Archive for the ‘Society’ Category

Trump, destroyer of conservatism

August 23, 2019

(This appeared as a commentary in the 7/14 Albany Times-Union)

Democracy is not so much a set of practices (like elections) as it is a culture; a way of being. It was something new when articulated in 1776 — “all men are created equal” with “inalienable rights.”

The Declaration gave a nod to a “creator,” yet it was clear the kind of society it envisioned owed nothing to him. Instead it was the creation of human beings. And because humans are fallible, it can fail. A recent commentary in the Albany Times Union quoted Judge Learned Hand in 1944: “Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can save it.”

I became a conservative in the 1960s because of the profoundly democratic values and ideals that entailed. A key precept of the Enlightenment’s classical liberalism, and America’s founding values, has been constraining government power. Recent decades have seen a growing fear on that score. It led to “liberty” and “freedom” becoming, for the right, fetishized words. Badges worn by a political movement that has now gone on to make them a hollow mockery, by falling in to an orgy of tribalism, falling in line behind a false god.

Look what travesties are countenanced. Racial bigotry and divisiveness. Demonization of press freedom. Defying rule of law and government accountability. Inhuman cruelty toward suffering people at our border. Flattering brutal dictators, dismissing Russian subversion, shredding our alliances. A president steeped in corruption, vulgarity, and depraved egotism. All grounded in pervasive lies.

Is this what conservatives’ “liberty” and “freedom” have come to? They’ve lost their moral minds.

The word “conservative” should connote an ethos of humility and carefulness, of respect toward institutions and other people. As The Economist’s July 6 lead editorial headlined, “The new right is not an evolution of conservatism but a repudiation of it.” Actually at war with the classical liberalism conservatism once embodied. Conservatives used to see America as a bulwark for democracy globally. Used to be for free trade and fiscal responsibility and against Russian aggression. Conservatives believed in accepting reality — and certainly hated the idea of government power in the hands of a demagogue whose lies flout reality.

The only thing these latter-day “conservatives” really want to conserve is America’s whiteness.

I am reminded of the idealistic Communists whose faith died when their eyes were opened to Stalin’s crimes. Open your eyes, conservatives. Your faith is dead. Trump has killed it and for that you should revile him.

Our democracy was not eternally ordained by God; nor even by our constitution. Judge Hand was right. It will endure only so long as we keep our grip on the principles, ideals, and values embodying it.

Already almost half the population is a lost cause in that respect. America’s fate rests in the hands of the others.

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Sentinel: The Statue of Liberty

August 17, 2019

In 1986, when the Statue of Liberty was being refurbished, I made a donation. Later, receiving another solicitation in the mail, I said to myself, “No, I already gave.” But I read the thing anyway. And guess what? I wrote another check. Love that gal.

For Christmas I received Francesca Lidia Viano’s book Sentinel: The Unlikely Origins of the Statue of Liberty. A 499-page tome delving deeply into the monument’s cultural, historical, mythological, iconographic background. It ominously begins with the story of the Trojan horse!

The statue was a gift from France, though no Trojan horse. Frederic Auguste Bartholdi was the sculptor and chief promoter of the project. Less well known was the key role of Edouard de Laboulaye, a political and intellectual activist, collaborating with Bartholdi. Viano explores what they were thinking — and it had nothing to do with welcoming people to America.

They called her “Liberty Enlightening the World.” The torch obviously fit with that. Yet even that name seems to have been something of an afterthought. The book’s title, Sentinel, is more to the point. The lady was really meant to be a guardian. Thus her stern expression. She may even have a concealed weapon.

This has more to do with France’s cultural context than America’s. Her 1789 revolution was more of a societal upheaval than ours. And France had further revolutions, in 1830, 1848, and 1871. They also had Napoleon, long looming over the French psyche. Consequently, for them, Liberty had to be a combative figure. This is epitomized by Delacroix’s painting of the 1830 revolution, Liberty Leading the People. In that uprising by commoners, women were prominent; Viano suggests Delacroix’s Lady Liberty may have been a prostitute. Ours is that same gal (albeit more modestly clothed), with combativeness still part of her essence as originally conceived.

