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?

 

I Can’t Take Any Moore: My Two Cents on This Alabama Senatorial Clusterfuck

I have been looking at MSNBC all day (11/14/2017). Not on purpose, mind you.

I turned it on earlier this morning to see what, if anything, had happened overnight to plunge America even deeper into the seeming Trump abyss, and I just never turned it off.

I dozed off on the sofa, woke up and ate my lunch on the sofa, graded some essays on the sofa, answered some emails from the sofa, and let the TV keep talking.

I sat from nine this morning to two this afternoon, subconsciously soaking up all the convoluted talk from back ass-ward Republican officials and pundits about Roy Moore, hearing his fifth accuser bawl out her horrific story in a sickening loop, and tuning in and out as my outrage and exhaustion alternately impelled me.

And this is what I have to say after listening to the umpteenth white male so-called conservative hedge at being asked whether he would rather have a pedophile or Democrat in the US Senate:

These white men attempting to dodge this question are not nearly as artful as they think.

They keep arguing that if the accusations brought to light against Moore are proven to be true, they will retract their support of Moore and his run for the Senate.

Well, Moore is not being prosecuted for any of the crimes or acts of misconduct of which he has been accused. He will not be prosecuted for any of the crimes or acts of misconduct of which he has been accused. So the accusations will never be “proven.”

Alabama has the shortest sexual abuse statutes in the United States, so when Moore’s victims didn’t go to the authorities on Moore directly after he assaulted them, they gave up their opportunities to go the authorities on Moore.

(In Alabama, in child sexual abuse civil cases, the statute of limitations is two years after the alleged victim’s 19th birthday, and in criminal sexual abuse cases, the statute of limitations for felony sexual abuse cases is three years and the statute of limitation for misdemeanor sexual abuse cases is one year.)

And Moore’s supporters know this.

They know the American public can never receive a legal verdict on Moore’s guilt.

They keep saying they will retract their support if Moore is proven guilty so they don’t have to retract their support.

They pretend to be protecting the rule of law and upholding the principle of innocent until proven guilty when they are really acting on political tribalism and sideways racism (Democrat added to the Senate = slightly higher chance that laws will be made in the US that benefit people of color, immigrants of colors, and individuals in the LGBTQIA+ spectrum).

They are immoral, unethical, transparent, and tiresome as fuck.

Now, along with the “wait & seers,” you have the “technically, he isn’t a pedophilers.” They want to pretend that Moore merely “preferred” to date “younger” women.

To them, I grant that Moore isn’t technically a pedophile. By clinical definition, the pedophile engages in sexual behavior with children 13 years and younger, and the youngest any of Moore’s victims on the record has claimed to be at the time of her assault is 14.

That doesn’t absolve Moore of wrongdoing, though.

Because the age of consent in every single state in the US is 16 or older, and the biggest age difference legally allowed between a person that is the age of consent and his or her sexual partner is 10 years (in Utah, not Alabama, where Moore was working and trolling back in the day, while in his late 20s and early 30s).

In Alabama, the age of consent is 16, and the legally allowable age difference is two years, which means the oldest someone that is sleeping with a 16-year-old can be without committing a crime in that state is 18.

People under the age of consent cannot consent to sexual activity, according to the law, so anyone engaging in sexual activity with them is engaging in nonconsensual sexual activity.

And that is sexual assault.

That is sexual abuse; that is molestation; or that is rape. Statutory or violent. It doesn’t matter.

So when these supposed conservatives and Republican evangelicals are talking shit on cable TV or online or anywhere else, saying they are unsure whether Moore is worse for America than his Democratic opponent, and they hinge that argument on the fact that he is technically not a pedophile, they shouldn’t fucking congratulate themselves for winning the “clever” semantical game they’re attempting to play.

They are still aligning themselves with a sexual criminal, no matter what they try to say.

Roy Moore is still a sexual criminal – he is still a sexual predator – not according to opinion, but according to the fucking rule of law that the members of his party are constantly referencing whenever they want to justify their heartless actions, or, better yet, emphasize that their unethical actions are not necessarily illegal.

He is a sexual criminal according to the rule of law that he and his kettle (the name for a group of circling vultures) of withered cronies wrongfully use as a hiding place for their deep-seated amorality.

For anyone that remains undecided on the matter, and is interested in truly weighing the veracity of the allegations that have been made against Moore all you need to do is scrutinize the following facts:

  • According to the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault, only 15.8 to 35 percent of sexual assaults in the US are reported to authorities;
  • According to the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault, survivors cite fear of reprisal and fear of lack of evidence as reasons for not reporting assaults or attacks;
  • According to the Iowa Law Review, “rape claims [are] often dismissed out of hand with little or no investigation”;
  • According to The Chicago Tribune, misconceptions about rape prosecutions have propagated the notion throughout American culture that “rape and sexual harassment can be minimized, marginalized, or even mocked because the clock has wound down on when the crime could or . . . should be reported or prosecuted”;
  • Public figures like Moore (Weinstein, Trump) foster public goodwill with their personae and so-called accomplishments, or they buy public goodwill with their philanthropy, making it difficult for the typical American to conceive of them as criminals;
  • Public figures like Moore (Weinstein, Trump) possess a great deal of power and belong to powerful networks, making it plausible and possible for them to retaliate against women that go on the record accusing them of committing sexual crimes.

If, when you are considering whether the accusations against Moore are true, you acknowledge that none of these accusers can have Moore arrested at this point and very few people credit them with any real credibility – then you should be able to deduce that these women stand to gain nothing material from going public.

They can’t make any real money off of going public with their accusations, and they can’t gain any fame from it – only infamy. Their names get to go down in the same Hall of Undeserved Shame as Anita Hill and Juanita Broaddrick.

The only thing they could logically or realistically be seeking to gain then is the assurance that they tried to help prevent a remorseless criminal from becoming a US Senator.

Their accusations, if they were lies, wouldn’t be worth telling in this current cultural climate, with its new, intensely virulent strain of misogyny.

More likely than not, when all of this is “over,” they will have succeeded in doing little more than inadvertently inviting a bunch of mean-spirited mendacious scrutiny into their private lives.

They will have sacrificed their anonymity and a certain sort of sexist dignity in order to reveal a truth that no one really wants to hear.

Honestly, think about it: When has America ever rewarded a woman for calling out her politically powerful sexual attacker?

(If you’re unsure of the answer to this question, I advise you to ask Anita Hill.)

The answer is never, so how likely are these women to be lying, particularly when the current trend in public debates about women’s safety is to put the onus for the harm they suffer on women and pretend that American culture isn’t laced with a hatred of women that acts like fentanyl when you mix it with heroin.

Just look: The superficial, circular back-and-forth in which the Fed, media, and citizenry are engaging about the matter, without actually doing anything to remove Moore from Alabama’s senatorial ballot, illustrates how little America on the whole respects or appreciates women that take the socially suicidal plunge into becoming sexual whistleblowers.

And one last thing – one last point – for anyone stupid enough to argue – outside of everything else – that being a sexual offender doesn’t automatically mean that a person is unfit to govern.

I want your ass to take a look at the etiology of the typical sexual offender and then tell me that shit with a straight face.

According to science – the other system of laws that Trump and his sycophants like to bend and twist like the wiry hairs of their unsightly toupees into absurd versions of themselves – in addition to having interests and getting aroused by having sexual contact with others against those others’ wills or without those others’ consent, sexual offenders have interests and get aroused by inflicting pain and humiliation onto others, participating in violent and aggressive acts, and watching acts of violence or aggression.

They know that rape, molestation, and other forms of sexual assault are immoral, illegal, and, most of all, harmful to others, but they choose – and it is instrumental that those of us that are not sexual offenders accept this truth – that sexual offenders choose – to rape, molest, and subject their victims to other forms of sexual assault anyway.

Sexual offenders have cognitive distortions and/or pro-offending attitudes that allow them to justify the terrible things they do to others, such as believing a woman that dresses a certain way or that has hurt their feelings “wants” or “deserves” to be assaulted.

They are much more capable than non-offenders of convincing themselves that their deviant and dangerous behaviors are not as injurious or serious as they really are. They are also extremely capable of serially assaulting people because they don’t accurately perceive that they are doing serious harm, or they don’t accurately perceive the degree of harm that they cause when they assault people.

So when we you (because this is all you, Republican Party) push to put sexual offenders in public office, you are assenting that it is acceptable and perhaps even advisable to empower people that deliberately, consistently, and guiltlessly hurt others to inflict their twisted wills on innocent and undeserving men, women, and children.

And, if the evidence of that claim seems too tied into concepts of sexual behavior to encompass non-sexual behavior, then consider that a great number of sexual offenders have what clinicians refer to as a “cluster” of non-sexual personality deficits that also make them unfit to govern, among a laundry list of other social, interpersonal, and intimate things.

Sexual offenders often have ineffective communication skills; they have difficulty getting along with people; they have a profound lack of empathy; and they lack effective or healthy psychological and/or emotional coping skills.

Many cannot manage their emotions. They tend to be highly impulsive and unwilling to think through the consequences of their actions. They are often isolated because they lack social skills, and they struggle with behavioral self-regulation. They experience a lot of problems in intimate relationships, which tends to make them even less empathic and even more emotionally unstable and allow them to experience even more cognitive dissonance.

Moore is a former judge whose record bears substantial and substantive evidence that the personal issues that have impelled him to sexually attack underage women have very probably affected the way that he performs professionally.

His professional track record proves that he was unfit to be a judge and strongly suggests that he would be disastrous as a federal legislator.

Again, for the hair-splitters, these two positions are not two sides of the same coin. If police officers are, say, pennies, then prosecutors are nickels, municipal and state legislators are dimes, federal legislators are quarters, and executives are dollars.

That means state legislators have much more power than judges. Their power is much more proximal to executive and presidential power, which is even more reason why Moore has no business yielding it.

The US Congress is responsible for making laws that apply to every state in the country; Congress has the power to “declare war, coin money, raise an army and navy, regulate commerce, establish rules of immigration and naturalization, and establish the federal courts and their jurisdictions,” according to ushistory.org.

Congress oversees the annual federal budget and investigates any wrongdoings committed by public officials, including the President.

In fact, the US Congress is among one of the most powerful legislative bodies in the world.

US Senators specifically confirm presidential appointments and try impeachment officials after the House initiates impeachment procedures and raises articles of impeachment.

They serve six-year rather than two-year terms, and they approve treaties, so, in a way, they are more influential or powerful than members of the House.

So, if Moore is allowed to win a seat in the Senate, he will be afforded six years of opportunities to inject his deviant attitudes, including his old-fashioned Southern deep-fried blatant blend of fifty-leven types of bigotry, into the American political discourse and possibly even the actual governance of the country.

That thought should be repulsive to anyone that claims to want America to be great, whether again or eventually.

America has been and still is inexorably shaped by its leaders. That is why Roy Moore became a viable, front-running candidate for Alabama Senator in the first place. He hitched his wagon to the pants zipper of our predatory, pussy-grabbing 45th President.

You can pretend to be unable to imagine how Moore’s tenure in the Senate would unfold, but you know it would very probably be a legislative version of Trump’s presidency: as I said, a fucking clusterfuck.

Now, I know the chances of any of Moore’s supporters reading this blog are nil. I know that my audience of readers is largely liberal, Democrat, or independent.

But I addressed this post to Moore’s army of marauding assholes for a reason, the least of which is I had substantial amounts of anger and frustration to expel.

I addressed this post to Moore and his unfortunate ilk because I feel I need to make the point that Moore’s political ascension is symbolic of an alarming sexist trend occurring in this country’s political culture.

A very small but very powerful white male cis-hetero contingent of the leadership of the Republican Party has become so terrified of the Party losing its political foothold that they have adopted this pro quid pro ethic by which they will work to place sexual deviants and criminals in office as long as these men prevent Democrats from taking office.

This is extremely dangerous because in the process of snatching up presidencies and Congressional seats they are also destigmatizing – they are normalizing – at least in political ideology and rhetoric – sexual assault and abuse.

We who know what a horrific slippery slope down which this can lead American culture cannot stand by while they do this and simply roll our eyes, suck our teeth, and mumble under our collective breath about how “ridiculous” they are and their endeavor is.

