President Donald Trump catapulted the issue of growing numbers of athletes opting to “take a knee” during the playing of the Star-Spangled Banner before their contests further into the limelight this past weekend, jumping in on the side of the hyper-patriotic conservative reactionaries who have been, predictably, popping gaskets over this form of protest since former San Francisco 49ers Quarterback Colin Kaepernick first decided to sit out the anthem around this time last year. Trump spewed a typically vindictive, smirking and self-satisfied incitement, urging NFL owners to respond to protests by terminating any player who dares to take a knee.
“Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he’s fired. He’s fired,'” Trump said. “You know, some owner is going to do that. He’s going to say, ‘That guy that disrespects our flag, he’s fired.’ And that owner, they don’t know it [but] they’ll be the most popular person in this country.”
The president doubled down on Twitter Saturday afternoon.
“If a player wants the privilege of making millions of dollars in the NFL,or other leagues, he or she should not be allowed to disrespect. … our Great American Flag (or Country) and should stand for the National Anthem. If not, YOU’RE FIRED. Find something else to do!”
I wanted to write about this, but where to start? A sitting President who, already widely accused of white nationalist proclivities, profanely demands the revocation of fundamental rights for a prominent group of predominantly black young men who dare to speak up for a righteous cause? The now-customary Trump tactic of purposefully throwing a polarizing, divisive tantrum on the heels a a particularly bad news week? The pride-inspiring response of the NFL which, from top to bottom, demonstrated an admirable front of solidarity?
No, what gets me is the cheap rhetorical trick of equating the flag with veterans, and common protest with disrespect for veterans–a false equivalency that trivializes both the symbol of our nation and the men and women who have stood up to defend it or, too often, project its ideological will.
If one insists on waxing symbolic over the stars and stripes, it is compulsory to understand that the flag stands for so much more than military service, representing the core values–the unrealized ideals–upon which this nation was founded. Not just what we are, but what we purport to be, what we must aspire to be. Chief among these is free speech, particularly free speech in dissent.
The glory of the flag is that even the most disrespectful act against it as a symbol and, by extension, the institutions it represents, is turned into a sign of the strength. A protester burning a flag is at once showing her anger and disappointment while simultaneously demonstrating the freedoms the flag represents. In burning the flag, one proves its inviolability. You can’t really destroy the flag–burning its fibers only proves what it is supposed to stand for.
The flag does not need defense against committed young men who kneel before it to express their legitimate frustration and discontent in an inherently gentle act. Indeed, the flag protects them like a shield. In the same way, our veterans do not need to be protected from peaceful citizens who clasp hands, take a knee, and bow their heads quietly. Those veterans fought to preserve the right for these men to do so and, what’s more, both flag and fighting men and women are stronger than an imagined insult.
“The framed copy of Time Magazine was hung up in at least four of President Trump’s golf clubs, from South Florida to Scotland. Filling the entire cover was a photo of Donald Trump….”
“At 5 p.m. Tuesday, a spokeswoman for Time said that the magazine had asked the Trump Organization to remove the phony cover from the walls where it was on display.”
I’m a big fan of the WordPress community and the creativity this outlet and the people here wring out of me–quickly written, spontaneously conceived and sloppily edited. There’s something about wise-assed rants I don’t bother to edit or even proofread that is liberating. I mean what I say, except when it is clear that I don’t, but saying it here is like whooping on a roller coaster.
Where the hell have I been, then, during a historical time of political insanity? Earlier explanations of my hit or miss–mostly miss, to be honest–have blamed the time taken to generate salable content, but the more I introspect the more I realize that I’ve allowed that fucker, Trump, to bully me out of here. I’m a political junkie. As self destructive as the habit is, I can’t help follow the news, processing every outrage. Too many of my days begin with perusing the news, wondering what the bastard has done now, and delving into the stories of the day despite the corrosive cumulative effect on my soul.
I’ve been telling myself its’ a willful thing, not wanting to slog through politics, but the truth is that I’ve been using my sagging mood as an excuse. I’ve not only stopped fighting (here, at least) but allowed the discouragement to avoid recreational creativity and cathartic bitching and moaning at the very moment I not only need it most, but which is more heavily laden with potential inspiration than any time in my adult life.
So that’s on me. I need to do better. Call me out on it if I don’t.
The Interwebs are crackling with excitement over the possibility that finally, after an interminably frustrating 4 months in office (who thought he’d even last this long?) something might possibly stick to the, er,
gold plated Teflon-coated skin of our embarrassment-in-chief. The word “impeachment,” along with “Russia,” and “Traitor” is trending, and Trump apologists are hunkered down and hiding, at least for the immediate future–Charlie Rose reports that no less than 20 Republican politicians have declined interview invitations. Twenty. This could be unprecedented, begging the question: have twenty politicians ever refused to talk on the same day before?
