Donald Trump’s Uncivil War on American Values and Human Decency

January 30, 2017

There’s been so much to write about in this new year, but last Friday’s immigration ban from Donald Trump was a call to arms to everyone in this country (and across the globe) who cares about the core values of American freedom and decency. Fortunately, thousands of Americans quickly flooded airports across the country to protest the ban and defend those trying to legally enter the country. Within twelve hours of Trump’s executive order, five federal judges (four who were female) struck down the provisions that detained individuals and families (including children) in several American airports. Many people are still stuck in limbo, but the pressure is on the goon squads.

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When he was on the campaign trail, I wrote more than one piece about how Trump represents a slippery slope toward fascism. A lot of mainstream folks poo pooed the seemingly alarmist concern. After he won the electoral college, his cabinet appointments, a motley crew of seemingly incompetent millionaires and Wall Street billionaires, began to worry voters. What does it mean when Rick Perry is the most shovel-ready guy in the room? And a waiver to have a non-civilian run the Department of Defense was certainly cause for concern. Then his dark inauguration address, where he painted a bleak picture of a ruined nation (actually in a bright economic recovery) brought a chill to all but the most gung-ho Trumpists. His “America first” refrain brought to mind for many another nationalist in Europe about 84 years ago. The silver lining was that Trump was coming in to record low approval ratings. The tide was already turning against him.

Friday’s executive order stopped cold immigration to the US from seven Muslim nations where no terrorists have actually come from. It excluded all the nations the 9/11 attackers came from (like Saudi Arabia and Egypt) and where Trump has significant business dealings. This meant that Syrian families escaping the hell in Aleppo are to be turned back, much like how we turned away Jews fleeing Hitler in the 1930s. Is this who we are as a nation?

That question is important.

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One of the people detained at JFK Airport (in handcuffs) was an Iraqi named Hameed Khalid Darweesh. He worked for the US government in Iraq for ten years as a translator at great risk to himself and his family. He was promised that for this sacrifice he would be granted a visa to emigrate to the United States. That was before Donald Trump arrived and killed all those agreements with our allies in the Muslim world. He reneged on America’s deal with Darweesh like he’s reneged on so many deals he’s made in the business world. But this betrayal has global impacts. Who in the Middle East will want to work with us now? (Is Trump for Russia and ISIS?) I think of the great shame America carries for all its broken treaties with Native Americans. How will history rank the shame we will inherit from the Trump Administration? Is this who we are as a nation?

It’s clear that the grown-ups have been kicked out of the White House. This executive order was probably the work of alt-right guru Steve Bannon and not any sane people in the State Department. Trump’s dismantling of the National Security Council was labeled as “stone cold crazy” by former National Security Advisor Susan Rice. His promotion of torture as an effective way to fight terrorism (when all evidence shows the contrary) rattled even his hand-picked generals. Besides the fact that all of this makes us less safe, is this who we are as a nation? This chaos?

The seeds of Civil War II

Just like Brits who regretted Brexit immediately after voting for it, there are scores of Americans who have had second thoughts about their vote for this madman. They were there with the millions who participated in the Women’s March and they were also some in the airports Saturday night demanding the release of immigrants who had followed all the rules. The civil rights movement was greatly energized by whites marching arm in arm with blacks in the 1960s. The anti-Trump movement to restore America is going to require conservatives joining progressives to try to make America great again. We will need our Republican brothers and sisters in this struggle.

The danger is in the fact-free environment that Trump and his alt-right cronies have fostered. There’s a certain chunk of the population that is easily manipulated by pressing a few racist buttons. They were the chumps that thought President Obama wasn’t legitimately American because Trump said so and they are the chumps that think crime by “illegal aliens” is a significant threat, despite the actual facts. Trump has said that he will publish a weekly list of crimes by “aliens” (which would include legal resident aliens, like my wife), stoking the fear mongering, negating the legitimate fact that most offenses in this country are committed by white male citizens. Facts don’t matter when fear of “the other” rules the day. This how fascism works.

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As more Americans come out to defy the unconstitutional and unAmerican actions of Donald Trump, how will his loyal cult respond to the assault on their Dear Leader’s campaign to remake America in his image? The great hope is that we can convince them that he is bat-shit crazy and a danger to the core values all of us share, even the guy who only listens to Lee Greenwood records. But there are a bunch of Trumpies that are even more bat-shit crazy than our celebrity president and they have a lot of guns. They live in Trump’s land of wacky conspiracy theories and think “real America” is closer to the empty wilderness of Wyoming than the world millions of citizens on the east and west coasts live in. And they are ready to fight with God and his orange son on their side.

Trump has divided this country in a way that makes national unity now seem like a far off dream. All he needs is one terrorist attack (real or contrived) or one heinous crime by an immigrant (real or contrived) to take the next step in his clampdown. He’s already floated the idea of immigrants turning over their social media accounts to the Feds, as well as just “closing up” the internet. No wonder Amazon has sold out of George Orwell’s 1984. We are living in a dystopia.

