Shitholes and Shinola: A Little Lesson for Donald Trump About History, Immigration, and Economics on MLK Day

Imagine it is 1620. You are in Europe. You are living in a small island country that is the seat of the most powerful empire on the globe. One might even call it the center of the Western world.

Yet, smallpox and typhoid are running rampant in your country. Tens of thousands have succumb to either sweating sickness or bubonic plague. Tens of thousands more will die before the end of the century from communicable illnesses that will one day be curable and practically nonexistent.

By the end of the seventeenth century, though, official records will show that one-fifth of the population of the largest city in your country died from plague between 1563-1665, and in 1665 alone nearly 100,000 people died of plague in the city.

The records will show that thirty percent of children in your country died before they could reach age 15 from plague, dysentery, scarlet fever, flu, whooping cough, pneumonia, and various unidentifiable fevers.

Those children that are not killed by illness are killed in horrible yet very common accidents. Since they are commonly called on to fetch water for their households as soon as they are able to walk and balance a bucket, many fall into wells and drown. Others slip on the mud surrounding the wells or rocks embedded in the shores of rivulets and streams and crack their skulls.

Child labor is legal, so many children working on farms are run over by horses and/or ploughs. Many infants and smaller children are dropped and killed by older children acting as their caretakers. Children working on ships, in shipyards, and in blacksmith shops are burned in accidental fires or poisoned by chemical fumes. Some are even killed on battlefields, where they are enlisted to help soldiers with their artillery.

When these children are injured, and not killed, they are most often treated at home by their mothers, not doctors or professional healers. They are rubbed with mixtures of chicken fat and feces when they suffer burns, or they are given potions like dried dill in honey for coughs. Very rarely are they admitted to the hospital or given manufactured or even just scientifically proven prescriptions.

In your country, blacksmiths most often set broken bones and perform a common surgical procedure for bladder stones called a lithotomy. These bladder stones are caused by the large amount of gravel in the people’s diets. The lithotomies to remove the stones are typically performed with common work tools in the blacksmith shop without any anesthesia.

Adults, when sick or hurt, are subjected to even more harrowing treatments than the children. Rectal purging, bloodletting, and forced vomiting are the most common methods of medical treatment. Surgeries, when performed, are rudimentary, and clean wards in which to convalesce are a rare luxury.

Childbirth is a particularly “tetchy” area of so-called medicine at this time. Up to two percent of women die while giving birth, and many women experience upward from two or three pregnancies because the use of birth control is not widespread, increasing their chances of dying in childbirth. Existent birth control methods are spotty in their effectiveness, and childbearing is essentially a social mandate for married women, so unwanted pregnancies are many and experienced by the majority of women.

Women in labor, if lucky, are only given liquor for the pain. Midwives typically attend births, not doctors, and they have considerable knowledge of how to deliver babies, but no technology available to them to make delivery less painful or safer for mothers or infants. They also have very limited ways of predicting or remedying crises like breech position or shoulder dystocia (when a baby’s shoulder gets stuck behind the mother’s pelvic bone during delivery).

Some women are poisoned by their attempts to terminate unwanted pregnancies using herbs. Many women force themselves to have violent bowel movements or fits of vomiting in order to lose their babies, and others subject themselves to bloodletting from the foot, which is believed to bring on “blocked” menstruation.

Children born in your country have a 20% chance of dying before their fifth birthday.

Illness and injury in your country are not just products of the profound lack of scientific and medical knowledge. The major cause for the epidemic spread of the Bubonic plague and other communicable diseases is the lack of sanitation.

Big cities in your country have no sewage systems. There is no running water. People must fill tubs with water they gather from wells, natural water sources, or public fountains to cook and bathe, and they must boil the water to sanitize it because there is no filtration system, so they regularly imbibe unfiltered water, and they don’t bathe regularly.

This means the germs that stick to them throughout the day remain on their bodies. They exchange money and other items with dirty hands that help spread diseases faster than rumors that a particularly bold or independent woman is a witch. This keeps the cycle of infection, illness, and death going at amplified volume and speed throughout the century.

There are no toilets in your country. People urinate and vomit in large clay chamber pots that they dump into streets with no drainage (remember). So the excrement remains where it is put and runs off into the rivers, rivulets, and streams when it rains.

Unfortunately, the people do not wash their hands after using chamber pots because germs are not “discovered” until the 1800s, and this is the 1600s. Because there are no public toilets, people urinate and vomit on the streets outside of restaurants, bars, gambling dens, and whorehouses.

People also purposefully dump their chamber pots and trash into the river. Trash that isn’t dumped in the river is tossed onto the streets since there are no organized dumps, and there is no uniform or government-sponsored system of trash collection or incineration. Trash in the streets causes rats to congregate. Rats help to spread diseases with their droppings and by biting people.

The Thames is a major source of water for the people living in the busiest city in your country. Mostly rich people have wells or their own water pumps. The majority of people in this country are poor and/or live in rural areas, so they collect their water from public fountains, streams, rivulets, and rivers. The Thames, though, is a literal cesspool.

A shithole.

All the flowers, rosewater, and vinegar the women in your country use to mask the odors of all the sickness and clean the homes are mere drops in the polluted bucket when it comes to keeping things clean.

Culturally, your country isn’t doing any better than it is doing physically.

