Growing up Fast in America

wp_20160920_07_09_19_pro

In the last week, on different days, 3 friends stepped into the conversation about Trump.  One was Russian, another Iranian, and lastly a French person.  Each said Trump will not be a problem because after 4 years someone else will take over.  They only shrugged at the fact that a fascist was going to be President of the most powerful nation of the world.

They assumed they knew politics in America as well as, or better than I.  They did not ask my opinion, nor did they listen to me, but merely continued detailing what they assumed was the truth about my country and the election as if they were the experts.

I tried to explain that the election of Trump is not like any other event in American politics.  I have often voted for candidates who lost.  That is something an American gets used to; it is part of our system.  I may be disgruntled or disappointed or even ticked off about the loss, but it is “just politics,” and of course, “the majority rules,” so I accept the outcome as do my compatriots in their own turn.

But Trump is different.  He is a danger.   He does not know, or does not care, about American law.  He does not understand, or does not care, about international protocol and negotiations.

His character and education are not fit for the complex and important position of President of the U.S.  His attention span prevents him from reading. His temperament is manic-depressive and aggressive.  His language, his ability to debate, and his expressions are childlike, not even adolescent.  He attacks people, rather than ideas, and cannot control his anger, often speaking without thinking.  He has the potential to initiate nuclear war on a whim.

He is narcissistic, always blaming others, accusing others of faults which are his own, diverting attention from serious matters with shouts over minor crises.  He is greedy, in the extreme, to the point he does not mind defrauding others.  He lies with pleasure, this man who received 25% of the ballots of registered voters.

We all know Trump degrades people, anyone and everyone, the high and the low, without shame, apparently believing his insults are entertaining rather than reactionary and hurtful.

These are facts rather than my opinion.  He has proven these things by his behavior and words in the last year, and by his decades of business life.

Trump is a white supremacist.  That is to say, he believes white people are better than others.  This is the basis of fascism, which the free world recently fought against.   One must add, the designation of white people includes only white men.

My friends agree with this assessment of our President-elect.  Even my acquaintances who voted for Trump agree with the appraisal.

So why do these 3 foreigners assume that there is no problem?  Why do they think they know so much?   These 3, who are usually rather nice and smart, they talked insistently and incessantly about their viewpoint on the Trump election, condescendingly and arrogantly.  Why?

I would never assert that I know more about the politics of Russia than a Russian, more about Greek politics than a Greek, or more about the workings of Kenya than a Kenyan, and not even about Canada or Mexico, my neighbors.  I could not pretend that my education, my contact with people from another country, and my travel, give me the same insight that a native person has about his or her country and culture.  Reading newspaper headlines does not qualify me as an authority on situations in another country.

The USA has been in the international limelight for its entire existence because of its unique naissance and influence.  This celebrity has bred a sense of familiarity in the hearts of foreigners, a familiarity somewhat based on movies, headlines, soundbites, and 6 weeks of history class.  I cannot be certain that the majority of American citizens have more knowledge than this about the basics of the USA, but at least they have a lifetime of intimacy with the country’s systems.

It took me several days to move beyond my naiveté and realize that the reactions of the 3 people signified that they like Trump’s perspectives.  They are not worried about his presidency because they too are racist.  They too want a white elite class that rules, and they imagine themselves as the elite.   Call it fascism or alt-right, it is the same thing that the Allies fought against 75 years ago.  It is a world-wide disease that is spreading again.

When I withdrew from each of the 3 conversations, trying to preserve the friendships, trying to dampen the rising anger in my chest, I was told in separate ways that I was being so “American” to refuse to discuss politics.  They added, “It’s cultural.  Americans don’t know how to argue.  They take everything personally.”  And voila!  By using a stereotype, I was dismissed as unimportant.

Actually, I know how to argue quite well, though I cannot always do it.  It requires one to stick to the topic without descending to character assassination.  One must listen.  One needs details and excellent background information.   And one has to avoid sweeping generalizations and stereotypes.  I am willing to participate in this type of argument.  It is the basis of American free speech.  I have never heard this kind of argument from Donald Trump, the man who mocked a paraplegic, the man who thinks he can lead my country.