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The demagoguery has proven Trump cares more about his ego than the survival of the nation. From his obsession with the crowd size at his coronation to his inability to get off of unsecured communication platforms like Twitter (Does anybody remember Hillary’s emails?) and now to this gift-wrapped present he just handed ISIS, it’s clear he could give a rat’s ass about national security. Let’s just hope the NSA was smart enough to give him fake launch codes for our nuclear arsenal. Trump is rapist Alex in A Clockwork Orange who will lead his moronic droogs into a war against the rest of us just to prove his hands aren’t that small.

It gets personal

This is just beginning. Out of this weekend’s chaos came the message that people from these seven Muslim nations with green cards shouldn’t expect to be admitted back into the country if they leave. That means, if your mother in Somalia is sick, you can’t visit her because the Trump kakistocracy thinks you might be a terrorist instead of a concerned child. And if you are student from Iran studying at an American university, you better hide in your dorm room for the next four years. (Again, no terrorist attacks in the United States have been committed by anybody from these countries.) Trump has stated his list of seven countries could be widened and what nation does he hold the most disdain for? Mexico.

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There are over one million lawful permanent residents in the US, known as green card holders, and 13% are from Mexico. That includes my wife who got her green card in 2010. We enjoy our trips to Mexico to see her family and immerse our daughter in her Latin heritage. I also teach a summer college course on a beautiful Mexican island each summer. If Trump widens his enemy nation list, that could all change. It’s already changing.

Reports are coming in of plainclothes ICE agents lurking in court houses looking for any potential “illegal” they can detain. Across America, immigrant communities from Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Iran, Somalia, Sudan and Libya are in lockdown, off the streets, for fear that Trump’s gestapo will come knocking; afraid to leave the house, let alone the country. Many of these people went through the absolute extreme of human suffering to find sanctuary here in the land of the free. Additionally, Latino immigrants are now being told by bosses not to complain about working conditions or pay or be reported to ICE. Middle-eastern immigrant kids are being told by bullies (and some teachers) that their parents are terrorists and are going to be kicked out of the country. Trump’s crackdown on “sanctuary cities” has already violated the 10th Amendment (see Printz v. United States, 1997), but the wave of fear will have countless casualties before the issue is re-argued before his stacked Supreme Court. This is not America.

The good news is the freedom-loving world has condemned Trump’s fascistic chaos. The images of refugee children dying to escape actual carnage (not Congressman John Lewis’s wonderful 5th district in Atlanta) are forever burned in our memories. Real American Christians are strong in the opposition along with every other demographic who wants to stand up to this insanity, this anti-American obscenity. Unfortunately, this call to the defense of basic human decency is happening as his cult rips the country into bits. Is this who we are as a nation?

Americans cannot wait until this lunatic destroys our great nation. He must be condemned and removed now. For the sake of all that is sacred to us.

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So I Married an Alien

Sept. 8, 2016

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I thought I should post this little confession. I married an alien. She invaded America in 1998, coming from a strange land called Mexico. Now if she was a white person we would just call her an “ex-pat,” but Americans prefer to refer to non-white visitors who weren’t born here as “immigrants.” If they came here to escape war or violence or just the American dream of economic mobility but they didn’t come through the very tiny door controlled by the federal bureaucracy we all love so much, they are called “undocumented immigrants,” or what the Trump crowd prefers, “illegal aliens.” I’m going to compromise and refer to my wife as an undocumented alien. It sounds more X-Files. And sexy. Hey, I saw a cute alien finger and I put a ring on it! (Or rather, she graciously allowed me the great honor.)

Now before Donald sounds the butt bugle for his quasi-fascist “deportation force,” let me say she now has papers. Thanks to immigration reforms under the first Clinton administration (See what I did there?), a loophole opened and she earned a green card that establishes a right to permeant residence in the USA. I just hope we can find it if Donald’s thugs kick down our door in the middle of the night as they round up the “very bad people” the Mexican government is “sending here” to “kill us.”

I mention this because, like most intelligent Americans, I have whiplash from trying to figure out what the fuck Trump’s ever-changing immigration policy is. Is he planning on asking “his generals” to come up with the answer to that one as well? It seems his policy is based on who his audience is and if his teleprompter is working or not. It certainly was a lot of xenophobic screaming after he returned from his brief trip to Mexico.

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There are a couple of reasons this matters. First, as I’ve written about many times in this blog, he is using scare tactics to whip white voters into a frenzy. His recent cavalcade of “angel moms” whose kids were allegedly killed by undocumented immigrants is a classic example. Of course it’s heartbreaking to have a family member murdered, but most people are murdered by people they are closely connected to, not the neighbor’s gardner. According to FBI crime statistics, only 12.3% of homicides are committed by strangers. Donald Trump is more likely to be murdered by Donald Trump, Jr. than an documented immigrant. But he’s successfully made brown immigrants into this season’s Willie Horton bogey man.

Despite his claim that America is a “complete disaster. Believe me.” – the crime rate has steadily been dropping in this country since 1993 at a rate of about 5% a year. And not only do immigrants have lower rates of crime offending than non-immigrants, studies show that cities with higher undocumented populations have lower crime rates. Think about it – If I’m here without papers, I’m not even going to jaywalk for fear of being discovered by police who might deport me and send me far from my family and my job. (And by the way, as Mexican President Peña Nieto pointed out to Trump’s confused face, illegal immigration to the U.S. has also been steadily declining, but, you know, THE SKY IS FALLING.)