Bartholdi actually started with an idea for an Egyptian monument, but couldn’t sell it as such, so he Americanized it, as embodying friendship between his country and ours. But he soon realized it needed a larger moral meaning. As “Liberty” she has that, but ultimately Bartholdi envisioned even more. The statue may be seen as representing America itself, giving all humanity a new dawn.

Or as a memorial to Revolutionary war dead, both French and American. Celebrating sacrifice and regeneration. A monument to U.S. industrial strength; to maritime commerce; to global free trade. Her spiked crown may have been inspired by Victor Hugo’s poem Stella; it may represent a “morgenstern,” a medieval weapon, a club topped by spikes; or Christ’s crown of thorns. Or she could embody Hermes, messenger of the gods. A torch-bearer was a canonical figure in Masonic ritual. Or the torch could stand for the Promethean gift of fire; or, says Viano, she could represent “An Orpheus shedding light on man’s painful condition.” The lady did appear to have quite the dark side; there was something of the underworld about her.

And meantime, Bartholdi seems to have been much the momma’s boy — with a lot of her in the statue too.

All the foregoing actually doesn’t begin to dissect everything about her mythological, iconographic antecedents, as explored in the book. But all of that became somewhat beside the point, because America embraced the statue differently from what its progenitors imagined.

“I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” Emma Lazarus’s poem trumped everything else — imbuing the monument with a new, positive, humanistic, uniquely American meaning. Viano (perhaps too embedded in her Francophone story) gives Lazarus scarcely a page, saying that whereas the French vision was concededly too dark, hers “was much too benign.” She even mocks Lazarus’s reference to the lady’s “mild eyes,” when people at the time actually noted their severity.

But it’s her torch that’s really her essential feature; what she now represents being a synthesis between that physical image and the reflective imagery of the poem. The lamp lighting the way to the golden door.

And today, I see defiance in her pose; and if her eyes are tough, defiance in them too. Steely-eyed, she stands sentinel, more so now than ever. Our still undaunted guardian of what America means.

* * *

Postscript: Trump’s immigration worm, Stephen Miller, in a White House briefing, spat on the Lazarus poem, insisting it “is not actually part of the original Statue of Liberty.” The other day new strictures on immigrants were announced, denying green cards if they access any public benefits.* I heard on the radio someone said the poem should be changed to read “give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge.” I assumed that was sarcasm from an administration critic. But no, it was said by Ken Cuccinelli — the acting head of ICE. He also said the poem referred only “to people coming from Europe.”

In fact it states, “From her beacon-hand glows world-wide welcome.”

This administration’s sadistic treatment of suffering migrants is a crime against humanity.

* To which they’re lawfully entitled. Had Congress, in enacting these programs, meant to limit them just to citizens, it could have so stipulated. It did not.

Refugees: When the doors flew open

August 15, 2019

My friend Olga arrived here as a Soviet Jewish refugee in 1979; I’ve written about her. She got out just before the door slammed shut. The USSR was one big prison, especially for Jews, victims of severe discrimination.

My humanist group recently viewed a wonderful film about them, Stateless, mostly interview footage with refugees now in America, relating their stories. Seeing it was an emotional experience.

The plight of Soviet Jews became a big issue in the ’80s. When Gorbachev met with Reagan in Washington, large demonstrations demanded that Soviet Jews be let go. Reagan pressed Gorbachev on the issue (this was back when U.S. presidents still stood for what was right).

And the doors flew open.

But the Soviets made the exit a humiliating ordeal. Emigrants were milked for bribes at every step. Luggage was a particular problem; basically they were allowed to take only what they could carry, and getting the heavy bags from checkpoint to checkpoint was tough. At Sheremetyevo Airport, customs officers would roughly rifle through the suitcases, refusing to permit certain items, again extracting bribes.*

Meantime, the local police would know who was scheduled to leave; they’d break into apartments to steal the packed bags.

One woman said that when she’d handed over the final bribe, with almost her last rouble, she actually felt elated: a price worth paying to escape that prison.

