Resist, America!

Happy Birthday, you big ol’ wonderful U S of A, you!

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Doonesbury Archive/Washington Post

More of the same, Mike.  It just keeps coming and coming, crazy outburst after incomprehensible decision.  An unprovoked trade war here, a cruel immigration enforcement policy there…how can we be expected to even keep up, much less resist?  It’s too hard, right?

Yes, it’s hard, but not too hard.  This isn’t over unless we let it be over.  (“Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?”)

America can’t throw up its hands and quit because our president lies to us, unconstitutionally profits off of holding the office, threatens our alliances all over the world, and shows no signs of changing his behavior.  There’s more and more of it every day, and it feels like we have no time to rest up from the onslaught from the White House, even a sliver of which would have been unimaginable before January 2017.  In Slate, Dahlia Lithwick used the occasion of the separation of immigrant families at the border last month to encourage us all to speak up and not let Trump’s treatment of America become normal.

That we are finding ourselves unable to process or act or organize because the large-scale daily horrors are escalating and the news is overpowering is perfectly understandable. But we need to understand that and acknowledge it and then refuse it any purchase. Because to be overwhelmed and to do nothing are a choice.

It’s a choice, and it’s also a luxury, because the asylum-seekers at the borders cannot afford to go numb. Female victims of domestic abuse who are coming to the United States to save their own lives cannot afford to go numb. Teen girls denied access to reproductive care do not have the luxury of going numb.

(snip)

There isn’t a lot we can control in the present time, but as any good counselor will tell you, we can absolutely control how we react to what’s going on around us. And this is the scene in the movie where even though you want to fall asleep in the snowdrift, you need to get up and walk around. If you decide to stop swimming and just drift for a while, you’re apt to wake up in a land you don’t recognize. Because “going numb” is the gateway drug to acceptance.

As David Frum wrote in January, reflecting back on the first year of Trump, “the unacceptable does not become more acceptable if it is accepted by increments.” It’s only easier to swallow and more apt to wear down our defenses. Don’t let other people tell you what to focus on. Choose for yourself. Sure, tune out that which makes you feel hopeless. But hold on to what motivates you to act. Find all the humans you can find who agree with you and make calls and register voters. Because if things continue on this way for people without funds, or with brown skin, or for women and children and the sick, there will come a time when we all have fewer choices. This is not yet that time. Get out of the snow bank, find the St. Bernard with the tiny flask of hope, and stomp around like democracy depends on it

You don’t have to be a member of Congress to fight back, although it sure might help if members of Congress started holding the president to account—that is part of their damn job.  We can all start by being careful in the language we use in talking and writing about what’s going on, and not lazily repeating the words Trump uses that make him seem stronger and more rational than he really is.  This is a spot where we all have to make an extra effort because the president has an advantage: our brains just naturally keep track of what is true and what is not, what makes sense and what’s just crazy talk, but he’s just spewing whatever he wants to be true at the moment he says it or Tweets it, with no effort at accuracy, or consistency, or even sensibility.  Lili Loofourow calls it a “linguistic emergency” and urges us to stop reinforcing his defenses.

Sidestep every attempt he and his allies make to equate treating people badly with being strong, because their efforts to link those concepts are working. Neutral outlets are defaulting to his language for what he does—he’s “cracking down” on unions! He’s taking a “hard line“ on the G-7! Driving “hard bargains”! These all position him as powerful, which he loves. The trouble is, it’s wrong. In practice, Trump’s positions slip and slide all over the place. He never got that “hard bargain” he allegedly drove (though he sure got credit for driving it). His deals fall through, his policy shifts depending on whomever he spoke to last. It would be the height of irony if the weakest president on record managed to rebrand himself as the strongman he so badly wants to be.

(snip)

A president’s lack of basic competence is worth accurately reporting on. And it must be reported on when there is nothing else of value worth reporting.

So why doesn’t this happen more? Two reasons: For one, I sense in much of the reporting on Trump a secret fear that maybe we’re missing something. He won, after all. And he keeps insisting that he’s strong despite all the evidence, so maybe there’s something we’re not seeing. This, as many have pointed out, is gaslighting. It’s why he always says he has a plan he won’t describe.

