Trump: Proxy of Racism

[If the election of Trump has produced any positive benefit to the country, it’s the rebirth of journalism. Brilliant work is being done by investigative journalists and thoughtful essayists all across the country, in newspapers and magazines large and small. Charles Blow is a NYT writer whose work is always worth a look, and today he’s even more on point than usual. He says what has to be said to speak truth to power, we can only hope that candidates arise soon who can speak and run for office with the eloquence Blow brings to the page. It may be the only thing that saves us.]

by Charles Blow, NYT

Donald Trump is completely unfit to be president of the United States.

That is not an ideological expression. That is an expression of the shock of mounting evidence that he is intellectually deficient, temperamentally unsound and morally bankrupt.

Just this week, he has once again underscored the degree to which he is openly hostile to people of color — I call that racism and bigotry — and demonstrated his lack of impulse control to conceal his contempt even when doing so would be to his benefit.

On Monday, Trump defiled a White House ceremony to honor Navajo veterans of World War II (a meeting already defiled because it was held before a portrait of Andrew “Trail of Tears” Jackson) by using a racial slur, pejoratively referring to Senator Elizabeth Warren as “Pocahontas.”

These men deserved better, and if Trump were thinking more about them and less about himself — as almost any other American president would have been — he wouldn’t have dragged their moment down into his muck. But this is what happens when you “let Trump be Trump”: He shows up as the bestial creature that he is.

On Tuesday, The New York Times reported that unnamed advisers told the paper that Trump has also resurrected the racist lie of his political vivification: the question of Barack Obama’s birthplace, and by implication, his legitimacy as America’s first black president, or put another way, its only nonwhite president.

According to The Times: “In recent months, they say, Mr. Trump has used closed-door conversations to question the authenticity of President Barack Obama’s birth certificate.”

This unprecedented “show me your papers, boy” kook campaign of which Trump became grand wizard is deeply rooted in racial hostility. It is a castigation of assertive black masculinity, like Obama’s, which refuses to bend to traditional power or promulgate the fallacy that the legacy of historical racism is all either fantasy or forgiven.

Then, on Wednesday, Trump shared on Twitter apparently unverified, anti-Muslim videos from a right-wing extremist group in Britain. As CBS News reported, “The videos were tweeted out by the account held by Jayda Fransen, the deputy leader of the far-right U.K. political party ‘Britain First,’ which is known for promoting an anti-Islam, anti-immigration and nationalist agenda.”

That’s right: Not satisfied with his implicit (though obvious) endorsement of white supremacy here in America, Trump has now explicitly endorsed white supremacy in another country.

These are not mistakes. These are not coincidences. This is not mere bungling. These are revelations of the soul. This is who Trump is and who he has always been. This is who he was before he entered politics, and who he remains.

The Trump Doctrine is White Supremacy. Yes, he is also diplomatically inept, overwhelmed by avarice, thoroughly corrupt and a pathological liar, but it is to white supremacy and to hostility for everyone not white that he always returns.

When the political vise tightens on him, he just so happens to find a nonwhite target to attack.

When his tongue gets loose within him, he just so happens to find a nonwhite target to attack.

Anyone who doesn’t see this is choosing not to. They are clueless as an act of convenience, willfully blind and intentionally ignorant. Or conversely, they not only see it, but cheer it. Either way, the people who elected Trump and those who continue to support him are to blame for what they have inflicted on this country.

Republicans had a choice of 17 nominees; they chose Donald Trump. The party threw its weight behind him. Many of the candidates who had vigorously opposed Trump, including on moral grounds, endorsed him. Millions of voters who had voted for other candidates also voted for Trump.

So never let these people feed you the lie that they voted for Trump only because they didn’t have a choice and they wanted to vote against Hillary Clinton. They had a choice, and they chose the magnification of their darkest demons.

They nominated and elected a sexist, bigoted, white-supremacist sympathizer because, to them, those traits were, on the one hand, not disqualifying, and on the other hand, commendable.