We have to speak truth to power. We have to say – whenever we have a chance of being heard – that they are dead fucking wrong. And we have to fight them in whatever ways we can.

I know that anti-Trump Americans are tired of this refrain, but the midterm elections are coming up next year.

And those of us that care about making this country, shit, safer for women again need to demand that the candidates in next year’s elections explicitly decry this insidious polemical “conservative” vein of misogyny that has crept into our politics, and they back their renouncements with consistent, meaningful action that reverses the damage the Trump White House has done, before we give them our votes.

In an open letter to Sean Hannity in response to the flurry of accusations that has surrounded him, Moore says that his wife Kayla and he have five granddaughters.

He throws that up at Hannity And Hannity’s Twitter followers as if being a grandparent to girls somehow makes it impossible for him an abuser of girls.

What Moore doesn’t say, in unequivocal language, is that he did not have sexual dealings with the women that are accusing him of having assaulted them.

He denies the allegations of two of his victims, Leigh Corfman and Beverly Nelson, and says he “did not date underage girls.” I suspect, however, that Moore is playing a similar semantical game to his supporters when he says he did not “date” underage girls. Because he didn’t date these women when they were underage. He molested them. He harassed them. He stalked them. He assaulted them

I think he knows it, and we know it, and we should do something about it. I think that is our obligation as citizens.

We should make America’s political sphere as unsafe for predators like Moore as he apparently made the Gadsden Mall – what appears to have been his favorite place to go trolling  back in the early eighties – for young unsuspecting girls.

We should build a wall around the federal government that blocks out assholes like Moore.

We should lock them out even if we can’t fucking lock them up.

.

 

 

Daily Prompt: Seriousness

via Daily Prompt: Seriousness

I am beginning to doubt the seriousness of Americans that say they want to stop Trump.

There – I said it.

I don’t believe the Democrats. I don’t believe the so-called moderate members of the GOP. I don’t believe the women. I don’t believe the black people. I don’t believe the undocumented immigrants, their documented family members, or their family members that are citizens.

I don’t believe the families of those affected by the “Muslim Ban.” I don’t believe the Democratic or neoliberal pundits or talk show hosts like Bill Maher or Trevor Noah.

Because everybody is talking about stopping Trump – feeding his martyr complex and narcissistic paranoia – his Twitter feed and whatever personnel machine is rolling out his executive orders like copies of Those Damn Nazis – but nobody is doing anything that will actually stop him.

I chose Those Damn Nazis as my example strategically. I’m pretty certain that very few of you – my regular readers – if any of you – have ever read it. However, it begins with this sentiment that could just as easily undergird Trump’s brand of republicanism as it did Hitler’s “National Socialism.”

“We are nationalists because we see the nation as the only way to bring all the forces of the nation together to preserve and improve our existence and the conditions under which we live,” it reads.

The nation is the organic union of a people to protect its life. To be national is to affirm this union in word and deed. To be national has nothing to do with a form of government or a symbol [emphasis added]. It is an affirmation of things, not forms. Forms can change, their content remains. If form and content agree, then the nationalist affirms both. If they conflict, the nationalist fights for the content and against the form [emphasis added]. One may not put the symbol above the content. If that happens, the battle is on the wrong field and one’s strength is lost in formalism [emphasis added]. The real aim of nationalism, the nation, is lost.

The Constitution established three branches of federal government in Articles I-II and prescribed their respective duties in such a way that each branch would check and balance the powers of the other. That is the form of our republic, to use Joseph Goebbels’s terminology. There is an intentional separation of powers, thanks to James Madison, John Rutledge, Edmund Randolph, James Wilson, and the other members of the Committee on Postponed Parts of the Constitutional Convention. This separation of powers is intended to prevent any one branch of government from taking over the government of the nation.

Luckily, every President from 1-44 has been a Constitutional formalist, more or less. But not 45. No – 45 apparently believes what Goebbels believed, if we take these first weeks of his presidency as indicators of where he stands on the question of whether nationalism should outweigh constitutionalism.

We see this is the way that Trump has consistently circumnavigated the reach of Congress by issuing executive order after executive order.

According to the National Constitution Center, “For almost a century after the founding of the United States, the amount of ‘executive orders’ was relatively limited. That may be because there is no actual provision in the Constitution that speaks to executive orders [emphasis added]. The power has developed over time, with presidents using Article II, Section 3—the “Executive” should “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed”—as a basis for creating law without Congress as long as it holds true to the Constitution [emphasis added].”

To contextualize Trump’s issuances, Maggie Baldridge, an intern at the Center, explains:

Perhaps the most famous executive order, the Emancipation Proclamation signed by President Abraham Lincoln, marked a shift in the power of the executive branch to essentially circumnavigate Congress when deemed necessary . . . However, the deteriorating state of the nation and the urgency of action on both practical and moral levels could justify what many believe was an increase to the power of the executive branch [emphasis added] . . . While the average number of orders increased in the latter part of the 19th century, three men in the 20th century truly expanded the power of the executive via the executive order: Theodore Roosevelt with a total of 1,081 orders, Woodrow Wilson with 1,803[,] and Franklin D, Roosevelt with a lofty 3,522 total executive orders . . . The federal government [and] executive branch . . . as we know them today are results of these presidents and the actions they took. [However,] [s]ince Eisenhower took office in 1953, no modern president has come close to the number of orders of even Theodore Roosevelt. Ronald Reagan had 381 over his 8 years, George W. Bush had 291 and Barack Obama had a total of 276.

Baldridge notes that Obama issued 10 of his total 276 executive orders in the first nine days of his first term, but she still questions whether Trump should be issuing so many executive orders so early in his administration.

She asks, “Should executive orders be considered constitutional in the first place? Do they give too much power to one branch of government and therefore obscure the system of checks and balances intended by the Framers of the Constitution?”

I think the more relevant question is whether Trump’s executive orders are justified or they constitute an attempt on his part to outmaneuver the separation of power in the Fed and run the country like some sort of dictatorship.

Trump inherited an America in which President Obama, over his two terms in office, maintained a low inflation rate, cut the federal deficit by two-thirds, reduced the unemployment rate (which had skyrocketed during the recession in 2009), and fostered the expansion of US exports, the improvement of stock prices, positive if minimal growth in the GDP, job growth (also minimal), and global growth (yes – also minimal – but positive). Despite the lies Trump propagates about the state of the union after Obama, the US is not in a “deteriorating state” or crisis, as would necessitate his need to push through all of this self-written (or ghostwritten) policy. So, Trump is doing something other than “saving” us with all of these directives, which I think we all knew, but, you know, in the interest of fairness . . .

On the surface – and especially for those with sparse knowledge of the legislative process – it probably just looks like Trump is pandering to his electorate, churning out all these orders to “make good” on his campaign promises. I want to point out, though, what may not be obvious about this approach of Trump’s, but should certainly be troubling to all Americans and galvanizing to the Democrats if they really do care anything about, oh, you know, preserving our governmental structure, honoring the philosophy of democracy, and doing their fucking jobs.

By issuing directives rather than drafting bills, Trump is crafting a style of leadership that is going – at least partially – unchecked and unbalanced by Congress.

Executive orders and presidential memoranda – as – again – I explained in an earlier post – go directly from the Oval into effect and carry the weight of law.

This is problematic, to say the last, for a dubious instrument of executive power, particularly when its use is virtually unlimited.

It’s problematic, but it’s still workable because executive orders can be nullified at the state level, according to Amendment 10 of the Constitution. It reads, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.”

Since the Constitution does not explicitly or formally grant the President of the US the power to issue executive orders, the states can legally refuse to comply with Trump’s orders, if they want to. They would probably just have to do some form of battle in the Supreme Court with Trump if they refused to comply. But I say, so fucking what?

It should be worth it to the Democrats in Congress – and Republicans, for that matter – because it’s the right thing to do. Trump didn’t win the popular vote. That means the majority of Americans didn’t want him to be our President. So, if our representatives are in fact our representatives, and they are serious about fulfilling that duty, they shouldn’t be going along to get along with this guy and the authoritarian bullshit he keeps pulling out from under his disastrous toupee.

Representatives and Senators from both parties should have by now confronted the fact that heedless power-hunger on the Right and neoliberal arrogance on the Left walled us all into this preposterous Trump presidency. And they should be doing everything in their power to get us out it, and we – the people – should be demanding that they take definitive action lest we refuse to vote them back into office come 2018. Especially the Democrats.

They, in particular, have an opportunity right now to stand up. Literally right now. They can show their seriousness and possibly get Trump impeached. If they’re daring, and they’re dogged.

Because several reputable news sources are reporting that Michael Flynn – Trump’s former security advisor – “former” after less than a month in the position, mind you – lied consistently over that fragment of a month about his interactions with Russia’s ambassador, Sergey I. Kislyak, and may have played a peripheral role in the Kremlin’s interference in our election.

Flynn told Mike Pence, other unnamed White House officials, and investigators for the FBI that when he spoke to Kislyak back in December he did his appointed duty – he set up a phone call to take place between Kislyak and Trump after the inauguration.

He insisted that he did not discuss sanctions being imposed by President Obama at the time. Sanctions imposed in answer to Russian interference in the election. Interference that the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, in its declassified report on the incident, described as

 . . . an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election [with the] goals . . . to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency [as well as]  help President-elect Trump’s election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him.

The intelligence report on this “influence campaign” states that “[a]ll three agencies agree . . . [the] CIA and FBI [with] high confidence [and] NSA [with] moderate confidence . . . [that] [Moscow]. . . followed a Russian messaging strategy that blends covert intelligence operations—such as cyber activity—with overt efforts by Russian Government agencies, state-funded media, third-party intermediaries, and paid social media users or ‘trolls.'”

The report reiterates: “Russia’s intelligence services conducted cyber operations against targets associated with the 2016 US presidential election, including targets associated with both major US political parties . . . [and] obtained and maintained access to elements of multiple US state or local electoral boards.”

The only thing of which Russia is not guilty, according to the report, is tampering with vote tallying.

This is why Pence and Sean Spicer took Flynn’s first stage lies about his conversation with Kislyak and passed them swiftly on to the media and public in mid-January, on the heels of the release of the intelligence on Russia.

Pence and Spicer knew that anyone with a mustard seed of logic was putting two and two together and reasoning that Flynn was passing covert messages from Trump to Putin through Kislyak.

Yes. It’s not only plausible but likely that Flynn’s “interactions” were assurances that Putin would be rewarded in some form for helping to cement Trump’s victory, the most obvious and simple being that Trump would drop the sanctions against Russia as soon as he got into office.

But even if Flynn wasn’t assuring Putin of his grand prize – or – worse – instructing him on how to hide the fact that he colluded with Trump to tamper with the election – might Flynn still have been legally wrong for talking policy with Kislyak before the inauguration? The American people need to know.

Trump was not President until January 20, 2017, so, if he was ordering Flynn to say anything to Putin about sanctions or any other governmental policy matter in December of 2016, was that treason? The American people need to know.

Did Trump – through Flynn – ask Putin to interfere in the election or grant him permission to interfere? Did Flynn pass along tips on how to most effectively weaponize their espionage or take notes to report to Trump?

I don’t know, but the answer seems to me like a solid-ass “maybe so.”

Disinformation is a legitimate form of electoral fraud. It is defined as the distribution of false or misleading information in order to affect the outcome of an election.

The UC can’t indict Putin for electoral fraud, but, if Trump worked with Putin, then he may be an accessory to disinformation, and the Trump administration might have its first legitimate scandal on its hands – a plot to “fix” the election that could include Trump, Pence, Spicer, Flynn, Comey, and maybe even former Attorney General Loretta Lynch.

The story unfolds with typical political intrigue and tells of typical political subterfuge – and it leaves the same old unsavory taste in my mouth, at least, as establishment politicians’ deception, even though Trump promised he would be “different.”

Flynn’s phone conversation with Kislyak was “intercepted” by the “American intelligence apparatus that typically monitors Russian diplomats.” The Justice Department received and reviewed a transcript of the conversation, and it showed that Flynn did talk about sanctions with Kislyak after all.

What else could he have logically been saying other than Trump would drop the sanctions, so Russia didn’t need to react to them?  I mean – Trump himself said, days before the election, “If you get along and if Russia is really helping us, why would anybody have sanctions if somebody’s doing some really great things?

