Stephen Miller, who I’m sorry to say made my brain scream ‘brown shirt’ when I first set eyes on him, ended up proving soon enough that I was not so far off the mark. On Sunday 8.18.2019 Miller spoke on at least one talk show. It is Stephen Miller’s stated theory that people are happier with their own kind and the world runs more smoothly when cultures don’t mix.
When Stephen Miller was a child perhaps he did not mix up the colors of his Legos, but built monochromatic structures, which if you know Legos is pretty hard to do. Perhaps he never allows his plates to mix with his cups and each room in his house uses one color palette only. Maybe he is one of those very organized people who sort their buttons by color and size and who never mix their bolts with their nuts. Maybe we should have some sympathy because he could have obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). But this also looks a lot like white nationalism, which looks a lot like racism.
Stephen Miller’s mania for categorizing and isolating by similarity of traits runs into huge difficulties when you try to apply it to humans and human societies. Do we separate by color? What nation or continent do Americans of African Descent claim as their home given that many of their ancestors were brought here against their will 400 years ago. (Do you suppose that Miller has talked Trump into buying Greenland so America has somewhere to offload nonwhites who have no place to go? Of course it could just be about oil because drilling in pristine wilderness areas is also something Trump loves to do.)
Will we just have separate zones (states) in America organized by skin color? Will language be a point of distinction? Perhaps people will be sorted out by religion. What if your skin is dark and you are not a Christian? Will there be a separate category? Perhaps it will require lists of traits to assign people to the appropriate corner of the planet (they could start with the fictional color classifications from Underground Airlinesby Ben H Winter). Will miscegenation be punished? Will there be spots to tuck people away in who will never fit any approved category? A gay country? A trans country?
Stephen Miller is scary enough when he looks affectless – which is most of the time. But after he explained all this on Sunday he smiled – and that was far more frightening. Life is not orderly. It gets less orderly if you look at individual traits that divide us. No one stays put. They keep moving around. This would be unacceptable in Stephen Miller world.
Would Miller wipe out all migration, make it a crime. You get assigned a culture and there you must remain because all the chaos in the world will end if people only live in close proximity to others who are like them. American is probably to blame for climate change although 45 likes to blame China. But if your climate changes, too bad. You are not going anywhere. Famine, lack of water, war – supposedly will all be ended by homogeneity. Did we ever know a time when the world worked this way?
Stephen Miller claims that he is not a racist or a white supremacist. Then what is he? Why does he have such a segregated view of the world? I suppose there was a time when Europe was peopled by white folks but people still found many reasons to war with each other. They warred about property, about money, about government, about religion, just because they took a dislike to each other. Stephen Miller’s theory is ridiculous; it is unprovable; it is not backed up by history, or science, or religion or by anything. It is a figment of Stephen Miller’s imagination which is hardly to be considered very original.
Of course Hitler put 6 million people to death because they, according to him, did not belong in Europe, or in fact anywhere on Earth. Check everyone’s DNA. I doubt if anyone is pure enough to know which group s/he belongs to. Stephen Miller’s racist logic is not logical. He should not be in America’s White House advising an American president. We will never have a sensible approach to immigration as long as he is there.
For years the brainwashing that produced Trump’s followers has issued forth from radios in the dead of the night as lonely truckers and other drivers travelled the highways across America. For at least one decade, probably closer to two decades impassioned talkers have whispered in the ears of lower middle class men and women, husbands and fathers the news that white people in America were about to be replaced by minorities; that soon the minority population of America would be larger than the white population. These smooth talkers did not bother to tell listeners that this did not mean any one group would outnumber white folks, that this number was an aggregate number. Pretty soon all over America people were shaking their heads in agreement, suddenly aware that these midnight voices were speaking a truth they could feel in their own guts. Yes, yes Rush Limbaugh is a righteous dude. You should listen. Marc Levine, f-ing A, that’s my man. You gotta’ hear this.
Immigrants, some of them Muslims, some of them gang members, people who can’t even speak English, who are not Christians, are taking your tax dollars, they expound to the rhythm of big tires on American highways and in garages all over the country. These immigrants get the same benefits you get like welfare, health care, even social security or social security disability. They get free housing, some are given cars, these disembodied voices exclaim each night in the hours when drivers are in danger of falling asleep at the wheel without some kind of stimulation. These radio talkers offer major stimulation; they offer anger and ‘enlightenment’ and approval of what others call inappropriate thoughts and opinions. You may need guns they say.
