Tuesday, July 18, 2017

This Political Circus Needs to End Now!

Recently, I ran into a news article with a title that, I felt, pretty much aptly sums up the situation in the United States today.

It is from the Miami Herald, and the title is this: "Who cares what's wrong with Donald Trump? What's wrong with us?"

Yes, this spoke to me, because too many people focus exclusively on the cult of personality, for better or for worse. Many Americans seem to think that their one and only duty is to go out and vote, and then allow whoever you voted for to do their job once in office, assuming that they take office. If they do not win office, then many Americans seem to slap bumper stickers to the effect of suggesting not to blame them, because they voted for the other guy.

This is something that I have never personally understood. Frankly, voting seems to me to be the bare minimum that a citizen can partake in to try and do their patriotic duty in an effort to make the country better. The fact that almost half of the country's voting population could not even be bothered to do that much last year is telling.

Eight years ago, many people seemed to think that voting for Barack Obama was a major positive, a huge victory for the country. Yet, he did not keep all of his promises, or even many of his promises, and many of the things that were most alarming about President Obama was what he did not change. He did not shut down Gitmo, he did not completely end either the war in Iraq or Afghanistan and, in fact, he got the country involved in other conflicts, such as Libya and Syria. He kept many of Bush's taxes that benefited the very wealthiest, and Obama certainly did not go after Wall Street criminals who almost ruined the economy and plunged the country into the "Great Recession" back in 2008. Indeed, Obama was not the progressive that many seemed to believe him to be back in 2008, but most Americans did not seem to pay attention to this, effectively giving him a pass, and admiring his speeches or his style or his family, and not putting his feet to the fire in terms of policies that were detrimental to the country.

This has been the trend now for decades, with politicians both to the left and to the right obtaining high office, and then reneging on their promises, yet people giving them a free pass. Case in point, just last night, I received an "urgent" email request by someone who passed on a message by New Jersey's own Cory Booker, who stood opposed to the proposed "repeal and replace" healthcare bill that Republicans are trying to cram down America's throats, despite it being massively unpopular, and despite many experts suggesting that this healthcare bill would essentially lead to tens of millions losing their health insurance within a few years.

Trump is not what many of his supporters think he is. They think that he can relate to their plight, that he has sympathy. They think that Trump really cares about their plight, and has the answers and the know how to implement successful solutions to those strategies.

The truth is that Donald Trump has never really cared about anyone but himself. He clearly thinks incredibly highly of himself, to the point that he is his own favorite topic of conversation. Has there ever, in the history of the world, been anyone more in love with themselves than Donald Trump?

Yet, to show just how screwed up our political climate is, instead of getting some kind of a wake up call during his presidential campaign, which revealed staggering levels of ignorance and arrogance (talk about someone with a false sense of entitlement!), we, as a country, opted to elect this man to the highest office, to represent us.

He is so transparent about being a con artist, yet in this nation, where get rich quick schemes essentially still dominate many bookshelves, and where there is still no shortage of scam artists trying to fleece people who want and are encouraged to believe in virtually impossible dreams, perhaps it is fitting that this man should be our president.

And it does not even end at Donald Trump! He has no business in the White House, yet apparently, he has inspired other clown acts to run for office. This includes Kid Rock, which my brother informed me of, and now, it includes Caitlyn Jenner.

What a ridiculous farce our political situation is right now! Kid Rock and Caitlyn Jenner are running for Congress. Because, you know, they are so insightful, and live the kinds of lives that we can all relate to, right? The Trumps are bad enough, let's not get so absurd that we start to give people like Kid Rock and the Kardashians some belief that they could and should jump into the political arena themselves.

These people are famous, although in each case, from Donald Trump to Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner to Kid Rock, they have all made public asses of themselves, repeatedly. They are also each showing an unbelievable sense of entitlement, for that matter. We already made the horrendous mistake as a nation to officially elect Donald Trump as President. He clearly is unfit for office, so he needs to be voted out of office, although my suspicion is that despite all of the staggering levels of nonsense, he could and very well may win another term in 2020. And despite clearly being unqualified, Kid Rock and Caitlyn Jenner might have a serious shot at winning Senate seats.

Indeed, politics in this country has been viewed as not really serious by many people around the world. I still remember when Johnny Depp suggested that American politics was like a dumb puppy. You can play with it, but ultimately, it is hard to take any of this too seriously.

