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G20 Guns and Roses

This Week in the Narrative – 35

Nigel Clarke

Ah, G20 week, one of my favorite times of the year. This owing to its position as arguably the most visually obvious annual expression of the 99% against the 1%, and vice versa.

People have different thresholds for what would cause them to take to the streets in protest. When a handful of political leaders from twenty countries, influential bankers, and their uber-rich business associates meet behind closed doors, barbed wire fences, and concrete barricades to decide the fate of the world – namely, how they can squeeze more profit from it (their own populations included) – that threshold is crossed for many.

Watching an estimated 100,000+ protesters take to the streets of Hamburg this week, in demonstrations which increasingly turned violent, took me back to the first time I attended the G20, during the reign of W. Bush; with all the instability and public displeasure that entailed. I attended, of course, as a member of the unruly proletariat, not as a Bilderbergian shot-caller.

In many ways, Trump is the spiritual heir to the ‘Dubya’ – an arrogant rich kid, antagonistic to his own people and the international community, unaware or unconcerned with the levels of boobery he exudes.

Adding to the intrigue of this year’s G20 was that it was one of the first opportunities to see how Trump’s act played in a room full of the highest of geopolitical high rollers.

But, while Trump got ready to face Putin, Merkel, and so on – I assume he would send Ivanka to meet Trudeau – just some of the headlines from home read:

China Calls U.S. Destroyer In South China Sea A ‘Provocation’

Pro-Trump, anti-Trump protesters clash in Berkeley 

Trump Blows the GOP’s Cover on Voter Suppression Efforts

U.S. bombers fly mission over Korean peninsula

Trump Team Met With Lawyer Linked to Kremlin During Campaign


Credit: Hannibal Hanschke/Reuters

Earlier this week, I discovered at a friend’s house a section of a wall-sized bookshelf previously hidden by an antique wooden desk. The section contained something of a liberal/progressive ‘Best Of’ from the golden age of W. Bush opposition – that period after the swindle of the Iraq War had become apparent, but before the 2004 election. Michael Moore, Al Franken, books about the Bushes and the House of Saud, about Cheney and Halliburton and Middle-East oil.

I could not resist reading these books for the first time in over a decade.

I remember during this time period the stories of the Bush administration’s f*ckery coming so fast and furiously that it was hard to take it all in. Hard to see the forest through the trees, and all that. By now, the legacy of Bush has, as is the case with most Presidents, been simplified and relieved of depth.

To read now a detailed account from within the action, the voices reflecting both the humor as well as the desperation of the time, was both surreal as well as illuminating. As in, “I remember it being bad, but not this bad.”

For example:

I remember the color-coded terror alert system, but I had forgotten the government, with the help of their propaganda arm known as the mainstream media, at various times warned the American public that Al-Qaeda had or was planning to derail trains, use shoe bombs, set wildfires, sell counterfeit consumer goods (this one looks a bit like the propaganda of protectionist capitalists, but sure), cut through the Brooklyn Bridge cables with blowtorches (huh?), not to mention send poison through the mail.

I remember the public consensus being formed that the Bush administration’s military excursions had been undertaken in order to control the earth’s oil, but I had forgotten that shortly after “winning” the war in Afghanistan, both the new US Ambassador to the country – who would oversee the ‘rebuild’ – and the new leader of the country – installed by the US – were former employees of American oil giant Unocal (now a subsidiary of Chevron).

I vaguely remember ‘Freedom Fries,’ but had forgotten that, for a time, France was America’s greatest enemy. After the French minister of foreign affairs spoke out against the Iraq War at the United Nations – “To those who choose to use force and think they can resolve the world’s complexity through swift and preventative action, we offer in contrast determined action over time” – Americans poured French wine into the streets, then used a tank to crush icons of France – French food, alcohol, pictures of the French President and French flags – in a public display in Vegas (where else). Vacations to France were cancelled and French businesses were vandalized. One Republican Representative even introduced a bill to bring American World War II soldiers buried where they had died (in France) back to the US. Most hilariously, John Kerry, who was establishing himself as the Democratic frontrunner for 2004, was labelled by a White House staffer as looking “French.”

Believe me when I say I could go on. At every turn, the devil really was in the details.

Watching the G20 this week, combined with the sweet booty of early 2000s historical artifacts, led me, if in a roundabout way, to a resolution.

People often say the second time around – second child, second lover, second championship game, etc. – is a time to soak in the details you may have missed in the excitement and confusion of the first time.

In this case, we appear to be in the midst of a second George W. Bush style presidency; where a barely-literate blowhard stomps through the country and the world swinging his dick around, pointing missiles at people, and making enemies.

I, for one, do not intend to be wobbled by a book of gory details a decade from now. When it comes to the avalanche of tomfoolery from the Trump administration, I intend to soak in the details.

I resolve to stop and smell the roses.

Even if the roses smell like shit.

Quote of the Week:

Read More This Week in the Narrative:

Week 34: Patience is Over

Week 33: The Google Infomercial

Week 32: Steroids and Syria

Week 31: Comey’s Broken System

Week 30: Pittsburgh, Paris, and Pyongyang

Week 29: The Emperor’s Imperialist Pilgrimage

Week 28: Impeaching Democracy


Written by Nigel Clarke

Writer and notorious vagabond. From the frozen north. Follow Nigel on Twitter @Nig_Clarke.

Nigel Clarke is a Writer for Progressive Army.

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G20 Guns and Roses