Friday, June 26, 2020

It's Satanic

Last week’s rally in Tulsa was microcosmic Trump; a preview of the contagion through which he’ll be dragging us till November. Lacking a single positive idea, presenting no vision to take us beyond the coronavirus crisis except to pretend it away, making no effort to heal the division wracking our country since the killing of George Floyd, it was Trump at his lowest. 
His one-sided message, aimed only at people like those who attended unmasked, confirmed the needs of a nation are irrelevant to him. The role of “leader” of a diverse nation was ignored as if it were a virus. “Elected” with no experience in governance, four years later he’s learned nothing.

It was a festival of grievance aimed at the embittered; not just downplaying, but mocking the disease that’s taken one-hundred-twenty-five-thousand American lives; the disease that, because of his incompetence and inattentiveness, is rising faster in the US than anywhere except Brazil.

That the rally even took place confirms Trump’s pathological indifference to all but himself. Facing an enormous challenge for the first time in his life, with no one to bail him out, requiring tough and untiring leadership, he’s waving the white flag, running down-ramp as fast as his bone spurs can carry him. Rather than working harder, calling upon the best of our nation, championing the need for short-term suffering for the greater good, he chose to lie and blame and move on.

The two-thirds-empty arena was filled with Trump’s signature race-baiting, fear-mongering, and outright lies. Protestors kept thousands from entering the arena, he explained, which Tulsa police denied. If Joe Biden wins, he warned, “bad hombres” will rape your women; he’ll take your guns (Really? Still?) and murder newborns. Never comfortable around strong women, he attacked Latina and Muslim Congresswomen. They hate your way of life, he prompted, to boos on que. But they cheered when he held a glass of water with one hand. The bar, it is low.

It was boilerplate stuff, his go-to demagoguery. Downplaying the virus, on the other hand, is something far worse. Trump’s pretense is killing people and he doesn’t care, which makes it satanic. Ironically, his future victims will disproportionately be his most loyal and indoctrinated supporters, as it’s they who accept the lie. We praise the sacrifices of our brave troops, they weep, but don’t ask us to wear masks.

Who could have imagined a “president” of the United States, a job formerly considered leadership of the free world, facing the ravages of a deadly pandemic, would tell people to ignore it, ridiculing the only activities known to slow it down? Implying wearing masks signifies disloyalty? Demanding, overtly, that his devotees disregard their and their loved-ones’ health in order to prove their love, and seeing them do it? But there it is: not-so-great-again America.

Testing should slow down, said Trump, because it makes him look bad. Never mind that it’s indispensable to getting back to normal. (If we stop checking documents, will illegal immigration end? What about pregnancy tests?) After his mouthpieces pretended he was kidding, he said he doesn’t kid. 
Either way, he’s curtailing funding for testing in several states, including Texas, where cases are exploding upward almost as fast as his disapproval rating. Senators have uncovered fourteen-billion unspent dollars intended by Congress to pay for testing. Trump has even ordered cutbacks on coronavirus research. And, like everything else Covid, we’ve just learned he lied about ventilators, too. 

It’s as if he WANTS his supporters to die. Seeing them obediently packing themselves together, submissively accepting his mockery of those who wish to protect themselves and others, is astonishing. It’s Jonestown, from sea-to-shining-sea. Are Trumpists really willing to die for a lie from the most damaged man ever to occupy the Oval Office, or are they so Foxotrumpified they can’t recognize what they’re being told to do, and why? It’s dystopia. It’s unimaginable: sardined believers, cheering their own ignorance. Ave Trumpum, morituri te salutant.

Because of Trump, America leads the world in failure to control the virus, which, given his obvious unsuitability for the job, was inevitable. The work was too hard for him, doing right too unfamiliar. Best to declare victory and go rallying.

As the EU considers banning travel from here, Trump’s America has become an international pariah. Mystified and worried by our rapid fall from respectability, the world now sees us as undesirables. Trump’s scarlet hat is our nation’s scarlet letter.

