Tuesday, January 31, 2017

A Startling Echo of A Dangerous Time

It has been ten days since the White House gained a new occupant. I can't even begin to describe the objectionable, stupid, and/or morally reprehensible actions of the Trump presidency thus far. What I am going to point out today are two essential points that people with functional consciences that are not hardened, irredeemable assholes need to absorb and act upon without delay.
The first is none of what has taken place should be a surprise to anyone. He is doing what he said he was going to do, and Trump being Trump, he is doing as much as he possibly can by executive order, because that's the way Trump is and has been his entire life. There are many ways that the fact that he is President is an indictment of how broken and awful our political system is, but perhaps the most disturbing in the long term is that so many people that marked ballots for him are so used to politicians not doing things that they say they are going to do when they are campaigning that it comes as a major shock when somebody actually does walk the walk. I certainly do not admire Trump or any of his announced agenda so far, but I will say this much--he has a fifty-year history of trying to accomplish what he says he wants to do. The bullshit and lies come later, when what he wants to do blows up in his face and crashes down.
The second is that while a lot of the country is absolutely aflame with outrage--much of it is not, not by a long shot. I'm not seeing protests in places like Tennessee and Utah and South Dakota and Louisiana. I'm not seeing anyone from Alabama and Iowa and Missouri freaking out on my TV. In the cultural cross-section that is social media, I'm seeing a vocal minority highly enthusiastic about the measures being taken in a supposedly liberal bastion like the state I live in. While polling numbers may tell us that Trump's disapproval ratings are historically high for a guy in his first month in office--there are still nearly 40% of the people asked that are approving of what he is doing.
This is what a house divided looks like, people. If you wondered, when you were in high school and daydreaming in American history classes, what it was actually like in the 1850's as the country lurched toward civil war, you don't have to imagine anymore. The fault lines of this society are largely sectarian, and many of the same issues are dividing us as those that were dividing us 140 years ago: racism, anti-immigrant fervor based on religious intolerance, a sharp divide over the country acting as an imperial power in foreign policy, a judicial system devoted to protecting the elites and unresponsive to changes in culture and population, Congressional leaders entrenched in the corridors of power and beholden to particular special interests, a generation whose time had passed stubbornly refusing to give way.
And most frighteningly, a vocal, reactionary minority armed to the teeth and ready to shed blood for racist, exclusionary, and anti-democratic values. Ready to kill for their right to lord it over other human beings. Ready to use the power of the government they claim they despise to force the majority of the nation to bend to their will. Protests are a start, but if anyone thinks that popular outrage is going to stop these people, they're out of their mind. The best-case--best case-- is that the ballot box finally brings to power not only a President that is not a tool of the existing corporate powers and a champion of fascistic elements, and those determined to live in a society that espouses and enforces racist, know-nothing, might-is-right values decide that they do not want to be a part of the United States anymore. Whether the rest of us fight another war to bring them back, or end up fighting another war to keep them penned up in the pestilential hellholes that these climate change-denying, environmentally unfriendly are going to turn the South, West, and southwest into in as the inevitable progression occurs, is a question for my daughter's generation when they are my age.
But make no mistake. There are a few people that are saying, "oh my god, what I have done by voting for this guy?" But there are a lot more who are cheering, because it is exactly what they voted for. I've stopped being overtly political, for the most part, in my everyday life, not because I don't care or because my views have changed.
I'm watching, taking notes and taking names. When the real shit storms starts, it will be good to know who's on the right side, who's on the dark side, who can be ignored, who has to dealt with. And there is no longer any doubt in my mind that the shit storm is coming. I'm not sure when, But unless I get cancer or something and die in the next year or two, I'm afraid that I am going to see it start... What I gave a lot of thought to, when I first began to consider the pre-Civil War era with an adult mind, was not the people who grew up with sectarian strife and discordant value systems as their default, normal state. I wondered about the people that were born after the country was independent, that began life in the America of Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe, that saw over the course of their life the country move from "The Era of Good Feeling" to a society at war with itself. I thought that it must have been a bitter disappointment to those people to see what they had known all their lives fall to pieces.
And now, I don't have to imagine how they felt. The America I grew up is already gone. But what it is becoming is a place that I don't want to be in. It's gotten past the point of caring who wins the contest; I mean, obviously I would like my values and mindset to triumph. But at what cost? Do I really want another fight to the death? Do I really want to live in a country where friends and relatives are implacably opposed on substantive matters?
Well, as John Lydon sang so long ago, 'This is what you want. And this is what you get."

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