Less than 40% of men and 25% of women in the country are literate. Only about one-fifth of the population can sign their names at the end of the 1500s, and this percentage only increases to one-third by the end of the 1600s. There are no free public schools for the general masses to attend, and, more often than not, children not born to nobles or middle class merchants and craftsman end up going to work when they are of age and not school.

“Public” school, in this era, only means that the school is not operated in a private home; it does not indicate that a uniform, government-mandated curriculum is taught, or that education is accessible to the majority of the population. There is no compulsory education for youth, and most schools do not teach science, music, or art.

Rich nobles only make up three percent of the overall population; the majority of the population is poor. Ninety-five percent of the population lives in rural districts where they do one-third of their farming to pay the lords that own the lands, another portion of their farming to support the church, and live off the portion that is left. These so-called peasants are only able to rise in class if they can buy the lands of some lord that has died from old age, plague, or some other disease.

The most desperate peasants live in poorhouses run by churches. Many are displaced when food agriculture slowly gives over to the raising of sheep (to feed the growing cloth industry), and acres of crop fields are turned into pastures. Peasants that relocate to the cities after being displaced have a difficult time finding employment, as there are very few jobs for unskilled laborers.

So, in addition to disease, crime is rampant in the city streets. Thievery, pickpocketing, and prostitution are extremely common, as are homelessness and begging, which are classified as crimes.

The average life expectancy is 42 because the quality of life is so poor.

And speaking of “poor,” poverty is wreaking such social havoc that there are actual poor laws. There are 15,000 parishes in your country, and the parishioners are charged with caring for the poor. The officials calculate how much is needed to do this and then collect the money from the parishioners. The deserving poor – the sick, elderly, and orphans – receive help from this money. The undeserving poor – able-bodied, unemployed men and women – do not receive help from this money, and, if they are found to be vagrant, they are punished for being homeless with public whipping.

And whipping is just one of the cruel and unusual forms of punishment that are common and legal in your country. Criminals that commit murder, treason, or some other serious crime can be tortured by pillory, iron maiden, bastinado, the rack, the jougs, or the gossip’s bridle (look them up).

Banishment doesn’t just occur in Shakespeare plays; it is a real thing to which serious criminals are subjected, and the punishment of returning to your country after being banished is death.

Execution (by hanging or beheading) is legal, exorbitant fines are common, and jail time is sparse and rarely given. Whippings and other forms of corporal punishment are favored because they are less costly than maintaining penitentiaries.

As is typical of just about every western country in this time, single women have practically no legal rights, and children go largely unprotected by the law from abuse and neglect.

The dearth of scientific knowledge of the world allows people in your country to cling to terrible superstitions. Negative occurrences in people’s personal lives are commonly blamed on witches, which makes it possible for random innocent women (because women were more often accused of witchcraft) to be tortured, banished, and executed for imaginary crimes by people that may just be exercising their misogyny, xenophobia, jingoism, or religious bigotry.

Though the Pilgrims that will venture from your country in 1620 to North America are depicted in the grand historical narrative of the US as a sect of poor, persecuted devotees that were simply seeking freedom of religion, the Protestant Reformation out of which they have emerged is not nearly as noble as that (though in truth the Pilgrims themselves are not paragons, but that is another post for another time).

In fact, the Protestant Reformation in your country began with a promiscuous King whose only issue with Catholicism – the religion that had ruled in your country for centuries – is that it does not allow him to divorce one wife and take another.

This King – Henry – only spearheads the Reformation in your country in order to obtain the annulment he seeks (and go on to marry five additional times) and claim the lands and monies held by the Catholic Church in your country.

Through unwarranted, unrelenting “royal” confiscation, Henry empties all of the Catholic Church’s riches into his own coffers and allows the country’s nobility to buy up the Catholic Church’s land for mining and other commercial ventures, which, of course, increase tax revenue for the monarchy without improving life for the peasants.

Henry closes the numerous abbeys and rectories in the country, forcing nuns and priests to enter the workforce with little work experience or social prestige, where they are paid horrible wages and often mistreated by Protestant bosses and coworkers.

The Restoration occurs in the mid-1500s, yet the political prostitution of religion continues into the 1600s.

When your most famous Queen – Elizabeth – takes the throne in 1603, she aligns herself with the Protestants just as her father did before her. She does this mainly for money purposes, which were, again, major motivators for her father.

So many of the big business and land owners in the country are Protestant at this point, after growing their wealth under her father, that the Elizabeth literally cannot afford to allow Catholicism to regain a foothold. It would ruin the monarchy financially if the Vatican swept in to reclaim its lands and co-opted assets from the throne.

So not only does Elizabeth oversee the establishment of the Church of England to force Catholicism out of the country, she stands aside as Parliament passes uniformity laws that force everyone to attend the Church of England and use the same Book of Common Prayer, essentially doing away with freedom of religion.

In the meantime, the Protestants that lead the Church of England (they are now called Anglicans) are not only struggling alongside Elizabeth to suppress underground Catholics that seek to topple the Church; they are using suppressive methods (outlawing their church services, breaking up their protests, jailing their leaders) to silence the fanatical Puritans, who wish to destabilize the Church of England because they believe its rituals are still too decadent and its dealings are still too centered on obtaining money, even after the Reformation.

The Anglicans are so deeply threatened by the Puritans in fact (because their numbers are considerable) that they resort to violence to stop the Puritans. Anglican bishops actually put prices on the heads of the most outspoken and influential Puritan leaders, and they encourage peacekeepers to arrest Puritan protestors and execute outspoken Protestants for heresy.