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The second reason this is important is that all those “illegal aliens” that the Trump mob loves to hate and are convinced are stealing “their” jobs (picking strawberries) have stories. Some are escaping the insane violence of El Salvador and sending them back would be a death sentence. Some just want a better life for their children. Andrea wrote about her crossing so beautifully in the new collection, A Journey of Words. She didn’t come here to steal anybody’s job or rip anybody off. She came to live and to make America greater, as generations of immigrants, both legal and illegal (whatever that really means), have before and after her.

I feel like we’re at a turning point. So much of the political rhetoric from the Trump mob sounds like Germany in 1933 or even the United States in 1942, when 120,000 Japanese-American citizens and Japanese immigrants were ripped from their homes and thrown in desolate concentration camps until the end of the war. I wonder if my daughter, who Trump has hinted is not guaranteed citizenship just because she was born here, will be safe even if America’s favorite con artist loses in November.

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It’s clear that many of Trump’s thugs could care less about the facts, whether it’s Trump lying on TV about his past statements (that happen to be on video) or just repeating the “Crooked Hillary” mantra in hopes that truthiness beats out the truth. I’ve given up trying to convince these people. But I think if they just knew somebody like Andrea or any of the twelve million people who are here without papers, Trump’s fear mongering would fall on deaf ears.

Remember when pretty much every gay person outside of San Francisco was in the closet? (Maybe you’re not old enough.) As those people found the courage to come out, attitudes changed. A guy in Omaha had a harder time going off about “them queers” because he probably knew (and liked) some people who were gay. Just think of all the people in the Bible Belt who watch Ellen Degeneres five days a week. They must be pretty conflicted about the “hate the sin, love the sinner” crap they are supposed to believe.

It’s time for these same people to get to know their neighborhood undocumented immigrant. Who knows – they might also find love.

 

The Casual Sociologist: Causally watching race and races from Mexico

July 26, 2016

Watching the American political conventions from another country is a strange experience. The summer of 1984, I was living in Dublin, Ireland and only heared second hand reports about the amazing speech Jessie Jackson gave at the Democratic Convention. Now, thanks to the global wi-fi (and CBSN), I can stream it live and watch from my bed here in Morelia, Mexico.

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One of the funny items that has been circulating (besides Melania Trump’s beautiful tribute to Michelle Obama) has been the image of very Caucasoid-looking people holding “Latinos para Trump” (not “Latinos por Trump”) signs at the RNC last week in Cleveland. The implication is that there are no actual Latinos for Trump, so the RNC made the signs up and handed them out to the whitest crowd assembled since Kenny G’s last concert, hoping that the internet wouldn’t notice. “Look, Latinos do support Trump! Everybody was wrong!”

First of all, there are Latinos that vote Republican. They’re called Cubans. Secondly, Latinos come in all shapes and colors. From dark indigenous people to European Spaniards and old fashioned whites. Not all Latinos look like George Lopez. Having said that, and being married to a full-blooded citizen of Los Estados Unidos Mexicanos (That’s “Mexico” to you gringos), I feel pretty confident in saying those folks holding the “Latinos for Trump” were about as Latino as a crunchy chalupa at Taco Bell.

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I was thinking about the issue the other day as Andrea and I were sitting at a sidewalk cafe on Plaza de Armas in the center of Morelia. We were enjoying our very European cappuccinos while dark skinned indigenous people (the “O.G.s of Mexico”) tried to sell us trinkets, clothing and candies. Andrea was quick to point out how Mexico has adopted it’s own version of racism that grants privilege to the lighter-skinned citizens. The darker the Mexican berry the harder the struggle.

The United States exports a lot of wonderful stuff. I saw a kid in Mexico City last week playing Pokemon Go! USA! USA! Some might argue that rampant consumerism is not our best export. Now that nearly everyone in Mexico has a credit card, the latest clothes and gadgets are accessible (along with a lifetime of debt to the happily profiting banks). But before the exported version of the variable interest rates came our views on race and the basic idea that the whiter you are the better you are.

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If you don’t believe me, look at the origin of the term “redneck.” Poor whites had to work the fields and their tanned skin reflected that. Eighteenth century aristocrats hid from the sun and prided themselves on their porcelain skin. And if that wasn’t enough, they would cake on the white face powder and powdered wigs. (The great irony was a lot of that white powder contained lead and poisoned the wealthy.) But anything was better than looking like the darker common folks.

Add “negroes and mulattos” to the mix and you have the completion of the “white is right” hierarchy. And it’s not like this idea died in 1865. All over the globe there are Asian-originated people getting plastic surgery on their eye-lids in a sad attempt to “look white.” And all over the globe there are African-originated people who are bleaching their skin in a sad attempt to “look white.” And if you’re a Latina, there’s blonde hair dye on sale! There is a multi-billion dollar cosmetic industry that regularly tells women around the globe that being beautiful means being “white.”

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10 Ways the Beauty Industry Tells You Being Beautiful Means Being White

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I had a Latino student in one of my Hate Crimes classes at Portland State who did a fascinating research project. He did a content analysis of images of women in fashion magazines that targeted the Latina audience, like Vanidades and Latina. The images of ads and articles were either of Caucasian women or very light-skinned Latinas. There were no images of indigenous women or even mestizo (mixed) women. The message was clear – white is beautiful and, therefore, non-white is ugly.