The day after the election, if one can call it that, I wrote that I would silently withdraw from the new world that was forming itself.  But I have changed my mind.  I cannot stay silent.  Perhaps I cannot change a thing, but I can fight.  I will fight for love.

“Fighting for love” sounds romantic and ridiculous, not to mention oxymoronic.  But to stand silent while hate grows is not something I can do.  Maybe I will actually have to fight and die, but for the moment, I am old and not so powerful, and I will fight by speaking.  I would fight for my child because I love him, and so, I will fight for my beloved country and its principles against fascism, stupidity, and hatred.

What do I do about 3 fascist friends?  This is new for me.  I will have to discover the right actions.  But first, I must not be naïve about who they are.

The Year of Irony — 2016

mp900262554The Christian right, the Republicans, the family values people chose Donald Trump to be President of the United States, a man without family values.  He is on his 3rd wife, each a trophy wife, two of them immigrants. He has sexual affairs often.  He brags that he can sexually assault any woman he wants because he is a rich celebrity.  He has been indicted for child rape.  He publicly demeans people with vulgar language and insults.  His children go on safaris to kill large animals around the world.  Donald Trump lies, ignoring facts, using ad hominem tactics.

He is a millionaire who was elected by the lower middle class.    These people think he will look after their interests.  He refuses to share his tax records.  He has been legally bankrupt 7 times.  He is worth less now than when he inherited his fortune.  He is elitist and mocks poor people.  He does not have a voting record on issues like unemployment benefits, food stamps, or minimum wage because he has never had an elected position.  He often does not pay his employees or the contract help he engages, and he says this is his right.  His social contacts call him a buffoon, a con man, and a cheat.  He lies about making donations to charities in order to gain respect and tax breaks.  His university was a scam.

He is openly cruel to veterans, handicapped persons, rape victims, refugees, the obese, the poor, immigrants, women, non-whites, and workers.  And yet, these people elected him.

The voters call him their chance to escape the establishment.  This is biggest irony of all.  Donald Trump IS the establishment.  He is the rich man that the poor people are fed up with.  He is the giant who blames the little person.  He is the husband who likes women barefoot and in the kitchen.

Yes, he is a white, but he is the MAN, the one with his thumb on the head of all beneath him as if he has the right to squish them.  And they look up and lick his balls.  It is the most disgusting irony I have ever witnessed.

And I can do nothing about it except let my broken heart cry about what has happened in my lovely country.

Predictions for 2017 – 2020

mp900314250Napoleon, who fought to protect and empower the populace, proceeded to crown himself emperor and take the spoils of his own country.  This happened with 2 different Napoleons.   I predict Trump will follow in their footsteps.

I predict Trump’s friend Putin will manage Trump as if the President is a 2-bit hustler.  Trump will destroy Russia’s enemies without the Russians having to foot the bill.  Trump will arrange for Snowden to be extradited, prosecuted as a traitor and executed.

I predict Trump will appoint 2 or 3 Supreme Court justices who are right of right, who will destroy abortion rights, the separation of church and state, voting protections, civil liberties and privacy protection for the individual, and who will make wholesale changes to constitutional limits of presidential powers for the sake of eliminating threats to Trump and his regime.

I predict sexual predators will receive societal acceptance and endorsement from the media, entertainment, Trump, and his followers.  But homosexuals will be branded as deviant, and their marriage will be disallowed, especially for tax reasons.

I predict the US government will go bankrupt.

I predict the US military will flourish.  There will be popular uprisings, which will be stopped quickly, and the best of the rebels will be enlisted into the national military.

I predict corporations will shrink in number and grow in strength, enjoying extraordinary tax incentives.  The Congress will back this.

I predict lynchings will be ignored.  The police will grow more confident.  Riots will erupt and be silenced.  News blackouts will occur.  The KKK will continue to grow, with off-shoots under new names.

I predict congress will consider bills to make the US a Christian nation.