For decades now, the country has been reaching new lows. George W. Bush was quite ridiculous, yet President Trump makes him look positively like an enlightened and dignified statesman by way of comparison. Somewhere along the line, we went from brilliant and inspiring leaders like Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Lincoln, the Roosevelts, Eisenhower, and Kennedy, to staggering levels of mediocrity. Frankly, I am not sure that Trump even qualifies as mediocre, because there are no words that describe him better than awful, a failure, a complete inept, a manchild, and yes, a clown.

Let us finally nip this nonsense in the bud, and get rid of these clown acts who think that being famous truly serves as qualification to run for and hold political office. We can do better than all of this pathetic nonsense.

Frankly, we could hardly do worse than what we are doing.

Who cares what’s wrong with Donald Trump? What’s wrong with us? BY LEONARD PITTS, JR. lpitts@miamiherald.com, July 14, 2017:



  1. There are a few things in this article to which I’d like to respond. First off, you mentioned the abysmal percentage of people who actually bother to turn up and vote. Bill Maher put it very succinctly a number of years ago when he addressed France-bashing, and the then-recent 2007 French presidential election: “France had an election. And people over there approach an election differently: They vote. 85 per cent of them turned out. You couldn’t get 85% of Americans to get off the couch if there was an election between tits and bigger tits and they were handing out free samples.” That being said, I’m of two minds about that. I vote, and the fact that so many people do not troubles me. On the other hand, I find it increasingly difficult if not altogether impossible to convince myself that we have it in us to get our collective shit together as a species, pardon my ancient Aramaic. Marine Le Pen’s ever-increasing relevance (and, more importantly, that of her ideology), combined with Trump’s election here serve as stark reminders – as if any were needed – of the old adage that although there are limits to human intelligence, there are no such limits to human stupidity. I once held the youthfully optimistic notion that the political process was helping to create a better world. That notion now feels like a cruel joke.
    Also, I disagree with your conclusion that we could hardly do worse. As I mentioned in my response to one of your recent posts, I thought we’d seen the worst we were ever likely to see when Dubya was “elected”, then reelected four years later. Trump’s ascent, to me, shows that there’s no reason to believe there’s a low to which we couldn’t possibly stoop. My supervisor at work told me about a movie I’ve been meaning to check out – perhaps you’ve seen it – called “Idiocracy”. Basically, a guy who went into a 500-year hibernation as part of a top-secret experiment awakens to realize that people have become so abjectly stupid that he’s by far the most intelligent person alive. The president, played by Terry Crews, is a mindless imbecile – all brawn and bravado, no brains. Like today’s politicians, he reads his speeches from a teleprompter. Unlike today’s politicians, however, there’s nothing even remotely eloquent or articulate about those speeches. This guy literally needs a teleprompter to say things to the effect of “Man, things are really fucking tough. They really suck. We’ve got to do something about this shit!” There’s a scene my supervisor showed me on YouTube in which he’s taking part in a parade, chugging beers and flipping everyone the bird with a stupid grin on his face. (Terry Crews’s character, not my supervisor.) Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Come on, that’s just a movie, things aren’t literally that bad.” But wouldn’t you agree that the contrast between that dystopian, nightmarish scenario and the way things actually are in the early 21st century is becoming increasingly, unsettlingly subtle?
    I suppose as a parent, you need to remain optimistic, to believe that we’re becoming smarter all the time, that the rise of people like Trump is merely a speed bump along the way. And I certainly hope that’s so. But the older I get, the more that strikes me as something based on wishful thinking, as opposed to empirical evidence.
    Democracy only works if people educate themselves and participate. When roughly half of the population can’t be bothered to vote, and intellectual pursuits are dismissed as “elitist” by people too vacuous to notice the elephant in the room – Donald Trump is the poster boy for elitism, and doesn’t give a rat’s ass about any of their concerns (pardon my Luxembourgish) – it’s not a good sign, to put it very euphemistically. Perhaps there will be a massive, sustained backlash against our “lente descente aux enfers” – a cultural renaissance, if you will. I hope so. But I don’t see that happening anytime soon, if ever.

  2. I agree with much of what you said, and indeed, that movie, Idiocracy, does seem like something that I would want to see, as well.

