It’s 1861 in America

June 24 Jon Meacham just said on TV that we believe Trump is destroying America. Well, the conservatives believed Obama, the Democrats, and the Liberals were destroying America; they believed my wife and I helped destroy America b/c we, an interracial couple, got married in 1964. Obama was a tryrant, Liberals hate America, and Nancy Pelosi enlists MS 13 members to get her reelected. They believe that just like we believe Trump and the Trumpsters and their fellow-travelers, the GOP, are destroying America. It comes down to how you define terms, as usual. For example, what is America? To Liberals, it is a set of ideals, often not instantiated very well but not thrown out either. To Trumpsters, America is, in their words, a White Christian nation. Note the lack of a comma, b/c it is the combination of White and Christian that defines an American. Chief among their values is male dominance. Liberals do not believe America is identified with a “race” nor a religion nor a sex.

So when people talk about disagreement, they are using the wrong word. The Trump administration is committing child abuse at the border. I worked for Child Protective Services for 2 years and with that background (plus many years working in a psychiatric clinic’s Child & Family division) I clearly call child abuse on this administration. Therefore, I am not disagreeing with Trump or Nielsen or Kelly or Miller or Sessions or anyone else setting and carrying out this policy, I am publicly accusing them of child abuse just as I would point to a thief who had just swiped a purse off a restaurant table. There’s no disagreement there. There is a crime. And the criminals must be accused and stopped.

When two groups of people so totally and consistently view the world in an entirely different way (dog eat dog vs community, Social Darwinist vs democrat, closed society vs open society, liberty vs freedom and inalienable rights, zero sum vs a win–win game, national vs international, and so on), agreement and compromise and cooperation do not make a lot of sense. For example, a win–win strategy is a collaborative strategy and conflict resolution process that aims to accommodate all participants. The conservative laughs at that notion, believing that one group’s gain must necessarily be another group’s loss and group loyalty demands that the group fight for a win. This becomes murderous when the notion of the Liberal, that society can be designed in a way that all participants can profit from it in one way or the other, spells the doom of one group, i.e zero sum.

It was just this murderous intent on both sides in 1861 that spoiled the chance for compromise. When a small segment of the population in the North understood what agony slavery was, they said we fall or rise as a nation depending on the outcome of this conflict with the slaveholders. The Southern slave owners were sure their survival in a position on top of an economic pie was threatened and persuaded several hundred thousand non-slave-owning White Southerners to lay down their lives to protect the planter class. In the same way, Trump and his cronies have persuaded millions of White Americans to set aside their interests as middle class Americans in order to further enrich Trump’s favored group.

Now we know how the Trumpsters felt in 2008 when Obama was elected and many of them were losing their homes and jobs and the Tea Party and other conservatives shifted the blame for the Recession onto Obama. Helpless and enraged, like the wounded Confederate POW who asked his Yankee guard, “Why are y’all doing this to us?” The guard might have answered, “Because you are breaking up the country.” And the POW might have responded, “Why can’t you just let us go?” Good question.

July 3, 2018 Just finished Corey Robin’s The Reactionary Mind on my stay up north in the cool. I recommend the book to anyone who wants to understand the trajectory of conservatism. Robin’s point is that all conservatism is reactionary b/c conservatism does not arise except when something changes and someone does not like it and reacts against; then he becomes an ideological conservative. I’m writing up for a friend a bunch of quotes from the book, incl a number of quotes directly from conservatives from Edmund Burke to Donald Trump – oops! I mean reactionaries. I always thought of reactionaries as being people like the Tea Party and the Freedom Caucus while conservatives held to common and reasonable principles like small government, low taxes, pro-business policies, strong defense…. all things I disagree with on a sliding scale e.g. strong defense, yes, but not to the exclusion of infrastructure spending and certainly not to “project American power” in the Neocon sense. But I see what Robin is getting at: the French Revolution so rocked the world of Europe it hasn’t recovered yet. As the world overall is leaning authoritarian, and autocrats are all the rage, we see a similar reaction to globalization. Instead of meeting it head-on and dealing with it, conservatives want to resist it, as in, “If only change just would go away.” That was not my objection to Main Street Republican conservatives; I knew they did not like the Civil Rights Movement but I attributed that to the deeply inculcated racism of the country that would eventually decline due to contact, intermingling and even, *gasp* intermarriage, kind of like the hostility to gays subsided as more and more came out to friends and family.

However, no hoppen. Black Lives Matter is still depicted as a thuggish push-back against legitimate police action, just as MLK was depicted as a dangerous militant.

The military adventurism so beloved of Neocons allows foreign and trade policy to be extended by “other means.”

Pro-business means Citizens United where huge corporations dictate our policies.

Low taxes applies only to corporations b/c middle class Americans have to support the government which serves the corporations so the corporations don’t have to pay for it.

Small government is small only when it comes to serving the needs of citizens. For corporations it provides subsidies and favorable trade deals, waxing muscular when citizens’ groups try to bring some balance into the market place.