The refugees traveled to Vienna, then to Italy, to await final transit to either Israel or America. Actually having a choice was an intoxicating novelty. That was one shock upon reaching the West. One guy spoke of his amazement to find, in airport bathrooms, free toilet paper! Wouldn’t people steal it? In fact some arrivees, still having that Soviet mentality, did just that. And then the abundance in stores was mind blowing. Some thought at first these must be Potemkin displays, plastic simulacra, not real goods.

People from government and aid agencies met them to help. But they viewed these offers with suspicion; the idea of such assistance seemed alien and implausible. Especially with no bribes even demanded! But on the streets, smiling cheerful people were another surprise. How unlike Moscow. So this was what freedom looked like.

Those opting for America needed refugee visas from consular officials who interviewed them to document their histories of persecution. This was hard; what they’d endured had been so internalized, so integral to seemingly normal life, they didn’t realize there was anything to report. While some, on the other hand, flagrantly embellished. (Lying was also the Soviet normal.)

With the sudden flood of visa applications, a large proportion were denied. This put the migrants in a terrible fix. They didn’t understand the system, had no idea what to do.

The issue came to the attention of Congress (this was back when it could still actually legislate to solve a problem). Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) introduced a bill relieving Soviet Jewish refugees from having to individually prove persecution. The bill swiftly passed.

And the doors flew open.

Hearing these people’s stories made me love it that they’re now my fellow Americans. Anyone with the grit to go through what they did to get here, I want here. This is what America means. This is what made it great.

* I remembered my own Sheremetyevo experience. “Numismatic tours” of Russia in 1993 and 1995, led by Erastus Corning Jr., were a fantastic buying opportunity — on the second trip I bought 92 pounds of coins. Erastus hired a local guy, Misha, to help us at customs. The customs officer was grim faced; examining my stash, he kept repeating, “it’s impossible.” Lengthy discussions in Russian ensued with Misha. Finally Misha left, and then the customs guy waved me through.

I met up with the others. Erastus said, “Give Misha $100.” I instantly understood, and handed over the money, saying “Wasn’t Misha taking a big risk?”

“Misha knows what he’s doing,” Erastus replied. “He was with the KGB.”

Race hate will destroy America

August 6, 2019

Previously I’ve condensed here Michael Gerson columns. Last Thursday’s deserves reading in full:https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/ignoring-trumps-racism-betrays-our-countrys-victims/2019/08/01/78b9d0e6-b471-11e9-8949-5f36ff92706e_story.html

Given the vile history Gerson describes, it’s amazing there isn’t more race hatred: by blacks against whites. I see very little. When black passersby smile at me (which is often), I think of the horrors they’ve suffered from whites. Their rising above it bespeaks nobility of spirit. Whites who revile them have none.

Like the depraved creep in the White House who plays with fire in stoking racial hatreds. His scripted sanctimony after the latest mass shooting by a race-crazed gunman is beyond hypocrisy. “Hate has no place in America,” said the hatemonger-in-chief.

Trump himself bears responsibility for inciting this crime. There’s blood on his hands.

If, God forbid, he’s re-elected, I will anticipate no more cordial smiles from blacks I encounter. How could we look each other in the eye?

Democrats and America’s soul

August 5, 2019

In the debates, the Democratic candidates had much to say about policy issues. But that isn’t what this election is about. It’s about America’s soul. What the country stands for. What it means.

Only one of the debaters really seemed to get it. Ironically, the one all the rest beat up as yesterday’s man, out of touch, not getting it. In fact, he’s not on their wavelength — but the right one. That’s Biden.

It’s not as though the others are oblivious to Trump’s monstrousness. Yet they seemed to focus more on criticizing Obama’s administration than Trump’s. (As a Republican I criticized Obama plenty myself.) This shows how far left they’ve veered, pandering to the party’s activist base of zealots. Not even Obama met their purity test.

So we hear policies like decriminalizing unauthorized border crossing*; free healthcare for everyone including the undocumented; free college, ditto. And slavery reparations.

To politically correct “progressives” these might seem no-brainers, but to most Americans they’re brainless. This plays into Trump’s hands, eager to portray Democrats as crazy socialist radicals.

