Rolling With the Punches, Colltalers
Spoiler alert: we’re losing. As disheartening as it is to start off on such pessimistic premise, current global social and political conditions warrant our utmost concern. In the U.S., oblivious to all, the regime is still bolting our civil rights to the ground, nail by executive nail.
Don’t get this wrong; everyone is doing their absolute best to show their discontent and resist the Trump administration’s truculence. But all massive rallies and unprecedented community organizing may not be enough. It’s time for another course of action to be also pursued.
May we suggest the Rope-a-Dope? And before we go any further, to those with ‘sport-metaphor fatigue syndrome,’ a quick word: first, they don’t require knowledge or taste for any particular game to shed light on a subject. Also, arguably 90% of those vulnerable to discriminatory social policies and abuse of power do follow sports. So, in the spirit of inclusion, and for the sake of this post, let’s not get fussy, shall we?
In 1974, an aging, past his prime Muhammad Ali went to Zaire to fight heavyweight champion George Foreman, in what many believe was the end of his career. That impression held on for most of the Rumble in the Jungle, until Ali knocked down the champ and the rest is history.
In Leon Gast’s Oscar-winning documentary When We Were Kings, the writer Norman Mailer, hired as a ringside commentator, observes that, after the first round, Ali was back on his corner with ‘fear in his eyes.’ All the punches he had thrown at Foreman had little effect. Across the ring, stood a bigger and stronger opponent than him, one he could not dominate or avoid confronting. It was Ali’s moment of reckoning.
The genius of the late Ali was to play against expectation. He executed a plan – leaning on the ropes, taking Foreman’s body blows, and striking back here and there – despite the advice of his own corner, who grew desperate as the fight went on, and with a measure of humiliation, which in boxing means getting pounded. The entire world press corps thought he’d fail, but he pulled the sport’s greatest upset.
Apart from the African crowd, which he’d captivated the moment he landed on the continent, Ali was mostly hated at that time, specially by Americans who despised his arrogance, and above all, his mouth. He was at least a decade from the beloved pacifist
he was to become later.
Even as Ali could say, and did, anything to Foreman, consensus was that before long, he’d be flat on the canvas. Except, of course, for the thousands chanting ‘Bomaye’ (‘Kill him!’) in the stadium, whose unwavering support to him was finally rewarded on the 8th round.
The metaphor is fitting: Ali never gave up, outboxing Foreman and scoring points, but that wasn’t enough. What did it was his endurance. He was hit mercilessly, which made an ultimately exhausted Foreman confident. But when the moment came, he cut the lights out of him.
Since the inauguration, rallies and marches have made clear the popular disgust with Trump’s ban of Muslim immigrants, the dismantling of Obamacare and replacement with another tax cut for the wealthy, his threats to the press and Internet, and legislation allowing broadcasters to sell individual privacy data. We, like Ali, must continue punching till morale improves. But a more nuanced touch is needed in the mix.
For Congress is about to approve a newly depleted health care plan, which will immediately cancel coverage of millions; undocumented immigrants, some living and working and paying taxes (unlike the president!) in the U.S. for years, are being deported, many with no judicial hearings or consideration for their American-born kin: and the FCC is readying a new package to effectively privatize the Internet.
These are not conspiracy theories, or fake news; they’re already happening, and their reversal will be lengthy, costly, and not at all assured to succeed. Thus, judging by firings of U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara and dozens of Justice Dept. staff, the political leanings of heads of EPA, Energy and Education departments, among the many cabinet billionaires, we should indeed prepare and brace for further heavy blows.
Again, this is not to dismiss the courageous and dignified efforts the American society is engaged on to defend its democracy from those who have shown, in such a short time, so much disregard to it. Make no mistake, powers that be did take notice of it, and they’re not happy.
Speaking of the ban, what’s in a name? Muhammad Ali Jr., son of the great champion, was detained twice at two different airports, the second time around last Friday. He was about to flight out of DC, where he’d just testified before members of Congress about the first incident, in Florida last month, when he was informed by security that there was ‘a problem’ with his ID card. We can’t make this stuff up.
It’s important that the women’s movement, the Black Lives, Occupy Wall Street, immigrant rights and the many progressive organizations that traditionally fight for civil rights, take periodic breaks from slogan shouting, to focus on prioritizing different agendas across the board.
There’s a need to extend the basis of the resistance to include more LBGTQ and labor union activists, student and fast-food workers, among many others. But every group must join the opposition front already having a working strategy to deal with their internal divisions. Yes, we need the power of numbers to back us all up, but we also need to speak the same language. Keep calm and prepare for the blizzard. WC