Sunday, November 20, 2016

Unexpected benefits of the Trump Era #2: A chance to be courageous.

    Growing up in the 1970s as I did, there was a sense that the great moments of history were behind us. In the 1960s, just disappearing over the horizon, there were Civil Rights to win, a Vietnam War to oppose, protests in the street, a chance to stand up and be counted. A chance to matter. The whole world was watching.
    And before that, World War II, when our parents' generation—"The Greatest Generation"—had Hitler to oppose, a world to free. Not a lot of soul-searching required when Nazis are taking over the world (actually, there was, one of those small details lost in popular history. A reminder that general public cowardice and folly are not ailments specific to our present day. Most of America would have shrugged and let the Axis have the rest of the globe, under the daft notion that we'd somehow be safe between our oceans. The Japanese did us a favor).
    With the advent of Donald Trump, and the wasp's nest of un-American, radical haters he is installing in Washington, each of us suddenly has a job to do, a chance to matter, to be a soldier in the army of American decency. Sure, our country suddenly is frightening as hell, but that means each one of us will have plenty of opportunities to oppose the mean, counter-productive measures Trump's henchmen will put in place, whether unleashing religious bigots to oppress gay people, dialing back women's reproductive rights, or forcing Muslims onto some fascist-tinged "registry." Every time you go to the Target could be a test. We will be called upon to push back against the haters who, liberated by Trump's example, will now feel free to oppress others.
    Not that it will be easy, or at least not always easy. The third time I was noting on Facebook that of course all decent folks, especially Jews, will sign up for any Muslim registry, a sort of "I'm Spartacus!" standing with our singled out brethren, I paused, and asked myself, "So ... what if this new registry carries a penalty for false reporting? Say up to a year in prison and a $10,000 fine for representing yourself as a Muslim if you're not? Do you still sign up? Just how committed are you to this whole freedom thing?"
   A tougher question. Online bravado is easy— a good thing, in one sense, since that cuts both ways, and just as on-line support is easy, so is on-line hate, and that means the vast majority of the sewer-dwelling white nationalists on Twitter probably would not actually, oh, set fire to a black church in the real world. The way they used to. At least one hopes they wouldn't, though a string of atrocities is to be expected — acts of terror committed in the name of opposing terrorism. I certainly expect them.
     But don't be deceived. When the rubber hits the road this spring, standing up for American values will have consequences, more than just nudging yourself into the comforting crowd at a rally or tweeting a particularly cutting remark. There will come a point when you will have to put your neck on the line. What will you do then?
    That may be an opportunity that you have dreamed about. Had I lived back then, what would I have done? When the world is falling apart — and if our world won't fall apart, count on it to split a bit at the seams — what would I have done? 
    No reason to answer that now. We all imagine we'd be heroes. Sure, we'd see the child slip into the water, kick off our shoes and swan dive into the river to save her without a moment's hesitation. That's what we tell ourselves anyway. Even if, had the moment ever really came, we might have just stood there gawping, pointing one trembling finger, frozen.
     The moment is going to come. Count on it. As Donald Trump and all he represents sour the American dream, as the highest offices, then lower offices, are filled with hard-eyed bigots, they will begin to build their vision for this country. Some Americans will eagerly join in. People who will no doubt shock you, by their presence, grinning on the podium next to The Donald. People you know, joining in the general hilarity of running some loathed group down. No one dreams of being a quisling, but they will leap at the chance. If the government started to recruit members for the New Waffen SS tomorrow, the line to join would be a mile long. And some would oppose it so long as doing so was convenient and risk free. But as soon as that opposition has consequences, risks, danger, many, maybe most, will fold, and go grumbling back to the sidelines to watch the tragedy unfold.
     “If it weren’t for fear,” Hemingway wrote. “Every bootblack in Spain would be a bullfighter.”
     Not everyone will cave, of course. Some will stand their ground. How many do that — dig in, stand up for their beliefs, hold firm,
 even when it isn't easy, even when they are imperiling themselves — that will decide how this thing ends up, just how much of a tragedy our nation is in for. You always wondered what you'd do in a crisis. Soon you'll get to find out.


  1. You didn't grow up in the 70's, Neil. You still haven't grown up. Waffen SS? Yea, right. Your call to arms is not some brave equivalent to diving into freezing water to save a child, or to standing up to Hitler in the '30's. It most certainly is not putting your neck on the line as you want to heroically claim. It is just a deluded hissy-fit people have as teenagers, the kind of thing they grow out of, the kind of thing that when they reach 25 they look back on with embarrassment at their naïveté.