Biden was if anything too timid about separating himself from all that.** He can let the others divide the hard left vote, and scoop up the moderate centrist vote.

But again this election is not about policies. As news commentator Dan Balz said, there’s too much “I have a plan for that,” not enough “I have a vision for America.” Democrats should be full-throated in defending our fundamental values that Trump is shredding. Only Biden is really focused on that. We’re a nation defined by its motto, e pluribus unum —out of many, one. Enriched by its diversity, an open society, sufficiently confident of itself to welcome the newcomers who refresh our culture, and for full engagement with a globalized world, leading the free nations and standing for what’s right.

Not a society mired in resentful white nationalism. Trump won last time partly on economic populism, but hasn’t delivered on those phony promises, so now he’s going full Monty on racism and cruel xenophobia. This is the battleground he’s chosen.

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Let’s have this battle. Trump is betting that half of Americans, at least, are as hateful as him. The insane political strategy of a deranged fool. I’m betting decency will prevail.

* A point that seemed overlooked is that crossing the border to apply for asylum has never been illegal.

** He even caved on the TPP. Trump’s exiting the TPP was nuts. But Democrats are so muddled themselves about trade policy they failed to criticize the madness.

Trump and the white trash syndrome

July 31, 2019

Not all antebellum Southern whites owned slaves. Most were much too poor. They lived in squalor. But they had one consolation: holding themselves above blacks.

This actually accentuated after the war, when Southern poverty was ubiquitous. Read Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, by Evans and Agee, a searing portrait of Depression-era Southern deprivation — among whites. And again there was one thing they could cling to: at least they weren’t black.

It’s the white trash syndrome. Exemplified by the Ewells in To Kill a Mockingbird. In their depth of degradation, it was desperately important to be able to see one group, at least, as even lower.

To be clear, poverty itself is not degradation. Poorer people are not generally less worthy. While some may be responsible for their straits, the bigger factor is mere luck, especially who your parents were. Many poor people live honorable lives. Poverty makes that harder (and so poor people who do live upstanding lives deserve extra credit), but poverty doesn’t make you white trash. It’s what’s in your head and heart that does. And if you do have white trash attitudes, you more likely are responsible for your poverty.

It wasn’t the Southern aristocracy so insistent on keeping blacks “in their place.” Their position was secure and not threatened by blacks. It was instead the white trash feeling imperiled; if blacks prospered as respectable members of society, then the white trash would be on the bottom. So it was they who fought tooth and nail against giving blacks an inch, perpetrating the hideous violence aimed at keeping them down.

We’re seeing a version of this syndrome recrudesce in Trump support. Careful studies of polling data have shown that the one factor most closely correlated with Trump support is racial antagonism. Whites who are doing fine have no cause for animus against other ethnicities flourishing. But a big segment of today’s white population is not doing fine. Especially less educated middle aged men, especially outside major cities. This demographic looms large in the opioid crisis. That’s one way to cope with feeling devalued. Another, as with the old white trash syndrome, is sticking it to a different group they can see as even lower. They need to keep blacks where they were.

But they’re failing. Where non-whites were previously marginalized, they’re now mainstreamed, America becoming less white. This messes with some people’s sense of identity. Today’s America is no longer a collective they really feel tight with. Moreover, some see the change as actually happening at the expense of whites. So compounding the economic malaise is an aggrieved resentment, scapegoating non-whites. All the more potent if you furthermore imagine them inferior.

It’s evident in the flood of comments to a blog post I wrote, titled “Why so many blacks in ads?” One might have expected critiques along lines of “reverse racism” or overdone political correctness. Instead most simply vent hatred toward blacks. A recent one actually said racial divisions are caused by blacks’ violence; you never see whites acting that way! These people are obviously desperate to have a group they can look down on. (Oblivious that they’re actually proving their own inferiority.)