This persecution of the Puritans occurs from the 1590s until the 1620s, when it reaches such an intensity that the Pilgrims flee this country – yes – it is England – for North America.

And that lands us in the ideal symbolic place for me to make my point about America and its immigration history.

The Pilgrims are revered in this country as its founders. Their genocidal treatment of the Native Americans is treated as a rather insignificant footnote to this main narrative that characterizes the Pilgrims as the brave, strong, and resourceful pioneers of our democracy.

That’s right. Even though revisionist history reveals that Puritan culture was every bit as hegemonic, suppressive, violent, and political as British culture in the seventeenth century, the majority of Americans – and especially the white men in power – still regard the Pilgrims for setting the freedom-seeking, freedom-loving tone of our country’s political ideology.

And whether this is true or not, it is a fact these immigrants from Elizabethan England are the forefathers of our founding fathers, who did actually transform the 13 colonies into this glittering dystopia we call America.

So they are the descendants of a shithole country because Elizabethan England was oozing with filth, emanating with disease, teeming with vagrants, rife with crime, bursting with corruption, and animated by deprivation, division, strife, violence, and oppression in 1620 – the year in which the Puritans departed it.

This is the irony of Donald Trump’s statement in that now notorious DACA meeting that he doesn’t want anymore people from shithole countries like Haiti, Africa (which is not a country, but a continent of 54 countries), and El Salvador entering America, and he would rather see more people arriving here from countries like Norway.

He and others that think like him hail western European countries as better places from which to be descended than the countries of Africa, Asia, and Central or South America, but, when it became the homeland of the Pilgrims back in 1620, England was in the same desperate straits as what we would currently stigmatize as a Third World country.

If the descendants of the England that I described in the opening of this post – an England whose conditions sound very much like those in current day Haiti (though only after suffering from a near-cataclysmic earthquake) – can become the most celebrated citizens of America – can be made into literal monuments – then it stands to reason that the descendants of just about any people – from any country – can also do great things with the opportunities afforded them here in the US.

I can type a list of immigrants of color that have arrived in America with nothing but in their suitcases but dreams and made tremendous contributions to the progress and greatness of this country.

Or I can play into Trump’s bigotry and point out that Alexander Hamilton, though white, was an orphan immigrant from Nevis in the British West Indies – a small Caribbean island covered in slave sugar plantations and rife with political violence with a 90% black population – and he – Hamilton – went on to become the founder of the American financial system, the US Coast Guard, and The New York Times newspaper and the first Secretary of the Treasury.

So Trump is dead-wrong in propagandizing his racist views of immigrants hailing from countries of color as the mere products of so-called intelligent thinking and logical analysis because history shows that immigrants from all over the globe are much more likely to come to America and flourish than they are to flounder.

And anyway Trump is not trying to make America safer by closing its borders to immigrants and refugees of color. He isn’t trying to reduce crime or increase jobs or strengthen the economy or accomplish anything other than his reelection in 2020.

Trump is continuing to gaslight his voter base through the use of divisive propaganda and propagating very ignorant, unfounded concepts of American history and world politics, proving that the many claims that have been made in the news about his lack of preparedness and fitness for the presidency are correct.

It goes without saying, but I will still say it: Trump’s adamant refusal to educate himself about this country is growing increasingly dangerous, as is his willingness to scapegoat minorities, immigrants, Muslims, and members of the LGBTQIA+ community to secure the support of his apparently dwindling voter base.

Trump may have given his supporters some supremacist political porn to which they enjoyed mentally jacking off with his deplorable characterization of countries and immigrants of color and successful sidetracking of a possible Congressional DACA deal, but the majority of Americans and the leaders and people of those countries are disgusted and want Trump to be held accountable.

South Africa, Ghana, Botswana, Senegal, and Haiti have summoned their US ambassadors to meet with government officials in each country and address Trump’s comments. South Africa has also issued a diplomatic protest to the US. The African Union, which represents 55 member states throughout Africa, has demanded an apology from Trump. In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, a sizable group of Haitian immigrants and Haitian Americans in Florida protested Trump at the gates of his West Palm Beach resort.

These responses – the outrage of these black people – their black lives – matter to Trump whether or not he knows it because the US does $37 billion of trade with Sub-Saharan African countries; we export $18 billion of goods to these countries and import $19 billion of goods from these countries.

We sell machinery, aircraft, vehicles, oil, and electronics to these African countries with which we have trade deals, but we buy crude, iron, and steel from them – materials we use to not only manufacture the good we sell to them, but to other countries.

Trump’s only accomplishment while in Office has been to slightly improve the economy, and he claims that building on this improvement is a top priority for his administration. But sending profitable trade partners to other countries to get their goods will not help our economic situation in the least, so Trump needs to reevaluate his approach to dealing with countries of color across the globe and making leadership decisions that may revert America back to the shithole it was in 2008, during the Recession.

In addition to learning about the England that we Americans stupidly fetishize, aggrandize, and valorize, Trump may need to learn from that historical iteration of England and how Queen Elizabeth wrongly dealt with immigration during her reign.

If he did just five minutes of research on immigration in Elizabeth’s time, Trump would learn that barring immigrants of color and/or expelling immigrants of color is not a panacea for the economic issues a country is facing.

