The Self-Destructive Folly of Trump’s Hatreds

Trump campaigned on a policy of hate, and nearly every picture we see of him shows a contorted face of hatred. He hates virtually every human group that is not white, male, and rich.

He said that all Mexicans are rapists and criminals. All Muslims are terrorists. All blacks are lazy. Women should stay home and raise children. And so on. All the standard prejudices of our times, none of which is true.

The tragedy is that poorly educated whites, those already convinced that they are naturally superior, accepted what he said in spite of its obviously self-contradictory nature, as Trump lied and lied and lied. Even now, some 70% of what he says consists of lies. Lies and contradictions.

He made hatred acceptable. Shortly after his inauguration there were dozens of acts of violence against individual persons and groups he has as much as said it was OK to kill. And some did kill.

Hatred is not a good foundation on which to build a country. Germany can vouch for that.

But the lesson is lost on Republicans. If it weren’t, Trump and his billionaire toadies bent on destroying the promise of our country would have been tossed out by now. Instead, Congress passes one bill after another designed to punish people, always the poor, people of color, immigrants and refugees, Muslims, and women. The very people who should be protected the same way everyone else is. And Trump, in the absence of understanding what he is supposed to be doing, has signed endless executive orders designed only to hurt people.

Republicans are always against the poor because they believe poverty is always the result of “bad choices”. But here’s something: Five million manufacturing jobs have been lost since 2000. Lost to the changing nature of work, and shipped offshore to very poor countries with very low wages. Many of the US Americans who lost their jobs have not been able to find another, and are in great financial difficulty, with very little income. Now, Republicans, since these people worked faithfully and well for decades, who is it who made these “bad choices”? The unemployed workers who can find no work at any pay? More likely it’s the Republicans in Congress who have acted in favor of wealthy capitalists, while the fortunes of the faithful employees who came to work every day went down and down.

There are many things that Congress could have done to improve conditions for workers. The work week could have been shortened, which would have provided work for more people. The minimum wage could have been raised to the point where no one working full time would need three jobs. A minimum income law could have been passed, so the people who could find no work at least had food and shelter, and we wouldn’t find them living under the bridge in tents. National health care could have been established, health care like every modern nation has except ours. Ways could have been found to assist companies that make goods here. Laws could have been passed to prevent corporations from hiding their profit.

All these possibilities were ignored, and many laws were passed to boost the income of the very wealthy, so that the very wealthy could become yet more wealthy at the expense of the poor. Income that cannot even be spent, it is so great.

What we have ended up with is a bunch of very rich people dictating what the rest of us are supposed to feel and believe about our lack of equality. And they think only rich white males are worth bothering with. All the rest—the poor, the people of color, the Jews, the Muslims, the ill and infirm, the aged, the children, the women—they are expected to fend for themselves, because we all know they are lazy and will not work. That’s why minimum wage doesn’t matter, why we don’t need medical care, why only schools for the rich are important, why immigration must be ended, why Muslims and Mexicans must be deported, on and on.

The Republican agenda is to create the limits that support these beliefs, to keep the poor so poor that they cannot rise. The tragedy is that Trump convinced so many poor whites that they were superior, and should therefore vote for him. They did vote for him, and immediately launched acts of hatred against his approved villains. What they didn’t understand, though, was that Trump and the Republicans thought that they were no more worthy than the official list of villains. They soon began to feel the sting of his betrayal.

This is not the way to run a country in which equality is the benchmark by which we will be judged. Equality of opportunity, no matter who your parents are, what color or religion you are, no matter what you do for a living. Our foundational principles are falling away at an alarming rate. Obviously, Trump and the Republicans think this is what should happen.

We Don’t Have a Choice

I’ll check my Constitution again, but I don’t believe any of the things Republicans are promoting these days are part of it.

Free speech is protected, but I don’t see anything about hate being a right protected by the Constitution. Yet the recent election has established hate as a foundational principle of the Republican party. It has become acceptable, even required, to hate whole classes of people—gays, the poor, blacks, Jews, the disabled, liberals, refugees, Mexicans, immigrants, Muslims—all of whom were persistently badmouthed by Donald Trump. This earned him the endorsement of every hate group in the country, the KKK, the skinhead Nazis, the southern racists—all of them are now mainstream. None of them represent any part of the American ideal.