The second reason is that many news organizations still confuse neutrality with accuracy. Better to just report what he says and let the people decide, the thinking goes.

But that’s wrong. And that’s due to the power of language: Simply repeating his fantastical claims makes them seem less fantastical. What a president says usually matters a great deal. But because what Trump says usually bears no relation to the truth (or to what his own policies end up being) it therefore fails to inform the public, and is not worth repeating. He wants to propagate the story of a power he doesn’t have. We shouldn’t help him.

Jon Stewart made the same point, along with some others, when he visited his pal Stephen Colbert last week:

And remember, along with still having our votes to use this November, we in the resistance have one other advantage: unlike Trump, we have a sense of humor and can see the ridiculousness for what it is…all he has is a mirror.  Sad.

Tom the Dancing Bug for Jun 15, 2018 Comic Strip

 Tom the Dancing Bug at go.comics.com

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One small step

Because I believe our current president has a tenuous, hit-and-miss relationship (at best) with truth, I tend to just shake my head when he opens his piehole or his Tweeting machine: there’s no reason to think any of it is accurate or honest, and it shouldn’t be taken seriously (or literally)…by anyone.  But his current delusional outburst about the Philadelphia Eagles’ visit to the White House should not go unrefuted; one of the best responses I’ve seen was Eagles player Malcolm Jenkins today on Twitter.

De8Zs7_UYAAMD5AMaintaining a functioning civil society takes work from all of us, starting with just calling bullshit when appropriate.  It really is the least we can do.  (And never let it be said that I didn’t do the least I could do ~~ Hawkeye Pierce)

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A “growing crisis of ethics and integrity”

Regular readers won’t be surprised when I say I can get behind this:

If our leaders seek to conceal the truth, or we as people become accepting of alternative realities that are no long grounded in facts, then we as American citizens are on a pathway to relinquishing our freedom. This is the life of non-democratic societies…

A responsibility of every American citizen to each other is to preserve and protect our freedom by recognizing what truth is and is not, what a fact is and is not, and begin by holding ourselves accountable to truthfulness and demand our pursuit of America’s future be fact-based––not based on wishful thinking, not hoped-for outcomes made in shallow promises––but with a clear-eyed view of the facts as they are, and guided by the truth that will set us free to seek solutions to our most daunting challenges

…and I don’t even mind a bit that it was a former Trump cabinet secretary who said it; thank you, Rex Tillerson!  (Wonder if someone will think to read this to the president, who wished Tillerson nothing but success in all his future endeavors…)

Holding ourselves accountable to truthfulness…hmmm, I like the sound of that.  It’s crazy enough that it just might work!

 

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Turns out the twain shall meet after all

Doonesbury, or Shania Twain?  Tough call…but I can has both on the InterWebs.

Most interesting read of my morning was this story in Slate about the Canadian singer who got burned by touching on American politics, a story I missed over the weekend because I went to a wedding and played golf both days.  She sparked something of an uproar by saying that if she could have voted in the U.S. presidential election, she would have voted for Donald Trump because “even though he was offensive, he seemed honest.”  As the story notes, “Twain was furiously starting to backpedal before the weekend was out.  ‘I am passionately against discrimination of any kind and hope it’s clear from the choices I have made, and the people I stand with, that I do not hold any common moral beliefs with the current President,’ she tweeted on Sunday night.”

The author uses the Twain story to start a discussion of a peer-reviewed article in last August’s American Sociological Review:

How, the authors of the recent study set out to understand, do populists like Trump get away with such obvious lies? And why is it that, in the words of Shania Twain, many voters even perceive them to be especially honest?

(snip)

Even though most Trump supporters were willing to admit that Trump lies, they also rated him as extremely “authentic.” In fact, Trump was rated as being much more authentic by his supporters than Hillary Clinton was by hers.

This, the paper suggests, is the key to understanding Trump’s success.