Friday, June 19, 2020


“If I were to run, I’d run as a Republican. They’re the dumbest group of voters in the country…” Donald Trump, interview in People Magazine, 1998.  
Credulity. It wouldn’t be credible to argue it only infects Trumpofoxians. Nevertheless, one sees far fewer obvious falsehoods coming from the online left than from the right. Cultivated credulity has created such a hermetic barrier between left and right that it looks impossible ever to find a way back. And whether or not it’s equally distributed (it’s not), the deliberate nurturing and propagation of it comes mainly from one side. 
Among liberal cable news partisans, there aren’t intentional liars like the stars of Fox “news” and the screamers of Limbaughland. Or Trump. Or foreign-based, online efforts to divide Americans and bring down our democracy by reelecting Trump; or, if it fails, to discredit the election.  
Last week’s column addressing Trump’s and Fox’s lies about antifa fell on deaf eyes, as usual. One Trumpist responded with pictures of so-called antifa members arrested in recent riots. He declined to supply the source, but I found it, and, surprise, it was a compendium of people charged in a Portland uprising a couple years ago, not a single one of whom was identified as antifa.  
Next came a link to an end-times website, posting about Seattle’s Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, CHAZ. Complete with mischaracterized pictures, it claimed “Antifa soldiers” had beat up a sidewalk preacher there, choked him as he cried out “I can’t breathe,” while onlookers jeered. Amazingly, it included video which showed he was being hugged, not choked or beaten. 
How credulous must one be to believe, despite evidence of the opposite? How mushy is the mind that accepts the horrifying but fabricated descriptions of CHAZ Fox “news” offloads, and not actual live feeds from local sources?  
Then, as darkness follows night, came assertions about George Soros funding antifa, and the tired claim that he collaborated with Nazis in WWII, and is now working to destroy democracy. Which, as one can learn from a moment’s searching of responsible sources, makes Trump’s coronavirus lies seem positively Socratic. 
Why and how Soros became bogeyman #1 for Trumpists isn’t mysterious, but given who he is and what he actually does to support democracy around the world, it’s credulity to the ninety-ninth power.  
In Trump’s greatened America, fifty-three Qanon believers are running for Congress: paranoid people who accept the stupefying conspiracy that Satan-worshipping pedophiles rule the world, possibly from pizza parlors.  
There’s more, like video of people screaming at city council meetings, convinced that wearing masks dangerously raises blood CO2 levels. Masked for hours almost daily, as a surgeon for decades, I … disagree. While cases surge, mask-eschewing Trump just announced the virus is “fading away.” What does it say if he believes that? What does it say if he doesn’t?  
“The breakup of the United States of America is already under way,” brayed a member of the Russian Duma recently, thus illuminating the real significance of America’s credulity problem: it serves the enemies of democracy, including Russia, China, North Korea, Iran, and Trump. When Americans are unable to separate fact from fiction, those foes win and our republic loses. (  
Spreading disinformation to the credulous isn’t new, but Republicans like Newt Gingrich, Roger Ailes, Karl Rove, Lee Atwater, and now, Trump, weaponized it, flooding the zone with so many lies that people gave up calling them out. So successful is it that those adversaries recognized its potential to further their aims. Not only have they exploited widespread credulity to influence our elections, aided by Trump and his Congressional co-conspirators, they’ve convinced millions they haven’t. That’s meta-credulity. (  
Education, to which Republicans refer as brainwashing, is a powerful antidote to credulity. Equally potent are the workings of a free and skeptical press, which is why Trump calls it “fake news.” For too many currently in power, too much depends on keeping credulity alive. And too many Trumpophiles welcome the slumber of its comforting embrace.  
Trumpist credulity now faces its biggest challenge. Confirming everything Trump’s impeachment exposed, and more, John Bolton’s book has discharged a Foxotrumpian effluvium, enjoining the credulous to deny or excuse the malversation to which he bears witness. (Which is it? Lies, or classified?) 
During the impeachment trial, Senate Republicans cravenly refused to call Mr. Bolton. Do terminally credulous Trumpists finally understand why?  
Oh. Almost forgot: that Trump quote, still around, is fake. 