Of course Trump’s never actually said ethnic minorities are inferior — though he’s come close. He did apply the words “very fine people” to the white supremacist marchers in Charlottesville. Racists, neo-Nazis, and KKKers cheered this, immensely empowered. Of course his disgusting recent racist tweetstorms play to them. And the cruel war on migrants, racialist at its core, is the core of Trump’s politics: as if he’ll at least keep the country from becoming even browner.

America’s white trash gets the message loud and clear. That’s why they stick with Trump no matter what. Not all Trump supporters are racist. But all racists are Trump supporters. If their hatefulness wins in 2020, America will be a white trash nation.

How to pick up girls in ancient Rome

July 26, 2019

“The past is a different country; they do things differently there.” We often romanticize “the good old days” because we’ve forgotten what they were really like. As a history buff, I don’t. While also being keenly aware that past peoples were not so different from you or me.

These thoughts were evoked in reading Alberto Angela’s book, The Reach of Rome. It was a gift from a coin customer, John Dunn, a history professor. It’s really good (despite a few mistakes*) in depicting the actual lives of people of all classes in Trajan’s time (98-117 AD). The subtitle is A Journey Through the Lands of the Ancient Empire Following a Coin — as it passes from hand to hand.

The Roman Empire was unique in human annals, stretching from Spain to Syria and Britain to Egypt, for half a millennium. Much of our modern culture is an evolution from our Roman heritage.

The book doesn’t sugarcoat the harsher aspects of Roman life. A battle is shown in quite gory detail. Slavery was a ubiquitous feature, and wasn’t confined to ethnic minorities. Many were taken in war, but that was well short of needs, and ordinary Romans were quite commonly kidnapped and enslaved.

Lives were short, with no consolation of belief in an afterlife. It was easy to die from an illness or injury that would be no big deal today. Medicine operated with a knowledge base approximating zero.

We’re shown a top surgeon operating to relieve a child’s brain tumor; he follows the prescribed procedure beautifully, but it won’t stop the tumor killing the kid.

Women were particularly perishable. Odds of dying in childbirth were one-in-ten. Do the math for having ten kids. (My calculator says a 35% chance of survival, but that ignores all other hazards.) However, the book suggests contraception existed, though giving no details.

And speaking of bad odds, the author says one in five sea voyages ended on the bottom. This may overstate the risk, but embarkation on such a trip was definitely very scary. And there were no lifeboats. Given this picture, you’d think people would at least learn to swim. But few Romans did (perhaps realizing it was pointless).

Mail service did not exist. To send a letter to another town, you’d have to find someone going there. If overseas, you’d go to the docks looking for a ship sailing there, and pay some passenger to take your letter and (hopefully) deliver it. If the ship makes it.

Yet it’s not all bad. These were again human beings, just like us, and one remarkable characteristic of the species is a capacity to cope with adversity and make the best of things. The book shows how Romans enjoyed themselves.

Specifically, there’s a lot of sex in it. While the punishment for adultery was severe (sealed in a sack with a snake, a chicken, and a dog, and thrown in the river), it wasn’t imposed too often, and Romans tended to be pretty easygoing and freewheeling. Prostitution wasn’t illegal and was everywhere. The author seems to skirt the issue of homosexuality, I suspect because the book was originally published in Italy. But homophobia was not a thing, and men were expected to want sex without it mattering much who or what was on the other end.

As to picking up girls, the book quotes at length from the poet Ovid’s Ars Amatoria, which was a pretty detailed instruction manual. Ovid explains where to go (the Circus Maximus was ideal), and how to go about it; where to sit, how to strike up a conversation, how to find excuses for touching. In the guise of helping to keep a gal’s hem undirtied, Ovid says, you could get a look at her legs.

Sure wish I knew about Ovid when I was a lad.

The Romans also had jokes, and the book includes a selection, presumably weeding out those that might baffle modern ears. Here’s one: A guy goes to a doctor and says, “Doc, when I wake up I feel dizzy for half an hour, then it goes away. What’s your advice?” The doctor: “Wake up half an hour later!”

Well, there’s been progress on the humor front over these two millennia.