    As you pointed out, where we differ, it seems, is how we view the world. I can understand that. You see Trump win the White House, just eight years after George W. Bush finally left it. A man who was endorsed by skinheads and the KKK, a man who believes himself to be such a genius that he knows more about ISIS than the generals and thought both the presidency and overhauling healthcare would be relatively easy, a man who claimed that climate change was a hoax invented by the Chinese specifically to hurt the American economy, and a man who has never shown a single sign of humility or deep thought in his life has been elected to the White House, and will represent the country for at least the next four years. Not too long ago, I also read an article that milennials, knowing what we know now, would still be in favor of the war in Iraq. Trump is withdrawing the United States from the Paris Accord on the grounds that he feels the threat of climate change is grossly overblown - the only country to reject the accord based on a denial of science. And just look at what his healthcare bill (and he merely supported it, never even seemed to take part in helping to design it) would have done. Plus, the whole Russia thing, which really is beginning to look like a cover up, although how likely is it that the GOP will actually take him to task? All of that, and more, leaves a very bad taste in the mouth, and it is easy to feel depressed and or close to panic, literally, about the future.

    Add to that other world leaders who are not exactly inspiring confidence. Macron seems to be acting as if he were king, and is hardly the break from political norms that he was billed as. In Turkey and in the Phillippines, there has been a crackdown on the press and democratic institutions in general, and the people there strongly support all of this (at least so far). The world seems to be more divided and fragmented than it has been in a long time, and there are 60 million refugees currently in the world - the most since World War II.

    It's enough to make anyone feel like we are going backwards.

    That said, most of that is politics, and politics has rarely, if ever, inspired tremendous confidence. But as Stephen King writes in his Dark Tower series, "There are other worlds than these."

    What I mean by that is that in many ways, the world is improving, and an overly skeptical outlook can prevent people from seeing that. Every day, there are numerous inventions that are being worked out or finished off that are improving people's lives and the prospects for living in a cleaner, better tomorrow. Even if the United States is dragging it's feet on a lot of issues, such as climate change, the rest of the world by and large is not. Every leader who spoke on Trump's withdrawal essentially condemned it, and they reaffirmed their own commitment. France just announced that cars running on gas will be banned by, I think, 2040, and they want the country to have a zero carbon footprint by 2050, and it is not alone. So, even in politics, there is reason to be somewhat optimistic.

    Hold on, I am running out of time, so will continue this later.

  3. Okay, sorry about that. So, let me continue with this run of thought. Give me a minute to remember what points I wanted to address...

    Ah, yes. Donald Trump. He is a negative sign, and very discouraging, to be sure. Trust me, I know some people who support him, and hearing some of the things that they say, and particularly what they like about him, is more frustrating and depressing than anything that I heard even during the days of Dubya.

    That said, I also have never seen the level of opposition that came immediately with Trump's November election victory. It almost felt as if everyone woke up simultaneously, and realized just how bad the country has gotten in recent years. There was absolutely no honeymoon period for the manchild's inauguration and, even more encouragingly, there were major protests, including concerts. Those, plus the huge protests across the country, and even around the world, completely overshadowed the usually fluffy inauguration ceremonies.

    And once he became president, people started standing up to him right away. Nevada is outright daring Trump to try and intervene with their marijuana legalization. When he tried to obtain information for his ridiculous excuse of an investigation into the supposedly massive voter fraud, 44 states did not comply. That even includes quite a few red states, and even a predominately Republican Congress laughed at the major investigation he was pushing for, on account of a lack of evidence. When he announced that he was withdrawing the United States from the Paris Accord, the response was instantaneous. World leaders uniformly rejected his skepticism and reaffirmed their own commitment. Here in the United States, some 50 or so cities and 11 states, and even some major corporations, almost immediately announced that they rejected Trump's move and declared that they were going to stick with the terms of the Paris Accord. Other world leaders also made clear that they no longer feel that they can count on the United States, and that they would be essentially working around the United States. Case in point, the US, far from being the leader, was basically in isolation during the recent G-20 summit. Trump is still trying to force some sort of healthcare bill, yet thus far, they are 0 for 3, and that most recent healthcare bill had a whopping 15% approval among Americans. Trust me, conservatives have noticed these, which cannot be viewed as anything other than a disastrous failure. So far, failure is what marks his presidency.

    And if you don't think that it's having some effect on Trump himself, consider this: his own son just released the most incriminating evidence of collusion with Russia during the campaign, and just recently stated that he could not wait for these four years to be over. Clearly, he's not alone, but it sure seems like the pressures of the critiques from being constantly under the microscope because they represent the White House seems to be showing itself. Just this morning, Trump spread his venom towards his own, hand-picked Attorney General, Jeff Sessions. Even the most die hard Trump supporters have to see that this has hardly been the well-oiled machine kind of presidency that Trump has described it as being.

  4. Like you, I was obviously more than a little disappointed with the results of that election, and it's obviously also not the first time that the results of an election absolutely disgusted me. This one was even worse than 2004, when "W" actually won the presidential elections, even after four bumbling years where he proved his idiocy and unworthiness.