These immigrants are taking American jobs because they will work for nothing. Many of them are here illegally, they should not be here and yet they are given jobs and benefits just like real Americans. You are being replaced in your own nation by foreigners. These topics are popular. They come up over and over again. People can call in and these guys will sympathize with the anger their listeners express, they can prop up that anger and expand on it. The hours melt away.
They tell their listeners that they can blame it all on the Democrats. The talkers’ views are so popular that a whole TV network is cobbled together to bring these views into American homes, in order to discuss American gripes twenty-four/seven. These issues that arouse the anger of their listeners do not have to be true; they just have to call forth that righteous anger that fuels an entirely new political view, the politics of white injustice, the piling up of the abuses being heaped on real Americans, of the losses real Americans have suffered when their good jobs, their factory jobs were given to foreigners. Brains are being ‘snatched’; a generation of ‘pod’ people is being created.
Americans who worked hard all their lives were paying for deadbeats who did not have to work. Now the drumbeat of injustice played out all day and all night in living color. Democrats defend deadbeats, therefore Democrats are bad. Republicans are informing you of how you are being ripped off so Republicans are good. Glenn Beck, your old dashboard friend Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly – these guys sound smart, they write books, they are patriots, they even rewrite history for their listeners. The internet gives us The Daily Caller, and The Thinker, pseudo-Conservative (actually extreme right wing and Tea Party) sites offering “intellectual” cachet to a movement that is basically anti-intellectual.
You are paying too many taxes. (Yes we are, these people are so right.) Your tax dollars are being used to support illegal immigrants. (That’s true, listeners say, and it makes me really angry.) Our government is too big. (Also true, you guys are speaking our language.) All this nonsense about what it is politically correct to say and what it’s not OK to say. We have free speech. We get to tell it like it is. (Husbands and wives listen and watch together and they bond in righteous anger.)
This is brainwashing and it has been very effective. These are Trump’s peeps. They heard the gospel according to Talk Radio and Fox ‘News’. They are pumped, they are not going to take it anymore. They are the new Republicans who the old school Republicans are aghast to find in their party. But these people are white and they are a whole different kind of ‘woke’ and the party of racism and guns, facing decline, needs them. We’ll talk them into believing the Democrats are going to steal their guns and allow their daughters to abort their grandchildren, that strangers will slaughter them in their beds, they say. There is so much scope in this whole strategy of stoking the feelings that folks are victims of a great big plot against real Americans that those who run the GOP can make themselves wealthier and these particular Americans will think it is all part of a plan that will benefit the middle class. The politicians and pundits will laugh all the way to the bank (but not out loud please).
Our forefathers may have said that all men are created equal and that we all deserve the same things but half of them kept slaves so they didn’t really mean all people; they meant white people, people of European descent. So even when Republicans ignore or reinterpret portions of our Constitution and our laws and rules, these Americans, primed by propaganda delivered in their most vulnerable moments, feel convinced that ending our democracy/republic will turn out in their favor; isolationism will turn out in their favor; and somehow, by deportation or death, we will become an all-white English speaking nation. It won’t be pretty and our souls may not get through the entire process unscathed and we might not even still be alive when the ‘cleansed’ version of America becomes reality, but our children’s children will be all set. (Especially since climate change is not real, they are told.)
It is becoming increasingly obvious that we cannot undo these decades of brainwashing, of filling people’s minds with lies that suggest that merit is sorted out by skin color, what language you speak, and even what God you worship or how you worship God. Terrorism is scary and has given fear-mongering tactics added power to persuade Americans that they will only be safe in a homogeneous nation, while those who say they will guarantee that safety rob the middle-class of assets and place those assets in their own bloated bank accounts.
Democrats have been so successfully demonized that they realize that they will be unable to get through to at least 30% of Americans, possibly even 40% of Americans and that, given four more years in power, the damage to American values and the foundations of our nation could be devastating. What can a party do when it believes that mass propaganda is wrong? They can’t use the tactics they abhor. All they can do is speak the truth and hope it eventually gets through the fog of brainwashing many percolate in. But global chaos waits in the wings if minds remain programmed as the ‘pod’ peoples’ are.
