the Steinbach rally, were not rioters, but they appeared angry. After all, as Pankaj Mishra said, “this is the age of anger.”  People are angry. When they get angry they get mean and nasty. And thoughtfulness flies out the window. Lately, we have seen this in Winkler and Steinbach as I blogged about earlier.

As Martin said,

“It could have been worse. A lot worse. Since the start of the pandemic, one of the animating factors in resistance to public health orders and, now, vaccines has been rage, the same combustible rage that drove far-right protesters to storm the U.S. Capitol in January. It’s driven by many of the same players. It shares the same characteristics.

On Twitter, one woman responded to a video of an Ontarian People’s Party of Canada candidate firing a rifle, and said the candidate should “bring that bad boy to tomorrow’s raid on Toronto General Hospital,” because protesters would “get inside and show the world that COVID is fake.”

They didn’t go into the hospital. Yet while one shouldn’t put too much stock in the hot air a random person spews on Twitter, the naked aggression is alarming, and the threat has precedent. Last year, self-appointed “truth seekers” entered hospitals to “prove” the virus was a hoax; it’s entirely possible it will happen again.”


People are so angry that they feel it is legitimate to try to intimidate our over-worked health care workers who have not done anything to impose the mandates on them. They are just ordinary health care workers doing their heroic work to save lives during a pandemic. Anger directed at them is frankly much worse than sad. It is not surprising that some of them revolt. One frustrated hospital worker in a Calgary hospital put up a sign in a window that read, “Go intubate yourself.”

These protesters don’t believe science which they think is a hoax. Yet they believe  government officials are trying to impose health mandates to control us. again I have heard this personally. Others think doctors are hiding real cures like horse de-wormers. Yet as Martin said,

“When the numbers show that hospitals are in crisis and vaccines are both safe and effective, they are dismissed as “manipulated.” Everyone on Facebook anti-vaccine groups knows a guy who knows a guy whose cousin is a nurse and swears ICUs are empty; when ICU nurses speak about what they’ve endured, that information is disregarded.”


I know this too as I have been told the same thing. Martin acknowledged that there are reasonable questions about Covid-19. One of my cousins last week told me there is evidence that people who are vaccinated can spread Covid-19 as easily as those who are not vaccinated. If that is true it blows a major hole in the case against mandatory vaccinations. More on that later.  There is room for reasonable discussion. Science is not crystal clear. People are suffering from the restrictions in business and in mental health. But it is very difficult to have reasonable discussions when people harass health care workers. Or shout absurdities.

Martin summed up the problem this way:

“The problem is, none of those concerns can be given a fair hearing, when the loudest voices in opposition are tied up in threatening health-care workers, propagating conspiracy theories and potentially deadly misinformation, and thunderously insisting that the only relevant consideration is “personal choice.”

That’s the thing about a pandemic. It puts light on the error in the main ideological streak underpinning these most aggressive protests: the idea that anyone lives as an island, our choices not affecting others. A pandemic is a virus infecting society as one body; it requires the co-ordinated response of the whole body to fix it.

It’s my choice,” the man’s sign said. “Live with it.” That’s exactly the problem: we already are. What’s sad is, he cannot see it.”


As I have been saying, Goya is right, “the sleep of reason brings forth monsters.” And we have to fight them.

Invasion of Idiots comes to Steinbach




Just when you think there’s no more room for ignorance, more of it comes sloshing into Steinbach. For the second time Steinbach was the scene of a protest of Manitoba’s health restrictions imposed by government officials trying to stem the tide of Covid-19.  Both protests were led by Sheena Friesen who called on those in attendance including me, to make our voices heard protesting the limits on our freedoms. I felt I had to see what was going on in Steinbach so I grabbed my camera and drove to our City Hall.  Needless to say, I was one of the very few people there wearing a mask. I stood out and was proud to do so.


