Rich Broderick, September 4, 2008 • The word “glamour” entered the language by way of sorcery – originally it meant a method of casting a spell in which a witch or wizard bedazzled a victim by taking on the appearance of great physical beauty and accompanying sexual allure. In other words, a form of shape-shifting. Glamour was considered particularly effective for ensnaring people of the upper ranks of society – those who, it might be said, thought of themselves as “glamorous” in the modern sense of the term.
It’s too early to say for sure, but one has to wonder if St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman might not find himself joining the long list of previously successful political figures who found their careers ruined by virtue of their having succumbed to the truly destructive glamour cast by the Bush Administration and its various minions and familiars.
Among the most prominent who fell prey to this fatal attraction we can count Tony Blair, Colin Powell, Jose Maria Aznar, former prime minister of Spain, Silvio Berlusconi, former prime minister of Italy, John Howard, former prime minister of Australia, and Coleman’s predecessor, Randy Kelly. All of these men – and there are undoubtedly many more less known to us – thought they could gain some kind of advantage by allying themselves, even temporarily, with the Bush version of the Republican Party. In each case, some combination of ego and narcissistic miscalculation led these figures, each of whom no doubt considered himself a hard-headed realist and master political manipulator, into allowing the shape-shifting Bush incubus to take over their souls.
As far as Coleman’s future is concerned, it’s going to take time for things to shake out. We will not know for some weeks, for example, how badly the Republican Convention will fall short of fulfilling advance claims by Coleman and other city officials overcome by glamour that it was going to fill local coffers. We will also not know for at least as long how much the city will end up owing in law suits that will undoubtedly be brought by scores of individuals wrongfully detained and arrested.
But what’s going to bring Coleman down, if that happens, is not simply the naïvete he has shown in entertaining the idea that bringing the RNC to St. Paul made good economic sense. His downfall will also be the result of his initial silence in the face of blatantly illegal raids led by our very own Sheriff of Rottingham, Bully-Bob Fletcher, followed by his praise for the over-the-top display of law enforcement overreaction that turned downtown St. Paul into something resembling _Children of Men’s_ frighteningly realistic glimpse of a “democratic” police state.
Meanwhile, in reacting to the events of this past week, it’s important that we ourselves keep things in perspective. The intimidation tactics, the trampling on civil liberties and the Constitution, the outright contempt for the rule of law (when Amy Goodman called out during her arrest that she had both media and RNC credentials hanging from a lanyard around her neck, a so-called officer of the “law” ripped them off and sneered, “Now you don’t.”), all this may seem shockingly unusual to the white, middle-class residents of St. Paul where, as Dave Thune pointed out Friday night “we don’t do things this way.”
But there would be nothing out of the ordinary about this kind of brutal behavior in the eyes of, say, workers at Midwest meatpacking plants (where ICE raids looking for “illegals” just happen to coincide often enough with campaigns to unionize line employees), or residents of the inner city.
In the meantime, there are, as I’ve argued in earlier posts, things we can and must do to respond. To my earlier list I would like to add two things: a concerted and persistent campaign of negative feedback directed to Chris Coleman’s office. Let him know what you think, even if – as I have personally discovered – he’s not terribly interested in listening.
Above all, I urge everyone to make a contribution today – right now – to the Minnesota chapter of the National Lawyers Guild (it’s easy and convenient. Just go to http://www.nlgminnesota.org/contribute and follow the prompts). What Bruce Nestor, Gena Berglund and other members of the state chapter have been doing this past week – actions for which they have been preparing for months – are nothing short of heroic, and far worthier of praise by Chris Coleman and other elected officials, like RT Ryback, than the police actions of the past few days.
With certain honorable exceptions (the St. Paul police have, for the most part, acted professionally and with restraint) those actions have brought nothing but disgrace on St. Paul.
A city that is probably going to be looking for a new mayor real soon now.