Point of View Columns

A Race to the Precipice

This country has now reached that tragic and fearful moment where no sense makes sense. When madness is cloaked in normality there are no more norms, there are no more traditions and most importantly, there are no more laws that need to be observed, much less obeyed.

It has been part of the bedrock of American mythology that the Constitution is a wondrous document created by white slave owners and their enablers. That is certainly an overstatement but the Constitution has served as the governing document for these United States for over two centuries – a Civil War, two World Wars, the Great Depression and the Great Recession.

And then along came Trump.

It should be made clear that Trump is not an evil genius – so comparisons to Hitler, Stalin, etc. are way off base. Trump is the symptom of a malady that has been coursing through the American body politic since the founding of the Republic. A nation which embraced epic genocide and massive land theft in the name of a white EuroAmerican supremacist concept of manifest destiny does not all of a sudden become well.

A country which embraced race based chattel slavery and then countenanced race based discrimination and injustice for centuries does not all of a sudden become well.

A country which to this very day embraces the concept of a second class of citizenship for all women does not all of a sudden become well.

There have been efforts at recovery to be sure. The 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution were a good start – of sorts. But all the good will that gave rise to that good start were trampled in the rubble resulting from the deconstruction of Reconstruction.

In the modern era we have seen reparations for Japanese Americans, Supreme Court decisions affirming the basic inhumanity of state-based segregation and the President of the United State proclaiming that “we shall overcome” as he signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and then signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

But much in the same way that some therapeutic treatments result in negative side effects, those steps towards something resembling progress revived and restored the malady of racism and supremacy. The therapy of progress created the side effects of a renewed commitment to advancing fake grievances and revived opposition to the notion of liberty and justice for some.

As this nation seemed to progress to some semblance of a better state the side effects festered and grew stronger antibodies to that progress. The Republicans did not help with their dog whistle politics, stirring this toxic brew of racism, sexism and supremacy with calls for “Law and Order” and Willie Horton ads.

Barack Obama became president and the dam broke. The streams and rivers of race hatred and misogyny in this country became a flood – Sarah Palin, Michele Bachman, the Tea Party were all further symptoms that the progressive vaccine was not working and the side effects had now become the malady that has been raging through this country.

And then along came Trump. It was more his megalomania that his falsely reputed skills as a marketer which brought him to the fore as the leader of a movement, indeed a crusade, to reclaim America in the cause of white male supremacy. He clearly craves attention like an addict needs his next fix and Trump discovered that he could not only get attention, he could receive adulation for spouting principles that he barely comprehends.

And now, after six years of overdosing on adulation, the favorite drug of megalomaniacs, he simply cannot turn it loose. Unfortunately for the people of America there is no rehab clinic for megalomaniac presidents and as a result Trump gets to play out this insane tragicomic opera of setting the world on fire as he resists losing his drug dealer – the drug dealer being the adoring MAGA hat-wearing citizens of Trump Nation.

And so as far at Trump is concerned, the Constitution is just a piece of parchment. For Trump presidential traditions are incomprehensible and meaningless. And if he sets the world on fire with reckless international actions it matters not to this man.

The question for Republicans and other Trump supporters is this – are antiabortion judges and massive tax cuts for the wealthiest people in the history of the planet worth the systemic dysfunction that Trump has brought about? Are the gutting of environmental protections of the air that we all breathe in the name of even more profit and the stamping out of even the pretensions of racial progress and gender equality worth turning the governmental apparatus of this nation into wreckage, perhaps beyond repair?

No one can truly know how this is going to end.

What we do know is that this madness will not end on January 20, 2021.

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Point of View Columns

It’s All Fun and Games Until It’s Not

One can imagine that there are significant numbers of Donald Trump worshipers who took great pleasure in watching him dismantle the norms of propriety along with the protocols of American government from the moment that he took the oath of office. His refusal to be guided by common sense or good advice must have been refreshing to those who felt stifled by the so-called Deep State.

Trump’s adoration of Vladimir Putin might have given some members of the Trump Base pause. But like their leader, they like strong leaders who don’t respect convention.

The false equivalency between neo-Nazi nationalists and civil rights advocates was clearly not a problem and even Trump’s servile posture at the altar of the National Rifle Association was o.k. Even as the American body count from mass shootings and random gun killings continued to mount, the Trump Nation was clearly willing to Stand by Their Man.

Insulting foreign leaders and entire countries was just Trump being Strong. And besides, these leaders and countries were FOREIGN and not American and therefore not worthy of even basic respect.

Railing against black Americans, Latino Americans, Mexicans and “others” was not only not a problem for Trumpistas, it was what they wanted, indeed needed. Validation that the American that was going to Great Again was also going to be White Again washed away any and all missteps, misspeaks and misdeeds when it came to Donald J. Trump.

Indeed it was all fun and games until Trump found a toy that should have been put in a shoe box in the back of a top shelf of a closet, the way dangerous items are kept hidden from children. Because when Trump discovered that he could engage in trade wars with the world without the consent or approval of Congress, the Supreme Court or any other aspect of government, he found his ultimate toy.

Trump found that he could threaten allies and enemies at will, with his tariff pen in hand he could roil the financial markets of the planet and be assured that everyone would care about what he might do next. Indeed, tariffs turned out the be the ultimate toy for a bully like Trump in that he discovered he could threaten without fear of any serious harm – at least that’s what he thought.

And then Harley-Davidson decided to build its next plant abroad in the wake of yet another tariff tsunami. Other U.S. companies reduced or shut down operations, and the entire auto industry and its millions of direct and indirect employees tried to tell Trump that he was playing with their livelihoods.

And then the bully decided it was time to punch up in class and go after China. The thing is that not being a student of history, or anything else for that matter, Trump did not realize that China would be more than sensitive to being bullied by foreign powers, the era of European-American neo-colonialism in the 19th century not being that far away. And so when Trump punched, China punched back. And then Trump nation got punched in the nose.

Farmers, manufacturers who literally earned a living selling to China found themselves on the outside looking in. Trump has been providing bailouts to some farmers, but those “farmers” are typically corporate behemoths and the MAGA hat-wearing tractor drivers are weeping in their beer.

What is tragic about all of this is that the carnage that will soon hit American consumers in a very real way could have been easily predicted and just as easily avoided. Trump minions keep saying that the harm to the American public will be “minimal”, but when people are already earning “minimal” paychecks, even “minimal” harm will hurt.

It remains to be seen whether Trump nation will turn on its hero because of the pain of the tariff wars. Keep in mind that racism, stupidity, coarseness, ignorance, misogyny and lies have not moved the needle. But economic pain has a way of drawing attention and the weeks and months to come we will learn whether Trump has overplayed his hand —–again.

 

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