Friesen is a chapter leader of an organization called Vaccine Choice for Canada. She urged us to ditch our fear and live life to the fullest. “Don’t acquiesce; don’t let them push you around,” she said. In fact, she assured us, “I will live under a bridge with my family like a troll if necessary.” She thanked God for bringing her to this community of protesters. There were about 100 protesters I estimated. Not a huge number, but Steinbach is much less vaccinated than most of Manitoba. The last figures I have seen showed Steinbach had vaccination rates of about 60% compared to more than 70% for the province.  The Rural Municipality of Hanover which surrounds our town has even lower rates of vaccine acceptance.  Vaccine resistance is real in Steinbach, as it is in Winkler and its surrounding rural municipality. They have the lowest rates of vaccine uptake in the province.  Does anyone think it is a coincidence that these regions are heavily populated with Mennonites and other conservative Christian groups and also strongly support conservative political candidates?   One of the speakers claimed “my Jesus is a rebel.” Funny I never thought of Jesus as someone who would selfishly put his “rights” above the needs of vulnerable people to personal safety. None of the speakers expressed any concern for the 30,000 people in Manitoba who have had to put aside surgeries and other important medical procedure because of the fears that Manitoba’s hospitals will be overwhelmed by unvaccinated people who contract Covid-19. These people care only for themselves and their “rights and freedoms.”

The grim reaper was in attendance. In fact he pointed at me and I pointed back. What did he mean? What did I mean? Is it wise to tick off the grim reaper?

Frankly, my overall impression of the speakers in attendance  is that they were selfish and stupid. That is a mighty powerful toxic cocktail. I really hate to put it that way, but their speeches were ill thought out and frankly not very smart. I was dismayed by the quality of the speakers. One said to the audience don’t worry if your children are not allowed in school for not wearing masks, “You can home school them.”  Have children home schooled by these ignorant people is a thought that is enough to make one shudder.


They think wearing a mask is a great violation of their freedom, immensely more important than the right to life and health of others around them.  One speaker, a very young man who “owned a corporation” said before the restrictions his business made a profit of $10,000 per day!  Last week after new restrictions came into effect reduced his daily profit to $400. A truly astonishing reduction. Unbelievable actually. But all he cared about was his loss of profit. He did not mention the people who got sick or were missing life saving surgery as a result of the unvaccinated.

More protesters who were not very friendly to facts.


In my opinion the speakers and those who loudly supported them  exemplified what Italian writer Umberto Eco referred to as “an invasion of idiots.” This is what he wrote:

“Social media gives legions of idiots the right to speak when they once only spoke at a bar after a glass of wine, without harming the community. Then they were quickly silenced, but now they have the same right to speak as a Nobel Prize winner. It’s the invasion of the idiots.” (Trans. T. Bolin).


If this is the best of vaccine resistance its hard to believe it can be so dangerously effective. But is!

Attacks on Churches


Manitoba has for awhile become the centre of attention around Canada and even the world as a result of rebellion by indigenous people and their supporters. Some of those rebels toppled monuments on the grounds of the Manitoba legislatures. In other places the rebels even attacked or burned churches.

Some Manitobans have been quick to denounce the “violent” rebels and have demanded that they be held accountable.

I do not endorse the destruction or desecration of churches, by anyone, even indigenous rebels. It is not justified in a country that is meaningfully democratic, even one as far from a perfect democracy as that of Canada. But this does not end the issue of indigenous assaults on Christian churches. If you leave it at that it is like saying Jewish people who violently resisted their destruction by Nazis in Germany and Europe during the Second World War were wrong if they employed violent means to defend themselves.  The Jews had a right to rebel. I would submit, they even had the right to resist with violence.

Similarly, American rebels who resisted the imposition of taxes on the American colonies by England were entitled to resist by dumping tea in Boston Harbour, even though that entailed the destruction of private property.

In both case, tyrannical power brought about violence resistance. Those who imposed the tyranny were more at fault than the violent resisters. I see indigenous rebels more like them than criminals.

This reminds me as well of current attitudes among many conservatives of many stripes, where  they see clearly the damage to property caused by rebels such as members of Black Lives Matter or Antifa, but cannot see the injustice against which they are rebelling, even though it is usually much more serious.

Defenders of the status quo often don’t see the injustice because that is how privilege works. Privilege disguises injustice as just deserts.

As well, we must remember that Christian churches are not innocents here.  Even though some of them have apologized, while others did not, they were a vital part of the oppression of indigenous people and in particular indigenous children during the 19th and 20th centuries. They were not innocent bystanders. They were actors directly involved in the oppression.

The federal government with its Christian church partners tried to destroy indigenous culture, indigenous religion, and indigenous children. It came close to doing that. It is hardly surprising that indigenous descendants of residential school students and their allies have a lot of distrust and animosity to both of those institutions. We can hardly be surprised either by the lack of action on the 94 calls for action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.  The actions of indigenous rebels must be understood in this context.