Okay, this is admittedly a rant (see the title), thus lacking in cohesion and perhaps, stained with a bit of incoherence, but many would agree that today is an excellent day for a rant. Day two of the purported shutdown of the federal government (really a quasi-defunding). And for the nonce, no solution appears in sight. Just a great deal of political posturing for the November Congressional elections and possibly, for the overthrow of the Trump administration.
So, an introductory, pre-rant paragraph:
… There’s a lot of talk about the politics of hate lately, actually justified, there’s definitely all too much hate in the air. The MSM and the Democratic Party of course attribute it exclusively to President Trump (and perhaps the Russians). The reality is as different as it can get. Of course, in a polity where the slogan is probably “hypocrisy rules”, that ought not to be surprising.
Metaphorical mirrors being somewhat scarce in the United States at present (okay, usually), a reflection from abroad by an American expatriate who loves the People of the United States, especially the three that are his sons, may be of some use, even if it comes in the form of the aforementioned rant. In the interest of full disclosure (or at least some disclosure, full disclosure requiring a rather long autobiography which would probably lack objectivity), the author (me) is a dual United States – Colombian national who arrived in the United States with his mother and younger sister (legally) many decades ago (don’t ask how many, just many, a lot) and who perceives of himself as a “progressive”, that is (the torturing of words and concepts having become a national sport, specification is in order), one who is more inclined to promote the collective wellbeing than individual interests but who finds the term “liberal” to have been so perverted as to leave it, at best, bereft of meaning.
Getting on with the rant but for clarity’s sake, setting up some sort of context: contrary to the daily barrage of noise that now passes for news, although I believe myself to be a progressive, I also believe that President Trump’s policies are probably less offensive to progressives than those of the GOP, although both GOP and Democratic policies, as reflected in their actions rather than their pontification, ought to be anathema. To me, Democratic and Republican policies tend to be mirror images with Republicans more blunt about them, which bothers me significantly less than does Democratic Party hypocrisy and duplicity. I have long been a fervent advocate of consigning both so called major parties to the dust bins of history but if, as Franklyn Delano Roosevelt declaimed, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself”, omnipresent fear has been enough to keep them safe and sound, especially sound (as in a tempest of pontificating wind, mainly hot air, and fury).
Speaking (or really, writing) about pontification, political civility has become an oxymoron rather than as was so long traditional, merely duplicitous, and if we are measuring lack of civility, decency and honesty in discourse as well as actions, then I sincerely believe that the most hate filled rhetoric, constantly spewing is directed not by but against the current President. Of course, that has been a growing trend. Former President Obama was treated rather poorly and unfairly by the GOP but he had the shield of the MSM to protect him. That is certainly not the case with President Trump who is daily calumnied, defamed, insulted and ridiculed by both the MSM and the Democratic Party in terminology much worse than that hysterically attributed to him, much of it involving self-serving and probably distorted leaks of purportedly private conversations meant to be no holds barred and open in order to attain meaningful results (albeit in many instances results contrary to my personal beliefs). I recall the stories about LBJ and JFK and Harry Truman and Hillary Clinton (if not Bill); their colorful use of pejoratives was equal to any, but only Richard Nixon and now Donald Trump are singled out. I know this paragraph seems disjointed but it does set the stage, and after all, this is admittedly a rant and rants tend to be disjointed, at least real rants do. Fake rants can be very different. Much more polished, organized and internally consistent.