Trump’s attacks on our democracy might just save it. Please, do not be mistaken about any of the arguments I am about to make. I’m sure any positive consequences of this administration are unintentional consequences. Donald Trump is a terrible President, and apparently a fairly twisted person with a bank account for a soul. He is probably the worst businessman on the planet, reportedly wealthy only because he extorted money from a father who must have loved him.
However, it seems that Trump’s meanness, his policies that will hurt the people who worship him most, his racism, his authoritarian disregard for our Constitution and our laws, his love affairs with dictators, his nods at brutality as a strategy to solve problems that should be solved intelligently may be pleasing his peeps who have been turned into “pod people” by tuning in to Fox News to be hammered with propaganda. But his cruelty and dictatorial bent are also having the opposite effect on many Americans and on people in other nations around the world.
American Health Care
People who once squealed about the way the Affordable Care Act became law, and who wanted nothing to do with that health plan will fight to keep it when they are able to understand that Trump and the Republicans want to take it away and replace it with nothing.
American Safety Net Programs
In fact the Republican Party has worked very hard to convince the American people that there are deadbeats all over this nation living well off their tax dollars because of benefits designed to help less fortunate Americans or Americans temporarily experiencing setbacks. But the real endgame here is to end Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, food stamps, housing subsidies, and welfare (which is almost gone already). Voters who understand this will not reelect Trump.
Smaller Federal Government – State’s Rights
What will the GOP use the freed-up budget dollars from benefit cuts for? That is left somewhat unclear but what this administration says is that they will make the federal government smaller and state governments will be more powerful. If you think that Trump will save benefits for seniors, the disabled, and the poor you are wrong. Trump’s original budget included fairly large cuts to safety net programs and even though all of these cuts did not ‘make the cut’, we recently have learned about the 3 million dollars to be subtracted from the food stamp program. Our benefits are being chipped away. And, having powerful states may sound appealing, but services and even laws will vary from state to state and what seems unfair now will seem punitive for some states if Republicans and Trump have their way. Democrats do not have enough power right now to defeat an all-out attack on our safety net and many states will not be able to afford to offer such benefits.
Immigration and Asylum
We see how the Trump administration treats our neighbors who are leaving their home nations because of threatening gangs and intermittent famine. We understand that they are seeking asylum and a better future in an America that once welcomed immigrants who came here legally. Watching what is happening at our Southern border is already creating a backlash against policies that make us cringe. We have never been a nation that ignored need or inhumane conditions. We have never been a nation that put too many people in one cage with no soap and no toothbrushes, no showers and bad food and then baited people who could not keep themselves clean under such conditions.
This behavior is disgusting and America can never claim this moment as a proud moment in our history. We are an enormous country with only 350 million people. We do not lack the space to show kindness for neighbors under cultural stress. Immigration and asylum could be handled in ways that did not incite shame in one half of America, and hate in the other half (less than half).
Recently we have watched the people of Hong Kong pour from their homes and businesses in protest against a leader who wanted to send people who reside in Hong Kong who are accused of crimes to mainland China for judgment and punishment under the harsher rules of President Xi, ruler for life, a dictator by another name. They won. The people, for now, successfully pushed back in a show of democratic spirit we do not seem to have found yet in our democracy. Perhaps seeing what Trump was doing in America helped to radicalize them. They have now taken over the airport. Perhaps what they are doing will inspire us
Puerto Ricans poured into the streets to protest the behavior of their governor after pages and pages of racist emails were made public and to demand that he leave office. It took days and days but eventually the governor caved and resigned. Perhaps Puerto Ricans realized that America was in no condition to step in and help them at this time and our dilemmas emboldened them to activism. The anger Trump has engendered in the hearts of our Puerto Rican neighbors, who are Americans without a real vote in Congress, by his unfair attacks on their nature helped them perceive of one more string of insults as just too close to home and too over-the-top. Trump’s racism and authoritarianism radicalized them. Right now there are Americans who are being radicalized in support of Trump, but many, quieter, Americans have been radicalized against Trump.