    In 4 years when you look back and see how deluded your fears were, will you finally be grown up enough to be embarrassed?

    1. So far Trump has nominated 3 white supremacists. His other mentioned Cabinet members are utterly incompetent for the positions. How do you expect the country to work, Jeffrey?

      We lost a major American city when W decided to put an inexperienced and unqualified Brown in charge of FEMA.

      Donald has already met with Trump business partners. McConnell and Ryan will hold impeachment over his head to have him sign their every dream of undoing the safety net. And the anger caused by the predicted economic crash without a net? Will be directed at those Trump hates. He's never accepted responsibility in his life.

      When will you be embarrassed?

    2. J. Clark, I don't think it's naive to have studied and learned from history. That's what we should do so warning signs can be recognized and acted upon. If you read Erik Larson's book, In the Garden of Beasts, you might see quite a few parallels to what is occurring now. Too many people back then just shrugged and said eh it won't be too bad. We know how well that attitude helped.

    3. Mr Clark; if you think for a minute that this narcissistic president elect has any loyalty to the deluded millions who voted for him you are the one living in a teenagers fantasy world. I beg you to look at his history of treating people. Look at his family, 3 wives? Look as his business dealings, lawsuits on top of lawsuits. He's already walking back his promises to "Put Hillary in prison", "build a wall", and repeal Obamacare. More likely you will be commiserating right along side of all of us in 4 years.

    4. 3 white supremacists? You do know that if Trump appointed Jesus Christ himself to a position, the New York Times and the rest of the mainstream media would call Christ a racist, right? Maybe try other sources. Check the Hollywood Reporter interview with Bannon. Seriously. Read it.

      And we lost New Orleans due to Brown? The New Orleans flood was on August 29, 2005 - over 11 years ago. First, you do know Brown had nothing to do with the flood, right? He and FEMA dealt with the aftermath - AFTERmath - i.e., the rescue and rebuilding. And he was relieved of his job on September 9, 2005 - after 11 days. It is now 11 YEARS later, New Orleans is a vibrant city, and you still bitterly cling to Bush and Brown having LOST A CITY.

      Re your last paragraph regarding Trump, meeting with business partners, Ryan, McConnell, impeachment, dream of undoing the safety net, those sound like the ramblings of someone with paranoia. If Trump and his administration are all white supremacists, why would Ryan et al. (all white supremacists too, I presume) need to force Trump to do what they want. Don't you think they all want the same thing?

      Instead of making yourself overwrought, relax and wait to see what really happens.

      Maybe this will help. If Trump is the kind of guy who never takes responsibility for anything, then take solace in knowing he will be just like Obama.

      But seriously, someday you need to learn that policies are not automatically intended to hurt minorities just because they differ from liberal policies. The New York Times does not want you to know this, but the racist, white supremacist, homophobic, yadda yadda winners of the last election not only want all groups to prosper, but they have policies which they believe will best accomplish those ends. You've worked yourself into a lather and the guy is still 2 months from even taking office. Give them a chance. After all, how have those liberal policies worked out in Chicago, Detroit, etc.? Talk about losing a city!

    5. Normally I delete commentators who are personally insulting, but I left Jeffrey up because I assumed he would provide a clinical example of the mentality that has given us President-Elect Trump, and he has not disappointed me. Refutation is unnecessary, because the remarks are self-refuting. Though I would draw attention to the paranoia of the first sentence. Jesus Christ! And people complain when we reach for Hitler. The truth is actually 180 degrees the opposite -- liberals hunger for any shred of decency. Say he names Romney secretary of state. Cold comfort, but I'd take it, pointing out that he was able to do something so uncharacteristic because Obama also named a rival to the post, kind of the way Melania plagiarized Michelle Obama.

    6. I read In the Garden of Beasts. Thanks for reminding me. I should have included Hitler and Nazis along with the other overwrought labels given to people who don't agree with Democratic policies. That one was popular when Bush was president, but made a comeback this election.

      Don't get me wrong. I too know that Trump is far from perfect. But the choice was not between Trump and Jesus (racist or not). It was between him and differently but equally imperfect Hillary. If you're mad that the Republicans only gave you Trump as an alternative to Hillary, imagine how mad Republicans are that Democrats only gave them Hillary as an alternative to Trump!