I remain unimpressed. I just watched a video on CNN of Paul Ryan, jabbering about how we know nothing yet, that he has to gather evidence, especially given the lengths that people have gone to in order to undermine The President. He wants to convey objectivity without breaking loyalty, and I suppose if I was a Trump supporter I’d appreciate his effort, but I’m well past the point where I give the President the benefit of a doubt. Trump has been managing his presidency like a performance art parody of a multi-cam comedy about a bungling President and his goofy staff. Think: dystopian photo-negative reimagining of that old Michael J. Fox television classic, Spin City. (Richard Kind character equated to Sean “Spicey” Spicer is perfection.) It would be hilarious, if only this was a real TV show, not the wealthiest, most powerful nation in the history of mankind.
Trump has lied on top of lies, generally refusing to recant on even the most obvious untruths. He lies for no great reason, with a conviction that suggests a pathological pattern of behavior, and he lies on grand stages about serious events. He lashes out at enemies, provokes allies, and slanders strangers, often as a calculated distraction from his own gaffes and outrages, but sometimes just for sport. Despite this behavior he is defended by those in his adopted party (most of his life, Trump voted Democrat, undoubtedly as a networking advantage in heavily Democratic New York City) not as dishonest and repugnant, but as a colorful maverick.
It is going to take a hell of a lot more than a little treason and a lot of bold lies to even consider articles of impeachment, must less dislodging this should-be Pariah from the White House. Fox News is pretty much calling fired FBI directed James Comey a liar, and the Teabaggers are circling the wagons, wrapped up in sticking it to “the man” in spite of the fact that few presidents have embodied the concept of “the man” more ably that pussy-grabbing, deal-breaking, bankruptcy-making Donald Trump.
The regressive core of the Republican party has refused to condemn Trump for childish and destructive conduct for plenty of reasons. Plenty of cowards fear him–not him exactly, although his impulsive vindictiveness certainly keeps some on edge. Rather, they fear the angry, desperate mob Trump whipped up with his phony promises and hollow nationalism, and which he still wields like a cudgel. Others are content to let him ride roughshod as long as he tears down and dismantles every component of government he can get his tiny little hands on. Some people just want to watch the world burn. Others sit back and watch Trump do it for them, like a wind-up monkey. They don’t care about international relations, or the welfare of the people, or anything outside of their ideological contempt for all things regulatory or administrative. And finally, you have the two types of opportunists. There is the Paul Ryan model, who believe in nothing beyond personal advancement. Remember how Ryan and his ilk loathed Trump until he won the primary, at which point they loved him? Beside them are the practical cowards, like Vice President Mike Pence, men and women who are smart and competent enough to see Trump for what he really is, but who are more than willing to ally with him if it means politically leveraging advantage for their own, narrow pet causes. For Pence, it is tearing down the boundary between Church and State, a particularly onerous trade shared by most evangelical theocratists, faith-healers, closeted hypocrites and snake-oil sellers of the Christian entertainment industry.,all of whom look blindly past Trumps gutter-crawl through marriage after marriage, his greed and idolatry, his coveting and his gluttony. I can’t say that Trump has murdered, but he seems to have the rest of the commandments and motal sins checked off like a movie serial killers “to do” list. And the christian activists couldn’t care less.
Of course, in order to actually impeach Trump, we would need to see enough Republicans willing to put the welfare of the nation and it’s people–including all the lazy poor and devious immigrants (or children of immigrants)–above whatever stake they have in the Trump administration, knowing that by convicting they will at the same time be admitting to their own culpability in enabling their President and his banana republic management of the nation. And even then, in the unlikely event that the house impeaches, and the senate does not acquit, we end up with Pence as President, with Ryan skulking in the shadows, at which point we’re forced to consider: what is preferable, an idiot child-king or a polished politician, when the overwhelming platform won’t change all that much. In many ways, Trump’s arrogant incompetence is a check and balance, revealing what might, under a more capable politician, have been hidden in shadows while at the same time stirring up a storm of angry resistance. I want Trump gone as much or more than the next guy, but I’m awfully wary of what comes next.
It is 2:30pm and I’ve yet to look at news or Facebook today. If I can’t see it, it hasn’t happened, right? Is there some way I can apply Schrödinger’s cat to current events? For the next four years, or at least until the first indictments?
“This guy is dangerously unhinged. And, for all the things people have said about me over the years, I should be able to spot Dangerously Unhinged.”
–Glenn Beck, regarding Donald Trump
One day and counting. In thirty-six anxiety-soaked hours we are likely to have an idea of who will be the next President of the United States of America and, quite possibly, an indication of whether the “Great American Experiment” has failed. It is not an exaggeration to consider that the viability of long-term, large-scale representative democracy faces a symbolic referendum when the polls open tomorrow morning. Really.