Hundreds demonstrated in Moscow for free elections. This has happened before but it could be more important now that American freedoms are being challenged by the Trump administration who is backed by the Republicans in Congress. Freedom seems to gain ground when there is a push to take it away.
America and the Liberal World Order
Ever since the end of World War II our planet has been involved in a tug of war between democracy/capitalism on the one hand as exemplified by America, communism on the other hand as exemplified by first the USSR and now Russia. America fought with funds for modern development, American products, American weapons and tanks and planes, American music and fashion, American technology to persuade the world’s nations to choose democracy over communism. Communists, who could not persuade with glitzy things or money offered things like gas and oil, of which they had plenty, and Russian weapons of war. America began to push a bit too hard and did a few too many regime changes and nations became leery of American “help” and suspicious of American capitalism. The world was beginning to turn a cold shoulder to America and that might help explain the rise of dictatorships around the planet.
Trump, friend of dictators everywhere, seems to be inspiring others around the world to fight harder for freedom and to fight at the grassroots level, a bottom-up movement as opposed to the old top-down approaches. Perhaps people around the world now see America as having more in common with their own situations and the hubris with which we once set out into our international endeavors is now tempered by the humility of being under the tiny thumb of a very unbalanced president with authoritarian and blatantly racist tendencies. Suggesting that anything good will come of having someone like 45 in the Oval Office goes against the grain of my soul and I am not alone in this, but we also know that even the worst ordeals can have some positive outcomes. Keep up the good work people of earth. We will not give into anything or anyone that stands in the way of global prosperity, peace, and tolerance. Trying to end democracy just might save it.
It is such an odd feeling to be adrift in the world. It used to seem to me that every globe was mechanically calibrated. As a scale always returns to zero, a globe seemed to return the Americas to the front and center position regardless of which way you turned it. Well that old centering mechanism is broken. The globe now stops wherever the momentum of the spin ends.
Of course it’s a metaphor, a metaphor and a child’s perception about America’s belief that it was the best country on the planet, an absolute fiery furnace of industry and a fountain of prosperity, the source of invaluable capitalist know-how and the Protestant work ethic – and the last, best mediator of humanitarian behavior and global justice. And although it all sounds a bit self-righteous and boastful from our current perspective, it produced results, both positive and negative, and kept Europe busy enough that it experienced 70 years of peace among nations that had previously involved the world in two world wars.
We have come down from those lofty heights to confront our flaws, our ‘sins’ of pride. Perhaps in our zeal to convert nations to democracy we lost sight of ideology and/or confused it with economics. Because it seems today that it was all about money. Communism as described by those who thought it into being (Marx, Engels) was both a governmental ideology and an economic system and as it turned out, an authoritarian state that used a virtual Iron Curtain to keep its own sad secrets. And yet there was and is a global tug-of-war over whether democracy and capitalism or communism will win in the ideological war by collecting the most nations. A democracy/republic did not necessarily specify any economic model, but other democracies and republics did practice various brands of capitalism, far simpler than what capitalism became in the Industrial Age, but enough to join the governmental system and the economic system in holy (or unholy) matrimony.
Because America was so active in Europe after World War II and since Europe and America had the same goal, to prevent another great war, and, given the fact that Russia who had been an ally in the World Wars had slunk off behind the Iron Curtain to see what it could do with its new Communist state, we came to find global strength in our alliances with European nations in NATO and later in the UN and in the G8 which eventually became the G20.
In fact the distance between America and Europe seemed to shrink and England even referred to the Atlantic Ocean as ‘the pond’. Americans at first may have been seen as brashly confident, youthful, strong, and attractive. However, as the men who stayed in Europe and led the armed forces America left in Europe aged Europe began to question whether this was a matter of protection or occupation. Americans became ‘uglier’ and Europe as a result of its too-long familiarity with Americans began to feel a cross between amused at our temerity and pissed off by our arrogance, elitism, and hubris. Still it seemed our alliances with Europe were even stronger now that they could see our flaws, and that America’s strength was recognized around the globe.
