There’s Something Happening Here

Thousands of flag-waving Californians descended upon the State Capitol Friday for a protest of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s statewide stay-at-home lockdown order, which has caused millions of residents to lose their jobs and businesses,” wrote Katy Grimes in the California Globe. Down in Huntington Beach in Orange County, as Fox News explained, protesters were backing up traffic for a mile on Pacific Coast Highway, while others staged rallies in San Diego, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. What could have prompted these Californians to get out in the streets?

Governor Gavin Newsom had declared them “nonessential” and they showed up with signs reading “All jobs are essential.” So, basically they want their lives back. This is not what their governor wants, however.

On Wednesday, Newsom told reporters, “we believe we are weeks, not months, away from making meaningful modifications to that indicator,” a reference to his shelter-in-place order. The San Francisco Democrat didn’t say what the modifications would be or when he would make them, and he didn’t want people expressing their opposition in public.

The California Highway Patrol was refusing to issue permits for events at any state properties, including the Capitol, and Thursday the governor shut down access to all state beaches and parks, so he’s not a fan of freedom of movement and association.

Californians showed up anyway by the thousands, in peaceful protests that did not prompt the governor to “modify” his lockdown order. As he told reporters, “I hope to make some announcements of new strategies and partnerships that we’re working on in real-time to address these large crowds.”

There’s something happening here, as the Buffalo Springfield said in 1967, but in 2020 it’s exactly clear what it is. Newsomlini is showing his fascist streak. But as Edward Ring notes, his “nonessential” declaration is really a brand of nihilism. The gang of nihilists in “The Big Lebowski” prompted John Goodman’s character to observe that whatever one thinks of German National Socialism, at least it was an ethos. Newsom, on the other hand, has no discernable ethos, but it’s clear he’s after power.

When he announced the lockdown on March 19, Newsom thanked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and gushed, “we are so blessed to have her leadership in California.” With Nancy calling the shots, the Democrat Il Duce is unlikely to modify restrictions in any meaningful way before, say, November 3. He wants to maximize the contradictions and keep people from protesting in public places. That is a cherished tradition in California, with strong support in popular culture.

Californians don’t like being declared non-persons, so as Buffalo Springfield said, people speak their minds, sing songs, and carry signs. They do that even though men with guns tell them to beware, and meet with resistance “from behind”—that is, from the establishment media and gutless politicians.

“I’ve been crushed by the tumbling tide,” the Chambers Brothers said. So now the time has come and “there are things to realize.” That’s why, as the Doobie Brothers said, thousands are taking it to the streets. With Les McCann, they just can’t use it and are trying to make it real, compared to what. As they have done for decades, the protesters want to go where they want to go, and do what they want to do. In effect, they plead the Fifth Dimension. This would all be fine theme music for future rallies, and the resistance can also find inspiration in the movies.

“We want to be free to do what we want to do,” Peter Fonda said in “The Wild Angels.” “We want to be free to ride our machines without being hassled by the man.” And as Peter Finch’s Howard Beale bellowed in “Network,” “I am a human being, godammit, my life has value!” So Howard wasn’t going to take it anymore, and he wanted everybody to speak out. In “On the Waterfront,” gangsters were trying to keep Marlon Brando from working, and as he told Eva Marie Saint, “I’m going down there and get my rights.”

Speaking of rights, Californians are wondering where, exactly, Gavin Newsom gets the authority to suspend the Bill of Rights, declare people unessential, and drive them to ruin. As Terry Jones said of King Arthur, “who does he think he is?” For their part, the people are not waiting for the governor to read the Constitution or loosen his draconian restrictions. Instead, there’s something happening here.

Everybody look what’s going down. Take it to the streets, singing songs and carrying signs. And watch very carefully how the governor and his staatspolizei respond to the voice of the people.

About Lloyd Billingsley

Lloyd Billingsley is the author of Hollywood Party and other books including Bill of Writes and Barack ‘em Up: A Literary Investigation. His journalism has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Spectator (London) and many other publications. Billingsley serves as a policy fellow with the Independent Institute.

Photo: Carolyn Cole-Pool/Getty Images

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