Robin deals with something liberals have been railing about for years, the way middle class and some working class Americans vote for people who are beholden to corporations and are willing to work against the American people. I am not talking about pollution control and border control; I am talking about financial, economic matters which eat away at Americans’ livelihood and well being. If the toxic bonds of subprime mortgages leading to a recession which took many homes away from Americans did not wake them up, there is little chance of Trump taking people’s kids away from them will do anything to rouse them. So how does this happen? It is the slight-of-hand of the elites to champion populism, thus bringing the mass of people to their side. The slave holders did it at the end of the 17th century, convincing poor, non-slave owning Whites to work with them in controlling the slave population rather than fighting back against the loss of land, economic security, health, and so many other elements of life that the Southern Way of Life stole from its citizens. The South has remained poor ever since – spare me the wonderful stories of economic development and “The New South” when polling shows overwhelming support for the most backward policies in the South. Writers are now talking about the Southernization of America equating to loss of unions and health benefits, as in, “Who needs health care when we’ve got Jesus?” And that sums up the culture wars right there. “As long as my darlin’ daughter has her babies, it doesn’t matter what happens to the babies – that’s God’s will.”

So are we fucked? Michael Moore and Bill Maher seem to think so. See Maher’s July 1 show. 60% opposition to Trump does not show up at the ballot box, only voters show up there. If they don’t, maybe we’ll get what we deserve: a Putin doing our thinking for us, a Dutarte doing our policing, an Ergogan doing our religious instruction, a Mugabe as an ethics watchdog. Maybe Obama should have let the auto companies and banks go under. We’d be living in tents now but the bankers would be there along with us.

July 4 (Happy Fourth) marks the bombardment of Ft. McHenry. The Civil War started with the bombardment of Ft. Sumter. Our second civil war may start with the bombardment of the border with Mexico using mortars against families trying to get across after being turned away at Ports of Entry where they were seeking asylum according to the laws of the U.S. I can hear Trump now: “We don’t need no stinking laws. Fire away, boys!” Well, at least we’ll have their kids safe in cages. Our government: all heart.

 

 

 

2 Comments

  1. 伟思礼 says:

    “Why can’t you just let us go?” Good question.

    People in some states talked about secession if Clinton were elected.
    People in other states talked about secession if Trump were elected.

    While I believe in “states’ rights,” those people were a minority in each state, meaning there can never be a serious move in that direction. But the way things are going, the active and vocal minorities, especially those willing to be violent (on both sides), do make me wonder about the future of the country.

    1. Pat Barrett says:

      We just got back from 5 days in a cabin up in the mountains. I finished a book there titled The Reactionary Mind. Despite its title, it is a scholarly look at conservatism (which does not arise until something happens to react to, according to Cory Robin, the author) from Edmund Burke to the first 6 months of the Trump admin.
      Secession would be good for Liberals b/c they inhabit states that can sustain themselves and a new nation; the Conservative or Red states suck money from the Federal gov’t like some animal, like the guy who says, “I worked my way thru college and no one helped me” and it turns out he went to a state school. I agree, it won’t happen, but maybe we can build a wall between CA and AZ (oops, I’d be on the wrong side)
      When have we not had vocal and active minorities? The revolutionaries of the late 1700s in this country were a vocal, active AND violent. Yet we honor them with the title of Founding Fathers and Patriots. Black Lives Matter would be honored as peaceful demonstrators (actually, they are) should we ever activate a Black state; if the alt-right founds a state, BLM would be labeled the anti-Christ that drove them to it by the blood-bath they unleased on White American.
      Robin says Conservatism does not arise until there is a change, then they oppose it. The change is almost always seen as threatening the hierarchy. He illustrates this with quotes from Burke, Adam Smith (who would be a Centrist Dem today), Nietsche, Schumpeter, the Austrians (Mises and Hayek), and Ayn Rand gets a full chapter as does the development of the GOP Right through the 70s, 80s, and esp 90s, and then Trump. Robin quotes directly from these people and it is hard………. used to be hard to imagine anyone saying these things in public (tho now they are said routinely since we have dropped P.C. and just talk about dumb Mexicans and criminal Blacks – no problem). But the sense of the superior man and the hierarchy of race and gender are present in all Conservative writings incl. Wm F Buckley et al. Do you see yourself as superior, dragged down by the mass of dullards and layabouts, all my coworkers are stupid, ignorant and lazy and I am not head of the company b/c of unfair practices like non-recognition of my genius. That IS how these people think. He really takes on Scalia.
      My interpretation of them is that they are in essence childish. The Libertarian rambles sound like nothing more than a 14 year old miffed b/c of a new zit and that cute boy/girl’s refusal to accept the prom invitation. One of them now has the nuclear trigger in his hands.
      BTW, just who on the left is currently violent or threatening violence? I see the KKK and Nazis on the Right; where are analogous forces on the Left?

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