And please believe that all of this sudden emphasis on immigration in the political discourse has to do almost exclusively with the facts that the economy is relatively stable and growing, the rich want that to continue, and the white majority wants to remain the main benefactor of that growth.

However, they cannot maintain their inequitable hold on what the young people have so charmingly taken to calling the “bag” by throwing out all of the immigrants of color and shoring up our borders from immigrants of color, no matter what they may believe.

The underlying trouble with stabilizing and growing our economy is multifaceted and deep-seated. It hasn’t arisen from highly educated immigrants of color taking jobs from lower educated or unskilled white Americans because these lower educated or unskilled whites cannot do the jobs these highly educated immigrants of color do. It hasn’t arisen from unskilled immigrants of color taking jobs from unskilled white Americans because if white Americans wanted those jobs institutional and cultural racism would secure those jobs for the whites. It hasn’t arisen from all of immigrants of color opening new businesses in America because businesses add to tax revenue and stimulate consumerism, which benefits the economy.

No – America has the lack of innovation in American industry, wrongheaded tax and economic policies that perpetuate the wealth gap, governmental favoritism of special interests, cronyism, needless complication of the regulatory apparatus (the regulations placed on American businesses), stale focus in American business on producing goods rather than providing services, poor public education, exorbitant college tuitions, distortions of the tax code, and the lobby to blame for its current and long-standing economic issues.

And seeing as some of its most brilliant and least brainwashed residents are immigrants of color and their children and grandchildren, inviting more immigrants of color to the country and/or allowing those that are here to remain in the country might be more a help than a hindrance when it comes to fixing what’s wrong with American society in general and the economy in particular.

Queen Elizabeth made the same mistake that Donald Trump is considering back in the 1600s. She issued three expulsion orders against Africans living in England in order to improve employment rates and economic conditions for “native” English citizens. And none of these expulsion orders did anything to drastically improve conditions in England. Only one-half of a percent of the jobs available in London were taken up by Africans at that time, and that didn’t account for the widespread unemployment or poverty that the white population was experiencing.

The expulsion of African immigrants from Elizabethan England didn’t reduce crime, either. Poverty was the cause of all of the thievery, prostitution, vagrancy, debt (which was a crime), larceny, and brawling amidst street gangs (yes, there were street gangs), and since Elizabeth could not end it, she couldn’t end crime.

Hint, hint, hint, hint, hint, hint.

According to statistics compiled in 2017, there are roughly 43 million foreign-born people living in the US. This is only about 13 percent of the total population – almost two percent less than when immigration was at its peak in the US in 1890.

Of the 43 million foreign-born people living in the US right now, 20.7 million are citizens, 11.1 million are unauthorized, the largest segment are from Mexico (11.6 million), and another 11 million are from China, India, the Philippines, Vietnam, Cuba, Dominican Republic, and South Korea.

Only 2.1 million Africans live in America, 1.4 million people from El Salvador live in America, and less than 700,000 Haitians live in America – the people Trump referenced in his rant as coming from shithole countries.

So they are clearly not taking over the country any time soon. The total population of America is 323 million people.

Too, the majority of the foreign-born people living in America today are homeowners, according to the Center for American Progress; fewer than one in five lives in poverty, and only 9.3% of their households receive their entire income from public programs, in comparison with 15% of US-born households.

Thirty-sex percent of US children born of immigrants are college graduates while only 31% of US children born of US-born parents are. This means the majority of immigrants in America are contributing positively to the culture, and as a whole they are contributing significantly to the economic bottom-line.

So Trump really needs to take a seat – preferably beside a tutor – and get to know what’s truly happening in his own country rather than operating off of what he watches on Fox News and reads on Breitbart when he is wheeling and dealing in the Oval and on the Hill.

He may also want to take a look at the article about Norwegian immigration that ran on The Atlantic website just a few days ago, written by Krishnadev Calamur.

In it, Calamur says, “[Norway] discovered oil in the late 1960s, and unlike other resource-rich countries that have succumbed to mismanagement and corruption in the face of sudden wealth, invested heavily in its people and its economy to become one of the world’s wealthiest places . . . Norway has higher life expectancy at birth than the US, lower rates of infant mortality, low unemployment, and access to the European Union’s labor market . . . Norway is the world’s happiest country . . . the place with the most political freedom . . . [the] most press freedom . . . and the most prosperity.”

Calamur also makes the point the US ranks 14th in happiness, 45th in political freedom, 43rd in most free press, and 18th in prosperity – well beneath Norway.

That said, the Norwegians are distinguishing between America’s shittiness and Trump’s shinola and choosing to remain in their homeland, which looks to be the new home of the free.

Calamur makes it abundantly clear in his article that they have no incentive to immigrate to the US even though millions of Norwegians eagerly migrated to the US during the 1800s and 1900s.

So Trump needs to STFU with all his anti-black and anti-Latinx screed before he destroys the incentive that people from other countries have to immigrate to the US and his precious economy, all in one frizzy, bleached blonde swoop.

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Daily Prompt: Relocate

via Daily Prompt: Relocate

“What is supremacism about generally? It’s about a fragile sense of superiority (covering a sense of insecurity) that must be actively promoted to be maintained. It reflects a system that is inflexible, rigid, and socially autistic (awkward social relations). These are signs of a brain misdeveloped, of unresolved early life trauma.”

Darcia Narvaez, Ph.D.