Some of the most virulent right wing haters are in fact becoming members of the White House personnel, entrusted with protection of the rights embedded in our foundational documents. People who have coined new terms of hate, and used them until they became common coin for the hating right.

It’s so easy to be tolerant. You don’t have to like everyone. In fact, I suspect there aren’t many people who can truthfully say they like everyone. But all you have to do to be tolerant is not hurt anyone, in any way. Just leave them alone.

But haters can’t even do that. Hate groups want to kill or injure people. Government haters want to make laws that hurt people for being who they are.

As everyone except the right is painfully aware of, the United States is entering a period we might not survive, because of people who look for those to hate. Those of us who are not haters have no choice. If the noble ideals of the American democracy are to survive at all, we must somehow defeat the forces of hatred.

Not an easy task, because, no matter how much we deplore the viciousness of the rampant hatreds that have begun to define us as a country, it is hate we want to defeat, not our brothers and sisters, no matter how far astray they have gone.

As I and many others pointed out during the campaigning, the people who fell for Trump’s incessant lies did have some legitimate gripes. Likewise, sprinkled here and there among Trump’s endless lies were some reasonable goals. Those of us on the left must accept the legitimate complaints, and work to address them. It should be enough to point out that Republican plans simply will not work, and in fact will make them worse. But it won’t, because they don’t want to solve problems. They want to punish people for being who they are.

The biggest failure among Trumpsters was believing that Trump was their champion. He said he was for the working class, but he doesn’t give a damn about those who work for a living, which we can tell by he way he shafts his employees at every opportunity. Trump is a billionaire, and his interests are the interests of the rich.

As a rich Republican he will grant favors to the rich that will make them even richer, and all the rest of us poorer. He will want to do away with as much government as he can, because rules and laws tend to help the rest of us.

One of his first goals is to end Obamacare and Medicare. That will leave many millions without health care. Every person with a serious medical condition, like cancer or a heart condition, will simply die. There is no way they can find the money to treat their condition or even to buy insurance.

How Can We Say This?

Donald Trump has tried to sell himself as someone who will “make America great again”. The trouble is that the US is already great, not to mention that he has no idea how to do that even if it weren’t. He is quite ignorant about the Constitution and how government works, or doesn’t. He has the attention span of a kindergartener, for a position that requires hours of intense concentration.

The worst thing, though, is that he has encouraged and glorified hate. This has earned him the endorsement of every hate group in the country, the neo-Nazis, the KKK, yahoos who drive pickups with a gun rack and the Confederate flag on a broomstick, the pseudo-brave weekend machine gun warriors, and all the rest, all of them part of a minority white population, all of them racists, all of them intolerant and hateful and not terribly smart or well educated. Trump has shown them their violence is not only acceptable but desirable, which has been responsible for numerous attacks and hate crimes against innocents.

Trump’s attitude toward women has always been atrocious, as is forcefully demonstrated by recently revealed tapes and prior revelations in which he regards all women, even his own daughter, as sex objects available for whatever groping or sexual advances he wishes to make because he’s a big star. That was only a precursor to the arguments Republican presidential candidates had about who had the biggest dick.

He teaches that all immigrants are to be hated as inferior people who steal jobs, as well as hatching terrorist plots. This is a supreme irony in a country composed of 97% immigrants, not to mention that burning and bombing of black Christian churches, Jewish temples, Muslim mosques, and various minority businesses, all done by not-terribly-bright white hate groups, are terrorist plots themselves. 

No, what Trump calls the enemy is not the enemy. Trump himself is the enemy, because he is a self-proclaimed member of the very rich, and what he plans to do because of that can only weaken the country. If in fact he hasn’t squandered the entire fortune gifted to him. He fantasizes that he got this money because of his wonderfulness and brains. The truth is, however, that his money is inherited, and he has lost more than he has gained. If he had put his wealth in a good index fund and skipped all his yuge incredible projects—most of which have failed and gone bankrupt—he would be far richer than he is today.