Trump also downplayed the vitality of Russian interference in the election by insisting that because there was “no tampering whatsoever with voting machines” – prevarication like an MF – “there was absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election” – and I find this suspicious since electoral fraud is such a serious crime in our country.

Too, Trump’s staff sat on the revelation that Flynn had lied about his conversation with Kislyak for days before Flynn resigned yesterday – at Trump’s behest. Both The Washington Post and The New York Times reported, within hours of his resignation: Sally Q. Yates, the acting attorney general fired by Trump on January 31, told White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, on January 26 that Flynn discussed sanctions with Kislyak during their phone conversation, and Flynn was susceptible to blackmail by Moscow because he had lied on the record.

He was a serious – speaking of – threat to national security, but Trump did nothing about him. Not until the story broke in the news that Flynn lied to Pence. Then, Trump asked for Flynn’s resignation. This makes it seem as if Trump had no problem with what Flynn told Kislyak until Trump stood to get raked over the coals in the press for it.

However it went, Flynn is out of the White House now, and the FBI is investigating him. Prominent Democrats and Republicans in Congress are calling for a Senate committee investigation of his correspondences with Russia (there was more than the one), and I heard a few journalists on the cable evening news shows saying there should be an independent, impartial investigation with a high degree of transparency.

I say the Democrats should do something more drastic than “call for” a potentially abortive investigation by the Senate if they want a snowball’s chance in our overheating climate of gaining back some Congressional seats in 2018.

I’ve been watching all of this Trump drama closely, and what I’ve seen so far, as Trump et al. have stupidly ravaged the ACA, the Dodd-Frank Bill, the fiduciary rule, National Security Council’s Principals Committee, federal funding for sanctuary cities, reproductive health advocacy, the TPP, sacred lands belonging to the First Nation people, and perfectly viable immigration policies, among so many other things, is the Democrats in Congress putting up a very weak, ineffectual fight against their autocratic sweep into power.

That’s why I haven’t written here in so long. I’ve been depressed. I’ve begun to think the neocameralist society for which the alt-right seems to be pushing is a mere one or two executive orders away.

A fellow WordPress blogger, a couple weeks ago, wrote an anniversary tribute to the publication of James Baldwin’s canonical text, The Fire Next Time, and began the post with this quote: ” . . . [A] civilization is not destroyed by wicked people; it is not necessary that people be wicked but only that they be spineless.”

When I read this, I can’t lie; I thought immediately about the Democratic Party and what is happening politically in America right now.

As I said, though, this Flynn situation is an opportunity. Democrats can use it to do a few things they have desperately needed to do to clean up their share of the mess left after the collision of Hillary and Trump.

First, the Democratic Representatives and Senators should unite with any Republicans they can to formalize a civil resistance campaign against Trump whose main tactic is refusing to follow any of his executive orders that elicit “notable” opposition from their constituents (hundreds of thousands of signatures on petitions, phone calls, postcards, and so on).

As I pointed out before, Amendment 10 says, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.” This can be the legal grounds for their action.

They cannot be charged with treason. The Constitution defines treason as “levying War against [the United States], or . . . adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.” Even Trump – with his gift for deliberate misconstruance – can’t frame the sort of civil resistance I’m proposing as that. And, anyway, if the campaign is bipartisan, Trump would be hard-pressed to discredit the motives of his own party members. He can’t accuse Republicans of trying to wrest power for their party because they are his party, and they have a super majority right now.

Second, the Democrats should launch a speech campaign. They should have the best-liked members of the party – Warren, Sanders, Pelosi, Booker, Waters – go to the states where they are in the most danger of losing seats in 2018 or where they could finagle seats if they strike the proper chord with fringe voters and hold major televised “meetings” designed to rebrand the party.

During these events, they should talk about the boycott against Trump, couching it in a rhetoric of patriotism and service. They should tell America their reluctance to support Trump is rooted in a deep concern for the future well-being of all Americans – and especially those that held their noses and voted for Trump – who will likely have hardest time swallowing the bitter consequences that are already coming to pass.

Because that’s the Democrats’ biggest problem right now, as far as I can see. Nobody wants to buy their brand. In the aftermath of the election, they look like pussies (no macho). During the election, they looked like snobs.

They made Hillary their proxy, and, even though she is an up-by-her-bootstraps or “self-made” American, she put on airs. She discussed Americans that refused to parse or acknowledge the trickery of the GOP’s antics like they were stupid when she should’ve cast them as “suffering” or “afraid.”

At the LGBT for Hillary fundraiser back in September, we all know what she said:

And if you have read about the ones he says he’s likely to support, he’s not kidding. In fact, if you look at his running mate, his running-mate signed a law that would have allowed businesses to discriminate against LGBT Americans. And there’s so much more than I find deplorable in his campaign: the way that he cozies up to white supremacist, makes racist attacks, calls women pigs, mocks people with disabilities — you can’t make this up. He wants to round up and deport 16 million people, calls our military a disaster. And every day he says something else which I find so personally offensive, but also dangerous. You know, the idea of our country is so rooted in continuing progress that we make together. Our campaign slogan is not just words. We really do believe that we are stronger together. We really do believe that showing respect and appreciation for one another lifts us all up.

She made Trump supporters feel small when she should’ve been offering them “empathy.”

I don’t care what anybody says. Americans can be like spoiled children about our so-called “comfort levels.” We live in one of the most prosperous countries – still – in the world, and we do not deal well with having to forego things we want or feeling like our needs are being overlooked. Even our poverty is less punishing than other countries’ poverty.

So politicians that want to win our favor have to coddle us. It’s true. We buy wholeheartedly into the concept that they are beholden to our votes, and we expect them to be actual public servants. That is why successful politicians like President Obama and, yes, Trump very scrupulously filter out even the slightest undertone of disapproval when they talk to us about ourselves.

These politicians assure us that our fears and petty feelings of rivalry and neglect are understandable and forgivable. They reassure us. I may not be able to give you this, they say, but what about this other thing? See, they say, I’m not asking you to do without everything or accept just anything. I want what you want; I just want these other things, too. Let’s just see if we can’t compromise. I give; you give.

The Democrats should see this more clearly now than they ever did before. They should not go on the offensive, attacking Trump voters or blaming them for getting American into this morass. They shouldn’t attack Trump, either, who is their proxy – the septuagenarian trust fund baby with narcissistic personality disorder that wants to be a hillbilly and holy icon at the same damn time.

Rather than cataloging all of the outrages Trump has committed, the Democrats should explain: ensuring America doesn’t lose its ideals and advantages in the age of globalization is a more complicated matter than attempting to turn back the hands of time, and, even if the government could turn the tide of globalization, which it can’t, the answers to America’s real problems – a relatively sluggish economy, gun violence, pollution, terrorism, dependence on foreign oil, and, yes, partisan polarity in politics, do not lie in the past.

Then, one by one, they should address each problem triangularly: W. did this, and it didn’t work in these ways; Obama did this, and it didn’t work in these ways; Trump is proposing that we do this, and it won’t work, either, in these ways. They should be honest, and they should speak in clear, accessible terms. Fifth grade, sixth grade level of vocabulary. Like Trump.

Establishmentarianism isn’t going to fix our problems – the Democrats should acknowledge – but pulling the rug from out under the establishment won’t work either – they should argue – because it will violently disrupt everything that the US has in place that is working.

Then, they should explain what is working or at least what was working before Trump got into office.

They should tell us that their primary goal now is actual productive bipartisanship. We want to be a party whose different demographics are united – they should say – and we want to unite the different demographics that populate the nation, no matter each person’s individual political affiliation.

They should point out that there are nearly 50 ongoing armed conflicts occurring in the world today in a total of 44 countries – the oldest one dating back to 1922 in Iran – and the majority are not between countries fighting each other; they are between countrymen and countrywomen fighting each other.

They should remind us that just like the boom eras of the 1920s and 1950s are in our history – the one to which Trump appears to want to return – so too is the Civil War era – during which Americans split up regionally and along lines of economic interest and threatened to destroy the entire nation’s solvency with their refusal to work through out their differences peaceably.

They should be serious, but they should not be snobbish.

Bravado has its appeal, but so does vulnerability. So does humility. Americans have shown through their embrace of Trump that they appreciate an unvarnished approach to politicking, but, through their embrace of Obama, they have also shown that they can appreciate a subtle approach just as much.

Obama never called anyone names – well – except Kanye West that one time. He kept the Tea Party at bay and got two terms in office by being subtle. Something Trump will never be. An art the rest of the Democratic Party better master.

Obama legalized gay marriage, but did not make a highly publicized deal out of the fact that he appointed more openly gay officials to government than Clinton and Bush combined (including the first openly gay US Army Secretary). He withdrew troops from Iraq, but kept them in Afghanistan. He dealt diplomatically with Iran, but continued to fight W. Bush’s drone war in Pakistan.

Obama admitted Syrian refugees, but deported millions of undocumented, mostly Mexican immigrants with criminal records. Obama gave highly performative, emotional speeches about the several mass shootings and instances of fatal, racist police brutality that occurred while he was in office, but he didn’t make major changes to gun laws or push in a concrete way for reforms in law enforcement even though he had the leverage to do so (police departments do receive federal funding to which he could’ve attempted to add stipulations).

Obama never directly addressed disaffected lower middle class, working class, and poor white Americans the way Trump did during his campaign, but he demonstrated, in the way he handled certain issues, that he “cared” about the issues that upset and economically affected them. He made sure the ACA was universally effective, created 15 million jobs (800,000 in manufacturing), and spent $80 billion bailing out the auto industry.

Obama had the same neoliberal “high road” patter as Hillary, but without the superiority complex. When he was campaigning for Hillary, he didn’t deride the offensive things that Trump did on the campaign trail. He was savvy enough to realize that Americans are more adept at seeming evolved than they are at evolving.

And that is what the Democrats in Congress have to accept as well. The party ran Hillary because they thought the electorate couldn’t resist the opportunity to put the first woman President in the Oval Office; they mistakenly projected their own smugness about their ability to “transcend” the entrenched racism and patriarchy of our culture onto the American masses.

They thought the rest of America was as high on self-righteousness and self-adulation as they were in the aftermath of Obama. They thought we wanted more – we wanted another eight years of being able to pat ourselves on the back for voting as what that indubitable guru of personal growth Oprah Winfrey calls our “best selves.”

They thought every single woman in the country that wasn’t a Republican would dive at the chance to cast a vote for a woman, despite the fact she is a member of the white ruling class, and her tone-deaf promises that the “future is female” do not placate people of color – some of which happen to be women too – that still need seats at the table of power.

The Democrats also thought they could exploit the public’s mental association of Hillary with Obama – substitute his likability for her lack – and win over his – yes – fans – by making her platform a lazy extension of his slightly over-intellectual – at least by American standards – agenda.

They assumed that smart Americans could see straight through the trumped-up accusations related to what Politico calls the “scandal of [the] ‘home brew’ email server,” and they would delight throwing the GOP’s corruption and Trump’s ridiculousness back in his face.

They ignored the implications of the catalyzation and legitimization of the Tea Party and opted to believe that between 2008-2016 the US realized – pretty much wholesale – the “worthlessness” of institutional racism, sexism, Islamophobia, and xenophobia.

They stuck stubbornly to the idea that people want their government to lead them down the supposed “high road” to safety and comfort when in truth most Americans don’t care how they get “there” just as long as they do.

They also ignored the animal nature of human beings and the way large groups – with their anonymity and companionship and safety – make people feel they can safely misbehave.

They made what amounted to a huge mistake, and, now, they can fix it, but they have make a concerted effort to do something – fuck – if it can’t be new then – else. They have do something other than what they’ve been doing. Obviously.

So, during their speech campaign – I’m back to my plan now – they should admit that Hillary was an imprudent choice for the party’s Presidential candidate. They should acknowledge the need for “fresh” faces and voices in the fore of the party and set the stage to push a carefully selected crop from the back of the proverbial bus.

They should name the names and flash the faces of the new Democratic vanguard that will work “tirelessly” to make up to us – the people – the inadvertent way the forgivable misunderstandings and misconceptions of the old guard pushed so many Americans to put their faith in a shyster like Trump.