Friday, June 12, 2020

It's Not Antifa

After eighteen-thousand documented false statements from our “president,” you’d think everyone would assume he’s lying until proven otherwise. You’d be wrong, of course.  
Repeated endlessly, amplified by a carefully-crafted network of media propagandists, Trump’s lies are gobbled like manna, leading para-Trumpists to conclude there’s no downside to lying. “My attitude was get it done, but I didn’t say, ‘Go do it,said William Barr, about the attack on peaceful protestors at Lafayette Square. Pepper spray isn’t a chemical, he added. Like Mueller found no crimes. From Trump and adjacent, lying is Plan A. Here’s the perfect example: “Antifa.”  
Short for anti-fascist, the term described various groups in post-war Germany dedicated to preventing fascism from rising again. Connected loosely, if at all, they were, in essence, detectives, looking for leftovers from the Reich. People who wanted to preserve freedom and democracy from fascism. The idea naturally spread to America, where, until Trump, Nazis were disliked.  
Raise your hand if you know what Antifa is here; its headquarters, its command structure, its membership requirements and how many it has. Do you know how to pronounce it? Are you sure all demonstration disrupters are Antifa? Keep your hand up if you believe it’s more dangerous to democracy than white supremacists, neo-Nazis, Proud Boys, Boogaloo Boys, the KKK. Have you seen Antifa members recruiting here, like Proud Boys are? Are you okay with the use of military spy-planes over American citizens? 
Omitting the aforementioned rightwing gangs of “very fine people” who actually do have structure, recruitment, funding, and nationwide reach, Trump has described only Antifa as terrorists. Based on a report by a Russian operative working for a Russian propaganda network and carried on more-Trumpist-than-Fox OANN, (which looks a lot like “ONAN”) he even suggested the old man (my age) who was pushed by police is “possible Antifa,” and implied his skull-cracking fall was a gravity-enhancing “setup.” Not the first of Trump’s Russia-sourced conspiracies 
As Trump lurches ever further from his rocker, his confabulations are exploited online by entities posing as Antifa, announcing non-existent plans for violent invasions into white neighborhoods. One such deceiver has been identified as the white nationalist cabal “Identity Evropa.” In Snohomish, Klamath Falls, across the nation, the deceived show up, armed and drinking, which isn’t dangerous. When the fabricated invasion doesn’t happen, what so proudly they prance.  
Contrary to Trump’s and Barr’s assertions, no one arrested in the current chaos has been identified as Antifa, whereas the presence of white supremacists and other rightwing agitators has been confirmed. The consequences of these “presidential” lies are grave. Inflamed by Trump, Barr, fascist-flirt Senator Tom Cotton, and Fox “news” saying the appropriate response to peaceful protest is sending in the troops, citizens are driving into crowds, grabbing long guns from their trucks and threatening to shoot. Doing it, in some cases. Even here, on Capitol Hill.  
It’s not hard to believe this is exactly what Trump intends. Accustomed to lying or cheating or blaming his way out of personal responsibility for his entire life, he’s becoming increasingly desperate for something, anything, by which to regain traction. To help you ignore his serial failures and the flood of generals and admirals finally calling him out; even stirrings among Republicans.  
From his depleted trick-bag, Trump chose the worst, which is to say the most Trumpian, option: turn citizens exercising their First Amendment right of assembly, petitioning equal justice from their government, into the enemy; get Trumpo-Americans exercising their Second Amendments rights to believe, and unleash the hounds of Hell. Seeding the civil war he has all but called for, should he be unable to suppress enough votes in November.  
After Trump’s third-world-dictator attack on peaceful protesters, sending his message of “domination,” Americans are fighting each other. Convinced all demonstrators are “Antifa,” which, it’s been shown, comprises virtually none of the protestors we’re seeing, Trumpists feel empowered to threaten their lives, spewing Trump-endorsed rage at fellow Americans advocating liberty and justice for all. This may be his most dangerous, anti-American lie of all.  
Meanwhile, as he pretends Antifa is our foremost enemy, Trump is precipitously and without consultation reducing our troops in Germany. This pleases Putin, who’s moving forces to his western border. What election help, and more, one wonders, has Putin has promised in return?  
To salvage our democracy, it’s November or never.  
For those interested in discovering what Antifa is and is not, these links are a start.
[Image source]