I predict more news blackouts will occur, replaced by “announcements.”

I predict Trump will get mad and push the nuclear button.  If he can time the event properly, he will cancel the 2020 election.  I will be in the wrong ½ of the world when the explosions happen and will be maimed or dead, but the fallout will eventually kill the rest of the population too.

I used to be such an optimist.

Maybe 4 years will not be enough time for Trump to achieve this list of predictions.

We will see.

Turning Over and Letting Go

dsc_0115It is the first time I have ever said this:  I am ashamed of being an American.

But I believe in the democratic voting process.  A majority of Americans voted for Donald Trump to be President.   Can I accept it, that a sexist, racist, nationalist, narcissist is President of my country?  Yes, because it means the majority of Americans think this is appropriate.  This is reality:  a reality TV star is President.    Of course we know reality TV is not reality.  Someone is standing behind the cameras in the control booth calling the shots, making sure the viewer gets heightened entertainment while being robbed of the thrill of living.  Someone unseen is managing the outcome.  That is reality, and I accept it.

I do not like this turn of events, but I hand over my country to the new generation.  I belong to another generation and it is time for me to step aside.  I use a computer, but I prefer movies to video games.  I am part of a defunct era. 

I belong to the age where we loved America from sea to shining sea, and we were interested in preserving our pure waters, our clean air, our mountain majesties, and the fruited plain for our grandchildren.  I am part of a generation where women clawed their way into the workplace thinking they could get a fair shake and equal pay, while they gained control of their own bodies.  I am part of the generation where the Statue of Liberty was revered as an American symbol welcoming foreigners, immigrants, and refugees to a safe place where they and their families could find work, could find a place to call home.   

My generation staggered with flag burnings, and the refusal of Christian prayer in public schools, but we held fast to the tenants of freedom of speech and freedom of religion and found our way, preserving the fundamental principle of the United States, that we are a free nation where one can argue against wrongs and demonstrate peacefully, even vigorously, without punishment, where one can practice any faith or no faith at all without ridicule, judgement, punishment, and without being forced to participate in a national religion. 

We even believed in privacy, and we thought a good education and intellectual vigor improved us and the world.  My generation was proud of the population diversity of the 50 United States, and we were chagrined about its roots of genocide and slavery, anxious to make reparations.  And mine was a generation delighted in advancement, discovery, invention, and possibility.  It was a generation that welcomed the first non-white President of the United States.

Mine is a generation that has passed.  The next generation will have its own passions and problems, its own achievements and struggles.  I wish you the best.

PART 1 and PART 2

sparkling-usa-flag
PART 1 and PART 2

Part 1

The 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution gave Black men the vote in 1870.  In January 2017, the second term of the first African-American President will come to an end.  President Obama has been successful.  The U.S. economy has rebounded after the Bush years.

American tradition asserts that competition brings out the best in people.  We say the field of competition should be open to all, pushing us to greatness.  We do not exclude anyone.  That is what we say.  And that competition has given us a President who is a model of high ethics and action, ability and perseverance.

Obama is an American individual.  He is smart, charming, funny, dignified, athletic, and handsome.  On top of all this, Obama is educated, he thinks before he speaks, he listens, and he cries.  He has an educated and eloquent working wife who could easily be commander in chief of a great nation, and he has two lively, well-brought-up, intelligent daughters.

Obama has the respect and admiration of most people, because he illustrates the American Dream.  But he also attracts jealousy, which can turn to anger, which can ignite deadly rage.  Obama’s success has coincided with a rebirth of radical racism.  “Why can’t I be great like that?” the cashier at the grocery store asks.  “I am white and male and Christian and I should be getting the good stuff, not him.”  “Not him” is born from the marriage of fear and jealousy.   Such jealousy creates an illusion in some white people that “better” times existed in the past, times when the field of competition excluded anyone without white skin.

Racism comes from thinking we are different, when in truth, the most profound ideal of the USA is that we are the same, all of us, no matter our religion, our skin color, our gender, our age, or our origin high or low.  America promises opportunity, and then achievement is up to the individual.

