The Proximity Problem

So, how can a President of the United States of America spout racist spittle in his Twitter account while pompously announcing he hasn’t a racist bone in his body? And, how could sentient being believe that?

Anyone who isn’t white spots the hypocrisy immediately. Many who are white find his statement compatible with their own feelings.  It doesn’t take too long in life to hear someone white say precisely the same thing and to note the speaker believes it.  The trick, and the proximity problem, is in the word that all too often follows the clause…”but.”

I’m not racist…but they just don’t behave like us. Or, they don’t work like we do, or they don’t raise their children up like we do, or they don’t take care of their property like we do…And so on.  Such tried and tired lines passed from generation to generation create the basis for institutional racism, the foundation for everything from redlining to school segregation.  Library shelves are full of volumes and tomes explaining racism. Kitchen tables are full of conversations and comments which perpetuate it.

Much of the President’s unpalatable rhetoric doesn’t leave a bad aftertaste if the listener is inclined to be uncomfortable in racially or culturally mixed groups.  There’s the key word, “comfort.”  Recall the studies from years back that concluded whites were comfortable in mixed neighborhoods until a minority population started to exceed 10%?  Now, think in terms of a head nodding member of Trump’s audience reacting to a racist comment with an interior “yeah, I don’t have any problems with ‘them’ I just don’t want too many of them in the school, the neighborhood, or my city.”  Translation: I don’t want to be in proximity.

Proximity is challenging.  Segregation allowed generations of white Americans to live with the benefits of non-white work, but without the necessity of contact or proximity.   It’s probably no accident that the gun-sense activists of Parkland made common cause with their cohorts from predominantly minority population neighborhoods.  Proximity is less problematic after a couple of generations of integration?  Proximity is easier when there is a cause greater than personal comfort.

Trump offers comfort to the Discomfited.  Uneasy with an African American President?  How about a white male one? Was that African American President making you feel uncomfortable because he understood The Talk parents have with teenage sons?  The more uncomfortable with members of minority groups, the more comfortable with Trump! To admit he is racist is to admit to one’s own biases.  Racism is white supremacist hood wearing cross burning radicals…but the President isn’t one of those, therefore I’m not racist either?  No, skip the hood, but he certainly makes noises compatible with those unfortunate souls when he uses words like invasion, infestion, and his officials appear on television rewording the plaque on the Statue Of Liberty.

He’s upset at being branded a racist, as would all those who emphatically declare themselves free of racism in all portions of their skeletons.  The solution is simple to say, complex to implement: Get used to the proximity.  A solution made all the more difficult when a significant percentage of the country doesn’t want to live, work, play, or pray near those unlike themselves.  Those uncomfortable with the unfamiliar,  who are fearful of the implications for their status.  We ignore them at our peril, and their residual racism causes the resurgence of our proximity problem for each generation. However, like a disease which refuses to be eradicated, changes and attacks the body politic in each new generation, inoculation is possible.  Acquaintance assists. Proximity helps. Tolerance cures.

 

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Filed under Immigration, Politics, racism

Loose Ends, Dots, and Access

First, could we, as Charlie Pierce suggested, turn the presidential debates back over to the League of Women Voters?  I think I might be tempted to stay for the entire program under those circumstances.  Further, it might free up some reporters to investigate topics which seem to get lost in the muddle.  Some examples–>

Saudi Arabia and the whole nuclear thing. There appear to be some story lines converging. There’s a crown Prince of dubious reputation involved with the murder of a journalist for an American newspaper.  How much involvement is unresolved.  There’s a deal for nuclear technology in which a long time backer of the current president is involved, and reporting of a deal struck with Israeli psy-ops which includes Saudi connections. The deal, the details, and the possibility of interconnections are a bit murky, but they could be part of a more integrated piece.  It would seem there is much more reporting gold to be mined from these seams.