Friday, June 5, 2020

Racism, Protest, And Trump

The thread of racism runs through the fabric of America. Anyone who pretends otherwise, who believes our justice system is free from it, who fails to understand it’s at the heart of these demonstrations, is deluded. 
Contrary to claims, the election of President Barack Obama didn’t mark its end. Like jogging or birdwatching, presidenting while black provoked racist fury, eventually helping to “elect” Trump, whose racism was obvious long before he back-doored politics by way of Kenya. Before he urged participants to “knock the crap” out of protestors at his rallies, before he told police to be rough when arresting people.  
White Americans can grieve, but we can never feel what it’s like to be African-American when yet another is killed by cops in circumstances unlikely to have extinguished a white person. None of us has had to teach our sons how to avoid being murdered, nor feared for their lives whenever they went out. Who can say they wouldn’t be protesting, rioting even, if skins were exchanged? 
Policing mass protests is tough. This isn’t about cops. It’s about bad ones and unequal justice. And bad people and their bad president, who didn’t start it but has made it worse, before, during, and, no doubt, after the current turmoil. He thinks it plays well for him.  
It’s an unending cycle: brutal police action results in the death of an African-American; angry protests arise, initially peaceful. Then someone throws a brick, a firebomb, looting starts, police respond, people are arrested, violence becomes the story, peaceful protestors are ignored, the underlying issues are suffocated. Again.  
The words of no president could entirely quell violence. Before Trump, though, they’ve tried. Only he, seeing personal advantage, has intentionally poured accelerants into the flames. Incapable of rising to the occasion, he could no more appeal to our best than he could put down a cheeseburger. To him, this violence is an opportunity to distract from his incapable coronavirus leadership, to get his base even angrier, to assure their turnout in November.  
No doubt some of the violence is an expression of anger and frustration, even as it buries the message. But the overwhelming majority of protestors have been non-violent; those who aren’t make it easy to dismiss them all as, in Trump’s inspirational words, “lowlifes and losers.” Which is the point: many instigators – white supremacists, neo-fascists -- are there to do just that; and, unlike anti-fascists, the only group Trump would designate as terrorists, their presence has been documented.  
Violence is to be condemned, but a real president would acknowledge the country’s cross-cultural pain and seek ways to heal it. Instead, eager to look tough, Trump chooses to make it worse, threatens to unleash “vicious dogs and ominous weapons,” calls governors “weak” while sequestered in a bunker in a darkened White House. (He was only “inspecting it,” he told Fox “news.”) Lacking the moral authority of presidents past, he calls for cruelty, not calm.  
In his most disgusting act, ever, which is like picking the hottest tree in a forest fire, Trump, aping third-world dictators, facilitated by his (no longer our) Attorney General, had peaceful citizens dispersed with gas, rubber bullets and low-flying helicopters, before imperiously strutting across the street, followed dutifully by the Secretary of Defense and, decked out in combat fatigues, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. To posture with a Bible, with whose content he’s unfamiliar. 
Never have Trump’s phony religiosity and authoritarian phantasies been so evident, nor his certainty that his supporters are fools. Which they were quick to confirm. That Book should have melted his face like the Lost Ark.  
It’s heartening to see police and elected officials kneeling with protesters, and black demonstrators stopping white agitators from further carnage, pleading for calm, protecting a white cop. But Trump and his enablers will never address racial inequality. It’s up to all of us, liberal and conservative, finally to do so; and, because it’s now or never, to recognize the mounting danger we thought impossible: a democracy-destroying “president,” exploiting justified demonstrations to drag us ever closer to the military-backed dictatorship he craves; whose latest actions have been so disturbing, so sinister, they leave one bereft of words.  
So hear Joe Biden’s instead. Consider what we might regain, if there’s time; if military leaders find the integrity to refuse Trump’s despotic demands; if Republicans reclaim the American values for which they once stood; and if white people finally listen. Really listen.
[Image source]

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