I went to a museum exhibition in Paris called the Color Line, with acres of rooms filled with art and history by Black Americans since the Civil War until the present.  The rest of the world is well-aware of America’s racism.  To see Valerie Browne paintings and Newsweek covers of Angela Davis, to be faced with photos of lynchings from the 1800’s repeated in the 21st century, to relive Rosa Parks’ courage and Langston Hugh’s magic words—these things made me profoundly sad.

The dark history of racism in the U.S. keeps us on our knees. It tarnishes our culture, even with new laws and enlightenment, even with education and change.  Its residue resides in our neighborhoods and schools and in the shadows of our minds, sometimes flaring out publicly through the actions and words of stupid politicians, small-minded radicals, and self-righteous everyday members of our society.  The self-righteous never see themselves as such, only seeing themselves as right; hence the name.

Evangelical zealots want to exclude all refugees, Muslims, Mexicans, Jews, African-Americans, and Asians from the American field.  Their frightening fervor includes intimidation, the call to arms, walls, expulsion, murder, and lynchings.  Where is the idea of love thy neighbor?  Where is the philosophy of turn the other cheek?  Where are patience, tolerance, respect, kindness, and neighborliness in the midst of this kind of rage?   Maybe the rage grows out of ignorance, or mental illness, or poverty, or fear.  Whatever the source of the rage, religion does no good if its basic tenets are ignored in order to fuel hatred, undermining our American foundation.

Part 2

Black women could not vote until August 21, 1920, the same date that the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution gave white women the right to vote.  Now, within 48 hours, a woman may be elected as United States President.  After an African-American President, a female President is appropriate in our American history of change and progress.

However, a woman as President offers more opportunity for backlash.  The rights of women have increased along a twisting uphill path during the last 100 years.  To have an educated and experienced woman as a candidate for President is shockingly wonderful in a country long devoted to subservient women, women who grew up pouring tea instead of reading international news, who were taught how to pluck eyebrows instead of how to demand equal pay.

It is no shock that some men do not like the idea of a woman as President, as again it expands the playing field, increasing competition which might make their way harder.  The wonder is that so many men are proud to see egalitarian progress in the USA, without rancor or jealousy, without fear or sneers.  They accept a woman qualified for the job.

Surprisingly, there are women who dislike the idea of having a female President.  Or maybe it is not a surprise, because many woman hate women.  I first noticed that I did not like women when I was in my 20’s, but the feeling began when I was a toddler and it was firmly in place by the time I entered kindergarten.  I loved my mother, and my teachers were excellent; however, I did not respect them.  My dad, on the other hand, he had the power, he made the money, he made the decisions.  Though he rarely demanded it, everyone in and out of the family deferred to his desires.

It was a given in my childhood society: the man had value and the woman did not.  If the woman got her way, it was through manipulative smiles and shouts.  I did not have a high opinion of women, yet I was one of them.  I solved that damaging paradox by being a part-time tomboy.  I threw stones and climbed trees, and I also primped to attract the men I so badly wanted to be.   I lived in a schizophrenic system where I hated the group I was a part of, a group I had no power to leave.  The system invited degradation.  It demanded a quasi-Stockholm syndrome where one agreed with and identified with abusers.

I sympathize with women who hate Hillary Clinton, because I must assume they hate themselves in the same subtle way I used to hate myself.  When they watch a woman in a prominent powerful position, the consequences of their own self-loathing are illuminated, consequences over which they had no control.  Their destinies were socially pre-ordained unless some lucky force of nature or mind or circumstance helped them.

My lucky moment came when I studied women in history, artists and politicians, female scientists and educators, chefs and engineers, and good mothers, struggling mothers, famous mothers, along with actresses and inventors, entrepreneurs and horse trainers, dress designers and florists, and on and on and on.  I learned to admire these women, and then I learned my own value.  Stumbling and stunted, I began to follow my own opportunities and my own precious life.