The most recent example of hysterically hypocritical and hyperbolic anti-Trump pontification is especially relevant and instructive as it’s been tortured into the means to hold the entire American citizenry hostage in the aforementioned albeit somewhat staged “government shutdown”. That, of course, involves the President’s purported use of the term “shithole” (apparently now an unprintable pejorative like the f-word, or the n-word, etc.) during a purportedly private, no holds barred bipartisan negotiating session in the Oval Office, to describe the conditions under which many people around the world are forced to live leading many of them (way too many in the President’s opinion) to flee towards our shores and sometimes actually land in or cross our borders, etc. The context of the discussion, for those to whom relevance has any importance, was whether immigration into the United States should be based on comparative merit or merely on the luck of a lottery. The President favored “merit”, albeit perhaps in too colorful a fashion. I personally favor virtually open immigration in the manner phrased in Emma Lazarus’ sonnet set into the base of our famous Statue of Liberty. Who knows what Dick Durbin and the Democrats favor other than that which will increase their votes in November? Recall that the “wall” and aggressive immigration enforcement were policies suggested, promoted and voted for by Bill, Clinton, Hillary Clinton and Barak Obama, respectively. Not all of us (or is it we) immigrants are bereft of memory or easy to fool, at least not all of the time.
Describing or referring to a place as a “shithole” does not mean, as Senator Dick Durbin, his Democratic Party colleagues and the MSM portrayed, that the President was referring to the victims as “shitholes” (many are the victims of Democratic Party policies and the outright corruption of their leaders’ “Foundations”, e.g., see Haiti, Honduras, Libya, Syria, the Ukraine, etc.), or that his comment was inherently racist or xenophobic, although racism and xenophobia are the hallmarks of the bipartisan belief in “American Exceptionalism”. The comment was and is unfortunately accurate, and sadly, the “shithole” appellation is accurate primarily because of United States bipartisan policies over a very long period.
The tempest created by Senator Durbin, obviously not with the goal of helping immigrants but for political grandstanding (remember, Congressional elections are in November, vote early and vote often), flew out of the teapot and destroyed the bipartisan consensus led by the President (how odd, given the reporting) to help so called “Dreamers” (undocumented non-national residents in the United States who were smuggled into the country as children, usually by their parents who, like all other immigrant groups, are mere props and tools for partisan polarization). The resulting destruction of the evolving consensus on immigration reform that might have been credited to the Trump administration, reform more than a half century overdue, has now been conveniently used (how cynical) as the pretext for the Democratic Party to invoke the arcane Filibuster tool to stop funding for most of the government. It may soon affect social security recipients, something to consider for those of us who have been forced to rely on that monthly return (or dole, depending on your political perspective) for our survival. But perhaps it will generate a few votes for Democratic Party candidates in November and if so, it will have been worth it, at least to Mr. Durbin, Mrs. Pelosi, Mr. Schumer and their Identity Politics pals.
Or on the other hand, Heaven forbid (oh, oh, I smell ozone), it may wake some of us up, make Murphy smile, and lead to unexpected results, kind of like what happened during November of 2016, or, perhaps even what many progressives have long hoped for: a great awakening, a discarding of political shackles, courage enough to overcome the ever-present tactics of fear and greater evils and a popular revolt against both major parties (I know, I know, Don Quixote tilting at windmills while singing about impossible dreams, but remember, this is a rant after all).
Admittedly, President Trump is abrasive, pugnacious, egocentric and obnoxious with very unsophisticated language skills. He says what he means as it’s coming out of his mouth without regard to what he said previously or what he’ll say several minutes later and certainly without fact checking so that it can be subsequently protected by obfuscation and plausible deniability. To many, that frankness and openness is welcome but it makes him an easy butt for mean-spirited humor and distortion of his positions. Still, notwithstanding the constant accusations presented as facts, he is not a liar (or at least not a very good one), he is not one who carefully crafts what he says in order to deceive with the assistance of vast teams of lawyers and communications experts; he is not one who carefully works 24/7 to divide us and generate hate among us (most of his indiscretions are reactions to well-placed and planned goads, kind of like what frequently happens during football games when it’s the player first attacked who gets flagged when he reacts). Those are the tactics of the dedicated and well-funded Identity Politics crowd, the self-perceived elites who disdain democracy and especially common men and women to whom they refer as “despicables”. Their ally, the despised and distrusted mainstream media (a misnomer as they are anything but mainstream, they just control most of the airwaves, cable and print) has become expert, not in investigating and reporting facts but in spinning predetermined narratives over and over and over and over again, in hysterically hyperbolic parlance meant to confuse and deceive, like those annoying commercials that behaviorist experts have determined sell better than informative ads, and in Mr. Trump, they’ve found the perfect punching bag.
