Trump has obviously been making waves, ever since he technically won the 2016 presidential election, and assured that he would be the next man to take the oath of office to become the nation's next president. Many were shocked by this result, and it feels like there has never been quite the strong reaction to an incoming president as there is with this one. For some, it almost seems as if this is the end of the world as we know it.
Indeed, it certainly marks a shift in American politics, although in reality, if you examine it a bit more closely, you will find that, in many respects, Trump simply marks a continuation of certain American political traditions - albeit unfortunate ones. And the seemingly stark and striking differences between Trump and his opponent in the general election are perhaps not as enormous as they might at first have appeared. That would suggest that this country has been going in a decidedly wrong direction for quite some time now, and it almost would not have mattered whether we would have chosen the other major party nominee instead. They are not as radically different as they might at first appear, although much is made of what differences do exist, perhaps to make it appear as if we had a real and meaningful choice between them. With possibly the exception of the level of insults stemming from the Trump camp, and with Pence's anti-LGBT stance, as well as the pro-choice versus pro-life debate, there is not radical differences that exist between Clinton and Trump. It is more style over substance, really. And clearly, people chose the louder and more obnoxious of the two, which frankly, seems fitting given the current political and social climate that exists in America today.
Trump is loading his cabinet positions with people who many feel are not qualified for the job, including one man who has associations with white supremacy. However, white supremacy itself is nothing new to the country and, in fact, was pretty much the de facto law of the land for a long, long time. Dating back to the earliest days of slavery, and going right through them, and into the post-slavery days, when Jim Crow racial segregation laws and social customs were strictly enforced, particularly in the South. For that matter, there has been a systematic policy of genocide towards Native Americans that has been pursued from the earliest days, and once we obtained the land that we wanted from coast to coast, we essentially stuck them in reservations. Yet, even this was not respected, because we broke our treaties and promises with them whenever it could behoove us to do so. That has not changed, as the situation in Standing Rock currently playing out suggests. Both Clinton and Trump were in favor of building the pipeline, and Obama seems unwilling to do anything, which implies that he is fine with the pipeline, as well. So ask Native Americans how much has changed in recent years. We have long had other reminders of white domination, including the image of burning crosses and mob lynchings to go along with pictures of Whites Only and Colored Only signs designed to remind everyone of their place. We have had prominent politicians, and even presidents, who were received the backing of the Ku Klux Klan before. What makes it different now is that it is 2016, and many, if not most, Americans believed we were past this.
Clearly, we are not.
Trump has put climate change deniers that believe as he does in high places as well. This, too, is nothing new. During the 12 long years of President Reagan and the first President Bush, climate change denial was not just the attitude shared by almost everyone of any relevance in the White House, but was official policy. Environmental activists were mocked as wackos and extremists not to be taken seriously. Being concerned for clean air and clean water was generally seen as being overly sensitive. Even the rise of Al Gore, who many people take to be the ultimate environmental advocate, to the position of Vice-President did not mean a major shift in the nation's environmental policies, and while George W. Bush campaigned in part on promising to be the environmental president, he cited "new research" within a couple of months of taking office to essentially deregulate and dismantle some of the environmental policies already in place. He admitted that climate change was apparently real during his second term, but did not follow this up with action. President Obama also claimed that he would be a strong advocate for environmental issues, and promised to take strong action on climate change. But he went almost his entire first term without doing much of anything, and even though he claimed this would likely be the main focus of his second term, many have been disappointed by his decided lack of action in this regard. So, the likely poor environmental record that the future Trump administration is probably going to be known for is also really nothing new. What seems new to me is that many Americans seem shocked by it.
Clearly, we should not be.
The President-elect promised to drain the swamp once he gets into office, and yet he is filling his administration with prominent corporatists and familiar Washington insiders. He has not even taken the oath of office yet, and he already seems to have broken some of these campaign promises of his. Some are expressing outrage and, yes, even shock, about all of this. But President Reagan and the first President Bush also filled the administration with the same kind of folks, and they focused on deregulating everything, so that almost anything goes. Environmental laws were not the only ones to be dismantled, and union busting became the flavor of the moment. This trend largely continued under President Clinton, who instituted the for profit prison system, and continued the corporate supremacy of the country that had been going on for the previous 12 years. So did George W. Bush, actually hastening it. And despite his populist, progressive rhetoric and image, President Obama has proved to be very friendly to Wall Street dominance in government, as well. So, why are so many people acting shocked when a known billionaire who used every unfair law in the book to advance his own empire and increase his own personal wealth is basically making sure that there will be more of the same and that, moreover, these kinds of policies will be accelerated during his term in office?
Clearly, there is no real reason to be shocked. Frankly, it would be shocking if he did not do it.