A favorite argument for the legitimacy of American white supremacy – that it tossed around by so-called evangelicals, conservatives, and members of the alt-right as thoughtlessly as their rape apologetics or political endorsements – is that white people are morally superior to the minorities that populate the nation, and so they deserve to dominate the culture.

Of course, we “woke” black people claim to know better than this. We claim to be 100% hip to the myth of white moral superiority. We claim to have outgrown the puerile need for white approval and validation.

Yet, we remain mired in a complex web of respectability politics woven by our subconscious desire to be viewed as “good” by whites. Yes, we do. I don’t care how adamantly we deny it.

The only way to explain the inanity of our puritanical attitudes about homosexuality, transsexuality, female sexuality, mental health, drug use, abortion, feminism, atheism – I can go on – is to admit that the majority of us are still indoctrinated enough by white hegemony to care what white people think of us.

Middle and upper class blacks in particular are the figurative mortified parents in the supermarket, admonishing or even whipping our working and lower class “kids” loudly enough so that everyone that is watching can know that we do not approve of their behavior one bit.

We are continually performing a rigid, impractical sort of “goodness” that keeps us psychologically dependent on validation from whites and stuck on the short end of a stick that is carved out of white hegemony and hypocrisy.

Think about it.

There is a critical mass of black Christians that are adamantly homophobic. They block black members of the LGBTQIA+ community from their institutions and circles of influence, and they stigmatize and ridicule them in public discourse and on public stages. They say this is what Biblical doctrine mandates, but that is not true. The Bible says that Christians should try to be like Jesus, and he loved and accepted everyone.

So what are these Christians doing if they’re not trying to separate themselves from the “freaks” in a demonstration that they are “normal” or “moral”? For whom are they demonstrating this so-called “normality” or “morality” if not whites?

Black atheists and agnostics aren’t impressed. Neither are blacks that embrace the black members of the LGBTQIA+ community.

Certainly, the black members of the LGBTQIA+ community do not see the acts of hostility and hatred committed against them by members of the black religious community as proof of anything other than the pervasiveness of negative indoctrination, religious hypocrisy, and assimilationist values in that community. Not to mention a sort of social stupidity when it comes to dealing with White America.

Why do I call it that? Well, let’s see . . .

Historically, black evangelicals have held themselves apart from white evangelicals while simultaneously attempting to “one-up” them in terms of theological acuity. As Mary Beth Mathews explains in her “The History of Black Evangelicals and American Politics,” black evangelicals “held on to that ‘old time religion’ even as their white counterparts had not . . . [they] remained spiritually rooted in the Protestant tradition, and they eschewed modern amusements, like motion pictures and dance halls.” They tried to position themselves, rhetorically and gesturally, at the high end of the moral totem pole, most certainly thinking this would increase their cultural or societal standing.

So many black evangelicals in the twentieth century fought to “prove” to America that they were “good enough” to be considered equal to whites, and the most fundamentalist of today’s black evangelicals seem to be engaging in a similar exercise – trying to “out-moralize” their white counterparts. But for what?

Has ostracizing lesbian blacks or gay blacks or bisexual blacks or trans blacks or queer blacks translated into greater social acceptance for the blacks that publicly and adamantly do this?

What actual material – polemical, economic – gains has the black religious right made by ostracizing black members of the LGBTQIA+ community?

Somebody tell me, please.

As far as I can tell, every black person in America is subject to racist mistreatment, and the only social designations that might protect a black person from certain forms of it are “celebrity,” “millionaire,” or “billionaire.”

However, I can also name a dozen famous and/or rich blacks this second – without even straining myself – that have gotten what we term their “nigger wake-up calls” right as they were arriving at the apex of their accomplishments or achievements. So, again, what actual material gains has any discrete strata or segment of the black community made by ostracizing another or isolating itself from another?

Or, better yet, has ostracizing one group of blacks allowed another group of blacks to “get in” any better with whites?

Have the “respectables” gotten in any better with whites by separating themselves from the “ratchets”?

Have black men gotten in any better with whites by separating themselves from black women?

Have rich blacks gotten in any better with whites by separating themselves from working class and poor blacks?

Have cishetero blacks gotten in any better with whites by separating themselves from LGBTQIA+ blacks?

No? Then why do we keep doing it?

Because we have been indoctrinated.

We have to face it. We locate our ideas about our intrinsic worth as human beings in the minds and imaginations of whites. Whether we want to admit it or not.

And it is time for us to relocate our ideas about our worth in our own minds and imaginations, finally and for the first time in 398 years (that’s how long ago the first Africans – from Angola – arrived in America to settle in Jamestown, Virginia).

Black America has been just as vocal as everyone else in the nation in lamenting the disaster that is the Trump presidency, but, if there is one upside to it, it is this.

Never before has the falseness of the myth of white moral or intellectual superiority been more obvious or apparent than it is right now.

And this is especially true as it pertains the political sphere of our national culture.

I will not waste time listing all of the absurd and amoral things that Trump, his sycophants, the RNC, alt-right movement, Tea Party, or white religious right have said and done over the past nine months to prove that the “morality” that they pawn off in their rhetoric and propaganda is nothing but a discursive machination – a way of talking up anything they want to happen or do – exaggerating its “goodness” – in order to disguise its unsavory motives and objectives or camouflage its true, detrimental intent.

What I will list, though, is all the things that black people should have learned from witnessing all of these absurd and amoral things play out.

