H2O ManH2O Man's Journal
Sure there are dishonest men in local government. But there are dishonest men in national politics, too.
-- Richard M. Nixon
I was talking with a friend this week about Trumps upcoming presidency. She is a registered voter, though not affiliated with either the republican or Democratic Party. Still, she had assumed that there was zero chance that Trump could possibly win the 2016 election.
She was convinced that the public would overwhelmingly appreciate that Hillary Clinton would be a better president than Trump. I pointed out that Trump sets the bar so low that even Richard Nixon would be a far superior choice. How then, she asked, was Trump able to win the election -- despite the popular vote -- and what might we expect from his presidency?
First, as outrageous as it was, Trumps campaign was far from original. In fact, too much attention was paid to his often purposeful bullshit. More should have been focused on why he was performing that way. Many of us are old enough to remember how Ronald Reagan was packaged -- based upon using his previous television image to distract from his true nature -- and recognized that Trump was running the modern equivalent, exploiting the internet. This included the intentional appeal to the alt-right, a collection of sub-groups that generally are not considered likely voters. Thus, the unanticipated wins in several key states.
The campaign also copied the law and order message that Nixon ran on. Like Tricky Dick, he excuses his own behaviors -- both of their campaigns were influenced by other nations, among other things -- by combining denials with a thats how its done approach. President Nixon sought an advantage by promoting the idea that he was unstable and angry when it came to international issues; Trump has not waited to be sworn in to engage in similar behaviors.
President Nixon sought an advantage over the Soviet Union, by playing a China card. Trump is seeking to gain advantages over China, by cozying up to Russias leader. There are, of course, many significant differences. The world is a very different place today. Also, Nixon was actually well informed on global relationships, and had decades of experience in this arena. Thus, he was viewed as capable, though unstable, while Trump is viewed as not capable and unstable.
In domestic terms, Nixon represented phase one of the republican partys attempts to dismantle FDR and LBJs social programs. Reagan, of course, was phase two. George W. Bush and Dick Cheney instituted the foundation for a high-tech feudalism. Already, in my region, funding for non-profit agencies is evaporating, in anticipation of Trump.
Since winning the election, Trump has displayed little if any loyalty to his campaign promises. The selections for his administration indicate that they will pursue an aggressive, reckless foreign policy, and an anti-environment form of social Darwinism domestically. Bad as these are, what is definitely worse is that Trump is largely being allowed to dictate what field the contest will be played upon.
Its not limited to the power of the office of the president, although as we have seen in recent times that while there are limits to what good a president can do, the ability to do bad is limitless. Nor is it because 90+ percent of elected representatives in DC are puppets of the 1% and multi-national corporations. Or that the media is a pathetic excuse for the free press defined by Amendment 1.
The biggest stumbling blocks that threaten to prevent effective resistance to the Trump administration is found within the grass roots. The first is the belief that some leader is going to save us. If only Adlai Stevenson would expose Trump. Maybe the Beatles will reunite. Or a flaming apple pie will appear from the heavens. Where is Gandhi when we need him?
The harsh, cold truth is that it is up to us. You, me, and everyone else that did not vote for Trump. Thats the starting point. And it brings us to that second stumbling block, which by no coincidence is also found firmly planted between peoples ears -- the foolish, self-indulgent divisions that fester when some insist that they will refuse to work with those who have different opinions, or hold different values. One example should do (although the same concept can be applied to many others): the silly, irrational stance that Bernie Sanders is not a democrat. As if the reality of the 2016 Democrat Party primary can be ignored, and that very ignorance will result in a stronger party.
Factionalism, self-righteousness, and aggressive ignorance create the arena in which Donald Trump wins. He depends upon people like you and I to react mindlessly; instead, we must respond intelligently. That does not mean that we have to think alike, or hold identical values. Far from it. Instead, it requires that we put forth our best efforts -- and that isnt limited to posting on the internet -- with full confidence that the movement will bring forth its own leadership.
Anger, he smiles,
Towering in shiny purple metallic armour
Queen Jealousy, envy waits behind him
Her fiery green gown sneers at the grassy ground.
-- Jimi Hendrix, Bold as Love
Chronic anger is a disease. One of the symptoms is that it leads to divisions, as in when groups of angry individuals splinter into smaller and smaller sub-groups that are hostile to one another. This is what we are witnessing in American society today, just as it is spreading around the globe.
Its happening in large regions of this country, and within states, communities, and neighborhoods. Indeed, it is happening within families. Chronic anger elected Donald Trump as the next president. One would have to be in full denial to believe that the nation is not experiencing a serious illness.
There are divisions between the progressive and liberal communities, which were brought to a head by the 2016 presidential election. If one were to read closely enough, one could even find evidence of this on the Democratic Underground.
Now, Im not talking about the spontaneous emotion of anger. Closely related to fear, in the context of the brain and body, anger has played a role in human evolution. Rather, I am talking about chronic anger, which is destructive to both the individuals brain and body, and to groups of people.
Chronic anger makes individuals and groups self-righteous. It brings about selfishness, and other forms of self-deception. And this is self-defeating. I can think of no better example than a statistic I heard reported, that some 14% of registered Democrats voted for Donald Trump. Safe to say that these were angry, rather than happy, people.
In this sense, anger and fear share many common characteristics. None are more important than their good and bad potentials: for if handled properly, they can produce the fuel required to achieve victory, or each can result in burn-out -- with anger causing a form of burn-out that the individual fails to recognize. Chronic anger exhausts ones ability to think rationally and objectively.
In a healthy, well-functioning society, the chronically angry people are understood to have problems. In an unhealthy, dysfunctional society, those angriest of people are mistaken for leaders. Again, there is no better example than Donald Trumps election. Yet, while this is easily understood by all, far fewer people seem capable of applying this same dynamic to smaller groups.