To seem like they are on “our” side, and not Trump’s, they should encourage dissatisfied demographics to strike, and they should aim that encouragement very deliberately and sympathetically at fringe Trump supporters that stand to lose their health insurance when the ACA is repealed or Trump supporters that failed to anticipate the stringency of his immigration policies. Their anger is usable.

Politics are a game, but they are a deathly serious one. They are a game, and people don’t like that, but the saving grace is games have rules. People that want to keep playing know that they need to follow them.

If the Democrats in Congress play fair (enough) – if they do right – they can get back into the good graces of the American people – and either depose Trump or vote him out of office in 2020 – God willing.

They just need to get serious about their oath, which says, “I . . . do solemnly swear . . . that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion, and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.”

And the rest of us – women, blacks, Latinx, LGBTQIA+, First Nation – that swear we cannot live under Trump need to get serious, too, and start acting like it. Or shut the hell up, bend over, and take these four years of oppressive political ass-whipping like some Gs.

I’m not saying that we’re not doing anything, but we’re not doing enough.

We can create our own campaigns of civil resistance like a large-scale tax resistance or demonstrations. We can boycott. We can strike. And, when the midterm elections come, we must vote. We must also vote in 2020, especially if Trump is running for re-election. We have to defend ourselves from his manipulation and dangerous misrule.

Because that guy is a domestic enemy of the United States or at least any United States in which would like to live or raise my daughter.

The threat he poses to us is beyond serious, and, if we don’t do something to curb his craziness, we will either live to regret it, or there is the terrifying possibility that some of us – a lot of us – won’t.

(China. Iran. Iraq. North Korea. Russia. Syria. Yemen.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Logical Fallacy of the Anti-Abortion Conservative & The Reason Trump and His Cronies Can Go Choke on a Communion Wafer

Anyone that has been following me for longer than one post knows I am a stickler when it comes to using words. Or maybe you don’t. So let me tell you. It can take me five or six hours to write a post sometimes because I keep trying to capture my ideas perfectly.

I never write unless I can compose on a computer, so I can open up Edge if I’m using Word, or a second tab in Edge if I’m blogging, and have up the Merriam-Webster website in case I need to look up a word.

I even have a whole collection of axioms I use when I’m teaching to stress the importance of being exacting when it comes to using words. I tell my students there is an entire lexicon of words to capture their ideas, so stop using the same 20 or 30. Do not rely on context clues to define a new word – I tell them – look it up. Do not use a word whose meaning you do not know, no matter how “sophisticated” you think it sounds.

I tell them there are no two less descriptive adjectives in the English language than “good” and “bad” – these words can mean anything to anyone. Adverbs are often just crutches for writers that don’t know a wide enough variety of action verbs. Very few words are truly interchangeable, and that is particularly true of the two words I’m going to break down in this post.

One of the defining characteristics of American political conservatives – who are mostly Republicans – is that they are “pro-life.” This term, as it is customarily used, refers to people purported to believe abortion is immoral and should be illegal.

John Hawkins, in an article differentiating conservatives and liberals, writes, “Conservatives believe that abortion ends the life of an innocent child and since we believe that infanticide is wrong, we oppose abortion.” To me – a liberal black Democrat feminist – this explanation captures perfectly the inaccuracy of the term “pro-life.” Conservatives are not really pro-life; they’re just anti-abortion.

They propagate the idea that human life begins at conception, and supposedly root their beliefs about abortion in that idea, but, when it comes to their other political beliefs, they expose an undeniable callousness about the preciousness of human life that ultimately undermines them.

Their “pro-life” language and optics can be pretty compelling, but I still say they are not convincing, and the majority of conservatives that oppose abortion politically and publically are not actually concerned with the immorality of the act of killing but rather the ramifications of a paradigm shift in America’s racial demography.

They don’t care about the poor lost babies; they care about the fact that white women obtained 39% of abortions in America in 2014 while black women obtained 28%, Latinx women obtained 25%, and other races and ethnicities only obtained 9%.

They care about the fact that 75% of women that obtained abortions in America in 2014 were low income or poor, and these abortions placed them in better positions to attend school, work, build, and retain some wealth.

According to Gallup, the majority of Republicans in America are white (89%),  and we know the majority of political conservatives are Republican.

The majority of conservatives in government are also Republican, white, and supposedly “pro-life,” and this now includes Trump – He Who I Shall Not Call President.

I think Trump’s pro-life views are just another guise for his all-consuming opportunism. I won’t say the thing I want to say about how likely it is that as a philandering billionaire, Trump has paid for more than a few hasty secret abortions in his time, but I will say that up until his Presidential campaign last year, he appeared to be – and he was quoted in 1999 referring to himself as – “very pro-choice.”

I think he flip-flopped to help win over the conservative electorate, and that would be fine with me if it didn’t translate into him making efforts at the federal level to strip American women of their abortion rights.

In regards to staunch “pro-lifers” like Vice President Michael Pence, I won’t say that they are lying about being Christians or believing abortion is wrong because there’s no way I can know that.

But I can and do conjecture that their religious beliefs are not the true basis of their official stance against abortion. They oppose abortion for political reasons and lie about it so they don’t seem like ruthless monsters or machines.

I say this because the prevailing sentiment throughout the New Testament is that disciples of Jesus should go out and try to win and save souls, but disciples are characterized as trained teachers and preachers in the Bible, and not laymen, and no Christian’s salvation is hinged by the Word on his or her ability to keep another Christian or another person from committing sins.

In other words, Christianity doesn’t mandate that believers actively block the sinful decisions and actions of others. It doesn’t encourage believers to interfere with other people’s lives that aggressively. The Bible says tell people about the Trinity, pray for people, model Christian behavior for them, but do not judge or seek to punish them because that is God’s job alone.

And anyway, even if these highly vocal conservatives in government do care about the souls of their constituents, their myopic focus on abortion as the main political conduit for conveying morality to the American people – if such a thing can even be done – says that isn’t the only thing they are trying to accomplish with their anti-abortion antics.

Because drug use, alcohol consumption, pornography, and prostitution are all still booming in America today, but you don’t see conservatives pushing for any legislation to more efficiently block Americans’ access to any of them.

And rape, divorce, defrauding people, gambling, persecuting others, and acting against the poor are all sins, according to the Bible, but American laws actually enable all of these things, and conservatives do very little, if anything, to change, improve, or strengthen these laws.

Unborn babies aren’t the only ones dying because of the wide berth our current laws give Americans to exercise their free will. Conservatives could take political umbrage with the way a dozen different issues are legislated at the moment, or make a dozen different strategic moves in this session of Congress, if saving lives is really what they wanted to do, but, as we should all see from the endless fucking stream of government articles on the Internet, they don’t.

Conservatives don’t want increased gun control in a country where there were 372 mass shootings that killed 475 people in 2015; there were 13,286 people killed by firearms (excluding suicides); and 60% of murders were committed with guns.

Conservatives want to repeal Obamacare before creating and implementing a workable replacement when research shows that 45,000 Americans died each year due to lack of health insurance before Obamacare.

Conservatives want to end government programs like SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program a/k/a food stamps), Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and unemployment insurance, yet, again, research shows that 162,000 Americans die annually due to low social support; 133,000 die due to individual-level poverty; and 119,000 die due to income inequality.

Conservatives give blanket support to law enforcement though American police killed an estimated 928 people every year for the last eight years, and there is no way of knowing – because of inefficient tracking procedures – which of these killings were justified and which were avoidable.

And while we’re at it – conservatives believe in a strong military, yet “approximately 165,000 [Iraqi] civilians have died from direct war related violence caused by the US, its allies, the Iraqi military and police, and opposition forces from the time of the [US] invasion through April 2015 . . . through aerial bombing, shelling, gunshots, suicide attacks, and fires started by bombing.”

According to their propaganda, human life begins at the moment of conception, but it also seems to end at the instant of birth – the point at which they stop trying to pantomime concern and exploit their preciousness for the sake of political expediency.

Conservatives want to outlaw the 1.2 million abortions that American women have each year, regardless of their reasons, but seem to have no problem with directly or indirectly facilitating the deaths of roughly half that number of full people through the exercise of a malignant passel their other political beliefs.

It makes you wonder, doesn’t it? Where does their supposed Christian concern for life and will to save innocent souls go when they are tussling back-and-forth with Democrats that want to save Obamacare or toughen up gun control or stop the use of military torture on our so-called enemies? I mean, hey, Christians are supposed to love their enemies.

And if anti-abortion laws are really only about getting women to have their babies, then why don’t conservatives focus on getting women to have their babies willingly?

According to the Guttmacher Institute, “The reasons patients gave for having an abortion underscored their understanding of the responsibilities of parenthood and family life [emphasis added]. The three most common reasons—each cited by three-fourths of patients—were concern for or responsibility to other individuals; the inability to afford raising a child; and the belief that having a baby would interfere with work, school or the ability to care for dependents. Half said they did not want to be a single parent or were having problems with their husband or partner.”

So where are the conservatives pushing for the laws that increase and equalize women’s wages, mandate paid maternity leave and maternal job retention, subsidize childcare costs, or grant free family health insurance or childcare to enrolled college students?

You don’t see or hear from these conservatives because conservatives’ issue with abortion isn’t really moral, and their campaign against it isn’t borne out of compassion; it’s borne out of their bottomless cunning.

I think when conservatives insist that infant lives matter, they are prevaricating. They are couching shrewd political strategy in seeming ethicality. They’re not talking about saving souls. They’re trying to shore up political and economic power to comfortably sustain them into the country’s uncertain future.

Conservatives are, again, mostly Republican, and Republicans are mostly white. Whites have hegemonic power over America as a result of being the framers of the republic and authors and economic beneficiaries of slavery and the Industrial Revolution in North America.

A primary factor in their hegemony is their numbers; they are the majority, so, when they vote together, as witnessed in the last Presidential race, they can dictate the leadership of the country and choose such that the leadership acts primarily in their favor.

When conservatives fight to take away women’s right to abortion, they are not fighting the wages of sin. They are fighting to stave off the arrival of the mythological majority-minority tipping point date, on which they will no longer be the majority and so easily able to secure their hegemony. They are fighting, behind that, to saddle poor minorities with children they can’t afford, so they have a harder time educating themselves, working, and building wealth or rather encroaching on the money white people want to horde for themselves, and, behind that, they are fighting to keep a perennial underclass in American society that is made of mostly of minorities – a segment of the population that is persistently poor and mired in pathologies of poverty that keep its members from rising to the working or middle classes, where they could become competition for less affluent whites.

Conservatives understand that unplanned, unaffordable pregnancies are often “part of the vicious cycle of poverty,” in which “kids born into poverty are likely to remain there for their whole lives, despite the promise of the American Dream.”

They also know that “compared with having an abortion, being denied an abortion may be associated with greater risk of initially experiencing adverse psychological outcomes,” and “[p]sychological well-being improved over time so that both groups of women eventually converged.” Women that are denied abortions do not end up “happier” than women that are allowed to have them.

I think this is important for women to realize because we are – across communities – conditioned to care deeply about how we appear under the male gaze – to be “good” girls (see – that projective-ass word)  and – when the men with the loudest voices and weightiest opinions censure our options for our lives – it is difficult for many of us to bear up under that and fight for the resources and choices we need to be autonomous.

Conservatives make a lot of moralistic and misogynistic arguments against abortion (not the least is the sub-textual argument that women’s overall wellbeing in politically expendable), but the truth is the majority of women don’t use abortions as a means of birth control, and they don’t relish having to make the decision or go through with having an abortion. They do it because it’s what they feel they have to do.

The majority of women have abortions out of financial, psychological, and/or physical necessity, and they do not choose adoption because to do so they would still have to take on the financial, psychological, and physical of pregnancy, and those are not incidental in the least – no matter what conservative white male members of Congress that know everything they know about pregnancy and childbirth from watching their affluent wives and side chicks go through it might say.

And, despite the misleading way conservatives talk about cutting funding for institutions like Planned Parenthood, federal money does not pay for abortions in any institutional setting, even if abortions are given in that setting.

Sadly, anti-abortion laws don’t ensure either – in conjunction with blocking abortions – that every American child that is allowed to be born is adequately fed, clothed, housed, educated, or loved.