Russians. Both FBI Director Wray and DNI Coats mentioned ongoing efforts by the Russians to continue their assaults on our elections, and on our political system in the past several days. Not that we shouldn’t already be aware of this systemic assault. Senate Majority leader McConnell may not like the appellation Moscow Mitch, but as long as story lines entangle him with the likes of Deripaska, and an aluminum plant, and lobbyists seeking preferential treatment for Russian concerns, that appellation may stick. Dots remain to be securely connected.

Add to this the strange tale of sanctions being legislated against Russia (and Saudi Arabia too) only to be left unimplemented or lightly enforced by the administration, or of sanctions being vetoed by the President (Saudi arms deal.)

Did someone get played when Trump launched his trade war with China and see them retaliate with tariffs on soy beans, only to discover later China decided to purchase soy beans from…Russia?

And yet, there’s the President out there for his chopper talk this week with reporters challenging the veracity of reports about ongoing Russian assaults on the US.  There’s Senate Majority Leader McConnell blocking election security bills in the 116th Congressional session.

This advice is far from original, but it’s perhaps useful to remind members of the 4th Estate “you ain’t learning anything when you’re talking.”  Please, sign off Twitter and other social media, use your telephones the old fashioned way, to contact sources, or to add sources and information to your reporting.  You don’t need to be on every pundit panel every hour during the A block. You really don’t need to be on pundit panels at all. Investigate, verify, report. Stop worrying about access.

Access is highly overrated.  Access didn’t break open the Tea Pot Dome Scandal, nor did it bring into light the Watergate Scandal.  Access gives you information someone wants you to have. Investigation gives us information the rest of us need to have.

Please follow the loose ends, see if the dots connect, uncover what you can, reveal what you can verify. We will be better off for your efforts.

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GOP and their Silent Night

Some thoughts on what’s been being shown on my television set recently…

Item: The chatterati are opining about .Republican silence in regard to Trump’s racist commentary.  I’m not so sure this is entirely accurate. True, Republican members of the House and Senate haven’t flocked to the cameras to denounce the egregious tweets, but silence may not be the most accurate characterization either.  Several Republican members have made it very clear, right out in public, they’ve no intention to run for reelection in 2020.

Those announcements might easily be construed to mean that while they don’t wish to incur the wrath of the Tweeter in Chief, they also don’t care to associated with his regime. This isn’t indicative of any great level of intestinal fortitude, but it is a form of statement.

Item: Senate Majority Leader McConnell is bent into pretzelian contortions because of criticism aimed at his refusal to bring election security measures up in the Senate.  Woe, he cries, it’s McCarthyism to suggest his disloyalty! Note to the Majority Leader, hurling epithets doesn’t answer the question — Why will you not bring these bills up for consideration?

Further, he declares, the Democrats are exploiting an issue for partisan advantage.  First, let’s notice that at least one of the bills is a bipartisan product, and secondly be aware that all issues, relating to all legislative matters, may at some point be advantageous for one side or the other. However, we’d be remiss not to observe McConnell’s comments as predictably convenient.  Whenever legislative consideration is sought on matters related to gun regulation reform or election security, the Majority Leader can be counted upon to declare this a matter of partisan exploitation.  This refrain is getting tiresome.

Dear Majority Leader, if you don’t want to be festooned with the hash tag #MoscowMitch, then do something to distance yourself from the Deripaskas of this world…hint: that aluminum plant deal in Kentucky isn’t helping.

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Filed under elections, Politics, racism

Could a person get some news?

Nothing hammered home the shallowness of so-called in-depth reporting this week quite like the treatment of Director Mueller’s testimony before two Congressional committees. Here are a few reasons my television set is now turned off.

Breaking news is broken. First, if something was reported at 7 in the morning it is no longer breaking at lunch time. Breathless repetition will not endow the item with any more immediacy. Nor will splendid graphics, or dramatic music. It was news at 7 in the morning, it is not news at 7 in the evening.

Secondly, while I appreciate the need for the broadcasters to fill air time, I don’t need endless panels to explain to me what I just watched. For one thing, this all but invites gaslighting. For another, I really am capable of comprehension and some context is welcome, but speculation is often ridiculous.