      Why don't you guys do this as an experiment - write here all the horrific things you think Trump will do ... concentrations camps, registration of Muslims, end free elections, kill puppies ... whatever has made you so overwrought, and then we can come back in a few years and check to see whether they really happened. If you had done that during the Bush years, you might have grownup by now, but this will be a second chance at the lesson, one especially important in the day of the Internet ...

      If you hear about something so outrageous that you find it unbelievable, DON'T BELIEVE IT.

      That's especially true if it comes from Neil Steinberg. He's the kind of weasel who likes to whip up a crowd of followers into a frenzy. It makes him feel important. Like Hitler.

      Did I do the Nazi comparison right?

    7. Neil, I don't recall Democrats calling Romney a decent man when he ran for president. Remember some young hazing incident, a dog on his car, him killing a woman with cancer? Now that he totally repudiated Trump during the election, he can be called a decent man? And you throw that out there as something you know no winning candidate would do - make someone who said he loathes him as his Secretary of State - it seems to me because you do not want to be in the position of having said something which might later force you to approve of anything Trump does.

    8. You're doing your Nazi brethren just fine there, JC. Twisting logic and events around to bend reality into your point of view and calling those who don't toe your line weasels and worse. False equivalencies between Clinton and Trump (she is nowhere near as bad as him, in fact she even has checkmarks in the positive column). Making wild generalizations and telling us poor little chickens there's nothing to fret about while you watch the farmer sharpening his cleaver.

  2. My kids are pretty well grown so the only thing I really have left to fret over is my comfy fat rear-end. Standing up is something I can still do for them, I hope my legs fight the tremble when the time comes.

    1. Walter, did you stand up for your kids when Obama doubled the national debt they will have to repay?

    2. You are entitled to your own opinions, Jeff, mean-spirited and small-minded though they might be. You are not entitled to your own facts -- the debt shrank under Obama.

      Now take a rest, as you're becoming tiresome.

    3. Neil, I have a few quibbles with the Steve Benen's article you cite. First, Benen ignores the roll played by the Tea Party when it came to an agreement with President Obama called sequestration. Second Benen like many, confuse the difference between the total deficit, and the incremental annual increase in the total deficit called deficit spending. The title of his article should be deficit spending shrinks by $1 trillion in Obama era. Every year the total debt rises by the amount of deficit spending that occurs each year. There are expert economist that calculate the current lower deficit spending, as a percentage of national GDP, will have a minimal impact on the economy, I worry they may be wrong. Trump has shown his disdain for the Tea Party in the past. I'm really worried about Trump because he is an expert at running up debt.

    4. I expect resistance to running up the debt by budget hawks in Congress, most of them in his own party, will be his Achilles heel. Much of what he sold the electorate comes with big price tags. The "wall," if it is ever built, won't come cheap, nor will the cost of rounding up and deporting two million people (The moral and social costs are something else.) His big infrastructure project won't be more welcome in this congress than were efforts along that line by Obama.

      I understand why people are alarmed, but it might be best to wait for some specific targets to shoot at. Perhaps the most practical mode of resistance is to give money to people already organized to lobby legislators and resist egregious legislation in the courts. If you're worried about global warming, The Union of Concerned Scientists; a woman's right to chose, Planned Parenthood; the environment, Nature Conservancy; gun violence, the Brady Campaign; etc. etc.

      Tom Evans

  3. Call me naive, but I'm more afraid of Trump's incompetence than his malevolence.

    Of course the two can certainly feed each other, as the malevolent reactionaries he appoints talk him into one horrible decision after another.

    Bitter Scribe

    1. There's a light at the end of the tunnel; and it's a train headed this way. :(

  4. "If Trump is the kind of guy who never takes responsibility for anything, then take solace in knowing he will be just like Obama"
    Obama has been the most dignified, mature, responsible, thoughtful president in my lifetime. He exudes competence and gravitas. His reward has been to be demonized, called a communist, exposed to every sort of racial slur, and generally treated by the Right like the classic "other". You have been trained by the Murdoch meme machine to hate anything and anyone who might be loosely called liberal, regardless of reality. They have succeeded.

  5. Jeffrey makes me think of zombie movies, where the people who get killed get up and kill. But in Jeffrey World the zombies who get brainwashed get up and brainwash. Soulless shells of human beings roaming the land. Certainly no point in arguing with them.

    But thanks, Neil, for posting, or allowing them to post, their sickness. It's a good reminder of how bad they are and how many there are.


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