    I understand what you are saying that it can get worse, believe me. In fact, if memory serves correctly, I wrote a blog entry somewhere suggesting the same thing, that the past few decades have been a series of steps downward for this country politically, and as much as I would like to believe that Trump absolutely has to be the bottom of the barrel, it is hard not to see Kid Rock and Caitlyn Jenner seriously considering runs for higher office as a sign that all of this bullshit will continue, and that we really might see someone even worse yet.

    However, again, I think that all of this is happening simultaneously with an awakening of sorts. Some of it is even expressed politically, and let me address that right off the bat. The main problem in the United States right now is that it is not a direct democracy, that states and regions seem to outweigh the will of the nation as a whole, in large part thanks to gerrymandering. However, a majority of Americans want some form of universal, affordable healthcare, even if that means it is run, at least in part, by the government. A vast majority of Americans (70 percent) not only believe in climate change, but believe that we need stronger action to address it. A growing majority of Americans are in favor of legalization of marijuana. A majority of Americans also feel that the for profit prison system is a failure and in desperate need of reform, and that includes many conservatives! A majority of Americans want more gun control, although you might never know that due to how loud the 2nd amendment types and the NRA are. And a even though a majority of Americans still are in favor of the death penalty, that majority dropped from a whopping 80 percent in the mid-90's, to just 49 percent today.

  5. Away from politics, if you look at things historically, I think that there is an argument to be made that things have gotten better, as well. The air is nowhere near as polluted in numerous developed nations as it was decades ago, particularly around the 1970's. Trump is obviously trying to undo some of that, but his power to do so is limited, and also, don't forget that some high profile members of Trump's own cabinet resigned in protest at his decision to withdraw from Paris.

    There is better medicine than ever before. It might seem like some irrelevant history, but think about what has transpired in the past 200 or so years, and it's amazing just how many changes have come, and many of them are positive. Scientists have learned so much more about the human body, such as the need to pasturize milk, all of the vaccines and medicines, all of which have contributed to not only dramatic decreases in child deaths but also dramatic increases in life expectancy, and for the most part, people these days are better able to enjoy their lives than ever before. We have homes with heat and cooling, and kids in developed nations do not work 12 hours in sweatshops like they used to, but receive an education instead. Human ingenuity has allowed man to walk on the moon, and to reach as far as Pluto. Plus, more advanced telescopes are providing a glimpse into whole other galaxies and star formations, and we are learning about all sorts of other things.

    All of this has contributed to improved lives, yes. As mundane and unexciting as many lives seem these days, working menial jobs for often seemingly crappy salaries, we are far better off than people were 200 years in the past, and well beyond that.

    Trust me, if they could, they would likely have traded places with us in an instant, if they understood everything involved. There was a time when a book - one single book - was more expensive than a car is for us today. If you owned one, it was considered a huge boost to your reputation, and you made sure to read it, over and over again. Now, we have a vast library of books to choose from, and a search for works in any field of study will reveal just how great our collective knowledge of human history, science, math, philosophy, literature, and so on and so forth has grown. You could literally obtain just about any book that you could possibly want, with very few exceptions, and it would be reasonably priced, to boot. Increasingly, you can do so instantly, with downloads. Remember how difficult it was for Pop to get French books? He can download them almost instantly these days, and adjust the size and lighting, too. The same goes for music. You can obtain the full Beatles collection, or Malicorne, or Mozart, or just about anything, for that matter. The same is true for movies and other programs, which are often even available for download, often even on Youtube. Again, language is nowhere near as much of a barrier as it used to be. How often have you and Pop gone to view something from France, or some other French-speaking country on Youtube?

  6. All of these are positive improvements. Sure, there are things from the world of the past that we probably romanticize, and perhaps indeed wish we still had. But again, by and large, we are healthier and more well-educated than people were hundreds of years ago, and more connected, too. Remote towns and villages from the farthest corners of the world are available to us, almost quite literally, at our fingertips, with a click of the button. You can get in touch with people from those small regions, and if you really, really want to go anywhere in the world, within reason, you can. Assuming that you can put enough money to the side, you can buy a plane ticket and travel to France or elsewhere in Europe, or to Asia, South America, Australia. It might take some doing, but it is possible and open for you to do. Again, that was not something that was generally available to people even one hundred years ago, at least not with the speed that it is available today. And let us not forget that with unions having given us weekends and leisure time, we can take such trips and know that we have a job to come back to afterwards. Those might not seem like huge things, because we are conditioned to take them for granted. But remember, these were things that simply were not available to people in centuries past, except for the very, very elites.