Some reason that they needed a Republican, even this opportunistic Donny-Come-Lately, for the conservative judges and tax cuts that would outlast whatever bad behavior he brought to bear. Others actually wanted the anointing of their own racial animosity.

But I see only shades of difference between open racial hostility and the accommodation of racial hostility. It’s all interrelated and interdependent.

There is no way to maintain your honor when you have given Trump your blessing. There is no way to claim that your position is about conservative ideology when you support a man who keeps demonstrating that he is obsessed with an ideology of color.

Trump is your baby, Rosemary. I give no quarter to Trump or to the people who still support his demonstrated hostility to my and every other person of color’s right to live without being, as James Baldwin put it, “menaced and marked” — by the leader of my own country. I believe in diversity and tolerance. But the tolerance of a hateful ideology is not inclusiveness, but appeasement, and of that I will have no part.

If you support Trump and his racial hostility, you and I have absolutely nothing to discuss. Nothing!

Hey Men! AWARENESS: Look It Up

I spent the first 17 years of my professional life as a public school teacher. The transition to full time actor/producer was gradual, but in the early 80s, I pulled the plug on my teaching career and plunged head first into a new work life. The time I spent in public schools was filled with stories and incidents of teacher-teacher, teacher-student, and teacher-parent relationships that were discussed quietly at poker games, in the faculty lounge, and at the Legion Club after a football game, but rarely trotted out into the bright light of public exposure. As a 21 year old English teacher fresh out of college, I was aggressively pursued by a couple of 18 year old senior girls at a rural Minnesota high school. I was a fairly dim recent graduate of a men’s college, but when I finally realized what they were doing I made it clear to them that it was inappropriate, wrong, and could get them—and me– into big trouble. I knew teachers who lost their jobs because they got involved with students whose care they were entrusted with by the community. It was a boundary I was well aware of and made sure I never crossed. Some of my colleagues crossed it. They paid the price.

When I started appearing at renaissance festivals as an Elizabethan rogue in tights with a sword and an attitude, and Joe and I wrote comedy sketches that included “romantic” interactions with audience members, we did it without thinking about any contemporary ramifications of the action and dialogue. We took refuge in the attitudes and mores of the 17th century. But we became quickly aware that there were fellow male performers who were using their positions to intimidate and harass younger women actors. We took it upon ourselves to act as protectors to a couple of these girls in the Royal Court, one of whom was the daughter of a friend of ours. We talked to two of the jerks who’d been making life uncomfortable for the girls, literally threatened them, and they backed off. We should have reported them to management and had them fired, because later we found out these creeps simply found other targets. Later, as I worked more and more stages in Twin Cities theater, stories of abuse and harassment of women AND children surfaced, and continue to this day. Some of the perps have been rooted out, some have left the country, some are still working. Boards of Directors have begun to keep a close eye on behavior they used to shrug off, liability is now the watchword. Good. A financial sword hanging over their heads is as good a motivation as any.

It’s hard to find any women anywhere who don’t have a story about sexual harassment, intimidation, coercion, and otherwise shitty behavior that forced them to choose between speaking up and likely losing their jobs, or keeping silent and finding a way to survive in that environment. 60% of women surveyed say it’s happened to them, and most of them say it happened in the workplace.

That’s a clear indictment. Of men. I’ve spent forty plus years acting and directing and I’ve never had to worry about anything other than learning my lines and not tripping over the furniture. 

Things are finally changing. It’s big. Some of the men I know right now are spending time re-thinking the past and trying to recall when and where they may have been part of the problem. I’ve had my picture taken after the show with thousands of women over the years (just like Al), and the natural bawdiness of the period, the setting, the costumes, the tone, the alcohol, all contribute to a looseness and false intimacy that wouldn’t be tolerated in most work settings, but is just part of the “fun” at a renaissance festival. I wonder how many of those photos we took includes a woman who left feeling that we had crossed a line? Few, I can only hope. 