And progressives will be glad to know that while we think of welfare as a fairly modern concept, the Romans actually had it. In fact, food stamps. Or the near equivalent. When Juvenal spoke of keeping people pacified with bread and circuses, this was literal. Every Roman, bar the wealthiest, was given a card entitling them to a monthly grain distribution. The card even specified the number of the arch where you were to line up. The eligible population was a couple hundred thousand, and the grain ration for each amounted to around half a ton annually; so organizing and administering this dole was a massive undertaking. And remember, computers were very primitive then.

Another thing the Romans had was globalization. Well, hemiglobalization; the Western hemisphere was of course unknown, but there was a vast trade in goods all over the Eastern. Roman coins have been found in Southeast Asia.

And something they did not have was racism and xenophobia. They welcomed immigrants from everywhere, reveling in a diverse society. There was at least one African emperor (very successful), Septimius Severus; a contemporary painting shows him rather dark skinned.

And history records no demands for his birth certificate. Nobody said, “Go back to Africa.”

* Angela talks of sestertii broken in half for change. A smaller coin, the As, worth a quarter sestertius, was often thusly halved. But I don’t recall ever seeing this with a sestertius, a big thick coin.

The Golden Door slammed shut

July 24, 2019

A traveler was robbed and beaten, left half-dead beside the road. Two passers-by ignored him. Finally another stopped to help, treated his wounds, took him to an inn, fed him. This story of the Good Samaritan was told by Jesus.

In 2015 I wrote about Germany generously throwing open its doors to take in about a million Syrian refugees. I criticized the Obama administration for taking only a handful. My daughter (working in the Mid East for a refugee NGO) chastized me, reminding me that no other nation has welcomed more refugees than America.

That was then.

Last week, in what The Economist calls a calculated pattern, while Trump distracted us with the “go back” outrage, his administration snuck in a big policy change that went almost unremarked. Trump’s mind is actually not organized enough for such cunning; his outrages so frequent that the timing is mere coincidence. In any case, the new policy is also an outrage.

It decrees that no refugee may apply for asylum at the border without first having been rejected by some other country. In practice this means, for most Latin Americans, the end of U.S. asylum.

To be clear, this is not about “illegal immigrants.” People have a legal right to cross our border to apply for asylum, in cases of home-country persecution or endangerment, to be adjudicated through a formal hearing process. This is codified in the 1951 international Refugee Convention and in America’s 1980 Refugee Act. Trump’s new policy (being challenged in court) violates both. Refugees will simply be turned away regardless of the legitimacy of their asylum claims under (previously) universally recognized standards.

Add this to the inhuman cruelty of separating thousands of children from parents (many impossible to reunite) and imprisoning them under horrific conditions, some dying for lack of care.*

This is America? My God, what has happened to this once-noble country? My heart is torn out. Yours should be too — if you have one.

The real point of the Good Samaritan story was that he was Samaritan. The two who passed by the injured man were pillars of the Jewish community. And Jews despised Samaritan people — the “other.” Jesus was saying that maybe their hatred for Samaritans was wrong. Maybe those “others” were at least as good as them.

Go back, you tired, you poor,

You huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost away.

I shut the latch upon the golden door!

* By people who say every child’s life is so sacred they oppose all abortions. Who call themselves “Christians.” Who call their critics unpatriotic.

Now it’s official: Republicans don’t know right from wrong

July 22, 2019

Michael Gerson is a Republican, former G.W. Bush speech writer, and columnist. Please read his latest column below. (I have condensed it considerably.)*

Susan Brooks. Brian Fitzpatrick. Will Hurd. Fred Upton.

These four Republicans supported a resolution condemning President Trump’s plainly racist “go back” taunt. The only House Republicans for whom decency still has a political application. The last, scattered exceptions to the rule of malice and bigotry in the GOP. They (along with ex-Republican Justin Amash) refused to rationalize.

Rationalization is the default setting of the human mind. We can’t reconsider our whole view of the world with every new piece of information. So we tend to accept evidence that supports our predispositions and filter out evidence that does not.

But in politics, rationalization can harden into a rigid ideology in which all questioning is disloyalty. And this cult-like ideology, if all the maleficent stars align, can become a cable network like Fox News.