Speculation should be left to the investment markets. Remember the video of the rat dragging a slice of pizza, the little clip that went viral?  Going a step beyond the previous paragraph,  why should a person ever get the sinking feeling that somewhere a pundit was opining on what the specter of the smallish rat with the large pizza slice portended for urban politics in a polarized political landscape? Mercy, was there a chatterer out there wondering aloud if the rodent were an analog for the gentrification of neighborhoods? After all, it was a large slice of pizza. Or, was it emblematic of urban blight yet unaddressed? Yes, it was a rat. Spare me. There are less imaginative instances.

I’m certain nearly everyone, including the boor at the end of the bar (perhaps especially the boor at the end of the bar) has an opinion on each and every topic possible during a domestic broadcast. Pack enough of these people onto a set, run the cameras, and there’s an Instant Time Stuffer. Pack a sufficient number of generalists and the time is filled with a light fluffy concoction analogous to a news version of cotton candy. There’s not even enough substance for our rodent to bother with.

If you like sports but aren’t terribly good at one, join a fantasy league. The obvious manifestion of this problem remains the horse race journalism associated with national elections.  How many of us are there who really could go for one entire 24 hour period without receiving a single report of the latest poll? The one which may, or may not, have a large sample size; and, may, or may not, have a margin of error larger than the gap between the candidates included in the polling?

Walter Cronkite was no raging beauty. Telegenic is as telegenic does. The camera may love Bonita Bombshell or Howard Stalwart, but if they are delivering drivel…it’s still drivel.  Here’s a thought: If you can’t book A-List guests for the afternoon grill, how about filling the time with…news?

There are things going on in the world not generally noticed by an increasingly myopic American broadcasting system. For example, there’s an Ebola outbreak in Africa, the Greeks have a new government,  and Guatemala is experiencing severe drought. Death due to gun violence in the US has now surpassed that from traffic accidents, and Chinese economic growth has slowed down. However, the chances Bombshell and Stalwart are devoting time to these topics are fat and slim.

So, the television remains silent. I’ve no particular interest in game shows, or contests to see which individuals can make the greatest fools of themselves.  I could watch a ball game, sports talk about sports makes sense. I could select one of the plethora of shows about ancient Egypt, or true crime…enough of that already.  Or, I could, wonder of wonders, read a book, thus avoiding all the problems listed above.

 

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It’s Been A Long Time Coming: Trump wasn’t built in a day.

The Mueller Hearing, July 24, 2019, laid bare the current differences between the modern renditions of Republicans and Democrats in a stark flash illuminating what’s been going on since 1964 (at least) and why there are no silver bullets to resolve the Constitutional issues.  The hearings took 7 hours, the problems it highlighted are freighted with 65 years worth of history. Viewed from this perspective, Trump isn’t the disease, he’s the major symptom.

If there’s a handy label for the current political shape of the Republican Party I’m not aware of it, but what we are looking at is an amalgam of revitalized Dixiecrats and long range planning by the National Association of Manufacturers as described in the 1971 memo authored by Lewis Powell.

There are more than enough tomes on both the rise of corporate power, and the insidious spread of racist political foundations, to fill library shelves.  All we need do is see the spectacle of GOP apologists for Russian interference in our elections as another mile marker on an already paved road.

Part of the pavement is composed of the vestiges of those states where the decision in Brown v Board of Education was not well received, and those states where the battle flag went back up when it was discovered that they really were going to have to integrate their schools and public accommodations.  Does anyone believe it’s an accident Senate Majority Leader McConnell is jamming through judicial appointments of those who are hedging on whether Brown was correctly decided?  Does anyone cling to the fiction that the anti-abortion culture war alliances don’t trace back to school desegregation orders? Does anyone doubt the blatant racism of Stephen Miller’s immigration proposals?

Trump hasn’t changed the racist nature of modern Republican political ideology, he’s just said the quiet part out loud.