This past October at the Maryland Festival, John and I were in the middle of a late afternoon show, doing the “Doctor” sketch, and I saw a well-dressed woman in the third row, alone, watching and slowly shaking her head at various jokes and pieces of dialogue. Most of the audience was laughing hard, she wasn’t. When I went back to my trailer, I grabbed the script for that show and went through the sketch with that woman in mind. By the time I read it through, I decided to scrap it. Yes, it had some great lines, some really funny bits, but it’s basic premise was John studying to be a doctor and proving he knew what he was doing by “examining” a woman in the front row. There were too many physical references that were just not really funny, especially to the many women in every audience who had faced similar “comedy” at work and had to find a way to laugh along with the guys or otherwise brush it off.  It was like reading the script to an old vaudeville piece where a busty woman was the prop for all the big laughs. Guess I should have seen it a long time ago. Better late than never. 

Today one of my heroes, Garrison Keillor, was fired for inappropriate behavior. No details yet, but that was a stunner. I have his books, I went to college and worked and taught in the heart of Lake Woebegon. Probably the last guy I would have thought would end up on this fast-growing list. Matt Lauer was no surprise, his treatment of Ann Curry was well known in the industry and his interview with Hillary Clinton last year during the election was classic male privilege run amok. Good riddance.

Awareness is where we start. Men have never really had to take a hard look at the casual humiliations they inflict and easy-to-abuse power dynamics they play with every day. There will be more revelations to come, and I can only hope this isn’t a prophecy that turns on the prophet. This will be a long, slow change, but a change long in coming and way overdue.






This S**t is Normal Now

by George Godwyn

November 29th, 2017


For going on two years now, I have been following several Donald Trump groups, alt right groups, and just general far right reactionary groups. I have seen these groups grow from 500 or a thousand people to 20,000, 30,000, 50,000, and more. 

When I joined them, I felt like something was changing, something new was happening, and I wanted to try and understand it. (as well as for an occasional laugh, it would be fruitless for me to deny that now.) Of course, it was fucking appalling. But I kept watching. I knew Trump would win the primary long before most people thought it was a possibility on the basis of what I saw in these groups. I’ve become familiar with memes and tropes and ideas common in the groups and I think I’ve gotten a fairly good grip on the culture. I’ve been pretty accurate in my predictions regarding the Trump and the hard right over this period of time, other than his victory in the general election. Because of these groups.

Since that time, when the subject of Trump, or the alt right, or neo-Nazis in conversation, sometimes I will suggest to my friends, people on the left, that they join a trump group or an alt right group, to see what’s going on in them. And I can’t remember one time offhand when the person I was talking to thought it was a good idea. (If I’m wrong, if I’m forgetting, feel free to correct me, but I can’t remember anyone wanting to.) My memory is that, to a person, anyone I know on the left who has heard the suggestion has expressed feelings somewhere in a range between lack of interest to horror, generally tending towards the latter.

So the other day I wake up to my feed full of people angry about the New York Times profile of the Ohio Nazi, Tony Hovater. I read the piece and it just seems like a profile of a Nazi to me. Completely unsurprising or notable in any way, other than its correlation with my own experience. I thought it was very well done.

Then I started reading my friend’s posts about the article, articles about the article. Apparently everyone is angry about the normalization of the Nazi in the piece.

Hey, guys. Hey, as someone who’s been watching this shit for two fucking years, here’s a little wake up, You really don’t have to worry about the New York Times normalizing Nazis because it’s too fucking late. THIS SHIT IS NORMAL NOW.

Like I said, for two years I’ve been telling people to join a Trump group, watch a Nazi website, do something to keep yourself familiar with this shit, and for two years I’ve been watching everyone ignore that advice and then act surprised when Nazis happen. Guys, THEY’RE HAPPENING. If the Times profile bothered you, if you were surprised that the Times would print something so bland about a Nazi, you just haven’t caught up to where we are. There’s just no way you would be surprised if you were really familiar with real world, ground-level, political landscape of 2017. It was spot on perfect, in execution and conception. You’re angry because you wanted the Times to treat the Nazi as though he were abnormal, but he just isn’t. You want to read about Nazis leading some sort of twilight existence, on the cultural outskirt, but THAT’S NOT WHERE THEY ARE. The New York Times didn’t normalize that Nazi. He’s normal. Journalists can’t hyperventilate at every Joe Dokes with a swastika poster, anymore. Normal people are Nazis, now. It was a perfect, accurate representation of the ordinariness, the commonness, of contemporary white nationalism and authoritarianism. It’s exactly where America is at, and if you don’t get that, you really need to.

