Monday, July 22, 2019

TRUMP IS NOT (just) A RACIST



US President Donald Trump is not a racist. Or at least that’s not all that he is. His is, rather, a misanthrope, an equal-opportunity hater, who can always find something bad to say about just about anybody.
Well, no, not quite. Actually, he can find something awful to say about anyone decent and admirable (John McCain, Barack Obama, Angela Merkel and Meryl Streep spring to mind), or anyone who criticizes or disagrees with him (as long as they are allies or former allies of the United States), or anyone who is a Democrat (or a democrat), or anyone Muslim (other than Saudi Prince Mohammad bin Salman), or anyone Jewish (with the exception of Bibi Netanyahu and “short guys that wear yarmulkes” and count his money), or any foreign-born person (other than his wife and her parents) living in the US, or anyone gay, or anyone who doesn’t look like or sound like they just came from participating in a Ku Klu Klan rally.
Incited racism...The crowd chanted, "Send her back!"
But in all fairness, there are those about whom he seldom if ever has anything bad to say, people who, by his own admission, he really admires—read: Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong-un, Rodrigo Duterte, even the late Benito Mussolini, authoritarians that he would like to be “when he grows up.”
If he weren’t the president of the United States, he could be as racist, bigoted and misanthropic as he liked in his speech (it would indeed be his right to free, if repugnant, expression), and it wouldn’t matter one iota. But he is. And it does.
During the Civil Rights Era of half a century ago, back when I was growing up in my small, all-white, Midwestern home town, it was not uncommon to witness how prominent members of our homogeneous community would blithely ignore the fact that most African American people’s roots in the US stretched back much further than their own Scots-Irish and German immigrant “pedigree” and would suggest that if blacks, who were demanding that their constitutional rights be respected, didn’t like it in America, they could “go back to Africa.”
Sound familiar? It should, because that’s precisely what the president suggested four congresswomen of color should do this past week. And until Trump took office and declared political correctness a thing of the past, this would have been discriminatory and an example of hate-speech.
Indeed, in most workplaces, it still would be considered discriminatory, and the perpetrator would be subject to reprimand, suspension or dismissal. In fact, it is a patent example of potentially unlawful language when it creates a threatening atmosphere in the workplace. Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, ethnic slurs and other verbal or physical abuse due to nationality are illegal if they are severe or pervasive and create an intimidating, hostile or offensive working environment, interfere with work performance, or negatively affect job opportunities. Examples of potentially unlawful conduct include insults, taunting, or ethnic epithets, such as making fun of a person’s foreign accent or comments like, specifically, “Go back to where you came from,” whether made by supervisors or by co-workers.
The Squad
In clear reference to US-born citizens, women of color and Congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) and (especially) to Somali-born Ilhan Omar (D-MN) a naturalized citizen who has lived in the US since childhood, Trump attacked the four elected representatives for their critical views of US policies saying that if they didn’t like it in America, “Why don't they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.” 
Some people have tried to argue that Trump isn’t really a racist. That he only uses racism to energize his base, since, he figures, most of his base is indeed racist. But I’m not very sure that the president isn’t a blatant racist, and if he isn’t, then saying something like this simply for effect is even more criminal, because, if that’s true, then his purpose in saying it is to incite hatred and violence. Indeed, Congresswoman Omar has been receiving death threats for some time, and they spiked following Trump’s latest racist tweet. As was amply covered by the media, at a rally that he held this past week in North Carolina, the president clearly mentioned Congresswoman Omar’s name as a crowd-teaser and a buzzword, and the response was immediate. Members of his base in the crowd started chanting “Send her back! Send her back!” As they did, Trump stood idly by and let the racist chants go on, while he postured like Mussolini on the podium.
Equality has never been a value for many of the people who make up Trump’s core base: nativists, tribalists, bigots, Christian fundamentalists, white supremacists, xenophobes and all others who are too ignorant, insecure and narrow-minded to accept diversity. His energizing of these people, his permission for them to give in to their worst instincts is dangerous and frightening. And energizing the rabble to get them to attack “the other” is the stuff that fascism and dictatorial rule are made of.
More terrifying still, however, is not Trump himself, but the GOP’s tolerance of him. The party of Lincoln and Eisenhower has been converted into the party of Trump and it is the Republican Party, in its vast majority, that is providing Trump with the power he needs to become a clear and present danger to democracy or the rule of law. The fact that only a tiny handful of Republican politicians were willing to come out this week and condemn racism and Trump’s use of it as a rallying cry is a clear indicator of the extent to which the current occupant of the White House has usurped the GOP and imbued it with his one-man authoritarian quest for unbridled power.
That racist, bigoted poison with which the 45th president of the US has been rallying his base has spread, obviously, beyond the stage of cutting off the hand to save the body when nearly no one in his party is willing to stand up and say, loudly and unequivocally, that racism is wrong and un-American, and that it won’t be tolerated. Not by anyone, including the president.
The Handmaid's Tale...the new normal?
We Americans tend to think that once historic social conquests like those won in the civil rights era are in place, they become self-maintaining and permanent fixtures. Trump and the hijacked GOP have demonstrated that we can take nothing for granted, that the threat of authoritarianism and a return to hatred of “the other” are only latent as long as the worst that the nation has to offer isn’t marshaled behind a would-be tyrant with the means necessary to inflame a following.
It is no coincidence that the TV miniseries of The Handmaid’s Tale, based on a book that Margaret Atwood wrote back in the mid-1980s, is so wildly popular among liberal democratic audiences today. It’s because, back then, Atwood’s premise was a prescient invention, while today, it’s becoming a burgeoning reality.


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