Trusting the people in political power in this country – the majority of which are white and male – to tell you what is happening in our community – because you believe that they are smarter than us, more honest than us, less flawed than us, better educated than us, and hence more capable of leading than us – is something we should not do anymore.

Trusting the people in political power in this country – the majority of which are white and male – to interpret for us what they are doing to us – because we believe that they are more decent than us, more honest than us, more compassionate than us, and hence telling us the truth about themselves – is something we should not anymore.

Hating who the people in political power in this country hate – in which we are included – is not going to make these people love us. It will only allow them to use us, as they have used working class and poor whites to gain power by galvanizing their fear of scarcity and directing it at Democrats, liberals, progressives, minorities, immigrants, foreigners, and, yes, women.

Hating who the people in political power in this country hate – in which we are included – does not make us “good.” It makes us gullible and culpable whenever Trump does something to politically victimize another undeserving segment of American society.

There is no material reward for being the sort of black person that a white person like Trump would regard as “decent” or “safe” or “good” or “moral.”

Just look at what’s happening in DC right now.

Trump is trying to pass a tax law that will only benefit the richest citizens of this country.

He is still trying to figure out a way to gut the ACA.

He has not secured DACA.

He has not prevented state and local politicians from passing laws that inhibit women’s reproductive rights or the rights of the LGBTQIA+ community.

He has fought consistently since January to pass laws that are undeniable Islamophobic and propagated Islamophobic ideas about terrorism on his Twitter and in his talking points.

Despite the fact that working class people, poor people, minorities, immigrants, women, members of the LGBTQIA+ community, Muslims – a swath of Americans that cut across just about every demographic – voted for him in last year’s election.

Right now, Trump is urging the people of Alabama to elect Roy Moore to the US Senate – a man that has had dozens of credible accusations of sexual assault made against him in just the last month.

He is hiding behind the inept defense of a passel of high-paid, high-profile lawyers from credible accusations that he worked with Russia to fix the presidential election.

He is the poster child – yes, child – for the sort of meta-ethical moral relativism that truly pervades and sets the “official” tone in American culture and politics.

He stands for what America stands for, whether America wants to admit it or not.

And that is why we – black Americans – cannot let the mainstream beat us up anymore about our alleged “badness.” Because it is definitely not running through the moral high ground, nor has it ever run through the moral high ground.

This is why we have to relocate a sense of ourselves that is self-defined.

We have to relocate the confidence in our collective worth that we have rooted in mainstream acceptance in acceptance of ourselves and each other.

We have to relocate our psychological and spiritual sources. We have to stop using exclusivity and elitism  – tearing ourselves down – to build ourselves up. We have to start being inclusive and egalitarian.

We have to be open with each other. And loving of each other.

And above everything else, we have to stop believing that white people, and particularly those in power, know all the “right” things to do. Because it’s simply not true.

America is a country built by the ideas and ideals of moneyed white men, dominated by the ideas and ideals of moneyed white men, that still can’t get itself straight.

So what in the world can it credibly tell us about ourselves?

 

America 101: Executive Orders and Presidential Memoranda

Like the abusive boyfriend that I called him in my last post, Trump has conditioned me to be suspicious of his smarmy grin. When I see it, I automatically think he’s up to no good. If he’s not wreaking havoc, why would his orange-colored ass be happy? He’s oppositional. He doesn’t get off on doing what other people want him to do.

News stories swiftly confirmed for me that Trump is indeed busy making trouble; he signed two presidential memoranda and is supposedly drafting an executive order that will bear environmentally racist, Islamophobic, and xenophobic effects.

The first – the Memorandum Regarding Construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline – directs the Secretary of the Army  to “take all actions necessary and appropriate to . . . review and approve in an expedited manner . . . requests for approvals to construct and operate the DAPL, including easements or rights-of-way to cross Federal areas.”

The Memorandum Regarding Construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline invites TransCanada Keystone Pipeline, L.P. to “promptly re-submit its application to the Department of State for a Presidential permit for the construction and operation of the Keystone XL Pipeline” and directs the Secretary of State to expeditiously review the application, if submitted, and the Secretary of the Army, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to “take all actions necessary and appropriate to review and approve  . . . requests for authorization to utilize Nationwide Permit 12 . . . with respect to crossings of the ‘waters of the United States’ by the Keystone XL Pipeline.”

Of course, both directives essentially ignore the fears of the citizens living in the areas through and around which these pipelines will pass, including large numbers of indigenous people from the Standing Rock Sioux and Oglala Lakota Nation.

Finally, the executive order that is in the works, according to The Huffington Post, would “dramatically restrict” the numbers of refugees admitted to the US and deny visas to people from countries Trump and his administration deem “high risk.”

Sources say the details of the order could block Syrian refugees from entering the US indefinitely; block people from countries with so-called “inadequate” security screening from obtaining visas (i.e. entering the country); and, most significantly, target Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen – all Muslim-majority countries – because they are “terror-prone.”

It would not constitute a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” as Trump promised during his campaign, but it would be a betrayal of our democratic philosophy and identity as an immigrant nation, as well as constitute a failure to adhere to the principle of non-refoulement, which is regarded as customary international law, according to the United Nations.

I actually think such an executive order, if issued, would also represent an egregious abuse of presidential power because of its potentially fatal ramifications and bigoted logical and political bases. It would target Muslim refugees of color and exacerbate our seeming blindness to the fact that extremist domestic terrorism is a much realer and more dangerous threat to America than Islamic terrorism.