They’ve come in and out of the libertarian group I run, they’re all over the far right pages. The people who actually call themselves Nazis are the minority, of course, and most of the people in the Donald Trump groups wouldn’t dream of referring to themselves as Nazis, right now, but they are not one iota less hateful. To be honest, they are probably more hateful than the guy the Times profiled. And half the people who wouldn’t dream of actually calling themselves Nazis are EXTREMELY sympathetic to great portions of the Nazi program. Shit, white nationalist ideas go down with barely a spoken objection in some of the straight Trump groups, quite often. They’re not problematic at all. The Overton window has shifted so far and so fast, the Nazis are in it now. It’s that fucking simple. They may be on the edge, but they’re well within the frame. The guy in the Times piece is in there, smoking a cigar, kicking back, and putting his feet on the ottoman. Again, guys – THIS IS NORMAL. THE NAZIS ARE NORMAL.

I’ve watched these groups proliferate, grow. You want to tell yourself that this is a fringe, that the worst, loudest, biggest assholes take over groups like that. That ain’t it. A couple dozen groups have become hundreds, thousands. I’ve read the comments, I’ve clicked on the profiles, and I’ve read the user info for all the perfectly nice, seemingly intelligent, well-spoken citizens cheering ICE incarcerating some sick 10-year-old, saying all Muslim-Americans should be deported, demanding football players who protest the police should be put in jail until they stop kneeling, that some reporter should be thrown in jail for asking the president an uncomfortable question, that Iran and North Korea should immediately be nuked. I’m not talking about five or six unpleasant comments on your local newspaper website, I’m talking about literally hundreds of posts with threads that are thousands of comments long, every day, in every group, exactly like this, in too many groups to count. They’re not monsters, they’re not the prison gang leader with the swastika on his neck. They’re just folks. They’re filled with hate. But they are still just folks, most of the time. This is America now.

Nobody thought Donald Trump could win the Republican primary because he was just so stupid, so venomous, and so obviously beyond the bounds of what WE tought were the cultural/political norms, but he did. No one thought he could win the election for the same reason, but he did. And he won not despite those flaws, because of them. A huge segment of the population of the United States is filled with hatred so intense they actively want a vastly more authoritarian government that will shove that hatred down the throats of the left. They want fascism. They’re hungry for it, whether they call it that or not. In the kind of Orwellian doublespeak this administration has become famous for, they call it “liberty” or “freedom” or “American values”, but they’re talking about hard authoritarianism. They’re talking about fascism. A lot of them would balk at the term, but they know what they want.

The guy in the apartment next to you thinks this country would be a lot better off if we dealt with drug users the way Trump’s friend in the Philippines does. One of your coworkers doesn’t like the term “Nazi” because his grandfather fought them, but he goes home every night and sits in front of his computer and considers whether or not some of the points Richard Spencer is making might not be exactly what America needs. The cop that gave you a ticket for speeding last night has a 14 words tattoo that he’s been hiding in the locker room for the last couple years, at least around the black officers. And the girl next to you on the bus, on the way home, she’s a fucking Nazi. I guarantee she’s a fucking Nazi.

November 8, 2016, all of us on the left and a substantial segment of the right watched in amazement as Donald Trump rode a burgeoning wave of race hatred and ideological tribalism into the White House. If you think victory has satiated this monster, you are very fucking mistaken. And if you think defeating the Republicans in 2018 or 2020 is going to stop it, destroy it, you’re delusional.