It’s no secret that Mexico has it’s own version of American racism. Just watch any half hour of Univision or UPN and try to find dark brown faces. When they do pop up on telenovelas they are maids, peasants, villains and even witches. The news presenters all look like Access Hollywood hosts. Off the screen it is just as clear. The lighter skinned people work in banks and the darker skinned work construction and peddle. White is money.

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But this racial class divide is not always so divided. The teacher’s union in Oaxaca is waging a bitter strike against the reforms of President Peña Nieto. Last month six demonstrators were killed and more than 100 were injured by federal police in the conflict. The teachers are often lighter-skinned and more educated than the demonstrators but they are all in the struggle together. Last week we were in Pátzcuaro and traffic stopped for what I thought was a festival of locals. That was until I saw the anarchist flag and the barricade on the railroad tracks to stop trains from getting through. These young dark brown people were shutting the system down to support teachers in another Mexican state.

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I know to a lot of Trump folks (and maybe Americans in general), “Mexicans” are anyone whose family comes from south of El Paso. That includes El Salvadorans, Guatemalans, and even Brazilians. They are all the same skin tone and education level. Malcolm X once said, “What does a white man call an educated negro with a PhD? He calls him a nigger.” That attitude is often extended to the “beaner” in America. (But if you can get a few of the light-skinned, dyed-blonde GOP Hispanics in front of the camera at the RNC, no problema.)

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So it should not be a great surprise that the attitude that white is better permeates south of the border and across the globe. Racism is a planetary sickness that devalues indigenous people pretty much everywhere (outside of Northern Europe). But maybe, if Trump wins, white will be out and the world will become a nauseating shade of orange.

The Millennial Effect: Here comes Generation Z

May 18, 2016

As a sociologist of youth culture, I spend a lot of time trying to explain what makes generations unique. The easy answer is – nothing. Broad generalizations are meaningless and teens in 2016 probably face many of the same issues that teens did in 2016 BC. Some things are eternal, like when do you get the keys to the hybrid or chariot?

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But there is a social science of generations, looking at a cohorts born in a similar time and place. The parameters are usually based on changes in birthrates. The Baby Boom Generation begins about 9 months after the end of World War 2. In 1946, with the world safe for democracy, the birth rate in the US exploded and finally began to drop in the early 1960s. Nearly a third of the U.S. population are Baby Boomers and it’s pretty much explained nearly every cultural trend since. The sixties were the “Sixties” because you had so many college-age kids. (Bad time to throw a war.) And now all those boomers are retiring and there’s a Viagra commercial on TV every 60 seconds.

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Then came Generation X, the relatively small generation that I’m part of the first wave. The birthrate bottomed out in 1974, so a lot of of the 1980s “kids in America” had to live in the shadow of the massive Boom. Next came Generation Y, or the “Millennials,” that ended the century. The birthrate jumped up in 1981 as boomers (finally) started settling down, AIDS killed “free love” and they invented the SUV (with a “Baby On Board” window sign).

This 1981-2001 “echo wave” ended up being even bigger than the baby boom generation. They were not only the brats of Boomers who had finally found their way out of the disco. The population of first generation immigrants also got considerably younger. The Millennials became the most diverse generation in American history. They represent the browning of America. Over 35% were born outside of the country, another 26% are first or second generation immigrants and 38% are bilingual. This is my wife’s, story. She is the new face of America.

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These three generations, Baby Boom, Generation X, and Millennial, have some real markers. Baby Boomers watched Star Trek on Friday nights on NBC. Gen Xers watched the reruns after school as latchkey kids (and Star Trek: The Next Generation). And Millennials stream old episodes on Hulu between J.J. Abrams reboots. They are marked by different historical moments; the assassination of the Kennedys, the Challenger explosion, and 9/11. Boomers bought Beatles albums, Gen Xers bought U2 CDs, and Millennials may never have bought music on a physical format, preferring to download it instead. Baby Boomers got sent off to Vietnam, Gen Xers mostly avoided war and many Millennials volunteered for duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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In reality, there is an incredible variation within generations (including Millennials who buy Beatles albums – on vinyl). Usually when the term “generation” gets used it’s primarily referring to the experiences of middle class white males and what they do with their disposable income. The Great Recession of 2008 and the ethnic demographic shift makes the experience of the Millennials even less homogenous, but the one thing that makes them unique is their reliance on social media technology. Where Boomers hung out at the malt shop, the love-in, and the disco, and Gen Xers hung out at the all-ages punk club, the mall, and the rave, Millennials just hang out on line. The skate park gang is now a multiple-player online Tony Hawk game. The youth are no longer wild in the streets (unless there is a Bernie Sanders rally in town).

But these generations shape culture and not just hairstyles and popular dances. The Baby Boom gave us the second wave feminist movement. Gen X birthed Alex P. Keaton conservatism and Madonna sex-positivism and the Millennials gave us social networking. The great contribution of the Millennial generation is the recognition that you are not your job. They’ve seen their parents, painfully loyal to companies and careers, stabbed in the back, downsized and outsourced. Work is now something to provide you an income while you follow your bliss. Why commit to a profession that is just going to be replaced by a computer or Chinese child labor? As a Gen X’er who recently experienced this betrayal first-hand, this way of living sounds pretty good.

