Friday, April 01, 2016

How was I supposed to know you were mad?

I see the angry, aggressive crowds at the Trump rallies and am reminded again and again of the Anaïs Nin quote: "We don't see things as they are. We see things as we are." 

It's easy for Liberals like me to become  incensed at Trump supporters who show up at rallies primed for a fight, but we do well to remember that each of them has a reason, a reason that makes sense to them, to be angry and hostile. You might say they are each like a bear with a broken tooth. Though the pain of the tooth is totally invisible to me, it is nonetheless provoking behaviour which, for the most part, is uncharacteristic in the bear as a rule. 

Journalist David Brooks said something interesting on Charlie Rose a couple of nights ago. Here's a man who's a principle political columnist for the NY Times. He's on PBS Evening News as a political commentator. He's thoughtful and intelligent and he ought to be aware of what's going on, and yet the rage that has fueled Trump's rise caught him completely by surprise. He freely admitted he didn't see it coming, he didn't realize people were angry or were even discontented. 

But how has it escaped Brooks, or any of them, that the American working class has paid the price while 100% of the economic growth in the USA in the last 20 years has gone into the pockets of the wealthiest families in the country? The Guardian reported that the top 1% in the USA are now worth as much as the bottom 90% put together.  

Since the 1980s money has been steadily moving in an upward direction, with what were once well-paying jobs moving off-shore to unregulated jurisdictions, where work can be performed by slave and prison labour if need be, to maintain a large profit margin. 

Jobs that pay minimum wages don’t keep a family fed, clothed and housed adequately, even with both partners in a marriage working two or even three of them, and that equals a lot of anger. Many people have lost everything they have worked for all their lives; homes, retirement savings, college dreams for the kids. They are deep in debt and they have no financial security. They fear for their future, and this fear and anxiety has been honed by the Republican Party to turn against always reliable targets of racial and ethnic minorities and immigrants, and newer ones such as "Constitutional Freedoms", fear of losing one's guns, and "religious freedoms" like the right to pray in school, right to impose fundamental Christian beliefs on school curriculums and ban the teaching of subjects which "disagree" with a Biblical view.  This strategy has backfired in a horrific way and the Republicans are now in a panic, trying to find a way to pull the nominational rug out from under Trump. They raised the dragon and let it out of its cage, and now find it does not obey their command. 

No wonder people are ready to listen to a man who expresses their anger openly, directs it at the targets they didn’t like in the first place and have been told to blame their troubles on for the last 30 years. Now Trump says HE will fix things, HE will make America the way it used to be, back when it worked for them. He bullies dissenters openly, encourages violence, makes his audiences feel powerful and in control. Of course he’s full of shit. He hasn't a clue what politics are about, his "policies" change with the wind, and he’s completely and entirely amoral, but no more so than politicians who stand up and politely promise to fix things but are as superficial and slick as a spray of PAM on a non-stick skillet.   

But we are playing a very dangerous game with our unbridled capitalism. Franklin Delano Roosevelt stepped in and pulled the USA from the brink of democratic collapse when this kind of inequality happened during the Great Depression. In Capital in the Twenty-First Century,   French economist Thomas Piketty argues that "extremely high levels" of wealth inequality are "incompatible with the meritocratic values and principles of social justice fundamental to modern democratic societies" and that "the risk of a drift towards oligarchy is real and gives little reason for optimism about where the United States is headed. 

But back to David Brooks; even now, when he says he’s now aware of the anger at the political system and politicians in general he still believes the Republican Congress was willing to work with President Obama, but President Obama made no effort at all to work with Republicans.

He also thinks there are lots of good jobs out there if you’re willing to look, and there's no lack of opportunity for a poor kid (of any colour or class) to move into the upper middle class if they're willing to work hard. As far as he's concerned the determining factor in a person's success is how much their mother loves them. 


He actually said there was a study which showed that a man’s success, and how far he rose, promotions, business, military rank, etc. depended not on his education, class, or financial advantage but on how much love his mother poured into him. Also high achievers tended to be people who lost a parent by age 12 and had to pull up their bootstraps and do for themselves.  

Of course this plays into his wheelhouse and supports his philosophy that spending money on social programs is useless, because what the country really needs is more loving mothers. Bless his heart. I don't know if he's drinking too much NyQuil before he comes to work in the morning, or if someone's dosing him with horse tranquilizers, surely the man couldn't be that naive and hold down his job. I mean come on, even Ben Carson is quicker on his feet than that. 

He's the most willingly deluded thing that ever wrote a column inch. One expects the fairies at the bottom of the garden to flutter up and start sprinkling sparkly bits all around him. Love cures everything and money (from the government to the citizen) does no good at all. The only place money does a power of good is in the pockets of the 1% and the 90% can go fish or starve, whichever comes first. 

David, you are gorgeous and I could eat you and your rose-tinted glasses with a silver spoon. Let me pass long some advice from a very wise old man. Trump may not get elected this time but if someone doesn't start paying attention to a lot of hurting people soon Trump will be the least of your worries.

“Do not avoid contact with suffering or close your eyes before suffering. Do not lose awareness of the existence of suffering in the life of the world. Find ways to be with those who are suffering including personal contact and visits, images, sounds. By such means, ...awaken yourself and others to the reality of suffering in the world. If we get in touch with the suffering of the world, and are moved by that suffering, we may come forward to help the people who are suffering.” 

― Thích Nhất Hạnh