He promises to do wonderful things for the poor and middle class, but what he has in mind, tax breaks for the rich, actually helps only the rich. Trump will make the rich even richer. He has no interest in the middle class, let alone the poor. What making the rich richer does is to make everyone else poorer, something we’ve had demonstrated many times, including in several Republican states in recent years. Not exactly what he is advertising, is it?

What’s that you say? Trump understands the middle class? Right. Trump is a guy who has always been a millionaire, who has never experienced a single day of deprivation, the kind where there isn’t enough money for food, or for essential medications. He got his start in business with a “little” loan of a million dollars from his father, who was also a despicable creature. Trump hasn’t a clue about how the real world lives, let alone how to manage the needs of a population of 325-million immigrant Americans.

What is Patriotism?

Remember “freedom fries”? Remember the little flag in the lapel that all the politicians felt compelled to wear? Remember all the deification of the flag, the flaming rage if we don’t all worship it? That’s what Republicans think patriotism is?

A lot of people think anyone who doesn’t think “We’re Number One” is not a patriot.

And there are those who think an athlete who refuses to stand and put hand over heart when the national anthem plays cannot possibly be a patriot. Donald Trump thinks anyone like that should look for another country to live in. One sports exec called him a traitor. Does he say that about Jackie Robinson, because Jackie refused to rise and all that? Does he say that about all the other athletes, past and present, who support him? How about all the military people?

Oh, but Jackie is a national hero. Really? When Jackie joined the Brooklyn Dodgers not a single game went by without jeers and calls of “Go back home, nigger” from dozens of white “patriots”.

Here’s what I think. Patriotism has absolutely nothing to do with the kinds of superficial worship that so many US American citizens believe in.

The United States of America is an amazing and wonderful country, but we have a very bad habit of ignoring the many terrible parts of our history and our unending intolerance. Few of us, for example, appreciate what the terrible, terrible practice of slavery really meant for those who passed their entire lives enslaved, subject to brutal or fatal beatings, being sold to cruel masters, having one’s family torn apart, and so on.

Even after Emancipation, there was frequent murder by lynching with rope or fire, which didn’t end until well into the 20th century, and was gradually followed by Jim Crow laws designed to suppress every single right of black citizens, followed by unpunished murder of unarmed, peaceful black citizens, and practices designed to prevent blacks from practicing their legal right to vote—and that brings us right up to date. Certain states, having been chastised by federal officials for discriminatory voting laws, drummed up new laws to do exactly the same thing, keep blacks from voting.

So what should patriotism mean to people who have been treated like this? Are they supposed to stand with hand over heart and to feel a deep pride in what their country has meant to them?

But so far I’ve mentioned only the descendants of African slaves. My bet is that the great majority of US Americans fail to appreciate what their government has meant to so many others. How many really understand that the government sent gunmen into thousands of peaceful Indian villages where they killed every man, woman, and child? How many know that white bandits rode into the Southwest and drove all the Mexicans off the land they had managed for centuries, killing many of them.

How many know that President Jefferson, a slave owner, destroyed the economy of Haiti because  he feared a slave uprising in the US? And that this destruction lasted until the 1940s? How many patriotic Americans have heard of the Chinese Exclusion Act? How many realize that hundreds of thousands of Japanese Americans were placed in desolate concentration camps for the duration of WWII, after which they lost everything they owned?

So I ask, Who is the patriot, the one who thinks everything has always been good and fair, or the one who knows all these things and more, and refuses to think we have lived up to our promise?

How about the ones who think We’re Number One!?

Number one at what? Here’s what we’re number one at among the advanced nations of the world: the greatest percentage of our citizens imprisoned; the highest poverty rate; the most children in poverty; the greatest income inequality; the worst infant mortality rate; the greatest prevalence of mental health problems; the highest percentage lacking health care due to cost; the shortest life expectancy; the most spent on military; the highest high school dropout rate (with a few exceptions for some of these; thank you Yes Magazine). In other words, as Number One we should be at the top of the list, but in fact we’re nearly at the bottom in most of the important ways.