The other part of the mixture recalls the days when the National Association of  Manufacturers decided to move their headquarters to Wasington DC.  The road map was drafted in Lewis Powell’s 1971 memo, the “American economic system is under broad attack.” Powell advocated a long term, gradual but steady, advance of corporate interests.  It wasn’t too difficult to combine the residual McCarthyism with the call for “less government” to achieve the unlikely scene of so-called populist ultra-conservatives avidly supporting a racist president against the Commies and Socialists in a hearing room; it just took time and patience.

Please give latitude to my cynicism. Impeaching Trump would be a very constructive activity, but it won’t solve the problem. The GOP will simply find another, possibly less boorish, model who will be all the more dangerous for being better able to keep his (And it will be his) thumbs and mouth under control, one who won’t say the quiet part at decibel levels associated with aircraft engines.

The better view may be to take a longer approach, and one which draws from their own playbook. Hit’em where they think they’re strongest. In this instance, hit Trump on the very issue he intends to ride to a 2020 victory…immigration.

He’s already doubled, perhaps tripled, down on the racism embedded in his approach as he angles toward a base turnout election.  When an opponent is digging himself into a hole, hand him a larger shovel.  It shouldn’t be too difficult to brand Trump’s policies as racist, which they patently are. Nor should it be too much effort to clothe him in these soiled philosophical garments. “Yes, the stock market is doing well, but what are we to make of the fact that some children are being detained away from their parents in squalid conditions?”  Some message discipline required, but if Democrats can tag every interview with a brief inquiry about children in cages, US citizens being detained, or why the Republicans won’t discuss DACA recipients, the frog may start to boil?

Then we can add the health care issue. There is no GOP plan to replace the ACA.  Add one measure of immigration attack (Why won’t the GOP listen to Dreamers? Why are children locked away?) to one measure of specifically what is your plan to cover those with pre-existing medical conditions?  What is your plan to provide maternity care? Mental health and addiction abatement care? Why can’t we address gun violence as a question of public health and safety?

As once members of the left avoided the term liberal because the right wing talkers besmeared it, let right wingers know how the racist, heartless, radical label grates?

We could strengthen and broaden the Democratic message, and take an opportunity to begin a longer phased approach to reclaiming the social contract binding citizens to their government.  Patience. Discipline. Progress. It’s possible. A pendulum swings both directions.

 

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Filed under conservatism, family issues, Gun Issues, Health Care, Immigration, Politics, racism

Please don’t mistake what’s left behind after the elephants for the parade.

I’ve been amused at the number of pundits attempting to provide context and analysis in the wake of Trump’s racist spewage this past week. Several appear to have confused the elephant debris with an actual parade.

Let’s begin with two commonly accepted premises. First, Mr. Trump is not the brightest bulb in the chandelier, perhaps he’s the quintessential “taco short of a combo plate.” (H/T the great Ann Richards)  Secondly, he’s impulsive and undisciplined.  There have been more than enough whines from the executive office concerning how his tweets send underlings scampering to catch up to drive home that conclusion.  Based on these two notions the following conclusion isn’t too difficult to reach.

There is no strategy. There is no plan. What we are witnessing are staffers, deputies, and media stenographers, attempting to make sense of the obvious nonsense. Uncertain of this? Then consider the usual timeline, and the latest debacle fits into the pattern of obvious nonsense.

Initially, Trump is Trump. Boorish, illiterate, illogical, and racist. Then he lies. He didn’t do it, whatever it was, or someone made him do it, whomever they were. Out come the Explainers. The president really didn’t, actually couldn’t, or  truly was misrepresented by the Evil Press. Unfortunately for the Explainers there is video or a nice screen shot or two. Translation: The elephant has defecated in the street again and the Explainers are deployed with their brooms and dust pans.