Full disclosure: while Hillary Clinton wasn’t my original candidate of choice, I’ve come to respect her for her dogged perseverance in the face of ludicrous assaults — most notably the Benghazi embassy attack (blamed for security lapses following years of repeated funding reductions dictated by Republicans) and even more absurd email server hyperbole (in which her actions were perfectly legal and in keeping with historic precedents set by preceding republican administrations) –and, from her opponent and his allies, an unceasing hurricane of foaming-mouthed lies and invective. Through it all she stuck to her points, refused to sink to the barbaric tones being vomited from the other side, and maintained her dignity. She is a solid, if not particularly exciting candidate, and I mean her no disrespect when I say that I would vote for just about anyone standing against the craven demagogue the Republicans shat out as their choice this time around.
What I won’t be doing is voting for a third party candidate, nor can I respect the naive idealists determined to write in Bernie Sanders, or the clenched-jaws anti-system warriors getting ready to darken the oval next to Jill (Who?) Stein, that Libertarian guy, the other libertarian guy, or anyone from any hopped-up semi-serious party with an ax to grind and an interview to give — not even New Hampshire’s Vermin Supreme who, despite his considerable list of eccentricities, would still make a far superior President than would the Republicans’ resident Oompaloompa.
I just can’t help but look down my nose at the hubris of candidates, and their supporters, who materialize from the deep ether every four years as candidates for “third” (or fourth, fifth, sixth…) parties, but not because I’m satisfied with the very, very limited menu we’re given.
The idea of an outsider candidate, and the daydream of tearing down American political orthodoxy and building anew in the shadow of its ruins, is enticing, even intoxicating. Given the success of Bernie Sanders’ campaign, and its progressive influence on Clinton’s centrist core, I know I’m not alone. Sanders was, of course, the ideal candidate — a morally clean, long-tenured independent with a track record of walking the walk and a willingness to brandish big ideas. It may take another 20 years before we see someone possessing anything close to his tangibles — and therein lies the problem.
That person is surely not Jill Stein or Gary Roberts any more than it has been Ross Perot or the boob from Sunday morning television — what was his name? Pat Buchanan. Or Jerry Brown, or Ralph Nader, who despite being the best of the bunch, fell far short of what was needed to grind out a viable candidacy. Some of these people may have made perfectly adequate leaders, but the problem isn’t really them. They’re guilty by association. Who walks into an office and expects to be considered as a contender for any job with no experience and no background?
Some (mostly young) friends still chide me about “making a stand” and “sending a message” about the two-party system, and tell me that the stakes are always going to be high, and that at some point we need to accept short term losses — and the disastrous administrations that follow — as inevitable examples of losing battles but winning wars.
My grandfather would have called that a cockamamie idea. To me, it is just misguided, ignorant bullshit. Not only does that philosophy overlook the long-ranging tumult that would follow a Trump presidency — the likelihood of three (3!) far-right supreme court justice appointments alone would generate waves of regressive, authoritarian influence thirty years into the future, the repeal of Roe v. Wade, the adoption of climate change denial as a federal policy, the dissolution of military and trade alliances and alienation from those allies, increased economic stratification, and — though it is seldom talked about — the chilling revocation of first amendment free speech rights, the very cornerstone of our nation. Not only are these things — and the many other frightening changes that will quickly go into place — not worth the dissolution of the two-party precedent in American politics, they are changes from which a society never recovers. Indeed, we are facing the prospect of Trump’s “America Is Not Great” mantra as self-fulfilling prophecy.
None of this means that we do not desperately need louder and more varied opposition. I’m skeptical of multi-party governments in general, given the necessity of building political alliances and coalitions — a process that is somewhat approximated by the state elections and nominating conventions — but clearly we will benefit, particularly on the left, from more influence going to viable outliers, much in the way that the Republicans have their Teabaggers and their Evangelicals. Still, it is arrogant for advocates of these factions to demand a seat at the big table “just because.”
Voters will start taking third parties seriously when they begin to take the process seriously. That means no candidacies that are “sending a message.” When I see a viable candidate, with a history of vigorous civic engagement from the ground up, I’ll listen. In the mean time, I demand more work earning this legitimacy and viability. That means serving on local and regional commissions and boards as volunteers, running for and winning local elections right down to the level of school boards and town councils, mayors and commissioners — while identifying themselves and proponents of their ideologies. That is how the parties can be built, by legitimizing them in the community’s perceptions while building candidates who rise into state houses, leaderships, then congress, then the Senate, governorships, and on. Throwing out a didactic intellectual every 4 years to keep up the status quo really isn’t striving for much more than meeting the lowest requirements for parties to remain on the ballots — which is good for those working for a party, but gives nothing to the folks who support it.
In the “Big Government” Guide to Relationships, how do you know when the girl breaking up with you is Republican? Because she says, fully expecting this to make it better, “It’s not me, it’s you.”
Since we’re slogging knee deep through a year of ridiculous campaigners, I thought I’d roll out this post on a serious candidate’s most ridiculous moment. And all ye gods, goddesses and l’il baby godlets, please bless The Onion, from whence this came.
Image from…”a campaign stop for Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis: a ride in a 68-ton M1A1 Abrams Main Battle Tank. The visit, meant to bolster the candidate’s credibility as a future commander-in-chief, would go down as one of the worst campaign backfires in history.”
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