In the mid-19th century, prominent ministers in the South employed the Bible to justify slavery. There were very few examples of unexpected or heroic resistance. Instead, ministers built a complex series of arguments to rationalize a system based on theft and abuse. And the issue was not eventually resolved by the triumph of superior arguments. It was left to those consummate theologians, the Reverend Doctors Ulysses S. Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman, to decide what in fact the Bible actually meant.

I am not equating slavery to the rise and rule of Trump in the GOP. I raise the example to show how hard it is — and how important it is — to examine the settled convictions of your own community and resist them when they are wrong.

July 16, 2019, should be remembered for its up-or-down vote on political and moral decency. The rationalizations in this case — that Trump’s statement was not technically racist, that the resolution violated House rules, that Democrats are guilty of similar offenses — had nothing to do with the morality of the situation. They were transparently self-serving and political.

As a society, we would punish racist taunts of this type if done on school grounds or a playing field. We can’t accept them in the president of the United States without doing great damage to public norms of respect and inclusion.

There is a point when rationalization reaches the soul and human beings lose sight of simple right and wrong. And 187 House Republicans have now officially reached it.

* His original text: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/187-house-republicans-have-lost-their-moral-compass/2019/07/18/7301f3b4-a980-11e9-9214-246e594de5d5_story.html?utm_term=.95dd56dee317

 

Go back to the sewer you came from, Trump

July 20, 2019

America was built by people coming here from all over, to take part in our great enterprise. That’s central to what America means.

But some Americans perennially forget this. So every wave of people coming here has been slapped with that hateful insult: “Go back where you came from.”

Especially non-whites. “Go back to Africa.” Forgetting the little detail that they were kidnapped and dragged here on slave ships. Yet they too have built this country.

Since 2016 I’ve considered it a duty to call out every bad thing Trump does. Because this is a crisis of America’s soul. I’ve kept saying it will get worse. And so it has.

“Go back.” The favorite line of racists forever. If you deny it’s racism — who do you think you’re fooling?*

Never mind that three of those four Congress members were born here. The fourth, Ilhan Omar, grew up in a squalid African refugee camp. Coming to America, she earned citizenship, became a useful and beloved member of her community, which elected her to Congress. A great American story of which we should be proud.

You don’t agree with everything she’s said? Fine, neither do I. That’s called public debate. It’s what we have in a democracy.

But Trump says she should “go back” to Africa because she criticizes America. Actually it’s him and his policies being criticized. It’s the job of a Congressperson to spotlight things about America that need changing. This again is public debate in a democracy.

For Trump to slime those Congress members as somehow “unpatriotic” for their criticisms would be a grotesque outrage even if Trump himself had not, throughout his campaign, and even his inaugural speech (“American carnage”) wallowed in hyperbolic bombast tearing down this country. Was he told, “If you don’t like it here, you can leave?” It’s his playing the “unpatriotic” card that’s totally un-American, a vicious assault on our fundamental democratic values.

At his rally, he repeated his “go back” garbage, and when the crowd chanted “Send her back!” he stood there smirking, basking in it, for thirteen long seconds. Next day, momentarily jarred by the backlash, he claimed he didn’t like it and had quickly tried to stop the chant. The video showed he’s a liar. And the day after he went back to praising the chanters.

Equally ghastly, he actually had the brass to call the four Congress members, and the whole Democratic party, “divisive” for daring to criticize him. Every accusation he flings at others applies more to himself. Divisiveness is the very heart of his politics. This latest hate-filled “go back” claptrap could not be more divisive. Tribal partisan hatreds are tearing America apart, destroying the country, and he keeps pouring gasoline on the fire.

Polls show two-thirds of Republicans agree with Trump. House Republican leader McCarthy, squirming to avoid criticizing him, said they’re “the party of Lincoln.” Who’s spinning in his grave. These Republicans have lost their moral minds.

On November 3, 2020, America must tell Trump, and all his deplorable fans: Go back to the sewer you came from.

* News media aren’t saying “allegedly racist” or “comments some call racist.” They’re just plain saying “racist comments.” Good for them. Case closed.