This allows for the angriest voices in communities to be mistaken for speaking for the group. There are two distinct dangers associated with this, the first being that it becomes remarkably easy for the groups opposition to exploit. Almost without exception, for example, it was provocateurs (:inciting agents) who promoted hostilities in the Civil Rights and anti-war movements of the 1960s-70s. They exploited the groups angers and fears to divide them.
This is not to imply that all the problems within the liberal and progressive communities -- or within the Democratic Party -- are the result of outside agitators. For example, we should take note of the fact that the republicans have won three of the last five presidential elections. Consider the number of republican governors that will be running states in 2017. And the large number of elections for the House and Senate that have been lost in recent years.
In that context, is it rational to think that more victories will be achieved by further dividing the groups and individuals that might form the partys base of support in the future? Or might it be better to consider the possibility that the partys leadership has some responsibility for the failure to win elections? Those appear to be our two options: either to engage in a puritanical orgy of finger-pointing and blaming others, or else taking responsibility for our own actions an inactions. It would seem worthwhile to consider which of those two options that the partys leadership has taken since election day.
In those days, I identified with the ideas of Malcolm X, his philosophy of by any means necessary, rather than what I misinterpreted as the passivity of Dr. Martin Luther King.
-- Rubin Hurricane Carter; Eye of the Hurricane; Lawrence Hill Books; 2011; page 62
One of the most interesting periods of the 1960s is often overlooked: for a brief period in 1964 to early 65, Malcolm and Martin began taking steps towards presenting a united front to obtain human rights for the twenty million black Americans. In large part, this was a result of Malcolms attempt to bring Uncle Sams abuses in front of the United Nations. In his trips abroad during this time, foreign leaders recommended to Malcolm that he seek to create a united front with Dr. King.
Although it is generally ignored in most biographies of the two men, there were a series of communications between the two, through a third party -- an attorney from Chicago. Also, as is better known, Malcolm traveled to Selma while King was in jail. Members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee had invited him to address their group on February 4. That day, Malcolm would also speak with Andrew Young, James Bevel, and Coretta Scott King.
Dr. King had called Rubin before the Selma campaign, and asked him to join the effort. At that time, Rubin did not subscribe to Kings non-violent methods. Indeed, a Saturday Evening Post reporter had quoted one of Rubins friends, out of context, regarding the black communitys right to fight back against police violence. Thus, Rubin told Martin that it would be suicidal for him to participate in Selma.
Two weeks after he gave Coretta a message for her husband, Malcolm was killed. Within a few years, Martin Luther King was murdered. And Rubin was serving a triple-life sentence for a vicious crime that he had not committed. In the early 1970s, Rubin and I became friends; over the next four decades, among many other things, we would discuss the meanings of Malcolm and Martin.
Its easy, today, to pay tribute to Dr. King on Martin Luther King Day. And many of us old folks take time to remember his death every April 4th. It is not uncommon to wish that King were alive today, to serve as a leader in the on-going struggle for human rights. (I even find myself wishing Malcolm were here to debate Bill OReilly-types.)
Yesterday, I had a phone call from the editor of a regional newspaper. She reads my blog, and called to ask if she could use my most recent essay in the upcoming edition? Of course. We had a pleasant conversation, in which she said that we need a Gandhi/ King-like figure today. I suggested that what is really required is that we bring forth that potential within ourselves.
She noted that doing so was very difficult, especially in such an acrimonious time. I agreed, for all worth-while things are as difficult as they are important. More, not doing so will result in a far worse scenario. She said that it is hard for her to not feel anger towards many people, and to fear them. I agree 100%. Im human. People bug me, too. And it is a very angry time in America. Yet, if we feed into that anger, the direction our nation is going in will be -- at very least -- just as difficult as if we attempt to put the teachings and examples of Gandhi and King to work in our daily lives.
On that last blog essay, I noted that Thoreau wrote that people to see what they expect, and want, to see. In our society, people see reasons to fear the future, especially since Trump won the general election. And, being angry, they see others to blame. No single group has a monopoly on blaming others, of course, yet we find its corrosive effect within those groups that are most opposed to Trumps electoral victory.,
If one reads various internet sites (including, but not limited to the Democratic Underground), they find individuals and groups blaming numerous others: the Sanders campaign; the Clinton campaign; the DNC; James Comey; cable news; the Russians; millennials; Doris Day; and on and on. There is no shortage of self-righteous outrage and hatred Indeed, only two things are missing -- an awareness of what role each of us played as individuals, and of what positive changes we might make to counter the unwholesome impact of the Trump presidency.
Yet only honest self-examination can result in each of us reaching a point where we can actually create positive change. Its easy, for example, to remember every insult aimed at ourselves during the primary and general election campaigns. Its a bit more difficult to take responsibility for the abrasive digs we got in on others who though and acted differently than we did. However, we cant change others -- we can only change ourselves.
Our behaviors do influence others. If we attack others -- verbally in person, or in writing on the internet -- because they think and act differently than we do, as a result of holding different values based upon different life-experiences, it is unlikely to sway them in a positive way. Few people enjoy being insulted or demeaned for their beliefs ..and those that do are not pictures of mental health.
Likewise, those who cling to self-righteousness, and declare that they will never work with former allies who think differently are not displaying politically healthy or emotionally mature attitudes. Its really as simple as that. That attitude, and the resulting behaviors, are the direct opposite of the example that Dr. King set for us.
To paraphrase King, at this point in time, although it may not be comfortable or easy, each of us may make a choice of how we will respond to current events. That we are at a crisis point in our nations history -- and in world history -- is all too obvious. It is up to each of us to respond by bringing forth our best potentials.
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