Our fall from grace, or from our former confidence in our own ascendancy, did not begin in 2016. Losing a war we never should have been in, the war in Vietnam, may have been the first blow. The cultural tears in the fabric of our nation grew to be enormous between those who backed the war and those who didn’t; those who went to college and lived near universities and those who started families immediately after high school; between those who embraced the idea of giving women power over their bodies and their persons because of the sudden availability of birth control pills and then Roe v Wade and those whose religions were opposed. The divide may be thought of as the equivalent of placing the two camps of Americans on colliding tectonic plates.
At the same time we had to deal with our racism. We had the national shame of the Civil Rights Movement playing out on televisions all over the world and the world could see that the ‘land of the free’ was not really so free. We had the assassinations – John Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Bobby Kennedy – all body blows to American ebullience and pride. That set us to grieving and continued the painful process of becoming a real nation with a history both glorious and inglorious. America got a few grey hairs. But there was further to fall. Our factories began to leave. Good jobs became scarce in the North and then in the Rust Belt and later in the South.
The Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, symbols of America’s financial dominance fell. The Pentagon, symbol of the nation’s military power was attacked. Washington, DC the seat of our republic/democracy was saved only by brave Americans on a plane who died to stop an attack. These were sure signs that there were people out there in the world we once felt that we owned who hate us and who now felt we had become vulnerable. American staggered after those blows, it almost seemed that we could not recover, and perhaps if all three attacks had succeeded we would be in a very different place right now. America was shaken to its foundations and the fears that our democracy could end became very real and are with us even more powerfully today than they were in those dark days. The strength and unity we had in those quiet days when no planes flew in America’s air space should have given way to a more mature analysis of what is good and what is bad about our nation, but with sides being taken and divisions growing ever wider there is no mature analysis in sight.
Should we still open our doors to immigrants? Should we still offer refuge? Do we remain with fossil fuels until the last dregs are hauled out of the earth and the oceans take over our beaches and the storms rage; until we are the huddled masses we once welcomed to our shores? Are we so offended by the insistence of diverse cultural groups that we need to change our forms of address to honor their sensitivities that we cannot learn to accept political correctness as just a new level of civility and not an attack on our freedom? Are we so prideful that we turn this into the most serious problem our nation faces, which it definitely is not. America without Trump might just be having an identity crisis. With Trump we may have turned this into an existential crisis.
Just as people rarely get to go through their whole lives without experiencing setbacks and grief, our nation, no longer a nation represented by cornfed boys with brush-cuts, became middle-aged and a bit dumpy and disillusioned. We lost two more wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (well we can’t say we won, can we) and we opened some beehives and as the bees poured out we thought we would avoid being stung. So we go out and find ourselves a dumpy, disillusioned President just to double down on our identity crisis. We pick a guy who cuts us off from all our old friends who might have enjoyed our come-uppance, but who would also have commiserated with us. Perhaps off our high horse we could have worked even better with our allies. But oh, oh, we might have been asked to take in some of the dispossessed Syrians.
We pick out a guy who cozies up to all our old enemies and to the dictators who drive us to the edge of sanity with their come-here-go away-I’ll-kill-you mood changes using missile launches as punctuation. We no longer accept immigrants and we treat our neighbors like dangerous enemies. We send invoices to all our friends dunning them for money that is supposed to put us in the black according to our President’s wacky bookkeeping (as our deficits rise ever higher). It’s embarrassing to most of us, it looks strong to the rest of us. Still divided, the rancor grows between us. He (the royal he) exploits the new gaps of coastal versus rural interests and this man from the biggest coastal city of all pretends to identify with rural Americans and they buy it.
The old man in the White House, imposing solutions devised in discos decades ago, is stoking divisions into hatreds. What will hating each other ever get us? When we were in decline for some reason we chose the one person who could be the death of us. Is this a suicide pact? Is this the bottom that will finally inspire the people who love America to help our nation rise from this mid-life crisis to become a nation that hews to the creed that birthed it, but that never-so-far informed it? Do we have farther to fall? Is our nation not middle-aged but really at the end of its life as this man is, or do we have many more useful years left? Is he a self-fulfilling prophecy?