“Fake news”, “fake news”, “wolf”, “wolf”, “the freedom of the press is threatened”!!! If only there were a real press rather that the ill begotten spawn of propaganda as the sire and entertainment as the mother, … and we as the feed.
The battles for our votes seem doomed to destroy us. The illusion of democracy in which we are nursed is coming unraveled. In the end it seems more and more that mass scale participatory government does not, will not and cannot work in the context of what is sold as democracy today (well, … and yesterday too). Democracy requires a responsible and interested, informed electorate where participation is a universal duty rather than a right. Instead, we have an information distribution system, both with respect to news and the entertainment industry (whose role it is to condition our reactions), dedicated to manipulating our electoral decisions for the benefit of the very worst among us through their tools (those we are conned into electing year after year); at least those of us who are not too turned off or too lazy to turn out.
As we bicker and insult and calumny and ridicule and distort, the world looks on.
The leaders of many states controlled by cabals similar to ours collaborate with those who own us but their people seem to see things differently, despite the haze. Oh, they’re impacted by the massive anti-Trump campaign into believing him to be a dangerous and reckless buffoon but that does not surprise them; that is a generic characterization of Americans. Especially now. That is how our “mainstream” media portrays not only President Trump, but us.
Most foreigners love American culture and the myths of American liberty, however, they also know, all too often through personal experience, that along with our ally (some would call it or handler) Israel, we pose the greatest threat to world peace and to general economic welfare, to equality and justice, to plain decency. And they are perceiving more and more that from the East winds of change seem to be blowing, blowing uncomfortably for those who own us but hinting at the possibility of a better world (should the world inexplicably manage to survive) for many others. That those winds are perceived differently in the United States is as it must be given uncomfortable realities we would rather not acknowledge; thus, we have created two new pillars for our domestic and foreign policies, the Obama pivot to the East (really against the East, against China) and the Clinton-Obama orchestrated nouveaux cold war starring the Ukraine and Russiagate. In terms of realpolitik rather than truth and justice, etc., our reactive policies are justified if not justifiable. Based on economic realities, the United States might well not be able to survive a worldwide economic adjustment rejecting the illusory value of our dollar, but of course, admitting that reality would be self-defeating so we need to create a new mirage, new myths, new threats, even at the danger of destroying the world.
And we have.
The American People are very different than the American government. Far from perfect, true, that’s true everywhere, but amazing, having not only survived but thrived for two and a half centuries despite the massive anchors around our necks: our political, social, cultural, religious and media leaders (our “elites”). Survived and thrived despite, not because of them or because of their leadership. There is inherent wisdom in the most common among us, the most despised by our purported betters, those who work several jobs to care for their families and pay their taxes, who find a way to coexist, who serve when called and volunteer when necessary (although all too often abused and forgotten, and all too often wasted on useless conflicts), and it is that wisdom that has carried us to the heights we’ve attained, not our bureaucrats or our politicians or especially our purported journalists. Unfortunately, that wisdom does not extend to our electoral decisions and it may not be enough to assure our survival in a world where lemmings have become our national symbol.
Our politicians usually end their discourses with the phrase “… and may God bless the United States of America”.
Perhaps we should respond with a prayer of our own addressed to those politicians and purported journalists,
“May God damn you all”.
© Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2018; all rights reserved. Please feel free to share with appropriate attribution.
Guillermo Calvo Mahé (a sometime poet) is a writer, political commentator and academic currently residing in the Republic of Colombia although he has primarily lived in the United States of America (of which he is a citizen). Until recently he chaired the political science, government and international relations programs at the Universidad Autónoma de Manizales. He has academic degrees in political science (the Citadel), law (St. John’s University), international legal studies (New York University) and translation studies (the University of Florida’s Center for Latin American Studies). He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and much of his writing is available through his blog at http://www.guillermocalvo.com.