Many people have lucky epiphanies.  I applaud each of us for breaking though our jealousy and fear, our limits and tight little boxes of hatred.  We the citizens of the United States of America, amid backlash and un-pronounceable historical albatrosses of racism and sexism, we elected the first Black President soon to followed by the first Woman President.  We are still breaking frontiers, and I am proud.

 

 

TRUMPETTE TRAIN WRECK

mp900202218

I’ve had obsessions in my life.  Ah yes, David Leith in 4th grade.  Throughout high school, it was tennis.  And I’ve always had a passion for dogs.

My obsessions have been benign. 

Until now.  

My father was a man who rushed out of the house when he heard a siren.  He loved chasing after police cars, ambulances, and firetrucks hoping to see a disaster.  I prided myself on not inheriting that behavior. 

Until now.

I am in the grip of a new obsession.  It’s bad enough that it could be called an addiction.  The scream of the on-coming train-wreck has me mesmerized.

I cannot stop following the American Presidential election on Facebook.

One post after another, I gawk at unfolding stories of who said what, what has been uncovered, polls and statistics and reactions.

Minutes roll into evenings with me reading about Donald Trump:  tax evasion, sexual abuse, pornography, broken international treaties, shady business deals, close ties with Putin, 19th century levels of racism and sexism, xenophobia, narcissistic maneuvers, insults and belittling, anti-intellectualism, flights of rage, denial of constitutional principles and international protocol, drugs, vulgarity, lies and contradictions, marital sagas, repeated bankruptcy, and a range of lawsuits for his libelous and felonious acts.

Oscar Wilde said, “The public is wonderfully tolerant. It forgives everything except genius.”  And he added, “Nothing succeeds like excess.”  

Clearly Trump is not a genius.  And so, there are people who forgive his character and follow his excess.  They like being filmed for Facebook.  And in my addiction, I watch them. 

Today, it was two white women defending Trump’s unglued rage at a former Miss Universe.  They wore matching t-shirts naming themselves the Trumpettes.  They called Trump a god, just beneath the level of Jesus, and they swooned, “Finally, someone is going to save us.” 

Save them from what?  What?  If Trump’s behavior is god-like, it is a religion I reject.

I did not re-post the Trumpettes.  Yet, they and their kind make my eyes bulge and my jaw drop.  Then, I move on to read the next post instead of turning off the computer.   

I promise myself I will not re-post.  After all, anyone who is going to vote for Trump is not going to be swayed by statements from the Bush women, the living Presidents of the U.S., the Wharton School of Business, the top newspapers in the country, or the impressive array of international scientists, ambassadors, and world leaders.  

Then, as with all addictions, Facebook gets the better of me and I cannot stop myself from re-posting certain items.  I even comment on some of the posts, both the good ones and the bad.  Why do I keep scrolling down, reading post after post?    I do not understand my own fascination with the horror of this election.  Sometimes I insert a picture of a cute dog as relief from it all.

Despite polls showing the Democratic lead, despite Trump’s obvious unfitness for a national political office, especially the Presidency, still I am afraid he will win.

I am afraid he will separate my beloved country from its allies and principles.

I am afraid he will provoke a world war in order to increase his family’s profits.  It will be a nuclear war because it will make him feel powerful.

I am afraid those who like to follow the sirens will push this proto-tyrant to the top. 

Ms. Clinton is a politician, which condemns her into a certain circle of hell.  However, she is educated, intelligent, and experienced in national and world affairs.  World leaders respect her. She understands balanced budgets and has never been indicted or convicted of a crime.  She is a woman and she is strong.  She has followed through on her oaths for better or for worse. 

Ms. Clinton is calm and emotionally balanced, which is more than I can say for myself at this moment.  I am on the edge of my seat waiting, hoping for a positive outcome to this Facebook drama.

The New York Times and Washington Post assure me that my country will not lose its grip on equality, democracy, and the hope for peace and environmental progress.  I am not so sure.  My fear continues to rise.  I am afraid Donald Trump will be the President of the United States.  But I hope that we get a Hollywood outcome, where the train swerves at the last minute and everyone is saved, instead of disaster being elected.