Monthly Archives: January 2017

WHEN CHARACTER NO LONGER COUNTS

One may agree or totally disagree with Barack Obama’s policies or overall politics, but one would have to admit that while he occupied the office of the presidency, he always conducted himself as a perfect gentleman. He was always cool under fire; he never went on Twitter rants against perceived opponents; he never engaged in long, on-running battles or feuds against those whom he felt were out to “get him;” and he certainly never engaged in vile, crude or lewd language when verbalizing in public media. He always displayed the proper decorum befitting someone that occupies the highest office in the land. One, of course, cannot say that of the current occupant of the White House, who just moved into the Oval Office a few days ago. Donald Trump’s politics are not only the polar opposite of Obama’s, but so  is his persona. Because of his deep-seated narcissism, Trump feels compelled to rather viscously strike back at those that bruise his ego. For example, Meryl Streep, perhaps the finest Hollywood actress since the end of WWII, becomes a second-rate loser via a Trump tweet, because she dared to criticize him at the academy awards.

We have thus entered an era of right-wing politics where character, obviously, no longer counts. Where statements such as, “she had blood coming out of her whatever,” or expressing a fondness on tape for “grabbing women by the pussy” becomes the new norm. Where even an innocuous statement by the media that the crowd at Trump’s inauguration was smaller than the one at Obama’s first inauguration in 2009 has to be attacked with what a Trump spokesperson described as “alternative facts.” A fascinating concept in itself.  If existing reality is too harsh to tolerate, just create your own parallel universe of delusion and “alternative facts.” Some turn to drugs or alcohol to drown out the reality of how miserable their lives have become. But why bother? Heavy drug or alcohol dependency will only lead to early death. Instead, just create a parallel universe of alternate facts where you can live as a king, or queen, as the case may be. Problem solved. Fascinating that in a country that has become the most prosperous and economically viable in the history of this planet, so many people felt it necessary  to choose a candidate that could only offer trite platitudes to soothe their concerns. Just print “Make America Great Again” on a baseball cap and all of the issues facing this nation will dissolve like an ice cube left outside in the hot sun.

Thus the Trump presidency has begun in predictable fashion. Among Trump’s appointees are an Attorney-General who couldn’t be less interested in civil rights issues, an Environmental Protection Agency administrator that has spent his career battling EPA initiatives in the courts with one suit after another, and a Department of Education secretary who has made a career out of attempting to destroy the public education system in this country, in favor of private schooling. The same public schools attended by at least 90% of the nation’s school children. And yet, the Trumpanistas are puzzled by and taking umbrage at the massive protest demonstrations occurring not only in Washington D.C., but in cities throughout not only the nation, but throughout the world as well. It seems that a trite cliche written on a baseball cap might not sell all that well after all , at least not in some quarters. Trump enters office with the lowest approval ratings of any president in the modern era. Something below 40 percent. In comparison, Obama’s approval when he first entered office in 2009 was up near 70 percent. And the roller-coaster ride is just beginning.

Of course, a decent opposition party might put the brakes on some of the current administration’s more radical initiatives. The trouble is, the Democrats are in a state of shambles. Hillary Clinton ran about the worst campaign in the history of politics. She lost Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin by a combined total of 100 thousand votes. States that any Democrat would normally win with just minimal effort, and that would have given her the presidency. She never even visited Wisconsin, made relatively few campaign appearances in general, and ran boring and mundane campaign ads on TV. For example, she didn’t run a single ad highlighting Trump’s business failures such as his 4 casino ventures in Atlantic City that went belly-up. Or the “Trump University” sham that also had to shutter down. Or the Trump line of vodka that also went out of business. I mean, how hard is it to sell vodka once the business is up and running. Instead her ads seemed to focus solely on some unhinged comments Trump made while on the campaign trail. Such ads were minimally okay for openers, but they were run incessantly, to the point that they eventually became boring. Bad television ads, a lack of campaign appearances, minimal effort to get Democratic voters to the polls-a sure recipe for defeat.

The Democrats need a young Lochinvar to come riding in on his magnificent steed and save the Party, but none appear to be in sight. A Bernie Sanders type but much younger. Without such a hero, Trump is almost guaranteed a full eight years in the Oval Office. Assuming, of course, that he wises up and learns to stay off Twitter, and otherwise not respond to every perceived slight or offensive comment. If he can keep his narcissism under control, he could have rather smooth sailing during his administration. If not, the U.S. is in for a very rocky and tumultuous four years.

After all, we do live in an age when character doesn’t matter anymore. Don’t we?