According to Children’s Rights, there are nearly 428,000 children in foster care in the US right now. Nearly six percent of children in foster care stay in for five or more years. More than half of the children entering foster care are racial minorities. Fourteen percent of children in foster care are not in family settings; they are in institutions or group homes.

In 2015, over 62,000 American children whose parents’ parental rights had been terminated were waiting to be adopted, and more than 20,000 young adults aged out of foster care without permanent families.

Research has shown that those who leave care without being linked to forever families have a higher likelihood than youth in the general population to experience homelessness, unemployment and incarceration as adults.”

Too, 686,000 US children in foster care in 2012 were victims of abuse – 78.3% of these babies were neglected, 18.3% were battered, 9.3% were physically abused, 8.5% were “psychologically maltreated,” and 1,640 died from abuse and neglect.

If conservative Republicans were really ’bout that life – as they say in the streets – where so many unwanted American children end up after everything is said and done on Capitol Hill – they’d be brainstorming ways to keep these young ones out of foster care, not shove more of them in.

If they were about life at all, and not just money and power, they’d focus on making America livable for everyone and stop using poor women’s wombs as metaphoric or spiritual suicide bombs.

 

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

Trump is Our Bad Boyfriend, and We the People Are Getting Gaslighted

I don’t hate anyone in my real life (versus my political life) except the asshole to which I lost my virginity.

He taught me about gaslighting, and he is probably one of the only people in this world around which I would consistently lose my shit–if I ever allowed his ass around me.

I even skipped my cousin’s last birthday party because I saw on Facebook, in a comment, he planned to come, and I refuse to be closed up in the same room with him. I will do any- and everything I can so I don’t have to speak to him.

He didn’t assault me when we hooked up, but he was a significantly older boy with much more confidence, aggression, emotional dexterity, and sexual experience. He was able to perceive and assess the power differential between us much more quickly and intelligently than I was and exploit it easily and slickly because I was so inexperienced and intimidated by him.

And I hate him for being willing to do that. To ignore all the signs that I wasn’t ready for what was happening or sure I wanted it to happen. To look at my confusion as an advantage of the situation. To be so deeply lacking in empathy or decency.

But I also take responsibility for the fact that I didn’t use my own agency to get out of what I perceived pretty early on as a bad situation.

When I say that this asshole has gaslighted me, I’m not talking about what he did that one afternoon; I’m talking about what he’s done to me ever since that afternoon, every time I have the misfortune of talking to him.

He pretends like I cared for him. Like I invited him into the room and initiated intercourse with him. Like the fact that I didn’t want to be around him in the aftermath is because I am so terribly attracted to him, it makes me afraid and/or embarrassed of myself.

He pretends like we had a relationship. Like I told him that I wanted to be with him. Like I “refuse” to be with him because I am intimidated by his virility and all this other imaginary “good” shit he doesn’t have going for himself.

When he contacts me on Facebook, which he’s done more than a few times, he talks like he knows my desires and understands my preferences and habits. He tells me what I want and what I feel and what I would like to happen between us.

When I tell him to fuck off, he tells me I don’t really mean it. I’m being coy. I need to stop pretending. The reality is, though, of all the wrongheaded shit I’ve done in my entire life–and, mind you, I lived with undiagnosed ADHD for 39 years–having sex with him is what I regret most deeply.

I really do consider him to be the most reprehensible human being I know, namely because he is willing to play such sick games with people’s minds.

In my political or civic life, there is, unfortunately, an equivalent to this asshole, and he is Donald Trump.

(And you might as well resign yourselves–those of you hung up on formality or custom or whatever–because I am not going to call him “President.” Ever.

I’m not going to dignify him because he refuses, much like The Asshole, to acknowledge what he did to the American electorate and deal from a place of accountability.)

Trump is the nation’s bad boyfriend, and he’s gaslighting the shit out of us.

Gaslighting is the deliberate attempt to make a person believe that his or her perceptions of an occurrence are not only incorrect, but that the perceptions are the result of that person’s own mental or emotional instability.

When I say Trump is gaslighting us, I’m not talking about the way he is enacting his electoral agenda. In that area, he’s actually demonstrating some integrity, even though his actions are still damaging as hell.

He said he would repeal the Affordable Care Act, and he signed an executive order yesterday that most experts view as the first significant step in rolling it back– have mercy.

The order makes it possible for the Secretary of Health and other officials to interpret ACA regulations as loosely as possible–to “waive, defer, grant exemptions from or delay implementation of any provision or requirement . . . to the maximum extent permitted by law” and ostensibly interfere with the administration of healthcare to 20 million needful Americans.

This is horrible, but it may actually be the only transparent thing he’s done since winning the election last November.

It begs the question why so many people that are dependent on the provisions of the ACA voted for Trump, but that’s a question for those people to ponder. I voted for HRC, and my conscience, in that respect, is clear.

When I say Trump is gaslighting the American people–and he is–don’t doubt it–I’m talking about his responses to two situations in particular–Russia’s interference in his election and yesterday’s Women’s March on Washington.

If we look really closely at the things Trump has said and done to control the way we–the American public–perceive and process both of these occurrences–we will see that he is employing numerous toxic diversion tactics to persuade us there is nothing wrong with the way he conducted his campaign, or has proceeded since his win to ignore the rising concerns of the electorate–and, if there is any “problem,” it is us.

An article on Thought Catalog lists 20 different diversion tactics that sociopaths and psychopaths use to–and I think it’s particularly germane to this post that the writer uses this term–“silence” the rest of us.

“Toxic people . . .” Shahida Arabi writes, “engage in maladaptive behaviors [and] use a plethora of diversionary tactics that distort the reality of their victims and deflect responsibility.”

Apropos of Trump, Arabi writes, “[A]busive narcissists use these [diversionary tactics] to an excessive extent in an effort to escape accountability for their actions.”

And in the last few weeks, Trump has not only used gaslighting, but projection, blanket statements, nitpicking, moving the goalpost, changing the subject, threats, name-calling, smear campaigning, shaming, and controlling (so a total of 11 out of 20 tactics) to prevent the American public at large from critiquing his words, condemning his actions, and/or opposing his inauguration.

This is not an exaggeration.

The U.S. intelligence community, which includes the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Defense Intelligence Agency, Department of State, Department of Homeland Security, and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), released a declassified assessment of the Russian “hacking” of the Presidential election on January 6 that stated “Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign” with the goals of “undermin[ing] public faith in the US democratic process, denigrat[ing] Secretary Clinton, and harm[ing] her electability . . .

The media by and large used the vague term “cyberattack” to reference Russia’s efforts to sabotage Hillary Clinton, but the intelligence report is much more detailed in its explanation of what Russia did:

We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump. When it appeared to Moscow that Secretary Clinton was likely to win the election, the Russian influence campaign then focused on undermining her expected presidency. 

We also assess Putin and the Russian Government aspired to help President-elect Trump’s election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him. All three agencies agree with this judgment. CIA and FBI have high confidence in this judgment; NSA has moderate confidence.  

In trying to influence the US election, we assess the Kremlin sought to advance its longstanding desire to undermine the US-led liberal democratic order, the promotion of which Putin and other senior Russian leaders view as a threat to Russia and Putin’s regime.

Putin publicly pointed to the Panama Papers disclosure and the Olympic doping scandal as US-directed efforts to defame Russia, suggesting he sought to use disclosures to discredit the image of the United States and cast it as hypocritical.

Putin most likely wanted to discredit Secretary Clinton because he has publicly blamed her since 2011 for inciting mass protests against his regime in late 2011 and early 2012, and because he holds a grudge for comments he almost certainly saw as disparaging him.

Too, Putin wants–note the shift to the present tense here–to “befriend” America for economic reasons. Of course. Is there anything any of these leaders do that isn’t motivated first and foremost by money? (It’s called imperialism.)

According to a CNBC article on Putin, Russia is a “petrostate”–it makes the bulk of its money from oil and gas exports, so, when oil prices drop, or other countries place sanctions on Russia, its economy suffers terribly.

After taking over part of Ukraine in 2014, and being sanctioned by the US and a number of our Western European allies, Russia’s gross domestic product has dropped over 40 percent, but its massive population hasn’t.

So Putin is seeking to lessen the economic pressure the US is putting on Russia. He wants Trump to lift the old and new sanctions against Russia that were ordered by Obama.

According to former Russian ambassador Stephen Sestanovich, he is also seeking “some sort of get-out-jail free card” that will keep the US and Europe from interfering in Russia’s affairs if and when it makes more aggressive moves against other countries.

The Economist says:

Every week Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, finds new ways to scare the world. Recently he moved nuclear-capable missiles close to Poland and Lithuania. This week he sent an aircraft-carrier group down the North Sea and the English Channel. He has threatened to shoot down any American plane that attacks the forces of Syria’s despot, Bashar al-Assad. Russia’s UN envoy has said that relations with America are at their tensest in 40 years. Russian television news is full of ballistic missiles and bomb shelters.

And Russia will keep making moves like this because the country’s economic problems have created unrest between the government and the middle classes in Russia’s largest cities.

Economist staff writes, “Mr Putin has sought [also] to offset vulnerability at home with aggression abroad.”

They claim:

With their mass protests after election-rigging in 2011-12, Russia’s sophisticated urban middle classes showed that they yearn for a modern state. When the oil price was high, Mr Putin could resist them by buying support. Now he shores up his power by waging foreign wars and using his propaganda tools to whip up nationalism. He is wary of giving any ground to Western ideas because Russia’s political system, though adept at repression, is brittle. Institutions that would underpin a prosperous Russia, such as the rule of law, free media, democracy and open competition, pose an existential threat to Mr Putin’s rotten state.

This explains why Putin worked to sabotage the Presidential election on two fronts; he wanted to win favor with Trump so Trump will lift the sanctions, and he wanted to make democracy look less attractive to his own dissatisfied citizens.

Yet another reason Putin sabotaged the election, according to experts, is he hopes that by helping Trump win, he has convinced Trump to do business in Russia.

Trump has a history of doing business with Russians. When Trump’s professional failures lost him credibility among US investors back in the 1980s, he traveled to Moscow to gain new investors for his real estate ventures.

Consequently, many of his high-end condo buyers in New York and Florida over the past few decades have been Russians; many Russians have developed their own American properties and paid royalties to put the Trump name on these buildings.

In 2008, Trump’s son, Donald Jr., reportedly told investors in Moscow that Trump had trademarked his name in Russia and planned to build real estate in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Sochi, as well as sell more licenses to other Russian developers.

“We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia,” Donald Jr. apparently said at the time.

It’s not implausible that Putin wants to work with Trump to somehow make good on those old, abandoned promises, and perhaps placate the middle class with new opportunities, since Russia’s current economic landscape is so bleak, and so many Russians are so angry about it.

It’s even more plausible that Trump knows this, right? It’s likely that he knows all of this.

He knows about Russia’s failing economy; he knows about Putin’s fascist military tactics; he knows that Putin wants to do business with him; and he knows the “cyberattacks” on the election helped him to win it.

Yet, what has he said and done in response to these “cyberattacks”?

He called the government effort to get to the bottom of the hacking a “witch hunt.”

He asked, “If Russia, or some other entity, was hacking, why did the White House wait so long to act?” 

He ignored the fact the White House announced in October that it believed Russia had hacked the DNC and leaked its emails.

He conjectured that “unless you catch ‘hackers’ in the act, it is very hard to determine who was doing the hacking.”

He tweeted, about the CIA, “They were wrong about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction[,] so why trust them?”

He goaded the intelligence community at large: “The ‘Intelligence’ briefing on so-called ‘Russian hacking’ was delayed until Friday, perhaps more time needed to build a case. Very strange!”

And when he was called to task for saying and doing these things, he accused the media of being “dishonest” and spreading “lies to make it look like I am against ‘Intelligence’ when in fact I am a big fan!”

He blamed the proliferation of computer technology in our everyday lives for the hacking and not Putin and his government: “The whole age of computer has made it where nobody knows exactly what is going on. We have speed, we have a lot of other things, but I’m not sure we have the kind, the security we need.”

Then, after he attended an intelligence briefing on the hacking, in the last week of December, and his inauguration was sparsely attended and deliberately skipped by many members of Congress, he went to the CIA yesterday–during the Women’s March no less–and told the same people he’d spent weeks attacking: “Very, very few people could do the job you people do and I want you to know I am so behind you.”

