Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Two Circuses

I watched the Academy Awards and Trump's address to Congress in their entirety.
For the first time in years, if ever, something unexpected happened at the Academy Awards last Sunday. As everybody who doesn't live under a rock knows, the wrong Best Picture award was given to La La Land when it was actually destined for Moonlight. It took forever to right the wrong on stage, but in the end, Moonlight won Best Picture. It was all the more bizarre because since Trump became president we seem to be living in a particularly sadistic episode of The Twilight Zone, in which we are all starting to question our mental sanity and if Trump and Bannon have their druthers, reality itself.
Which leads me to the second circus: Trump's first address to the Joint Session of Congress. He has heretofore been so inappropriate and embarrassing, that we could not believe our eyes and ears as he managed to read from the teleprompter for an hour without losing his marbles. Everybody was shocked and relieved that he finally behaved like a president and not like a 5-year old brat. But what is important about his speech yesterday is not that he was able to read from the prompter, which should not be considered a heroic feat, but the content of what he read. If you listen closely to that speech, he is still not behaving like the President of the United States. He thinks he is the Sun King.
I assume linguistic scholars are hard at work on the thoroughly terrifying Trump rhetoric. By terrifying I mean not only the content: but also the way in which the order of his words and his usage mess with people's minds. It's like being tossed about by a raging storm at sea. There are calm passages of reassurance followed by hateful, paranoid exaggerations. Do not expect this guy's speechwriters to inspire anything but arrogance in his followers and dread in his opposition. It's horrible language.
In the case of NATO, for instance, Trump started paying his respects to our partnership with Europe, and the free world, yada yada, so much so that Chuck Schumer stood up and clapped. Once Schumer sat down, however, Trump tore the NATO allies a new one. In the case of immigration reform, not only did he not assuage a single fear for the millions of families who stand to be separated or deported, but he made them all sound like they are to blame for all the troubles in the United States. This strategy of demonizing immigrants, painting them all like criminals, drug dealers, and murderers should chill the blood of every American citizen. It's scapegoating, pure and simple, and already scores of decent people are suffering all kinds of abuses. Not only undocumented brown people; totally innocuous visitors with legal papers are mistreated and abused because the people at ICE are feeling emboldened to treat foreigners like shit. So is the case with a famous 70-year-old Australian children books' author, a French Holocaust scholar, a Nigerian engineer, an American citizen of Puerto Rican descent in Chicago, and countless more we don't even hear about.  It is the systematic dehumanization of an entire group of people for nefarious political purposes. Nazism 101.
 Trump only wants immigrants with money to come here. It is still not clear what will happen to the crops, and all the shitty jobs Americans won't take, but I guess we will find out soon. I think criminals should be deported, but ICE considers criminals the kind of people who got a speeding ticket 15 years ago. They took a Salvadoran woman who was waiting for emergency surgery for a brain tumor out of a hospital and into handcuffs. Will this really make America great?
This ugly side of the United States is not new. It's as old as the Mayflower and has been here since Native Americans were betrayed and killed en masse. It has made itself known through years of slavery and state-sponsored racism, antisemitism, the Japanese internment camps, the Joe McCarthy trials, Abu Ghraib, the abuse of undocumented workers, etc. This xenophobic, racist side of America has always lived side by side with the visionary, democratic, generous, expansive side we all like to believe the US still represents in the world: a land of progress, of justice, of equal opportunity, of personal freedom.
Until now, the hateful side was relatively in the fringes, growing stronger thanks to Fox News and talk radio and shit media like Breitbart. Now it's out with a vengeance, legitimized and enabled not only by Trump, but by most of the Republican party. I have been here for 25 years and this is the first time I can remember a spate of antisemitic vandalism, bomb threats and violence.
Now we have the most reactionary government this country has seen in centuries; an administration that uses propaganda and hateful rhetoric straight from the playbooks of tyrants. And which came through power through extremely sinister means.
The Republican cheering that accompanied Trump's every bombastic, unrealistic promise is repugnant. The fact that they are doing everything in their power to obstruct the investigation of Russia's involvement brands them all traitors. There is no decency left in this Congress, and except for a few glaring Democrats, that goes for both sides of the aisle.
I was looking forward to the Democratic response, only to be baffled and deflated by the ridiculous, pandering, toothless, inauthentic choice of having the ex-governor of Kentucky sit in a charmless diner where no food seems to be served, surrounded by a cast out of the Lawrence Welk show.
What on God's green Earth are the Democrats thinking? How can I unregister from this stupid party?*
I know what they are thinking. That somehow with this ersatz display of down-home heartland bullshit they are going to win votes in 2018. They're not fooling anyone.
Bernie Sanders, who gave his own impassioned and eloquent response, should have been the one to respond to Trump. He is his direct opposite, and an equal rock star to his base, which the party insists on ignoring, and he talks about the issues that affect everybody living in this crazy country.

*Serious question. I want out.

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