Paychecks for political protest? Where do we apply?

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Hey, everybody. Would one of y’all do me a favor?

I keep hearing that there are people getting paid to protest against President Trump, Republican legislators, Republican policies, polluters, Wall Street grifters, all sorts cons and crooks. Just the other day, Don Tweeto Carmelcorn launched a Twitter assault on sexual-violence survivors who had pestered Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, calling the women “rude elevator screamers” and insisting that they were “paid by Soros and others.”

I suppose he was referring to George Soros, the billionaire financier and conservative bogeyman who donates truckloads of money to liberal and progressive causes here in the USA and around the world. I’ve also heard it was some other George forking over wads of cash — a rich, liberal celebrity like George Clooney. Or was it George Clinton? George of the Jungle? Curious George?

I don’t care which George it is. Or if it’s a Georgette. If someone reading this knows who is writing the checks, please alert him or her that I am willing to accept compensation, even if it’s just a mileage allowance or a gift card for Red Lobster.

I’m not going to publish my home mailing address — can do without the bomb threats — but I am on Facebook under my own name.

I will carry a Black Lives Matter sign and march. I will go to anti-Trump rallies and holler “Release your tax returns!” and “Lock him up!” I will shave my beard, put on a dress and go to D.C. to annoy Sen. Hatch or Lindsay Graham or Chuck Grassley.

As it happens, I have already done peaceful civil disobedience of this sort — well, not the dress thing, though I might for the right a price. I just don’t want to express my displeasure for free anymore if I can help it.

By now, surely, you know I am being facetious. I have zero expectation of ever getting a cent from Mr. Soros or any other left-leaning philanthropist. I am more likely to win a lifetime payday from Publishers’ Clearing House.

What I really would like to do here is call attention to the ongoing use of an old right-wing canard about people protesting or marching or kneeling or standing up for their rights only because they’re being egged on and/or compensated by outside parties with a nefarious agenda.

Cow patties to that.

I came of age in Mississippi in the 1960s, the height of the Civil Rights struggle. Voter registration drives. Sit-ins. Boycotts. Marches. Freedom riders. If I heard it once as a kid who read the paper and watched Huntley and Brinkley on the nightly news, I heard it a hundred times: Southern politicians, white preachers and men on the streets of Jackson or Montgomery assuring the wide, wide world that “our Negroes” (or, more often, “our nigras”) were perfectly content until “outside agitators,” “communists” and “New York liberals” started getting them all riled up.

As if black people all over the South needed anyone from up North, let alone the Soviet Union, to make them angry about lynchings, Jim Crow laws, poll taxes, KKK cross burnings and other tactics of racist oppression.

As if black Southerners were happy to get white students’ dog-eared, outdated textbooks for their schools or to drink at separate water fountains until some wealthy Yankee paid them to want better.

In the 1920s and ’30s, industrialists and their owned and operated Congressmen attributed factory workers’ efforts to unionize to anti-capitalistic, unpatriotic motives and to paid agitators. Socialist ideas were indeed blowing in the wind all over the world, but the oligarchs also knew the obvious truth — that workers didn’t need outsiders to tell them when their hours were murderous, their pay meager or their working conditions hazardous.

Women today who are marching and confronting Congressmen over their defensive, dismissive attitude toward charges of sexual assault are accused of having the same sort of ulterior motives as suffragettes who were demanding the right to vote 100 years ago.

They’re getting paid, Trump and his backers tell us, or they’re bitter because no man is interested in them.

I saw a nasty Facebook post recently ridiculing the looks of pink-capped women on a bus headed for a rally. It was eerily similar to misogynist cartoons from the early 1900s you can see at this link:

Anyone who believes people wouldn’t stand up for their rights and assert their fundamental dignity unless they were getting paid is, at best, delusional.

History repeats itself in part because lies retain their currency.

Written by

Mississippi native, award-winning veteran of The Orlando Sentinel, the Minneapolis Star Tribune and Newsday, stand-up storyteller, lives in Athens, Ga.

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