See what I’m saying?

He acted as if he didn’t attack the intelligence community, just like he acted as if the intelligence community had wrongly or unfairly attacked Russia and him.

Gaslighting.

And there’s all the rest of it, too.

Projection: “The whole age of computer has made it where nobody knows exactly what is going on.”

Blanket statements: “Unless you catch ‘hackers’ in the act, it is very hard to determine who was doing the hacking.”

Nitpicking: “The ‘Intelligence’ briefing on so-called ‘Russian hacking’ was delayed until Friday, perhaps more time needed to build a case. Very strange!”

Changing the subject: “They were wrong about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction so why trust them?”

Shaming: “If Russia, or some other entity, was hacking, why did the White House wait so long to act?”

Love-bombing: “Very, very few people could do the job you people do and I want you to know I am so behind you.”

Controlling.

Trump is trying his hardest to control the way that we perceive him. He is setting up to abuse his office and its power but at the same time conditioning us to think negatively about institutions that could help us to stay truthfully informed of his actions.

He is also conditioning us to question our impulse to question him.

You can see this attempt to exert malignant control in his inaugural address, too.

“Today we are not merely transferring power from one administration to another, or from one party to another,” he said, “but we are transferring power from Washington, D.C. and giving it back to you, the American People.”

“For too long, a small group in our nation’s Capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost. Washington flourished — but the people did not share in its wealth . . . The establishment protected itself, but not the citizens of our country.”

“That all changes — starting right here, and right now,” he vowed, “because this moment is your moment: it belongs to you.”

In his conclusion, he reiterated that “[we] will never be ignored again.”

“Your voice, your hopes, and your dreams,” he said,  “will define our American destiny. And your courage and goodness and love will forever guide us along the way.”

Yet, Trump lost the popular vote by 3,000,000.

Yet, there is, again, evidence that the election was fixed, even if to a minimal extent, by the Russian government. 

Even his so-called fellow Republicans acknowledge the veracity of the intelligence community investigation into the Russian interference in the election. 

Since it occurred last November, hundreds of thousands of Americans have expressed misgivings about Trump’s promise to repeal and replace the ACA, yet he hasn’t addressed our concerns in any real way.

Trump’s inauguration had the smallest attendance of a Presidential inauguration in 12 years, according to estimates. Dozens of entertainers reportedly refused to perform as part of the celebration, and many members of Congress refused to attend. And almost immediately after it, the Women’s March organized in opposition to Trump brought over a million protesters to the main march in DC and “sister” marches all around the US and rest of the world.

To be sure, Reuters confirms that “[t]he demonstrations . . . highlighted strong discontent over Trump’s comments and policy positions toward a wide range of groups, including Mexican immigrants, Muslims, the disabled and environmentalists.”

Trump should’ve had a direct response to this, but, instead, he hid somewhere in the White House and sent his Press Secretary, Sean Spicer, to deal with the issue of the protesters before the media cameras.

This was a very deliberate and clear devaluation of their opposition and yet another of those diversionary tactics that malignant narcissists regularly employ.

Spicer held a televised media briefing yesterday evening, but, instead of addressing the protesters’ grievances, he spent his time and energy lashing out at the media for its coverage of the inauguration on Friday.

He acted as if the march wasn’t still happening, and it hadn’t received staunch support from people in France, England, Australia, and South Africa.

“[Friday’s] was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period — both in person and around the globe,” Spicer said. “These attempts to lessen the enthusiasm of the inauguration are shameful and wrong.”

“We’re going to hold the press accountable as well,” he also said. “The American people deserve better.”

There it is again. Gaslighting. Lying. Threatening.

Spicer bitched about a reporter that tweeted on Friday that Trump had removed a bust of Martin Luther King Jr. from his office even though the reporter had already said he was wrong and apologized.

Changing the subject. Nitpicking.

And Spicer talked about Trump’s meeting with the CIA rather, which really came off then like a diversion from the march. He criticized the Democrats in the Senate for “playing politics” and refusing to let Mike Pompeo lead the CIA.

“It’s a shame that the CIA didn’t have a CIA Director to be with [Trump} today when he visited,” Spicer said.

Blanket statement. Moving the goal post. Sarcasm.

All of this–destructive conditioning.

I didn’t write anything about the inauguration on the blog on Friday because I needed to get my thoughts together before I wrote something long form. However, I posted quite a few things on my Facebook about the events of the day, and I read dozens of posts about them, too.

Most of my friends on Facebook were upset and just as adamant as I was about letting everyone else know they were upset, but a lot of them were urging the rest of us to just “accept” that Trump won the election and get back to living our lives.

My response to that was “If you put your head in the sand, all they have to do then is bury the rest of you.”

If my research about the Cabinet taught me nothing else, it’s that government affects just about every aspect of your life, right down to how much you pay for your tampons (it’s called the Pink Tax).

If you ignore what the government is doing, it doesn’t stop the government from affecting you. You are still subject to every decision made under its auspices, whether you know the decision has been made or understand the ramifications of the decision.

That said, I think it’s better to know, and I think it’s better to fight whatever inequities get passed down.

Despite himself, Trump is now in control of our government. Many people–myself included–believe he is a sociopath. But, even if he isn’t, he is clannish, delusional, opportunistic, indulgent, unstable, dishonest, and greedy.

He is a danger to the American people and system of government, and I don’t care what the fuck he says.

His verbal behaviors speak much louder than his actual words.

And, sadly, we Americans that do not want him or trust him to lead us cannot shut him out of our lives like I have shut The Asshole out of mine.

We are forced to reckon with him for at least the next four years, or until he gets impeached, whichever one comes first (I’m praying for the impeachment).

But, in the meantime, we cannot allow ourselves to become complacent–to be lulled into some “honeymoon” with him that will inevitably blow up in our faces.

Anyone that has ever had an Asshole like mine, or a bad boyfriend, knows the routine. You know how hard these men try to get you to surrender to them.

They keep hammering at you, and, even though you know it’s craziness, you weaken. You start believing the things they say and do to you. You do it to reconcile the dissonance between your rose-colored ideas of human decency and compassion and the black-hearted truth of human nature and intentions.

He must be telling the truth–you say to yourself–because it’s easier to believe that you are wrong than to believe someone could target you for victimization at the most intimate level without you deserving it.

That’s our problem, as I see it: We act like kids when it comes to causal reasoning. We want the things that happen to be neat, clean, and accountable, but they’re more than often not.

Yet, no matter how many times life teaches us this lesson, we never assimilate it because it makes life seem harder and uglier when it’s really the same old life, teaching us the same old lesson.

There are reasons Trump got elected–some we know and some we don’t–and even though it’s scary–the thought that invisible powers put him in office–the reality that he is in office–we can’t cave to the impulse to normalize it. 

It won’t make his time in office any easier on us.

Trump is gaslighting us into believing it will, but we need to stay vigilant against his efforts.

He is not the benevolent or capable leader he is pretending to be; he is the same cloddish fuck he’s always been.

We cannot let him destroy our country, if we can help it, and we cannot allow him to be re-elected in 2020. Nor can we gift him another super majority in 2018.

My husband said, rather flippantly, as we watched the Women’s March on MSNBC earlier, “Marching is more fun than voting.”

Yet, I believe voting is ultimately more meaningful because it allows for policy changes.

So we have to vote Trump out when it’s time. Simple as that. We have to stay motivated to do what’s right, even if that means bumping up against all of Trump’s convoluted bullshit on the long way back to the Presidential polls.

We can’t let his destructive conditioning stick. We can’t let him convince us that we are in the wrong for refusing to accept his so-called presidency. We can’t get accustomed to him, fuck around, and forget how bad he is.

In all the years since The Asshole, I am proud to say I have never let him pressure me. I have never changed my story about what happened to make it “prettier” or “sexier” and my decision seem less toxic than it was.

Holding to the truth of that experience has helped me to never replicate it. It has made me smarter, stronger, and more strategic about what I do with my body and with whom I share it.

I think the same principle can hold with Trump’s election.

We can learn the lessons of this experience, and let them make us–Americans, Democrats, liberals, women, whoever, whatever–more strategic when it comes to picking our next President.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

America 101: The Cabinet

All the big-name news sources are talking back-and-forth this week about Trump’s cabinet picks as he prepares to take office in a little more than ten days.

In what has become typical Trump fashion, he has done completely away with the customary practices of all his Presidential predecessors and waited until the absolute last minute to get his nominees for the top posts confirmed by the Senate.

Yet, even as writers and reporters from the majorly credible publications and broadcasts across the country acknowledge that Trump’s cabinet nominees themselves and the timetable for their confirmations are “controversial,” they are starting to take on this tone in their observations that is resigned to the chaos of the President-elect’s nascent leadership.

It’s a big deal, though, that he has chosen the people he has chosen to do the jobs that they will ostensibly do. A President’s cabinet plats a crucial role in his administration.

This is what I learned from my research over the last couple of days.

The cabinet is a Constitutionally established body of officials that advise the President about any subject that relates to the duties of their specific office.

They are the heads of 15 different executive departments–the Secretaries of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, Treasury, and Veterans Affairs–plus the Attorney General and Vice President.

According to the Brookington Institute, a nonprofit public policy organization in Washington, DC, “Presidents fill their cabinets with experienced leaders from around the country. These leaders must have some combination of executive experience, policy expertise, partisan credentials, or personal loyalty to the president. They symbolize presidential priorities, represent demographic groups and marshal the support of the clientele of the department they will be leading.”

In 2009, Cabinet Secretary Chris Lu described the importance of the Cabinet on the White House blog, saying, “Every day, the President calls on the Cabinet . . . He . . . values their work in running the federal departments and agencies, ensuring that the government always works on behalf of the American people.”

This is why Cabinet secretaries–along with the Attorney General, Director of the Office of Management and Budget, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), U.S. Trade Representative, Ambassador to the UN, Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, and Administrator of the Small Business Administration–must be confirmed by the Senate.

Nominees for these Cabinet-level positions must be fully vetted, which means they must disclose all financial documents to whichever Senate committee conducts their confirmation hearing so the members of that committee can determine whether they have conflicts of interest that could unduly influence the way they advise the President.

According to ABC News, the confirmation process for Cabinet secretaries goes like this: Nominations, generally made by the President and/or his transition staff, are given to the relevant Senate committee; that committee opts to either hold a confirmation hearing, move the nomination straight to the Senate for a vote, or not do anything with the nomination, which “kills” it; if the committee holds a hearing, they may either vote whether to report the nomination favorably, unfavorably, or without any recommendation or “sit” on the nomination, which seems like another way to “kill” it; nominations that clear a committee–one way or the other–are moved to the Senate floor where a simple majority vote is held; if the nominees winds the majority vote, he or she becomes a member of the Cabinet.

Since the nominees must get voted in by the Senate, this process of getting his first-round nominees confirmed may not go as smoothly for Trump as he may want because the Republicans have a slim majority in the Senate.

Take the Attorney General confirmation. There are 100 seats (two senators for each state); the Republicans have 51 seats; but Jeff Sessions–the Republican Senator from Alabama–is the nominee for Attorney General and may not vote for himself as a show of good faith.

Too, Republicans that take issue with Trump’s nominees can and may “defect” and vote against them, and it would only take one or two of these kinds of votes to block a nominee. In 228 years, according to The Business Insider, nine Cabinet nominations have been outright rejected by the Senate, and eleven have either been withdrawn or the Senate has refused to act on them.

The other potentially “sticky” issue surrounding the confirmation of Trump’s nominees, according to a really interesting and informative article by NPR, is the fact they may not all have the same political philosophies or ideas for their leadership that he does.

In fact, Jessica Taylor for NPR, says, ” . . . [S]ome of the president-elect’s top would-be advisers revealed [during their hearings] . . . major policy breaks with the future president on issues Trump championed and views he expressed on the campaign trail — from Russian hacking, torture, a Muslim ban and registry, mosque surveillance, NATO, the Iran nuclear deal [to] infrastructure, deportations and that border wall.”

If these nominees are confirmed, it could mean that Trump will experience a lot of friction as he attempts to move forward on those more grandiose promises he made to his electorate.