The nomenclature of these three directives – they are “memos” and “orders” and not “bills” or “amendments “- may make them sound less consequential or binding than customary multilateral legislation, but they are not; they have the full force of the law and dictate the actions of departments and agencies under the executive branch of the federal government.

Thankfully, they are still subject to judicial review if the Supreme Court finds that they are not supported by the Constitution or federal law.

Though reporters sometimes talk about them interchangeably, they are not the same thing. Executive orders have more prestige; they are more comprehensive; and they can take legal precedence over – they can interfere with the execution of – a presidential memorandum.

Thankfully again, neither executive orders nor presidential memoranda allow the President to circumnavigate or work around the approval of Congress when it comes to creating or changing major laws and regulations, however both can skirt the need for bipartisanship or cooperation between Republicans and Democrats, which can be problematic with these instruments can affect some very serious, wide-reaching issues.

In fact, the integration of the armed forces (President Harry S. Truman) and desegregation of public schools (President Dwight D. Eisenhower) – historic changes to American history and culture – were both enacted by executive order.

Tragically, an executive order issued by in February 1942 – No. 9066 – also set the stage for the internment of 120,000 innocent Japanese Americans (70,000 of whom were American citizens) during WWII:

Whereas the successful prosecution of the war requires every possible protection against espionage and against sabotage to national-defense material, national-defense premises, and national-defense utilities [it read] . . . as Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy, I hereby authorize and direct the Secretary of War . . . to prescribe military areas in such places and of such extent as he . . . may determine, from which any or all persons may be excluded, and with respect to which, the right of any person to enter, remain in, or leave shall be subject to whatever restrictions the Secretary of War or the appropriate Military Commander may impose in his discretion.

In response to Executive Order 9066, General John L. DeWitt issued Public Proclamation No. 1, which designated all of the states of California, Washington, Oregon, and Arizona as Military Areas 1 and 2.

Then, with the power to “exclude” people from these areas as a matter of safety, DeWitt determined that all people of Japanese descent in Area 1 (the western half of Washington and Oregon, the southern half of Arizona, the western half of California from the Oregon border to Los Angeles, and all of the area south of Los Angeles) would be “evacuated” and “relocated.”

Japanese Americans in Area 1 were encouraged to “voluntarily evacuate” to Area 2 and other inland states, but, when many failed to move because of financial constraints, DeWitt issued Public Proclamation No. 4, which prohibited Japanese-Americans from leaving Area 1 and began their forced removal.

This effort culminated in Japanese Americans’ eviction from all of California except war camps in Manzanar and Tule Lake, which entailed the irretrievable loss – in the majority of instances – of their businesses, home, and farms.

This abhorrent episode of our nation’s history reveals how directives from the President can actually facilitate egregious abuses of power by facilitating government actions that disfranchise and oppress less privileged and valorized segments of our population.

As a true example and not a hypothetical scenario, the legality and approbation of Japanese American internment in the US, when weighed with the white supremacist tone of Trump’s campaign platform and erratic personal and professional tendencies, make me afraid for the indigenous people fighting against the construction of DAPL and Keystone XL Pipeline, quite honestly.

I am afraid that Trump’s memoranda might rob a large number of them of the protection – which is not always a matter of shielding someone from violent attack – Presidents are duty-bound to provide American citizens.

I haven’t written on the blog previously about the DAPL or Keystone XL Pipeline, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t troubled me. Regardless of what their builders of the federal government says, they’re not energy or employment pie in the sky.

Their means will not justify their ends if in the end they poison American citizens by order of the nation’s top executive. And this is exactly what it appears they will do, according to probability and well-known research on the dangers of oil contamination.

The DAPL is described on Energy Transfer Partners’ Dakota Access Pipeline Facts website as the “safest and most environmentally sensitive way to transport crude oil from [the Dakotas to Illinois] to American consumer.” The site also claims that the pipeline “crosses almost entirely private land” and not the Standing Rock Sioux reservation.

“United States Army Corps of Engineers alone held 389 meetings with 55 tribes regarding the Dakota Access project,” the site says, and “reached out to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe nearly a dozen times to discuss archaeological and other surveys conducted before finalizing the Dakota Access route.”

“We have great respect for the concerns of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and plan to continue to work with their leaders to address those concerns.”

In a similarly slick and reassuring tone, the Keystone XL Pipeline is described on the TransCanada website as a “critical infrastructure project for the energy security of the United States and for strengthening the American economy” that will “create thousands of well-paying construction jobs” and “generate tens of millions of dollars in annual property taxes” and an estimated $3 billion in gross domestic profit.

All of this copy makes these projects sound amazingly beneficial for the American public, but I will take an educated guess that ETP and TransCanada paid very high-powered, highly skilled consultants to come up with this transparent-seeming language in an attempt to hide the truth that they cannot control every single variable that could play a part in building and maintaining these pipelines.

According to the sales pitch, the DAPL will whisk oil out of the Dakotas on to Iowa and Illinois, and a panoply of perfectly functional, impeccably maintained, and painstakingly inspected safety measures will prevent it from hurting anyone – the same with the Keystone XL Pipeline, transporting oil sands from Alberta, Canada. Yet, numerous credible media reports counter this copy with negative claims about what the DAPL and Keystone XL Pipeline will really do once they are completed and operational.