When the political system is widely seen as doing its job, somebody like Trump, who violates its basic norms, is seen as illegitimate. A politician who blatantly lies doesn’t stand a chance. But this changes when more and more people come to believe that the system is rigged and that most politicians don’t have their best interests in mind. Amid such a “crisis of legitimacy,” voters don’t particularly care whether a politician plays by the rules of the game. Instead, they long for somebody who bluntly states how rotten the system really is.

I take from this that people are unhappy with the current system (check) and want to elect people who will do a better job on behalf of regular Americans than the people who are currently in office (check); and so they deduce that people who seem and sound different than the current crop of politicians are therefore the people who are going to do good things (wait what?!)?  This feels like this goes along with all the wondering about how come evangelicals are such strong supporters of Trump’s.  I mean, they’ve spent the time since the 1980 election campaign proudly showing off their holier-than-thou bona fides and making it clear that, to them, there is nothing more important when voting for an officer of our secular government than that man’s (preferably a man) belief in, and adherence to, their particular flavor of religion.  Until now, in the face of a candidate/president who is demonstrably everything they’ve claimed to oppose.

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Thanks GoComics.com

There’s one more thing I just an across and want to share, and it kinda fits here—a quote from John Kenneth Galbraith in an interview in the Toronto Globe and Mail, July 6, 2002: “The modern conservative is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.”

Posted in American Values, Elections, Funny, Intellectual Dishonesty, Politics, Religion | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The most clear-eyed social critic and political analyst in America

Noodling around in my email files looking for something to write about, but nothing stood out or snagged my interest.  You say I should improve the stuff I keep in my files?  I say, apparently you are correct.  It’s not to say that there’s nothing going on in the world—fercryin’outloud, the president just pushed the White House merry-go-round again by firing the head of the Veterans Administration Affairs and giving the job to a doctor with no experience running anything like the second biggest department the U.S. government; a porn star and her lawyer are running rings around the big bad businessman and his lawyer, while 61% of Republicans surveyed think Donald Trump is a good role model for their children—but today I just don’t have the spark to go into that again.

Turns out I don’t have to, because there’s somebody much better at it who’s rarin’ to go:

“[Trump] brings out the dark side of human beings for his own purpose, which is himself. And if it’s not pointed out and people don’t stand up and point it out, it will become commonplace, and it’s not the world that I want to live in.”

Ladies and gentlemen, my nominee for the straightest-talking social commentator and political analyst on two feet, Gregg Popovich, the head coach of the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs.

Before facing the Washington Wizards on Tuesday night, Popovich, who has shared sharp criticism of Trump, was asked more questions about societal issues than basketball during his nearly 11-minute media availability. Popovich explained in detail why he continues to speak out.

“It becomes a priority of what’s more important. I think we have a situation where we’re going backwards, at least as far as race is concerned and it has to be pointed out,” Popovich said. “Our current president hopes to bore us to death with all these new issues day after day after day that keep him in the news. You can talk about one comment or scandal after another and it becomes commonplace, forgotten about and we don’t even know what’s going on behind the scenes, like what’s happening to our environment and health and all this sort of thing. All the laws that are kind of sliding and all the people who are being removed and being replaced. Like scientists being replaced by politicians.

“We take our eye off the ball, and he’s great at it,” Popovich continued. “He brings out the dark side of human beings for his own purpose, which is himself. And if it’s not pointed out and people don’t stand up and point it out, it will become commonplace, and it’s not the world that I want to live in.”

Also, Popovich said the youth who participated in the “March for Our Lives” rally on last Saturday was encouraging: “They give me hope that I’m actually living in the country I thought I was living in.”

Don’t fall for the argument that Popovich is just a dumb jock or another East Coast liberal who never did anything for his country: he’s from Chicago, graduated from the Air Force Academy with a degree in Soviet Studies, underwent intelligence gathering and processing training, served served five years on active duty.  He’s a guy who knows what he’s talking about, isn’t afraid to say what’s on his mind, and says it in a memorable and entertaining way.  Can’t ask much more than that from your commentators…or your basketball coaches.

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