So, is a patriot someone who understands the realism of these failings, or someone who pretends all is well?

There is no doubt where I stand. We live in a wonderful place, but the faults of our government over its entire history have been many and costly, and the hatreds among too many of our citizens make my heart sink. Until we understand how we have failed, until we realize that patriotism cannot rest on superficial things like flags, until we treat each other fairly, until all the items in the list above improve for everyone, patriotism rings hollow and pointless.

Anyone who doesn’t feel patriotic and refuses to pretend should be someone we listen to carefully.

What the World Needs Now

This election sounds like a prelude to civil war, or at least martial law. Politicians speak of taming the Mideast by bombing Muslims. Trump rants, courting the NRA, villainizing everyone who isn’t white, calling for violence of all sorts. Domestic abusers buy guns easily. Angry armed white people kill innocents…

We can’t continue this way, and Trump makes it worse by the day.

As for Trump, I’m frankly worried about his mental stability. He’s obviously a raving narcissist, which is a mental health finding itself, but almost every day he says something new and alarming that goes well beyond narcissism, and even alarms his staff. On several occasions he’s asked his staff what’s wrong with using nuclear weapons, and his conspiracy claims are endless. His raving hatreds have inspired a number of threats and even fatal attacks against innocents, and he is looking very much like a similar personality in the past.

We don’t dare trust that Hillary Clinton will win without a huge effort. Trump’s angry white followers pay no attention to what he actually says, just his attitude, his blaming of practically everybody, and there are a lot of Trumpsters. Trump provides them with plenty of people of color to blame.

But if Hillary does win, aside from the many repairs of state needed from four decades of harmful Republican policy, particularly the fantasy belief that tax breaks for the rich will bring prosperity, the more important need is to cultivate a climate of tolerance and peacefulness at every level. While ending the many privileges that the very rich have devised to funnel more money to themselves is supremely important, it is the “softer” needs that will be more difficult, and probably more important.

Democrats must do a better job of listening to the Trumpsters, because they do have some legitimate complaints. However, domestic economic needs have nothing to do with the rich, and Trump’s plans would make it much worse. It is the poor who have suffered most, moreso than the middle class. And the solutions lie with helping the poor, not the rich or even the middle class, and certainly not with blaming an ethnic group for our problems.

We have a much worse problem with racism than most of us whites knew about until the Obama years, a racism that has been fully embraced by Republicans for many decades. Racism manifests in many ways, but of course the most obvious of them currently is the endless unpunished murder of unarmed African-Americans by violent police. My belief is that we finally understand what blacks have been saying all along, and the barest beginnings of improvement are being seen—I hope. If so, it may be the beginning of an improved national attitude.

Making our public attitude more calm depends greatly on the purposeful cultivation of tolerance. We must come to understand that we don’t have to like everyone, only to accept that everyone deserves everything we deserve, regardless of their color, sexual orientation, religion, or anything else.

Most people are peace-loving and law abiding, but also have legitimate complaints, even if they express them hatefully. It is unfair to judge people harshly for objecting to conditions they did not create themselves. Most people who hate being poor aren’t that interested in being rich. They just want to be treated fairly, to not be harassed because they are poor, to be reasonably paid for work, to benefit from things like a balanced education and medical care that a just democracy should provide.

Acceptance and tolerance are hard when society cheats us. So a good part of an improved attitude depends on improved justice and opportunity for everyone. If we believe we ourselves benefit from fair treatment, from equality, we are more inclined to champion justice for all. If we believe we are being mistreated, we look for someone to blame.

Trump plays to the latter, ginning up many scapegoats by race, religion, and citizenship status, and telling people he is the cure for all the problems created by his scapegoats. But the problems he claims are mostly imaginary, and he has no cure for the real ones. The great business empire and wealth he claims consists of bankruptcies and failures, and he is clueless about nearly everything else, including the Constitution. He cultivates demagoguery and understands human rights poorly.

Here are a few things we as a nation must come to understand: Refugees escaping from dangerous political situations are very rarely criminals of any sort. They must be welcomed and assisted. They have lost everything. Immigrants do not “take American jobs”. Rather, they create new jobs, pay important taxes, and improve the economy. Immigrants have always literally made the US.