ETP and TransCanada – and now Donald Trump – posit that these projects will resolve major issues with energy development and production, employment, and our economy. The Standing Rock Sioux argue that as it passes underneath their Lake Oahe, the DAPL may poison their main source of drinking water, and the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) warns that by providing more oil to America, the Keystone XL Pipeline will contribute drastically to global warming by producing high levels of greenhouse gas emissions from the transport of tar sand.

Toxic leakage into ground water from the Keystone XL Pipeline is also a likely possibility with extremely harmful results.

Time Magazine captures the wholly justifiable upset indigenous residents in the Dakotas are experiencing in regards to the construction of these pipelines in an article entitled “What to Know About the Dakota Access Pipeline Protests.” 

“Builders . . . insist that they have taken extraordinary measures to safeguard against disaster,” it says, “but . . . even the safest pipelines can leak.”

As with math, history is not on the side of ETP or TransCanada, either: “The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has reported more than 3,300 incidents of leaks and ruptures at oil and gas pipelines since 2010,” according to Time. “And even the smallest spill could damage the tribe’s water supply.”

Research posted on the Auburn University website elucidates the “damage” referenced in the Time article.

It reads: “Ponca City, Oklahoma is an example of one of the cities that is being affected by the expansion of the Keystone pipeline. Ponca City is now receiving an increased amount of toxic emissions from tar sand transport  . . . Tar sand produces 17% more greenhouse gases than traditional crude oil [here the author cites NPR].

“The air quality [in Ponca City] has become life threatening, and residents are forced to breathe in dangerous emissions. Children in surrounding [areas of] the new pipeline are 56% more likely to develop leukemia versus children that live ten miles away.”

The Tar Sands Blockade website explains in further detail: “Tar sands, a mixture of sand, petroleum, and mineral salts, must be diluted with a highly toxic class of chemical . . . [they] are known to sink in water, making cleanup exorbitantly expensive and practically impossible . . . [and when] exposed to air, its diluents [diluting agents] evaporate like paint thinner forming heavy toxic clouds near at ground level.”

CNN report also confirms that, yes, extracting oil from oil sands does pump approximately 17% more greenhouse gases into the air than standard oil extraction

Toxic exposure from breathing these clouds, the Tar Sands Blockade says again, has happened in every instance when tar sands leaked from the existent Keystone Pipeline near residential areas, and it has given people “painful rashes, breathing complications, chemical sensitivities, nausea, migraines, and exacerbated cancer activity.”

I couldn’t locate exact numbers of people essentially poisoned by leaks and emissions from the existent Keystone Pipeline, but I did find this interesting, and horrifying, anecdote about the effects of oil sand poisoning on a Canadian newspaper website (the pipeline transports oil sands from Canada into the US):

In 2006, Dr. John O’Connor, a traveling physician in Canada’s northern Bush found in Fort Chipewyan, downstream from the tar sands’ processing operations, exceptionally high incidences of cancers in the Mikisew Cree residents: ‘The cancers are sort of one extreme — blood and lymphatic cancer, thyroid cancer, central nervous system cancer and bile duct, biliary tract cancer … I saw a lot of auto-immune diseases, like Lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, a lot of skin disorders, gastro-intestinal disorders of various types, just a lot. Taken as a whole in the population that was only 850 — it was just phenomenal. It didn’t make any sense.’

“It didn’t make any sense,” O’Connor says, i.e. its causes weren’t genetic; they were environmental.

Federal policy that fails to protect a specific racial group, even in the case of environmental policy, is illegal under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which states, “Simple justice requires that public funds, to which all taxpayers of all races [colors, and national origins] contribute, not be spent in any fashion which encourages, entrenches, subsidizes or results in racial [color or national origin] discrimination.”

In pushing forward the construction of the DAPL and Keystone XL Pipeline, Trump is breaking Constitutional law, shirking his duty to faithfully execute the law, violating human rights, and potentially sacrificing thousands of indigenous lives for billions of dollars, yes, but just 50 permanent jobs, at least in the case of the Keystone XL Pipeline.

Whether the indigenous population of America was 1 million, 5 million, or 12 million before colonialism and westward expansion – theories various camps of historians argue among one another – what is fact is there were only 250,000 indigenous peope left in the continguous US that by the end of the 1800s. The indigenous that died were killed – at the highest level – by government policy – a shameful truth for which America can only atone by working as hard as possible to honor the descendants of those lost.

Trump’s memoranda are mere extensions of the US government’s history and perennial policy of taking over indigenous lands, disfranchising indigenous people, and murdering them, even if this time it will happen indirectly and “accidentally.”

These memoranda – along with the executive order on immigration – which is not only ahistorical and isolationist, but also reductive, triangularly biased, and morally disingenuous (it pretends to be fair to Muslim refugees seeking asylum but is really rather simple to misuse) – distort what should be the true purpose for the President to issue a directive. That is to make the executive branch of our government run more smoothly so that it may better serve us – the people.

They distort the true purpose of Presidential office as a whole, but they reveal the true nature of the person this country has elected to be its President.

Trump is a nihilistic capitalist with so little respect for the lives of people of color that he might end up putting Millard Fillmore, Andrew Jackson, or Andrew Johnson to shame when it comes to instituting racist policies with profoundly negative effects on the entire culture.

He said he would make America great again, but he also said he doesn’t read, which might be why he can’t tell the “GR” phoneme from “H.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A hortatory memorandum is issued as a broad policy statement