The potential, though, for conflict between Trump and the members of his Cabinet can be construed as a positive for those of us that distrust Trump and are worried that he will be wielding his Presidential power essentially unchecked for the next four years (based on how readily he has broken with dozens of behavioral standards, customs, and norms throughout his campaign and transition into the White House and how willingly and easily the media, his supporters, and Congress have let him off the seeming hook), as long as that conflict stems from the members of his Cabinet pushing Trump to make smarter, more beneficial decisions.

Taylor says basically the same thing: “[The breaks in thinking between Trump and his cabinet nominees demonstrate] the potential constraints the president-elect could run into if he seeks to implement some of the more provocative aspects of what he campaigned on.” But she also acknowledges, “[A] lack of cohesion [at the Presidential level of government] could lead to . . . potential difficulty . . .”

Again, the Brookings Institute gives some insight into how differences in philosophy, belief, and opinion between the President and his Cabinet can be not just prophylactic but problematic.

In writing the institute, James Pfiffner locates the potential for “difficulty,” as Taylor terms it, very specifically in the relationship between Cabinet members and the White House Staff:

[B]y the late 20th century, major policy functions that used to be performed outside the White House were now integrated into the White House [it reads] . . . Additionally, political functions that had previously been performed by the political parties and in Congress were now located in the White House . . . [Yet] cabinet secretaries understandably resent “interference” from White House staffers . . . Once in office, cabinet secretaries are seen as advocates for their policy domain, champions for the workers in their departments, and aggressive seekers of budget resources . . . [Their] duties and inclinations often put them on a collision course with White House staffers, who are trying to rein them in and harness them to presidential priorities. 

In “Cabinet secretaries versus the White House staff,” Pfiffner illustates this principle using an example from the Obama administration:

[W]hen President Obama came to office, he initially intended to delegate legal policy on detainees at Guantanamo to his attorney general and friend, Eric Holder. Holder accepted the position with the understanding that he would make legal decisions independently of the White House, though of course the president would have the final say. In delegating some of the key legal decisions regarding detainee policy to Attorney General Holder, President Obama wanted to be seen as not letting politics interfere with legal principles. Obama told Holder to make legal decisions on the merits of the law rather than on political grounds.

Exercising his delegated authority, Holder decided to try some 9/11 terrorist suspects in criminal court rather than by military tribunals, and he chose New York City as the venue. The decision caused a political uproar, with congressional leaders threatening legislation to mandate military commissions at Guantanamo and not in the continental United States. Holder’s decisions reinforced White House staffers’ suspicion that he was not sufficiently sensitive to the president’s political interests. Ultimately, the White House staff, particularly chief of staff [Rahm] Emanuel, convinced Obama that the political repercussions of Holder’s decisions were more important than Holder’s legal judgments and his independence from the White House.

Because of the White House’s desire to maintain a certain image of political expediency, with the thought it would help get Obama re-elected in 2012, it urged Obama to undermine Holder’s authority during his first term, making it “difficult”–again–for Holder to keep the promises he made when he became Attorney General.

Holder promised the American people he would “end the policy of indefinite detention at Guantanamo by prosecuting some of its most notorious detainees; to investigate torture by the CIA; and to revitalize the department’s most neglected offices, like the long-suffering Civil Rights Division.” Although his agenda fell under the auspices of President Obama’s own agenda–to make the Department of Justice more of an independent agent, exercising first and foremost by the “rule of law”–when Holder’s actions conflicted with Obama’s efforts to make popular (read: right-leaning) decisions about unpopular issues like Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, Holder found himself struggling back and forth with the White House to do what he deemed as Constitutional.

The Obama-Holder situation illustrates what Pfiffner identifies as the “challenge” a President faces, when working with his Cabinet, “to maintain a healthy balance between too much centralization (executive decisions being made primarily by the White House) and the opposite problem of lack of coordination of policy making and implementation in [outside] departments and agencies.”

Trump is a very different man than Barack Obama. He comes from the world of business, but he has the sensibilities of an entertainer, and he is odd combination of a One Percent insider and Washington outsider. Still, he doesn’t seem any more willing to be led by his Cabinet than Obama was.

In fact, it will be fascinating–and very probably disturbing–to see how Trump–who has been labeled everything from “sociopathic” to “remarkably narcissistic” to superlatively “opportunistic“–and the members of his Cabinet will operate–jointly and separately.

Trump–for all his delusional Twitter claims–has an extensively documented track record of “playing” poorly with others, even just from his last few weeks in Washington.

But so, too, do many of his Cabinet nominees.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Daily Prompt: Cling

via Daily Prompt: Cling

So my favorite Internet provocateur, Jill Is Black, has this really smart video about “the revolution” in which she skewers those black people that imagine themselves in be in the cultural vanguard for using respectability politics–which are really just a set of behavioral expectations black people have compiled based on how they want white people to see us–to determine who can and cannot “fight” alongside the “true” race warriors when the shit goes down

For those of you that may have gotten lost in that last paragraph, let me clarify a few terms and key concepts for you. So we’re all on the same page. (Unlike the critical mass of “woke” black people and all the rest of us, as Jill suggests).

The revolution is the mythical unified effort that black people will exert against the white majority in some perennially futuristic time that will somehow–despite the fact that white people make up over 70% of the population, run the Fed, run the military, run law enforcement, run the infrastructure, and run the gun trade–ultimately free us from institutional racism and historic oppression in America.

Respectability politics are, as I said, the narrow-minded, self-abnegating, largely sexist, and extraordinarily divisive set of concepts of what is “proper” for black people to do in order to be considered a “credit” to the race.

Examples include having married parents; speaking Standard English and having impeccable written grammar; finishing high school with a diploma, not a GED; obtaining a degree, but in something prestigious and lucrative like engineering or medicine; being a Christian or Muslim; never needing an abortion; never needing a psychologist; wearing your pants up on your ass, if you’re a man, with a belt; only wearing silky weaves in “naturally occurring” colors, if you’re a woman, or wearing your natural hair or braids or dreadlocks that are meticulously groomed, preferably by a professional at a salon; refraining from shit like twerking, drinking alcohol, smoking weed, using profanity, and having unmarried sex–all sins–while dismissing, vilifying, hating, ostracizing, harassing, and even abusing “flamboyant” members of the black LGBTQIA+ community, “ratchet” members of the black working and middle class, black feminists, black members of the mentally ill community, and black weirdos (the mass of black people whose habits cannot be easily or comfortably classified) in repeated supposed efforts to “help” or “save” them–somehow not wrong.

(Take it from one of those black feminist mentally ill weirdos. I’m painting in broad strokes, but there is truth in what I’m putting up. Black people know it, even if they don’t want to admit it.)

The subset of “respectable” black people most frequently associated with the idea of the revolution–the “ones” expected to galvanize black people when it somehow finally pops off–are the “woke.”

Their version of respectability politics revolves around this absurd concept of effecting a sort of “purity” or total freedom from European (not really a thing) or white indoctrination and becoming a sort of African (also not really a thing) anew through Afrocentrism (natch), veganism, nationalism, militantism, historicism, anachronism, sexism . . .

Just think of a millennial version of, say, Speech from Arrested Development at the height of that group’s fame or Erykah Badu without the radical sexual freedom, slight thuggish air, gift for self-reflection and disclosure, or complete and utter lack of fucks about what society has to say about her–the Badu we all thought she was back in the day, with the three-foot gele and mudcloth wrap-dress–as frames of aesthetic reference.

The “woke” claim to love all black people and want all of us to unify and fight together as one against white supremacy and hegemony, but only after the “rest of us” get our lives together, whatever the-hell that means in a race like ours and a place like America.

I say that to say this: colorism did not get left back on the proverbial plantation after Emancipation; misogyny is no less destructive to black women when it comes from black men; fear is a hell of a drug; rage is even more powerful than that; poverty is the supreme form of disempowerment in a capitalist society; self-hatred is even more endemic in the black community than poverty; and “crabs in a barrel” is not the name of some cute children’s board game nor is it a mere or meaningless cliche when you use the phrase to describe the black community.

Homophobia is a cultural stumbling block for black people; transphobia is a cultural stumbling block for black people; complacency is a cultural stumbling block for black people; nihilism ain’t a river in Egypt but it does flow through the veins of a lot of black youth; Africa doesn’t have any more answers to our problems than Sway did to Kanye’s (Nigeria, Central African Republic, Sudan, Congo, Mali, Algeria, Libya, Somalia, and South Africa are all plagued by violent conflicts and/or widespread racial tension); and strength comes from more than ideology and rhetoric; people need clean water and adequate food in order to do anything, but especially to grow.

Individual togetherness for black people might be even more elusive than collective togetherness for black people, and collective togetherness for black people is elusive as fuck because we only seem to be able to trust each other when our levels of hope are excessively high (see: 2008).

It’s 2017, and America has just had eight years of a black President. Yet, black people haven’t made much progress in economic or political terms. Integration and assimilation may get us a figurative seat at the table, but we only get to drink water or eat appetizers while we’re sitting there.

The One Percent are still hogging all the main courses and ordering more on our dime. And, if we don’t want to watch them while they feast, too bad, because, even if we take out of cell phones to peruse our social media, every platform is full of distressing news story about their doggish demagogue, both true and false.

The KKK isn’t closeted anymore; Jeff Sessions is drawing comparisons to George Wallace; Meryl Streep sounds more Presidential speaking at the Golden Globes than our President-elect; the inauguration is only eight days away; and the only actual politician that seems excited about it is Vladimir Putin. Vladimir Putin.

Nevertheless, the “woke” contingency of the black community maintains that they are good (and “good”), and all the rest of us need to do is get like them, then we’ll be ready when the revolution comes.

(The battlefield for them is apparently a “Field of Dreams”–“if you build it (the army of pseudo African warriors)–he–or rather it (the revolution)–will come.”)

And while waiting for us to catch up in the spectrum of authentic/transcendent blackness, they bide their time by policing us, despite all of the very real issues and obstacles we all face in eking out our various black existences.

In her video, Jill is speaking to these “woke” black people. “Why do you get off on your revolution being exclusive?” she asks them.

“How am I the right kind of black to be invited to your revolution?” she wants to know.

This is an excellent question whose exploration will get me to my discussion of the daily prompt (I hope): clinging.

If Trump’s election should have taught black people anything it’s this: white people don’t need to be the same kind of white to come together and get done the things they need to get done to secure their position in American society.

Trump won because rich and poor whites, educated and uneducated whites, urban and rural whites, white men and women, conservative and moderate whites, LGBTQIA+ and cis-hetero whites,”elite” and “trashy” whites united with each other on the basis of their whiteness and voted for him–in record numbers.

Blackness is not a monolith; we are not all the same, but we don’t need to be. In times of crisis, all we need to be to and for each other is black and certain of the best course of action for us.

In the same way we banded together to elect Obama twice, we should’ve banded together to keep Trump out of office.

No, Hillary Clinton wasn’t an ideal candidate, but I still think we understood–we could safely say–that she would make a better President for Black America.

As it stands, one of the only major pieces of legislation that President Obama passed that improved black people’s lives on a large scale–the Affordable Care Act–is the first piece of legislation Trump has promised to attack.

If, last November, we had paused in our squabbling back and forth with each other all over the Internet about who is a king and who is a queen and who is a thug and who is a thot, gotten off our collective black ass, and voted for Hillary, we wouldn’t be biting our nails right now, waiting to see whether this asshole Trump will somehow figure out a way to repeal the 13th-15th Amendments as well.

But we didn’t mobilize ourselves because we cling to this childish, clannish notion that we should only vote for other black people. We cling to the notion that putting black people in formal leadership positions is the only way we can gain or harness any real power in this country.

Too, we thought we could make it all right if or when Trump won. We thought we’d survive just fine because we’ve survived ostensible worse. We also thought, secretly, like many poor whites that cast votes for Trump against their own best interests, that we could get him to view us more favorably somehow if we needed to.

Because we cling to this idea that by being the “right” kind of black, in large enough numbers, we can gain white people’s respect and acceptance and secure equality without having to fight for it.

Yes, we do.

We cling to the idea that our freedom from oppression can be “earned” by our compliance with punitive, racist “mainstream” cultural standards.

As the renowned black poet Yusef Komunyakaa says, “Second-class citizens can be awfully puritanical, and this is especially true when they’re striving for acceptance by the dominant culture.”