Do we leave our old friends and allies to deal with all the transitional problems of these times. Do we continue to antagonize even our neighbors in our own hemisphere? Do we refuse to help the world solve the issues of polar melting and ocean pollution. Why, rather than choose a wise man whose age and experience could help America find the wisdom it needs to face the future, did we choose a hipster doofus, a player, a crook who pretends to be wise but who only knows how to feed the pigeons (another metaphor). Can we get our mojo back? How long can we stay adrift in the universe without becoming utterly beside the point. I don’t feel a need to be the richest nation in the world. But I did think we would help lead as the world solved logistical problems to ensure a future we might all look forward to. I thought we would share our educated brains with the rest of the educated brains around the world. Instead we elected an anti-intellectual.
Where does the globe stop when our children spin it now – not here.
This is a view from the cheap seats. I always sit in the cheap seats although I am afraid of heights.
Besides causing us to constantly grieve the killing of innocent Americans when our nation is not even involved in an internal war, these horrific shootings by our own home-grown terrorists are frustrating us (almost) beyond the point of sanity. I will not go through the list of incidents but it is out there on the web and it is terrifying and a development we never foresaw. Americans are problem-solvers. We see a problem and we work on it in our educated brains. We subscribe to the belief that once we identify a problem there are solutions to that problem and we can apply them like a band-aid. But in the case of mass shootings we are being blocked from solving problem that must be resolved in order to allow for America’s continued survival as a nation that bears any resemblance to the America we so love to revere.
We know that strict adherence to the Second Amendment of our Constitution has been ’weaponized’ by some Americans such as militia members, white supremacists, and racists to the point where we are prevented from keeping almost anyone from owning a weapon, even a weapon of war, and openly carrying it everywhere they go. We have seen after each shooter episode that swearing allegiance to a strict interpretation of the Second Amendment does not allow problem solvers to look at the gun ownership laws and set some reasonable limits on gun ownership. What might a reasonable limit be – violent mental disorder has been suggested and the NRA doubled down and declared that the mentally ill should not be denied gun ownership. Even blind Americans cannot be denied the right to own a gun, a stance that might isolate blind people even more than their disability often does. Should people who broadcast hate speech be denied guns? We suspect that much death and mayhem might be prevented if that could happen.
Our mental health system is broken and has been since we began to issue scripts for psychotropic drugs and remove psychological support systems for people with some fairly serious mental disorders. Stubborn symptoms of depression, schizophrenia, paranoia can make it very difficult for some people to enjoy a consistently productive lifestyle. But the meds they are prescribed have unpleasant side effects that change peoples’ personalities so drastically that they no longer feel a connection to their own identity and they stop taking these meds to get ‘themselves’ back. Once they go off their meds and have no access to a support system they may be susceptible to the hate speech they hear around them, it may make them fearful and paranoid or angry; they may not have the impulse control that will stop them from buying a gun and taking action. Since we understand the limitations of the meds to control hereditary brain conditions we need to replace some of the human support systems for children, parents, and adults who have to live their lives as their brains try to mislead them.
We also have an understanding of what Langston Hughes identified as “The Dream Deferred”. Robbing a group of people (in this case black and brown people) of opportunities which they can see others all around them benefitting from sets up an inequality that makes people outside the neglected group disrespect them and see them as being of less value. But this is a self-fulfilling prophecy and is in no way an actual sign that any ability deficit exists. Giving both segregated Americans of African Descent and poor white Americans all kinds of opportunities to succeed would lift the spirits of the entire nation and rob hate of its favorite food – stigmatizing a group as inferior.
It is the NRA, Conservatives, and the right wing takeover of our government that prevents us from implementing the solutions that our problem solving skills have generated and, although some things can be done at the local and state levels, some avenues have been totally blocked. We need to keep in mind what Mr. Hughes, American poet said would happen if a dream (or a solution to a problem) keeps being deferred. IT EXPLODES!, he says. His prediction has been realized and is being realized in America every day. As long as we hold the future back through hate and division it will continue. Perhaps the election will give us the way to stop the obstruction but this in no way looks like a lock. It may eventually require mass demonstrations if we are even capable of persisting in such a strategy. Frustration, helplessness, anger, and grief is a toxic recipe, not any kind of solution, and it will only poison American culture. This evil concoction could never take the place of a recipe whose ingredients are action and hope.