    Sorry had to break that last message up, because it was too large to send all in one message, evidently.

  7. Hundreds of years ago, peasants usually had only a couple of changes of clothes. One for the warm weather, and one for the cold weather. Winters were real times of hardships, and sometimes survival was not clear or a foregone conclusion, while now, we generally view it as a minor inconvenience. We get to enjoy recreational activities like never before, and again, it feels to me that there is more available on many levels than ever before. The fact that you and I are discussing this by communicating right now via the internet is not insignificant. That was something that we both remember not having up to the mid-90's or so.

    Yes, there are reasons to be positive and optimistic about where we are, and where we are headed. And if you feel frustrated by Trump, you are not alone. But I remember something that helped me get through the Bush years, and it was a reminder that Bush was not America, that there was far more to it - to us - than him. That is even more true with Trump, even though his own ego might try and obscure that fact. The country is even bigger than Trump's ego, and has a lot more to offer (and is far more interesting, to boot).

  8. Now, let me conclude with the paradox, because not addressing that there is a paradox would be disingenuous.

    There was a commercial, of all things, that I actually liked earlier this year. It was for some online travel agency, and featured a woman speaking to a man who seemed like a wise old bearded man, presumably from India. They are talking, and by the end, the young woman has grown older and wiser, while the old man suddenly looks like a teenager. And they talk about all sorts of things, but one thing that struck me was when he mentioned that everywhere you go, you cannot escape the influence of narrow minds. Right at that point, they show an image of what appears to be an Israeli soldier, although I cannot say that for sure.

    Events and discoveries and, yes, advances, have all come very fast - almost lightning fast. Think of the world before the French Revolution, and think of just how different that world is right now. The events that led up to the revolutions, actually, such as the Renaissance and the Enlightenment. Then the American and French Revolution, and the other movements (such as what happened in England in the 1600's). Since the French Revolution, which really challenged and changed everything like nothing that had come before, we have seen some dramatic changes. Greater political and social autonomy, a struggle for lives of greater meaning and dignity, the Industrial Revolution, the advances in science and technology. Cameras, gramophones, record players, steam locomotives that brought faraway places together, and made traveling far more accessible. Flight, and then monumental flights that, again, brought far away lands separated by oceans and seas much closer together. In our own lifetimes, we have seen the so-called "Age of Communication" effectively replaced by "The Age of Computers." All of this is generally sweeping and powerful, and has impacted the entire world, including both of our lives, as well as that of everyone in the family. Look at how quickly and automatically Sebastien took to computers, the ease with which he handles it. He never knew a world without all of that stuff.

  9. I think it is safe to say that these are triumphs, but we cannot escape the paradoxes. Yes, technology is wonderful, but it is often being misused. Militaries around the world use that technology to better and more effectively destroy. Corporations and banks use that technology to keep tabs on us and control us, as do governments. And like that commercial suggested, there is always, always the influence of narrow minds, no matter where you are, no matter how beautiful the place you are in may be.

    Plus, technology has proven to allow people to grow more insular, ironically. It protects the willful ignorance of some, reinforces and seemingly legitimizes their own desired beliefs. I heard one person suggest that someone from the 50's would be amazed that we now have a device that fits in our pockets that gives us access to the entire world, and that same person would be horrified to find out that we use this device to post pictures of cats and argue with strangers. I think that there is more than a little bit of truth to that. Indeed, the cruel irony is that the internet, and computers in general, have been developed through all of those advances, yet are being used (or rather, misused) to reinforce or entrench the narrow minds and prejudices that many, many people seem unwilling to part with. And their are clear dangers to that, too. I think a quote by Carl Sagan best sums this up:

    "Science is more than a body of knowledge; it is a way of thinking. I have a foreboding of an America in my children’s or grandchildren’s time—when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the key manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what’s true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness."

  10. There you have it. That is the risk. There is always risk to everything worth pursuing, and I guess we need to understand that human advancement is the same. Some people will just refuse to go along, and misuse these advances for their own purposes. That does not mean we should stop trying, or even, stop believing. The world to me is a better place than it was centuries ago, and even though we are going through scary times, and we are facing some awful and very frightening threats, there are also reasons to believe that we can actually still create a better world, although it will be because of people who contributed positives and tried to expand that universal human understanding, and that in many ways - more than anyone can comprehend - we really are all interconnected, even those people who we often dismiss as rednecks or backwards or "the problem."