The oldest Millennials are 35 and the youngest are 15. The 9/11 attacks in 2001 also marked another shift in the birthrates. So here comes Generation Z, those born after 2001. This includes my daughter, born in 2014. The first Generation Zs turn 18 in 2019. What will their world be like?

It’s exciting to imagine what the 2020s will look like for them. We know there will be more non-white people in the U.S. and a declining pool of old white guys who want to make America “great” again. Z’ers will probably be even more immersed in technology (unless President Trump causes a global economic collapse and we have to revive the Pony Express). Between rising sea-levels and China repossessing the United States treasury, they will have plenty of issues to bring them together. We can hope that by then that whatever wave of feminism that’s happening is just tweaking the finer details of gender equality and expression.  In 2026, Cozy will be 12 and I can imagine her doing a report for a 7th grade class about how her father used to have to explain what feminism was and why it was ever needed.

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The Who played here in Portland last night and when they played their anthem, “My Generation,” I have to think 72-year-old Roger Daltrey grimaced a bit when he sang, “I hope I die before I get old.” But whatever your generation is, you’re going to have to stick around that long to figure what it all meant.

Who the hell is supporting Donald Trump?

March 10, 2016

When I first started writing about the Trump candidacy last summer it was because his hateful rhetoric reminded of what I had heard in my many years of studying racist groups like the Nazi skinheads and the Ku Klux Klan. I feared for the brown members of my family but hoped that, like so many Trump products, the marketplace of ideas would send the Orange Aristocrat to the dustbin of history; that this “Ivy League” braggart with his horribly misspelled tweets and his potty mouth would be given a permanent time-out by sane political voices.

Well, we were all wrong. Somehow the Trump shell game has only gained followers. So the question is now, who the hell are these people voting for Trump? It’s easy enough to blanket characterize them of as idiotic racists flocking to the game show host’s cult of personality like good little Germans, but that angle is horribly problematic. It denies the fact that these are real people responding to problems that they believe to be real. Their numbers include some of my own friends and family members whom I’d never describe as knuckle-dragging mouth-breathers.

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So pollsters and pundsters are wringing their hands trying to figure out who this mob is that might be driving the United States towards fascism while the rest of the world watches in horror and humor. “Donald Trump? Really? Sacré bleu!” YouTube is full of videos of Trumpists saying stupid, racist, and completely wrong things giving credence to the popular belief that they’re an army sub-moronic cretins who have fallen for Trump’s fact-free medicine show. But those folks giving the Donald their stiff-armed pledge don’t tell the whole story.

While ranking Republicans are freaking out, trying to unmask the Trump con (even Glenn Beck has compared him to Hitler) there’s something happening in the country.  And that something is same phenomenon that is also driving people to support Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton.

It’s no longer a blue collar world

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My master’s research was a thirteen-month study of a group of white supremacist skinheads in Orlando, Florida in 1989 and 1990. I was trying to figure where these little Nazis came from. Were they crazy? Did they have abusive parents? Did black guys steal their girlfriends?  What I found was they were responding to the very real phenomenon of deindustrialization. The economic policies of Ronald Reagan opened the door for manufacturing industries to close up shop and head across the border and overseas in search of cheap labor.

If I work in a factory, I probably belong to a union and that union has used collective bargaining to secure a decent wage, paths to promotion, health care benefits, and maybe even a pension. I can work in an auto plant or a textile mill and still buy a (small) house and send my kid to (state) college. That’s the American Dream right there and it evaporated under Reagan. Of the people to move out of the middle class in the 1980s, two-thirds moved downward, not up. And it got worse when Bill Clinton signed NAFTA in 1993, accelerating manufacturing job loss and replacing them with shitty, low-wage, no benefit service sector jobs. Fifty years ago the number one employer in America was General Motors. Now it’s Wal-Mart.

These skinheads knew lots of people who had been laid off or downsized (including their parents). What was happening to America? they’d ask. The answer came from neo-Nazis like John Metzger (son of White Aryan Resistance leader Tom Metzger) who would tell them exactly why. It was immigration, Affirmative Action and a “Jew-controlled” economy conspiring to take away “their” country. A very real problem (deindustrialization) was given a bogus explanation (Jews) and followed up with a very old-fashioned solution (violence). A recipe that has driven the  racist skinhead movement ever since.

In much of America, this problem persists. Wages are down and benefits are few and far between. The factory is gone and in its place is a Wal-Mart selling American flags made in Vietnam. There must be somebody to blame for this.

Donald Trump as a Strongman

Donald Trump is a hyper-masculine cartoon character. He wants to torture terrorists and kill their children. That is until one of his seemingly slow advisors hands a note saying that’s illegal. He wants to “bomb the crap” out of ISIS, unaware that Obama has been quietly doing just that. He wants to ban all Muslims from entering the U.S., “until we know what the hell is going on,” except for the fact that we do know what the hell is going on. And he goes on and on about how “they” are chopping off our heads (in New Jersey?). Most famously he wants to “build a wall” to magically keep illegal aliens out, seemingly oblivious to the fact that illegal immigration has decreased and deportations have increased under Obama. All that might not play well on college campuses where kids actually keep up on the news, but it’s a huge hit with the white boys in South Carolina and Mississippi.