Now that the debris is swirling the secondary Explainers launch. What, they pontificate all over my television screen, does this mean?  The easiest thing would be to park at square one and conclude the President is boorish, illogical, not very bright, and a racist. Surely not, the chatterati opine, there must be more. There must be strategy. Tactics? Ramifications? Implications? Proximate and approximate results? Why does there have to be anything?

After all is said, and said, and said it’s not the President who provides all this icing on the inedible cake, it’s the punditry. It’s a brilliant move to fire up his base? A strategy to drive the narrative away from his real agenda and take up air time? A deflection to establish foils in the advance of the Democratic nomination?  Or, how about it was a boorish, stupid, racist thing to say and the President said it. Period.

Combine Trump statements with cable news shows desperately trying to fill air time in the cheapest possible way, adding in more than a dash of polling information of questionable utility, and we get 24 hours of the same 12 hours of the same 15 minutes of what might pass for news.  The remainder is the culmination of the Explainers’ efforts to remove or re-pile the waste.

Enter the Commentators.  They follow the Explainers and shove the story past that “stupid thing to say” point with personal, anecdotal, and if we aren’t lucky, poll driven analysis.  Polls can be informative, but we’re getting altogether too many without seeing the actual questions respondents were being asked, and without notice given that some results have remarkable margins of error.

Commentators can be insightful; however, if people are too willing to allow those analysts to direct their own thinking, then we’re not using our own noodles. Each commentary is pedicated on the analyst’s own premises, previous assertions, or perspectives.  Please let us not confuse how the elephant leavings are stacked or strewn with the parade route.

An endless loop can be manufactured by having the President issue one of his half hearted, half arsed, semi-non-apology-apologies. Off they go again! The pile, the Explainers, the Commentators; a new configuration for the piles, followed immediately by the Explainers and the Commentators.

Let’s do try to simplify matters. It will often come to pass that a stupid, boorish, racist, man will say boorish, racist, things. There’s only one answerable question: Do you agree with him or not?  That sums up the parade.

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Filed under Immigration, Politics, racism, Republicans

Trump: Making Racists Comfortable Since 2015

Okay, there’s not a “racist bone in Trump’s body,” but there appears to be plenty in his muscles, tendons, ligaments, organs, and other soft tissue to make up for any deficit.

AND, he’s very good at making other such beings comfortable with their white supremacist perspectives.  The first way garden variety racists make themselves feel comfortable is to define their way out of the category.  How am I a racist if I don’t don the contents of my linen closet, join the circle around a burning cross, and wave my confederate battle flag? See, I’m not a racist…I’m not like those people!

However, it isn’t necessary to jump on the nativist bandwagon in order to hold obviously racist views.  How about dressing up in blackface for a Halloween event? Or, dressing up a youngster in blackface to perform country dance steps? Just good fun? Here’s a hint. If the activity would not be done in front of a predominantly ethnic minority audience of color, then it’s probably racist.

That the white person didn’t mean for the action or comment to be racist isn’t relevant. If it was racist it was racist. It isn’t the “other person’s fault” for “misinterpreting” the action or comment.  The responses range from outright defensiveness to attempts to deflect to the reaction as overblown or hyper-sensitive.  Another hint: It’s okay to apologize.

There are innumerable lists of items we could add to the Things Better Left Unsaid category.  Attach any of the following to the opening “I’m not a racist, but…” tag —

They just don’t fit in with regular people.

They just don’t learn English.

They don’t assimilate.

They drive up to get their food bank stuff in a better car than mine.

They always seem to have money for pizza and beer.

They sit around getting free stuff and services while there are jobs that go begging all over this country.

If they just act more like white people…

If they’d stop having kids they can’t afford…

AND, we could add another thousand variations on these themes, all to the same end.  The point is that the and related sentiments make those harboring racist ideas comfortable with themselves. Those, like the President, who reinforce and reassure the practitioners make the racists feel justified, less guilty, and more socially acceptable.  These are the people Trump feels he can add to his base.  If he can provide rationalization and justification to those who need to suppress their episodic pangs of conscience then his electoral strategy might be successful.

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