Many were worried that Trump would usher in a new fascism. Indeed, perhaps the most apt description of what has been seen with the rise of this man politically was when I heard it referred to as "fascism lite." But again, fascism has slowly but surely been creeping up for many decades now. President Reagan ushered in a wave of nationalist sentiments and flag waving that had not been seen in the West since the fall of fascism at the end of World War II. By the way, Reagan used the "Make America Great Again" slogan that so many associate exclusively with Trump, but which Hitler also used in regards to Germany. George H. W. Bush continued this kind of theme, and borrowed another phrase from the Nazi days, as he ushered in a "New World Order." President Clinton, the kinder, more sensitive and politically correct face of this new political reality, again continued the corporate domination by repealing Glass-Steagall and, again, instituting the for profit prison system that has proven to be such a glaring failure today. George W. Bush went the farthest of anyone we have seen so far, by challenging the illegal status of methods of torture for interrogation, by rejecting the Geneva Convention and creating "enemy combatants where anything goes, by erecting concentration camps (albeit not on American shores), by forcing through the PATRIOT Act which ushered in a new era of government surveillance of citizens, by proposing a second PATRIOT Act that would have allowed the government to possibly strip Americans of their citizenship if they were deemed to have criticized the government too much, by waging two very lengthy and very costly wars while not bending one iota on tax breaks for the wealthy, by strongly emphasizing secrecy above almost all other things, and by an unprecedented level of blatant corruption and clear cases of conflict of interest collusion between government and corporations. Hell, George W. Bush even once claimed that you are either with him, or you are against him, and even went as far as to suggest that Americans had to many rights, and that a dicatorship would be easier, so long as he was the dictator. Barack Obama seemed to be a refreshing change to all of this, but once in office, he continued the wars and failed to close Guantanamo Bay as promised, and kept Bush's surveillance programs intact. Moreover, he stepped some up, most famously (or perhaps infamously) increasing the drones and using them to target rivals. So, when Trump makes claims that sound borderline fascist to us, should we really be surprised?
Clearly, there is no reason for surprise in this regard, although plenty of reason for alarm.
And now, lately, only the latest outrage came when Donald Trump tweeted that flag burners should possibly face either loss of citizenship or significant time in jail.
Specifically, this is what he tweeted earlier this week:
"Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag - if they do, there must be consequences - perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!"
Many dissenters claim that this is going too far, and that this infringes on freedom of speech. Indeed, they have a point. But why act so shocked? Flag waving has been an issue now for decades, with many proposals to ban and illegalize it outright. There was a Supreme Court case on the issue (more on that very shortly), and there were proposals by prominent politicians. Some detractors of Donald Trump should be reminded that one of the more recent such proposals was advocated by none other than Hillary Clinton, who put her name to the Flag-Protection Act of 2005. It did not pass and, in fact, was never put up for a vote on the floor of Congress. Don't just take my word for it - check for yourself! Still, like with George W. Bush's proposed PATRIOT Act II, which also never came into fruition, it could be seen as testing the waters to see how people reacted.
Now, fortunately, many people have reacted. And for all of those proud Americans who misunderstand the concept of freedom, and seem to only believe in it for people who they agree with and not for less popular speech, there are nonetheless plenty of people who are standing up and fighting on this issue. For this, we should be thankful.
The one that stands out the most (to me, anyway) is George Takei. You remember him, right? He became famous as a cast member of the original Star Trek series? Now, of course, he is known more for his political activism, and his efforts to remind people of the internment camps during World War II for Americans with Japanese background is not just static. That was his reality, because he spent years of his life in one. Years that he can never get back. And he has sounded the alarm more than once in regard to Trump, although his latest response regarding the issue of flag burning was particularly poignant:
"I pledged allegiance to the flag every morning inside an internment camp. I would never burn one, but I'd die to protect the right to do so."
Now, again, this has come up before the Supreme Court, and the Court actually affirmed the right of citizens to burn the flag as a form of political expression protected by the First Amendment. Nor was this view just held by die-hard liberals. Here is the opinion of none other than the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, the very man who Trump suggested was the model of the type of justice he himself would want to populate the Supreme Court with:
“I mean that was the main kind of speech that tyrants would seek to suppress. Burning the flag is a form of expression — speech doesn’t just mean written words or oral words — burning a flag is a symbol that expresses an idea. ‘I hate the government, the government is unjust,’ or whatever.”
Ah, yes, Trump seems to have predictably overlooked this matter.
But again I ask: should we really be surprised? Have we not learned yet that no victory is ever final? Did not Thomas Jefferson suggest this much himself in the early days of the republic, as well as advocating a revolution for each generation, because no victory is ever fully won without people prepared to defend it?
Again, none of this is new. In fact, these are very much the same battles that we have seen, and been fighting, for a very long time now. The difference is that we Americans now have grown so lazy, that we actually expect our elected officials to do all of the fighting for us, and to serve our best interest, and not their own. When they fail to do that, we act surprised, even shocked - Shocked! Then a Donald Trump comes along, rather predictably, and states so many of the prejudices that, if we are honest with ourselves, we know tens of millions of Americans believe, and we predictably underestimate him, counting on the intelligence and objectivity of the American voting population, and then acting surprised when it proves not to be that intelligent, after all. When those same people get all riled up for "issues" that do not affect their quality of life, while conveniently ignoring those that do, we should not be surprised. We have seen it before. And we have seen it from plenty of Americans very much like Donald Trump in that regard. After all, each of the presidents in my lifetime end their addresses to the American people with an sentiment of American exceptionalism when they say, "God Bless America." Each of them seems to say, in one way of the other, that this is the greatest country in the world. Each of them wraps themselves up in the flag, wears their patriotism on their sleeve. So, why act surprised? Those who seek to undermine what is great about this country almost as a rule do so while proudly hailing the red, white, and blue.
Here's another quote, this one by Molly Ivins:
"I prefer a man who will burn the flag and then wrap himself in the Constitution to a man who will burn the Constitution and then wrap himself in the flag."
Indeed, and this reminds me of yet another famous quote from another of our Founding Fathers. This one will be more familiar to many people, but I think it pretty well sums up the position that President-elect Trump has taken very publicly, all while maintaining secrets in the background that his supporters likely would not be so enthused to learn about. Here is the quote, from Samuel Johnson, and this is what he said:
"Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel."
We should be reminded of those words from our past as we face these new challenges with a frightening, but all too real, administration to be. Because like it or not, they are coming.
Trump Said He’d Jail Flag Burners. George Takei’s Response Is POWERFUL. ByNatalie DickinsonPosted on November 29, 2016