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My Orlando skinheads were little authoritarians who were frightened by the changes in the world and wanted someone to come along and give them a path out of the chaos to order. Unfortunately, it was older Neo-Nazis who gave them that very ordered worldview and action plan. There’s a real parallel with the Trumpists who are scared shitless of Muslims, Mexican immigrants and Black Lives Matters protesters who are upsetting their world. It’s hard enough to keep up with cell phone technology, let alone these non-WASPS who might push terrified whites off the privilege throne. So here comes Trump, railing against “political correctness,” and the “God-given-right” to push back against these darkies. “All lives matter,” he bleats. “I’ve got a big dick!” he promises us. “Believe me.”

Recent research at the University of Massachusetts Amherst found support for this idea. A doctoral student named Matthew MacWilliams found that Trump supporters, unlike the general population, demonstrated authoritarian personalities (just like my skinheads). Trumpists felt threatened by outsiders and were more likely to flock to a strongman who, they believed, would stop the changes that they feared the most. So Donald Trump says he’s going to build a wall on our southern border and suddenly he’s their savior. It might be too obvious to draw the parallels with Hitler here but the xenophobia of Trump and his core following is not exactly new. We can talk about how fear-mongering moves us toward another F word, fascism.

Fear is the Path to the Darkside

We’ve got plenty of evidence about the frightening views Trump supporters hold. A recent YouGov poll found that a third of Trumpists thought placing Japanese-Americans in concentration camps during World War II was a good idea and one in five Trumpists thought freeing the slaves was a bad idea. No wonder Trump has been slow to disavow support from white supremacists. (He’ll disavow it with a hrumpf that says stop making me do this.) And disavowing someone like Klansman David Duke is much different than making a heartfelt statement about the evils of white supremacy. The bottom line is these are Trump’s people!

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Trump’s support has been less in whiter states, like Oklahoma, where Ted Cruz has been winning. Researchers have shown that you find higher rates of racism among people who believe they are directly competing with minorities for the same jobs. Data has shows that Trump supporters overwhelming believe (wrongly) that Affirmative Action takes jobs away from whites and hands them to blacks. They also have the incorrect idea that their taxes go to welfare for lazy (minority) adults who refuse to work. This was a lie Ronald Reagan pioneered in 1980 to move working class whites away from the Democratic Party. Driving this trend are southern evangelicals who have little to do with Jesus and lot to do with racial resentment, according to recent research done at Vanderbilt University.

Trump protester sucker-punched at North Carolina rally, videos show

Trump has tempered is huge support from white supremacists by pushing a more politically correct version of racism that makes brown the new black. He’ll find a small number of African-Americans who are ginned up on the competition with Latinos for crappy jobs and place them in front of the camera at his rallies. They are victims of the same economic policies that he’s profited from but he tells us that he has a “great relationship with the blacks.” “No on has done more for equality than I have,” he recently proclaimed. So fuck you, MLK.

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Earlier this week I was on The Gavin McInnes Show, the right-wing internet show that’s popular with anti-feminists and “angry white men,” having a surprisingly good discussion about racism and Trump with guest host Jim Goad, author of The Redneck Manifesto. I think we both clearly stated our points and I was glad to participate. Afterwards I got a tweet from a fan of the show that said, “ if u dont believe blacks have a problem with violence why do u live in a white city? Move to black Chicago and test your bullshit.” I’m trying not to engage these folks on Twitter but I wanted to explain to him all the years I joyfully lived in downtown Atlanta and that I purposely moved to historically black part of Portland. But he lives in fear and the fear drives his political choices.

The year of the “I’m not a racist, but…” voter

Of course Trump’s coded racism is clearly understood by his followers. The endless data is telling us who his supporters are. They are older, whiter and angrier. They’re angry at the how the country has changed in the last fifty years with all the feminists, homosexuals, non-English speakers, and most symbolically of all, Barack Hussein Obama, their black president. Like the white supremacists I studied, they want somebody to “make America great again,” when a white man could beat up a black protestor and not get labeled as a “hate criminal.”

The anger is also targeted at the “disastrous trade policies” of the “stupid leaders” in Washington (who are mostly Republican) who have been unable to stop the the “Obama agenda” from driving the country off a cliff (or to renewed prosperity, if you look at the actual economic measures). With merely the power of his awesome personality, they believe that Trump will transform the complex workings of all three branches of the federal government. (“Meat Loaf for the Supreme Court!”) Just like Mussolini, who Trump is fond of quoting.

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The great irony is that the Trumpists are motivated by a very real problem, the erosion of the middle class rooted in the very policies that Trump has benefited from to make his money. Trump’s lovely ties are made in China where the cheap labor is. And it’s a problem that impacts EVERYBODY in the working class, not just whites. These policies, including the Clinton-signed NAFTA, are also motivating many Sanders supporters, but instead of blaming the people at the bottom (who are often not white), Sanders and his voters are more likely to understand the problem is systemic magnified by the influence of corporate lobbyists in politics. But that’s a more complex issue. Scapegoating Mexicans is easier for Trumpists.