The new authoritarianism is here, it is part of the culture, and it’s making itself comfortable. Ethno-nationalism, white supremacy, hard right authoritarianism, has been back in Europe for awhile and now it’s here. Not the bad part of America you never actually visit, not some backwoods hillbilly America that we get to ignore in our little leftie bubble. Not the supermax the next county over. It’s all around you, it’s next-door, and it’s in a little town in Ohio where a nice, young, newly married couple are starting their life together.

This is something new. Remember when Bush was president, and you’d hold up a piece of cardboard and shout that he was a fascist with a bunch of your friends? Yeah, he wasn’t. Neither was Obama or Clinton or the other Bush or Reagan. They might’ve been terrible presidents, each of them. They might be terrible people. They might’ve done unforgivable things. Every single one of them was squarely within the tradition of Western liberal democracy, and so were the politics. Donald Trump isn’t. His followers aren’t. We are through the looking glass.

If the left doesn’t stop pretending these people don’t exist, pretending they’re an anomaly, pretending they will go away if the Democrats take back the house, or Mueller catches Donald Jr. red-handed, or your friend posts another meme about Donald Trump being orange, the left is going to get its fucking silly ass kicked again. It’s not going to get better overnight, and if Trump loses in 2020, trust me, I know these people – the hard right, the Trump right, the authoritarian right, is going to lose their goddamn minds. If Trump loses, it’s going to get worse. And what do you suppose happens then? What do you suppose happens when the apple pie fascists find someone capable to do the job? What happens when someone capable realizes there’s an opening? What happens when that person isn’t a fucking clown?

This is it. This is American politics in the 21st century. We are going to be fighting the lumpen neo-authoritarian right for the rest of our lives, likely. That’s the political territory. Whatever this nation’s faults in the past, it was never this before today, not in my lifetime. If it’s going to be stopped, it’s going to be stopped by people who understand what’s actually happening, not people with their heads in the sand and asses in the air. If you care, it’s time hike up your drawers, accept the facts, and familiarize yourself with the culture you’re part of, the parts of it that you’ve been trying to ignore. It’s not going away. It’s likely going to get worse before it gets better. We all need to understand what the fuck is going on before reality slaps us all in the face again, harder, with more permanent and deadlier results.

The Raging Garbage Fire in the White House

Nearly every single weekend, Donald Trump runs away from the White House in order to spend time in his private resorts and clubs. This, in turn, means he is away from his staff. This, in turn, means there’s nobody around to distract the garbage fire from the shrieking noises forever echoing around his head, and nobody around to suggest to the garbage fire that maybe he should do some presidenting instead of staring dull-eyed at Fox News all day, and so every single sodding weekend you can be absolutely assured that the garbage fire will pick up his smartphone with his stubby little fingers and start tweeting garbage fire thoughts at the rest of the world.

• On Saturday, the theoretical President of the United States attacked our free press in a way that would have been unheard of in past years.

• He followed up by promoting, to his 43.4 million followers, a transparently malevolent conspiracy theory site. Consider, for a moment, that the man theoretically in charge of our nation’s nuclear arsenal and military forces apparently lacks the mental capacity to distinguish between real and hoax news sites. Now consider that House and Senate Republicans continue to protect, defend, and endorse this obviously unfit imbecile.

• He spent Sunday morning calling for the election of a pedophile, declaring that his not-pedophile opponent “WANTS TO RAISE TAXES TO THE SKY.” Again, this is an actual supposed president saying this. It might as well become the Republican Party motto, at this point: We’ll support actual child molesters if they’ll help us cut a rich man’s taxes. Go ahead, embroider it onto a pillow. Pedophiles unite.

• He then lied about his own influence in Alabama because of course he did.

There. There ya go. Trump spent another holiday weekend being a lying, incompetent, spittle-flecked pedophile-supporting garbage fire. As he does every weekend, and in fact does during any moment of any day when he doesn’t have a staff member jingling their keys above his face to distract him.

Paul Ryan, call your office. Mitch McConnell, poke your crooked neck out of your crooked shell and take a look-see at what your party is, right now, in this moment. Grow a spine, any of you. Pretend, for one brief moment, that you give a damn.


–Hunter, Daily Kos