So we cling to the idea that if we can be morally or ethically superior to each other, and white people, we can “deserve” fair and equal treatment.

We cling to the idea that if we jettison the so-called worst of us, the so-called best of us can do better; we secretly buy into the white binary of the “good” and “bad” sorts of blackness.

Too, we cling to the fear–subconsciously–that we are the inferior beings that white racist stereotypes portray us to be–the constancy and conviction with which we are oppressed impels us to bridge the dissonance between what we see in ourselves and what Others pretend to see in us with the false, compensatory belief that we, not they, are wrong or delusional since we have such a profound distrust of ourselves–seeing as we are descended from the captured and not the captors–and this necessitates that we prove, continually, that we are not the niggers that would perhaps deserve to the sort of oppression we suffer at the hands of White America if they actually existed.

We cling to the idea that Africa was a utopia before slavery, and  we cling to the idea that antiquated, ahistorical traditions and practices from its various clans (tribes)–which many of us adopt really rather haphazardly–that we did not retain in an organic fashion and that have not been allowed to evolve organically along the same timelines as our culture and collective identity–can “fix” us.

We cling to the idea that there is something fundamentally wrong with being the descendants of slaves, even though slaves are largely responsible for making America into a global superpower, and the descendants of slaves have participated in the building and betterment of this country, from its inception, in some of the most innovative and important ways that any one people can be said to have participated.

And because we cling to the idea that we are deficient because of our slave past, we cling to the idea that we need to look outside of ourselves to determine how we should “be.”

We debase, degrade, refute, and exploit black culture, even though it is comprised of a perfectly decent and hugely impressive body of knowledge, beliefs, customs, and habits that are rightfully ours and have sustained us here–in America–for centuries.

We cling to the idea that because we have been victimized by white supremacy, we should pay more attention to stopping and healing that trauma than to stopping and healing the trauma we inflict on each other, which is much more urgent and plausible because we live in families, homes, and neighborhoods with each other, and we are infinitely more invested in each other. Not to mention that if we were more whole individuals, we would be less codependent on white approval, acceptance, and affection and more able and willing to take up for ourselves.

We’re not doing such a good job of that right through here, though. Regardless of the claims we use to admonish each other across intraracial lines. We could be standing shoulder to shoulder, facing down this incoming administration, but we’re not. We’re clinging to select groups of each other and continuing to miss the bigger picture.

We’re clinging to the belief that we need one true heroic male leader to get us up and over the mountain of our history and into our destiny.

It seems to be the only thing we can do in consistently large numbers–cling.

Black men cling to the idea that if they can dominate black women, they can gain “legitimacy” and some semblance of that approval, acceptance, and affection from white men.

Black women–even some feminists, even some lesbians–cling to the idea that if they can placate black men, they can gain “legitimacy” and some semblance of that approval, acceptance, and affection from black men and white people as a whole.

Black people as a whole cling to the idea that the revolution will “come”; it will arrive, like a day on a calendar, and strike an instinct in us like we are human lemmings, and we will suddenly, magically know how and be able to fight off our oppression.

But I think the revolution–if we remain in America–as long as we are a 12% minority–can realistically be nothing more than the collective realization and acceptance that black people will need to remain in a state of perpetual readiness to respond to crises like the Trump election and a state of functional togetherness so our responses are impactful.

The revolution cannot be exclusive. It cannot play out in a militaristic fashion; we’ll be exterminated.

The revolution will issue from us. It will have to be strategic. It will have to be encompassing–take the kings and queens and thugs and thots.

Jill says it in the caption beneath her video:

Too weird. Not weird enough [she writes]. Too intersectional, but[,] look, we really just need to focus on one thing right now, okay? Too capitalist, but we’re looking for donations. I don’t fuck with the government [,] but I just applied for a grant. Hey, how about this: just let me know right from the start that when you say you love blackness, you love YOUR blackness. You love people who agree with you. You love people who meet your requirements for blackness. But know that your exclusivity isn’t a revolution. It’s a club.

Blackness is not a monolith; whiteness is not a monolith. But white people have learned to–on a wide scale–come together to function as a needful unit. Black people need to learn to do that, too.

A club can’t go up against three-quarters of an entire country. We are going to need all hands on deck if we’re going to, say, regain the Democratic majority in Congress in 2018 or elect a more qualified and dignified President in 2020.

“The change that we need is the change that we create,” Jill writes in another post on her Instagram page. “But you knew that already.”

Black people–we have to let go of this stubborn, counterproductive notion that there is a “right kind of black.”

We need to stop clinging to the fairy tale of a revolution that will somehow happen in spite of our backward battling with each other.

You can say what you want in response with as much righteousnesss as you can muster, but you cannot deny; the proof is in the poll tallies.

And they show that the people that vote together, when it’s all said and done, get to gloat together.

America 101: Democracy

I’m starting my first special series of posts on this blog–dedicated to the inauguration of Donald Trump (what a surreal phrase to have to type)–with the supposed foundational concept of our government, and that it is a democracy.

Isn’t that the primary civics lesson we all receive in grade school? That America is the Great Democracy? (As if it’s the only democracy, which it isn’t).

The reason I’m questioning the truth of the nation’s democratic nature is because the claim comes with certain expectations–the main one being that we get to choose the people that govern us.

The other expectation is that we–the people–can change the tone of our leadership, the direction in which the government is leading the nation, and even the content of the laws that are used to govern us with our votes.

I know I’m not alone in feeling that the Presidential election of 2016 has thrown this contention into serious fucking doubt.

Merriam-Webster defines democracy as “a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections.”

And American government fits this definition, as far as I can see, until we get to the end–the “free election” part.

According to the Inter-Parliamentary Union, the international organization established in 1889 in part for the “firm establishment of representative democracy,” there are seven criteria that qualify an election as free and fair.

Conveniently, the United States is not a part of the IPU, even though 171 member parliaments and 11 associate parliamentary organizations across the globe are.

Anyhow, according to the IPU:

(1) Every adult citizen has the right to vote in elections, on a non-discriminatory basis.

(2) Every adult citizen has the right to access to an effective, impartial and non-discriminatory procedure for the registration of voters.

(3) No eligible citizen shall be denied the right to vote or disqualified from registration as a voter, otherwise than in accordance with objectively verifiable criteria prescribed by law, and provided that such measures are consistent with the State’s obligations under international law.

(4) Every individual who is denied the right to vote or to be registered as a voter shall be entitled to appeal to a jurisdiction competent to review such decisions and to correct errors promptly and effectively.

(5) Every voter has the right to equal and effective access to a polling station in order to exercise his or her right to vote.

(6) Every voter is entitled to exercise his or her right equally with others and to have his or her vote accorded equivalent weight to that of others.

(7) The right to vote in secret is absolute and shall not be restricted in any manner whatsoever.

In America, felons and aliens (I really do hate that term) cannot vote, by law.

While one can argue that aliens are not citizens, and so they shouldn’t be allowed to vote for the leadership in a country that isn’t “theirs,” the disfranchisement of felons is a trickier thing to justify in a so-called democracy.

There are actually 21 countries in the world where felons can vote while in prison; 14 countries where only certain felons can vote while in prison; 10 countries where felons cannot vote while in prison; and only four countries where felons cannot vote even after they have been released from prison.

Yes, America–with all its talk of freedom, equality, inalienable rights, and rehabilitative prison policy–is one of those four countries where felons can be permanently disfranchised after they are released from prison.

The policy varies from state to state, but, as of now, in Alabama, Arizona, Delaware, Florida, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, Nevada, Tennessee, and Wyoming, felons can lose their right to vote for perpetuity, which throws into question whether US elections can be regarded as “free and fair.”

Also, state laws often make it exceedingly difficult for Americans in certain regions to register to vote.

Then, there are the continual problems with voter fraud in federal elections, including underage people casting votes, dead people casting votes, people casting multiple votes, and aliens casting votes.

These things would be bad enough if in the Presidential election the popular vote determined the winner, but we also have the electoral college in the US, which pretty much negates the hell out of precept #6–“Every voter is entitled to exercise his or her right equally with others and to have his or her vote accorded equivalent weight to that of others.”

As we saw with W and again with Trump, the popular electorate can choose one candidate, but, because popular votes select electors, electors decide the Presidents, and the districts of the college are divided as illustrated below, that candidate can still lose the election.

Which makes one question, again, whether an election run by such a convoluted process can be regarded as “free and fair.”

And then there is the logical premise of the electoral college.

“[The framers of the Constitution] decided to delegate the decision [of who should be President] to wise elites. The framers thought they would be a check on demagogues and the popular passions,” says Jeffrey Rosen, president of the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia.

The “people” is everyone, not a group of “elites.” So is America a democracy or something decidedly less, well, democratic?

Let’s look at it through another lens. Political sociologist Larry Diamond claims a democracy has four qualifications, if you will–

(1) A political system for choosing and replacing the government through free and fair elections.

(2) The active participation of the people, as citizens, in politics and civic life.

(3) Protection of the human rights of all citizens.

(4) A rule of law, in which the laws and procedures apply equally to all citizens.

I’ve already contested the idea that America has free and fair elections; only about 60% of Americans vote in Presidential elections and even less–40%–vote in midterm elections; there are a plethora of issues occurring in our country right now–Flint, the DAPL–that could be viewed as federally sanctioned human rights violations; and the application of laws and procedures in this nation are mitigated by everything from citizenship status to race to gender.

So America doesn’t qualify as a direct democracy, no. I think that’s a reasonable, if troubling, conclusion.

Political sociologists tend to label America as a presidential democracy. The signification of the modifier is this: we, the people, get compensated for not being able to change constitutional laws, put forth referendums, and give orders to elective officials (as we would in a direct democracy) by getting to elect House representatives and senators directly.  And, in turn, these members of Congress “funnel” our interests into legislation and protect us from tyrannical rule by “checking” and “balancing” the President that we don’t actually elect.

While direct democracy might be preferable, as might a Presidential electoral process determined by the popular vote, we aren’t afforded these things because American democracy is all about constitutionalism.

Constitutionalism is belief in “the superiority of constitutional government and the necessity of a written constitution as the foundation of constitutional government.”

And the Constitution, in Article II, Section 1, says the President shall be elected by the electoral college. It establishes a permanent, oligarchical element in our “democracy” that keeps us–the people–from being able to truly choose our leader.

So what does this mean?

For me, it means that Americans have to do one of two things–either alter our concept of how much control we have over our government or fight to gain more control and make the nation a purer form of democracy.

And I opt for B because the fact that Trump is getting to be President even though he didn’t win the popular vote does more than just stick in my craw; the idea of him running the country terrifies me, quite honestly.

Everything that I believed about the danger he presents to blacks, women, the poor before he was elected, I still believe.

His bullshit talk of “togetherness” means nothing when his Cabinet appointments reek of white supremacy and his Tweets give off subliminal vibes of mental instability.

So I think that we should do a few things–Americans that still give a fuck about this country and want it to be the exulted democracy is already pretends to be.

We need to vote in every federal election–midterm and Presidential.

We need to do some lobbying of our own and broker our votes–only give them to the candidates that are talking about the issues that matter to us, saying the things we need to hear, and providing plans to fix the things that we view as broken.

Or we can lobby the lobby by spending our consumer dollars much more strategically, as in with businesses and industries that propose or back legislation that benefits us and not just them.

One of the first measures for which we should push, come the midterm elections, is the eradication of the electoral college.

No House or Senate candidate should get our vote unless he or she is willing to form a coalition with other candidates and propose an amendment to the Constitution that says the popular or general vote will elect the President and Vice President.

Too, we should push for newer, stronger laws that protect us against voter fraud and discriminatory registration practices and make it more difficult for poll workers and others to obstruct people from voting.

We may even need to push for the establishment of a screening process for poll workers similar to the process used in jury selection.

I can’t remember where I heard this line that I’m about to quote, but I remember it clearly, and I quote it to myself all the time: “America is work.”

I think one of our jobs as American citizens is to keep America as honest as we can, and one of the only tools we have to do that is the vote.

The other is our money.

We were promised an American republic by the founders, but we should’ve also learned from them that instituting the sort of government you want takes a drawn-out series of battles.

Trump’s inauguration will necessitate a new fight for our democracy.