Bernie Sanders might be able to reach out to these economically dislocated Trump supporters in a way that Hillary Clinton can’t. But they have to be willing to abandon their authoritarian need to bash outsiders and insiders who don’t look (or pray) like them. They will have to let go of their fear. That’s a big “If” and points to the sad reality that after Trump goes back to his golden palace, another strongman will likely arise with the promise of making America great (white) again.

Post-script (Aug. 3, 2016): Warning: This Trump rally video includes vulgarities and racial and ethnic slurs.

 

I told you Donald Trump was a fascist!

December 9, 2015

Well, I hate to be the one who said I told you so, but even mainstream Republicans are using the “F word” to describe Donald Trump. After his ridiculous fantasy about banning Muslims from America, I felt I should chime in, even though I’d rather write about Cozy’s first poop in her IKEA baby toilet. His use of the these emotional hot-button issues certainly is good at keeping this billionaire “man of the people” candidate in the headlines, but there is a frighteningly ugly side to his appeal.

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It’s clear that a lot of people don’t understand the basic political spectrum with fascism on the right side of the continuum and communism on the left. (Hint: We’re pretty much in the middle.) I’ve given up on explaining to people that Hitler’s “National socialism” is not actually socialism but a violently anti-socialist form of fascism. The right is characterized by the rule of the one and the left is characterized by the rule of the many, with lots of gradations between the extremes. (Bernie Sanders is to the left of Hillary Clinton and to the right of Fidel Castro. Similarly, Donald Trump is to the right of Marco Rubio and to the left of Benito Mussolini.)

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So the memes comparing Trump to Hitler have been coming fast and furious. Godwin’s Law aside, I’m sure Trump is flattered by the comparison with a former Time Magazine Person of the Year. They do have much in common. But let’s stick to four hallmarks of fascism.

Conspiracy Theories: Trump is the king of the “Birther” movement. The theory is that Obama was born in Kenya instead of America and his college transcripts were forged. It’s all part of an elaborate conspiracy by foreign Muslims to instal a jihadist in the White House and institute Sharia Law in the United States. Since Obama will be leaving the office in January 2017, he better get his Jihadi ass in gear.

Then there is the fun one about the Mexican government is “sending its worst” to the U.S. (Remember, all those rapists and murderers?). They’re destroying us, he will tell you. “Believe me!”

Obviously, all these guys harp on the “liberal media” conspiracy that is out to get them.  (Hint: The media is only as liberal as the corporations that own it.)

The fact that these juvenile theories are disproven on a daily basis doesn’t really matter. Facts don’t matter to Trump and his minions. Conspiracy theories offer simplistic world views and explanations. Everything is very black and white. And the left has a few conspiracy theories of their own (9/11 was an inside job, Monsanto runs the world, etc.). But Trump’s are rooted in xenophobia and blaming “outsiders” for our problems and that puts him firmly on Adolf’s team.

Racism: I think Trumpies believe that you have to parade around in a Klan robe to be a racist. Trump does have a few black supporters and Hitler had a few Jewish supporters (before he gassed them). But let’s be clear, Trump is either a seething racist or he is an opportunist who uses racism to rally his sub-moronic drones.

A) He’s anti-black. Whether encouraging the man-handling of “disgusting” Black Lives Matters protesters or crowing that “All lives matter,” it’s clear that he has no interest in addressing the institutional racism that plagues the lives of millions of Americans. He’s tweeted “facts” from a white supremacist websites to reinforce his position that black people are a violent threat to his white followers.

B) He’s anti-Latino. His asinine comments about immigrants (he never mentions white immigrants) is based on the most extremist narrative and denies the reality of actual Latino immigrants, including members of my family.

C) He’s anti-Muslim. I know Islam is a religion and not a race, but it comes from the same dark place. He’s denied the role of Muslim Americans in the war on terrorism, in the armed forces, in government, in eduction, in science and even in sports (while  bragging about his “good friend” Muhammad Ali).

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Trump is not the traditional racist but brown is the new black so he can hope for a handful of black supporters by going after Latinos (“Mexicans”) and Arabs (“Muslims”) and his loyal flock is A-Okay with it. The assumption is that all non-whites are voting Democratic anyway so why not just recruit the highly motivated whites and make America great again, “again,” meaning back to early 1954 before America went all to shit.

Of course Trump’s plan to ban all Muslims from America is idiotic. According to what he told ABC’s George Stephanapoulos , customs agents would just ask people if they were Muslim and if they said “yes,” they wouldn’t be allowed into the country. You know, because actual terrorists are so honest. And would they be allowed into the country if they converted to Christianity? It seemed to work for the Spanish Inquisition.

In that interview he likened his plan to FDR’s WWII internment of American citizens of Japanese descent, one of the great American human rights abuses of the twentieth century and a massive violation of the due process constitutional rights of 110,000 Americans and thousands of Japanese immigrants whose only crime was being Japanese. In 1988, President Reagan apologized for the atrocity but here is Trump using it as his model. Even Jeb Bush described Trump as “unhinged.” He may be nuts or he may be secretly trying to help ISIS make the case that Americans hate all Muslims, but most likely he is  just be rallying his rabid jingoist base.