It is important that Democrats adopt a persistent attitude of tolerance. We don’t have to like people in order to tolerate them. We might even dislike them, but we must protect their rights and equal treatment under the law.

How to Recover Our Stolen Democracy

My belief is that government should serve the people. Unfortunately, the conservative belief is quite different, and over the past half century this has allowed and encouraged the extraordinary concentration of power and wealth with the very richest people in the country, to the detriment of literally everyone else. If we are to recover our democracy, the things that allowed this plutocracy must be changed, and a fair share of the nation’s wealth restored to the rest of us. Here are some of the things we must do.

The Great Depression taught us that banking and investment must be separated. But Congress, controlled by the very rich, repealed the Glass-Steagall Act, which in 2008 forced the government to rescue the rich by bailing out overextended investment banks with our money. Reinstatement of the separation is the most important thing Congress could do. That way, when investment banks go under because they chased risky schemes, which they continue to do, they will lose their own money, not ours. But we will guarantee the safety of ordinary deposit banks, as long as banks maintain the required reserves and follow the rules.

We must disallow all enterprises and activities that do not contribute to the general welfare. It’s easy to see that theft, burglary, and embezzlement have no redeeming social value. That’s why they are illegal. But Wall Street every day rakes in money—our money—with rapid computer trading and other sleazy activities that should be illegal. Fast computer programs flash away all day to pick pennies off the top of trades several times per second. They contribute absolutely nothing to the country, and should therefore be outlawed.

They are not the only way Wall Street steals our money, of course. Hedge funds bet that an enterprise will fail. When it does, high rollers stuff their hidden bank accounts with sums that have lots of zeros at the end, while the general economy declines. In fact, the great majority of Wall Street enterprises are pure rent-seeking. That is, they “invest” in ways that contribute nothing, but extract unearned money from the economy. That’s the very definition of rent-seeking.

Another practice is the hostile takeover of businesses in financial difficulty. The vulture buyers then sell everything the company owns and fire everyone. The rich buyer gets richer, often much richer, and everyone else gets poorer and unemployed, and the country loses out. All such hurtful practices should be disallowed completely, because they are harmful to people and to the economy.

Wall Street is totally amoral. “Investment” doesn’t mean committing money to something beneficial. It means putting money into something with the sole purpose of extracting unearned profit. Any contribution to the economy is accidental. The purpose is to extract money, and that extracted money is ours.

People and corporations with Big Money routinely hide it offshore in financial institutions that keep their depositors’ names secret. The majority of this money is illegally hidden to avoid paying tax on it. We must have a new law that disallows investment in any institution in which the IRS cannot determine the names of depositors and the value of their holdings. Violators must personally be punished with prison terms. Fining a corporation does nothing because the fine is always paid by the corporation, not the criminal. At base, our money ends up paying the fine, and the practice continues.

Corporations have taken to “moving” their headquarters to places with low tax, although the only moving done is to establish a small office there. The corporation continues to benefit in many ways from the taxes we pay, but contributes nothing to the country. We should simply disallow this practice, but if not we should treat the company as a foreign business, and assess fees to cover the cost of the services and infrastructure a foreign corporation with a big presence in the US uses.

In general, we must end the opaque ways used in banking. The government should be able when necessary to learn the names of all “investors” in any enterprise. Tax authorities must be able to find out who owns real estate such as the multimillion dollar homes in NYC and elsewhere that are hidden by a series of shell companies designed to keep ownership hidden.

A revolving door has always existed between Congress or regulators and lobbyists. After serving in Congress, literally anyone can easily walk into a job that will quickly make her a millionaire by lobbying the same people she formerly worked with. There should be a significant period imposed before anyone can take such a job. I suggest five years. Congress is intended to be a legislative body, not an easy way to become rich.

These are only a few of the many corrections we must make if we are to restore real democracy and end the plutocracy we have become.

Let us hope the coming election gives us a Democrat for president and a Democratic majority in both houses of Congress. If that happens, we stand a fair chance of correcting the failures that Republicans have forced on us over three decades of subversion and failure to honor democracy.