 

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FROM CIVIL RIGHTS TO THE ALT-RIGHT: A NATION’S MORAL DECLINE

It took less than 60 years, 56 to be precise, for the United States to go from electing a president that would champion the cause of civil rights for blacks and other minorities, to electing a president that intends to further the cause of white supremacy and privilege. In 1960, a young John F. Kennedy would squeak out a narrow win for the presidency over Richard Nixon. With brother Bobby as attorney-general, JFK set out to tear down the walls of Jim Crow segregation that had permeated throughout the entire South. A system whereby blacks had to attend separate schools from whites, drink from separate water fountains, sit at separate lunch counters, sit in segregated sections when attending sports events or movies, and on and on. Of course, blacks were strictly forbidden from living or buying property in white neighborhoods. And black people usually found it all but impossible to vote in public elections in virtually every district throughout the South. But the early 1960s were also a time when a young black minister named Martin Luther King Jr., with the backing of the president and the attorney-general, began organizing huge protest marches and civil-disobedience throughout the South to attack this system of second-class citizenry. A system of semi-slavery that had lasted 100 years after Lincoln had ended the existing system of formal slavery.

The peaceful protests and civil-rights marches of those days eventually achieved their desired results as the walls of Jim Crow semi-slavery began to crumble into dust. But not before a slew of both black and white civil-rights workers were murdered along the way by the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacists. And tragically, by 1968, both Kennedy brothers and Martin Luther King were all dead at the hands of different assassins. And to be clear, racial hatred and discrimination didn’t exist only in the South. There was plenty of that in the North as well, minus a formalized legal system of Jim Crow segregation. But when Lyndon Johnson took over the presidency after JFK’s murder, and signed the civil rights act of 1964, black people were at least free to participate in U.S. elections without fear of reprisal. The tumultuous 1960s were also a time of massive protests and civil disobedience against America’s ill-fated entry into the Viet-Nam war. When that debacle ended in the early 1970s, and with the successes of the civil-rights movement, it seemed as if America’s worst days were behind it. Sadly, this was not to be.

Now fast-forward to 2016 where the winning presidential candidate, also by the narrowest of margins, is definitely not a civil-rights proponent. Instead he is praised by the KKK and other white-supremist groups as being their kind of guy. One of these hate groups is oddly referred to as the Alt-Right, presumably meaning alternative right wing. A rather benign sounding term to cover up its underlying racist intentions. A former leader of the Alt-Right, a man named Stephen Bannon, eventually became Donald Trump’s campaign manager, and will now sit in the White House on a daily basis as Trump’s co-chief of staff. A rather comforting vision to start off the new year of 2017, wouldn’t you say? So who, or what is the Alt-Right. Well, according to one of its current leaders named Jeff Schoep, their decision to dispense with using the swastika as its symbol was “an attempt to become more integrated and more mainstream.” An attempt to make racial hatred seem more like the norm. Their central belief is that white identity has become endangered by what they deride as this era of dangerous diversity and political correctness. But though they may no longer use the Nazi swastika as their symbol, the name of their game is still white supremacy over blacks and virulent anti-semitism.

When Trump, early in the campaign, promised to build a wall to keep out Mexican immigrants, whom he described as murderers and rapists, the Alt-Right raised its collective head to listen. One movement leader, a retired school teacher from Dallas, who grew up in a family opposed to desegregation, stated: “I’ve been waiting to hear those words from a mainstream political leader all my life. We don’t have any power, – but now we’re suddenly close enough to smell it.” After Trump’s victory, the Alt-Right held a conference in Washington under the leadership of its president, a 38 year-old man named Richard Spencer, who fashions himself as the coming American Il Duce. He wears his hair in an undercut style called a “fashy” as in fascist. “Race is real” he said “Race matters. Race is the foundation of identity.” Of course, this Alt-Right movement is supposedly distinct from old-line white supremacist fascists, bigots, race-haters and Jew-haters such as the KKK. But early in the election campaign, when David Duke, former grand dragon of the KKK enthusiastically endorsed the Trump candidacy, it took The Donald two days to eventually choke out an-“okay, I disavow the endorsement,” after repeated grilling by the media.

So, welcome to the world, circa 2017. The year 1961 stared off with a new president in the White House committed to achieving racial equality for minorities that were afflicted by Jim Crow prejudice, bigotry and segregation. The new president in 2017, about to enter the Oval Office, is a man seemingly adored by those very same bigots and haters. But that’s not even the most disturbing part about all of this.  Even more upsetting is the fact that candidate Trump figured out that there there was all this bigotry still in existence among the white population. Enough so that he could win by achieving such an overwhelming portion of the white vote, that it was more than sufficient enough to offset the minority voters opposition to him. And he was right. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

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