Saturday, January 13, 2018

When does the surprise stop?

Black Warrior
 by John James Audubon (born Haiti, 1785)
     So Donald Trump runs a campaign based on racism. His very first remarks, Day One, castigating Mexicans as criminals and rapists. He constantly winks and tweets at the vilest form of white nationalist haters, inviting them to enjoy the prospect of an acceptability not known in this country for 100 years. 
      And yet we're surprised. We seem to be surprised to hear him on Thursday, in the Oval Office, refer to "shithole countries" such as Haiti and El Salvador and parts of Africa. 
     Why is that? Is this complicated? What's not to get? Why is it so slow to sink in? 
     There is an aspect of racism that is just hard to believe, that is hard for the modern thinking American to realize forms the basis of the worldview of people like our president and his supporters. 
     "Shithole countries."
     Set aside the obscenity for a moment. The logic, to stretch the term, of such a statement is the central fallacy of white supremacy: You are where you come from. Nationality is destiny. To be a good person you must come from a good place, because bloodlines are destiny. And good places are white places. Because, being white, we need white faces around us. Diversity is genocide. That's a quote. "Diversity is genocide." They are so insecure about themselves that every difference undermines their existence.
     So if real Americans don't come from shitholes like Haiti or African nations, where do they come from? Oh right. From Germany, like Donald Trump's grandfather, and the Scandinavian countries, from Great Britain and a few other traditional sources of white people. Except of course if they're Jewish. Or Catholic. 
      You do realize that we all come from "shithole countries." Nearly all of us. Every black or brown person, every Jew and Muslim, every Italian and Irish immigrant—maybe not now, but in the day. 
     You don't have to be a bigot to support Donald Trump. You just have to frame reality a certain way. I ran into plenty of Jews at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, yarmulkes firmly bobby-pinned to their heads, going all out for Donald Trump, willing to overlook the fact that he is making our country more dangerous for Jews and every other minority with a puff of hope and a focus on his slightly-more-fervent-than-Hillary support of the equally-right wing administration currently in power in Israel.  The kind of Jews who pinned on their WWI medals before being loaded into the truck.
Red Shouldered Hawk (Metropolitan Museum of Art)
     You just need to be ambitious. Marco Rubio, senator from Florida, which has the largest Haitian population in the nation, stared at his shoes after Trump made his remarks. 
    Or value your job. 
    Raj Shah, the deputy press secretary, whose parent immigrated to this country from India, which is not Norway either, issued this statement defending the president: 
     “Certain Washington politicians choose to fight for foreign countries, but President Trump will always fight for the American people. Like other nations that have merit-based immigration, President Trump is fighting for permanent solutions that make our country stronger by welcoming those who can contribute to our society, grow our economy and assimilate into our great nation.”
     The classic shifting of the discussion away from the undefendable toward something that almost makes sense, or might, if you ignore the central point. Trump is a racist. His supporters are either racists or willing to be blind to racism. Like most feel-good drugs, it takes a momentary high—the boost of unearned self-approval—at the risk of enormous long term harm. They would undo our nation and our modern world to maintain their fragile sense of superiority. They are in the act of undoing it now.
     I'd like to end with something hopeful, but I got nothing. Vote every Trump-enabling Republican out of office this November and fight for something better. This isn't who we are, yet. But it is who we will be, if we don't stop them. 


  1. Raj Shaw would like us to believe his boss isn't a racist, but has no problem supporting discrimination along class lines. His statement sounds a lot like Varna to me. That kind of philosophy melds nicely with the American upper crust.

    1. I guess he considers people from the nations Trump disparaged to be this country's untouchables.

    2. That would be my guess too, Wendy. For what it's worth.

  2. The precedent that Trump is setting for future Presidents is frightening at best. I hope my instinct of "we are SO f*cked" is wrong.

  3. I wonder if the spate of GOP'ers planning to retire from Congress indicates that they know in their hearts that the mid-terms are not going to be good for them. They've energized not just their base but also their opponents and there are a lot more of them than there are Trumpers.

  4. The hi-lited text at the end is confusing. Made me think the last two paragraphs are part of the quote.

    1. Sometimes when I cut and paste a quote, it'll carry formatting like that, which doesn't show up when I read it in draft. Thanks for pointing it out; fixed now.

  5. some recent immigrants have the :"close the door , I'm in" attitude . some government officials are collaborators to avoid being targeted or losing their power. Initially the comparisons of trump to hitler seemed hyperbolic to an unnecessary extreme. now I see the themes of fascism much more clearly. the if your not with us your against us mentality of this administration the attacks against their opposition, the divide and conquer strategy , the xenophobia , the racism which has definitely shown itself to lean towards white supremacy. the attempts to dismantle conventions , disregard protocols , disrupt diplomacy and obstruct justice is the definition of fascism . while the checks and balances inherent in our government and strong foundation of our constitution have prevented the autocratic control sought by mr trump and this administration, I am concerned by the clear support he receives by a remarkable number of citizens which I feel is far above the 30% the polls show. how is it possible that so many of our countrymen have the same views as this aspiring tyrant? yes vote against this movement but moreover find the energy to affect the folks who generally don't vote and shockingly there are an enormous number, to rise up in a tsunami of resistance. the fake news narrative is a device used to effect voter suppression. mobilize people. get out the vote. not just in the liberal bastions but in the gerrymandered districts that will bring the swing.

  6. From NBC News:

    A career intelligence analyst who is an expert in hostage policy stood before President Donald Trump in the Oval Office last fall to brief him on the impending release of a family long held in Pakistan under uncertain circumstances.

    It was her first time meeting the president, and when she was done briefing, he had a question for her.

    “Where are you from?” the president asked, according to two officials with direct knowledge of the exchange.

    New York, she replied.

    Trump was unsatisfied and asked again, the officials said. Referring to the president’s hometown, she offered that she, too, was from Manhattan. But that’s not what the president was after.

    He wanted to know where “your people” are from, according to the officials, who spoke off the record due to the nature of the internal discussions.

    After the analyst revealed that her parents are Korean, Trump turned to an adviser in the room and seemed to suggest her ethnicity should determine her career path, asking why the “pretty Korean lady” isn’t negotiating with North Korea on his administration’s behalf, the officials said.

    Either he was joking, or he wasn't. I'm not sure which alternative is more appalling.

  7. What fascinates me is how totally tone-deaf Trump is. He doesn't seem to have even a minimum amount of common sense when he mouths off. Crap flows out of his mouth the second his brain thinks of it...he has no edit button.

    1. Apparently these days that's called "telling it like it is," "saying what you think" and "not being politically correct."

  8. Saw this in person today, then just looked it up on Twitter. Renowned north side hot dog place, The Wiener's Circle, has upped its outdoor sign game lately. Current message: "People from all countries welcome at this sh-t hole."


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