Thursday, July 12, 2018

I Miss the America I Thought I Knew

As we get older and read more history, we learn that the story of the United States which we learned in school was, let us say, whitewashed.  The genocide of the original inhabitants, the appalling blot of slavery and the later development of Jim Crow, the hatred of almost every immigrant group which ever tried to come here (starting with the Germans who helped us win the Revolutionary War) - we learn all these things later. Yes, we passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, yes, we refused the Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany, yes, we incarcerated thousands of Japanese Americans because they looked like the people who had attacked us; but we also accepted many other immigrants (including, by the way, my mother), and more recently accepted refugees from natural disasters and wars.  And I don't even include the fact that until the mid-20th century, women were legally inferior to men and couldn't vote or in some places even own property.

I was born after the second World War, and as I became an adolescent, the Civil Rights movement was going on; later, the feminist movement began and flourished, President Reagan allowed amnesty to the undocumented immigrants here at the time.  I've been troubled recently by the police wars on people of color, but I allowed myself to hope that over time we were becoming more civil to each other and more open to the world.

And no matter what Americans did historically , the language of the Declaration of Independence blazes across history like a torch:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
Yes, I know the man who wrote that was a slave owner, who carried on an affair with one of his chattels, and that when he said "men" he meant property-owning white males.  I know that isn't what he meant.  But it's what he said.  And somehow over the intervening centuries, people of color have gained the vote, women have gained the vote, it became less socially acceptable to use certain words and do certain things, and even people who prefer to love others of the same sex have moved toward acceptance. I allowed myself to hope that we were moving closer to what Jefferson said, and might actually become the beacon of freedom he wrote about.

Since the 2016 presidential election that hope has died.  The 45th president has enabled and encouraged every form of bigoted, abusive behavior by his largely white, Christian supporters against everyone else.  We've reverted to a world in which people of color are publicly insulted and assaulted by white citizens, where women and people of non-standard sexual preference can be publicly attacked, where immigrants are regarded and attacked as evil animals.  We briefly separated children from their parents at the border, who came here for no worse reason than that they were fleeing danger in their own poorly governed countries.  We are at odds with our former allies.  We have begun a trade war, which could easily throw the entire world into another great depression - tariffs were what caused the first one.  And on top of all this, his people are systematically destroying all the protections against dishonest, rapacious, polluting big business which the country has built up over the last hundred years.

We elected a stupid, self-centered, ignorant and dishonest man, who is convinced that his "gut" is always correct and he doesn't need advice.  If this goes on much longer he will destroy us. He already thinks he'd like to be "president for life,"  which God forbid.  And Congress, which the founders meant to be a check on the president, licks his boots and does whatever he wants.  I didn't vote for him.  I will never vote for anyone who supports him.  But unless everyone who thinks like me rises up and votes to turn over control of Congress in the fall, we'll be stuck with him for 4 or possibly even 8 years.  By which time the America we thought we knew will be dead.

Is that what we want?  If it isn't, we'd better act.


  1. Hedera: I catch the alarmist note in your blog, here, and I fully respect your opinions, which are always thought-out and carefully considered.

    Is the sky falling? Probably, but things are always more complicated than they seem, and there are always at least three ways of looking at a problem.

    Trump is a gauche man, full of fustian and vanity and delusions. He was fairly elected under a system that rewards cunning and conniving, and there may be some very peculiar skeletons in his closet. I did not vote for him, and I think he's doing much more harm to our country than good.

    However, on some of the issues--issues which, of course, were cynically chosen to "appeal" to his "base"--there is reason enough at least to acknowledge some ambiguity.

    With respect to immigration, about which I've written a good deal, the U.S. faces an enormous burden from illegal entry. A generation ago, it was commonly regarded with consternation. Today, the problem's much worse, and yet the immigrant lobby has managed to frame the issue as an "humanitarian/refugee" crisis, when it is plainly economic opportunism from Central and South America. Trump's heavy-handed campaign against illegal immigration has been a botch, but the underlying need to address the problem, firmly, without fake "sympathy" is long overdue, IMO.

    With respect to trade, the U.S. has had an enormous trade imbalance for several decades. Our relationships with Europe, Central and South America, and with Asia (notably China) have been characterized as massive exploitations of American companies and workers. American companies can't compete in China and Europe, while China is the de-facto owner of Walmart and Target. All these countries have maintained big tariffs and regulatory barriers to American companies and products. Successive administrations have politely suggested they cease doing this, to no avail. The sad fact is there is no such thing as "free trade." Our current tariff moves are long overdue, and will likely bring about some temporary hardships until such time as our selfish "trading partners" back down on their long-standing selfish positions.

    With respect to NATO, it's been 70 years since VE Day, and most of the Europeans today weren't even born then. People forget. They forget American boys dying in Italy and France and Holland and Germany to liberate them from Nazi tyranny. NATO was formed as a bulwark against Russian aggressive arms in Europe, a common sense organization designed to unify disparate nations in defense of their own interests. WWII was a long time ago. In the interim, the Soviet Union dissolved, and Russia went through a painful self-examination. Russia still is a threat, albeit a regional one now. Europeans need to be reminded of their stake in their own defense. The U.S. has carried Western Europe on its shoulders now for almost three generations, and the Europeans take it for granted. They need to be reminded of their own responsibility. They need to pay their fair share.

    There is no doubt that the recent "tax overhaul" was a severe defeat for middle class Americans. In a time of burgeoning corporate profits, the Republicans shifted another huge burden onto ordinary American taxpayers. Now they're coming after the social safety net, and they have the American outback in their anti-environment sights. These are terrible things. We need to get back on track. The Republicans have always represented the interests of the rich and big business. If this weren't enough to wake up the Democratic Party, then what would be?

    1. Curtis,
      This is just a test, to see if I can reply to a comment (and possibly get a notice about it). I sent you an email with a fuller response.