When Did Cars Become Weapons of the Right?

When Did Cars Become Weapons of the Right?

EDITOR’S NOTE:&nbspThis article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com. To stay on top of important articles like these, sign up to receive the latest updates from TomDispatch.com.

In the United States during 16 months in 2020 and 2021, vehicles rammed into groups of protesters at least 139 times, according to a Boston Globe analysis. Three victims died and at least 100 were injured. Consider that a new level of all-American barbarity, thanks to the growing toxicity of right-wing politics, empowered by its embrace of ever-larger, more menacing vehicles being cranked out by the auto industry.

And keep this in mind: Attacks on street protests are just the most recent development in fossil-fuelized aggression. Especially in the red states of America, MAGA motorists have been driving our quality of life into the ground for years. My spouse, Priti Gulati Cox, and I live half a block south of Crawford Street, the central east-west artery in Salina, Kan. Starting in the early Trump years, and ever more regularly during the pandemic, we’ve been plagued by the brain-rattling roar of diesel-powered pickup trucks as they peel out of side streets onto Crawford, spewing black exhaust and aiming to go from zero to 60 before reaching the traffic light at Broadway. By 2020, many of these drivers were regularly festooning their pickups, ISIS-style, with giant flags bearing slogans like “Trump 2020” and “Don’t Tread on Me,” as well as Confederate battle flags. Some still display them, often with “F*** Biden” flags as well.

If you live in flyover country as we do, you come to expect such performances. And don’t think that I’m just expressing my own personal annoyance about an aesthetic affront either. Fueled by diesel or gasoline, and supercharged by what political scientist Cara Daggett has labeled “petro-masculinity,” those men in big, loud vehicles serve as the shock troops for a white-right authoritarian movement that threatens to seize control of our political system. Recall the “Trump caravan” that tried to run a Biden campaign bus off the road in Texas just before Election Day 2020. Or the “Trump Trains” of pickups carrying men with paintball guns, one of which attacked Black Lives Matter protesters in Portland, Ore.

Long forgotten now by most of us, those hapless North American truck convoys, some of which converged on Washington, D.C., last spring, might as well have been scripted by the writers of Seinfeld. To all appearances, they were protests about nothing—other than a vague sense of grievance personified (or truckified). Still, the drivers did manage to cause serious mayhem, assaulting the residents of two capitals, Ottawa and Washington, with diesel fumes, daylong horn blasting, and bellicose conduct. They paralyzed downtown Ottawa for almost a month (and cost the government there more than $36 million). Some drivers in the cross-country US convoys physically assaulted counter-protesters, cyclists, and motorists. There was one bright spot, though: One day, a man on a cargo bike got in front of a line of semi-cabs and pickups and slow-pedaled through Washington’s narrow side streets, leaving the invaders no alternative but to creep along behind him for what seemed like forever and a day.


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