Aggressive Nationalism: All this is wrapped up in a flag and rhetoric about “making America great again,” taking us back to a time when straight white Christian males didn’t have to be bothered with the “politically correct” language that addressed all the others who thought they deserved a bit of equality at the American table. Trump hates political correctness. He doesn’t want to have to be sensitive to the issues of the needs of Americans other than his brat pack. “Believe me, they are doing horrible things.” He wants to kill the families of ISIS members, including their children. (“Pro-life!”) He wants to be a bigger terrorist than the terrorists. He wants to save America. He says, “We’re at war. We don’t have a choice.”

Donny, you always have a choice.

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Fearmongering: This is what Trump does best. The Mexicans are going to rape you, the Muslims hate you and are going to kill you, and anyone who disagrees is second rate and is a less valid human because they don’t get the ratings he does. He demagogues until his voice goes out. “Believe me, I saw thousands and thousands of Muslims celebrating in New Jersey after 9/11.” No you didn’t. Maybe you saw Muslims helping people and got confused.

“Believe me, there will be lots more 9/11’s if we don’t do something.” Remember when Rudy Giuliani tried this scare tactic in his 2008 presidential campaign? It’s only slightly historically removed from Father Coughlin who, in the 1930s, told his radio listeners that Jews were coming to kill Americans.

Trump is using the fear of terrorism and the general ignorance about Islam to whip his followers into a nationalist lynch mob. Listen to them carefully and then listen to people at a Klan rally and tell me how they differ. Scapegoating is an old tool but it is very effective.

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I’ve gotten some flack for referring to Trump’s followers as “sub-moronic” and it’s a fair criticism. It is not my intent to dehumanize them. I’ve been studying right-wing extremists and white supremacists for thirty years now. I know what connects them and the Trumpies is a desire for  simplified world view provided by a charismatic leader who can explain how to solve their problems, whether they be real or imagined. It’s how cults work and it’s how fascism works. But I also know many intelligent, compassionate, and progressive people who once subscribed to those ideologies and then walked away from them toward the light. There are plenty of former neo-Nazis and former jihadists who can testify that it’s entirely possible. And soon we will have some former Trumpies to add to the list.

This piece could be about the list of hate groups that have endorsed Trump or hate crimes that have been committed by his “very passionate” followers. It could be about how the Tea Party has dragged to the GOP into the ditch and how we should celebrate the death throws of an increasingly irrelevant political party that now only appeals to rednecks and fascists. But I just want to remind people, that America has been here before, in the 1930s. The specter of fascism was growing in America and the exact same bogus claims that Trump is now making were made by little Hitlers here. But America was better than them and America is better than Trump. We reminded ourselves of our core values and turned away from the fascist tide. It’s refreshing to hear this message from traditional Republicans, like Paul Ryan. We are so much better than Trump.

But for those who continue to follow this megalomaniac, here is a picture of my daughter’s first toilet turd. I’ll look forward to your brilliant comments.

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Mr. Trump, kiss my anchor baby.

September 25, 2015

Since the traffic to my blog this week has increased by 8321.6% (true), I feel obligated to lob another brain grenade at America’s favorite gameshow host and his intellectually challenged followers. Hundreds of thousands of folks have been kind enough to read and share the previous Trump essays, “Donald Trump is the new face of white supremacy” and “Trump Part 2 – This is what fascism looks like,” so I thought I’d tackle another issue related to Trump and my family. And I figure I shouldn’t wait because it seems like the Trump bubble is starting to deflate. But maybe that’s just wishful thinking by myself and pathological liar Carly Fiorina.

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I’m not going to go after his great lack any specific policies. All we know is that, whatever the issue, he has people (Can we meet them?) looking into it and that he’s going to hire (Does he mean appoint, subject to Congressional confirmation?) amazing people and that he’s going to fix the problem so fast your head is gonna spin. It reminds me of when I ran for President of Student Council in seventh grade. I had no platform, just the slogan, “Randy B. for presidency! Make Woodridge Elementary great again!”

And this post is not about his pseudo-fascist claim that he is going to round up 11 million undocumented people on his first day in office. He hasn’t explained how he’s going to do this but I have a suspicion he’s been watching Schindler’s List for ideas. Welcome to the Trump police state. Any man, woman and child who looks “illegal” gets tossed over the Texas fence. (Don’t worry illegal Russians, you’re safe.) He also hasn’t said who is going to do all the work those 11 million undocumented folks do, whether it’s working in strawberry fields or in his hotels. (The answer is his plan would destroy the American economy and it just ain’t gonna happen as much as Trumpie racists wish it would.)

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This post is about Trump’s obsession with anchor babies. And not his bizarre belief that he can magically change the Constitution to rewrite the 14th Amendment. (He claims he has “many scholars” that agree with him. Wrong.) It’s about this repeated refrain that people come to America just to have babies and then “we have to spend the next 80 years taking care of them.” It’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard, but his sub-moronic hat-wearing base loves it. (Hey, those hats are only $23.95 and may or may not be made in China or Mexico.)

I’ll start with a story. I was in a Jiffy Lube in Metairie, Louisiana a few years ago, on my way to Atlanta. The Prius needed an oil change and I was stuck in the waiting area with a couple of good ol’ boys (AKA white gentlemen). Since I was white, they started in on the racist crap, complaining about how Obama was letting in all these “illegals.” I pointed out that illegal immigration has actually decreased under Obama and deportations have increased. I got a look like, who is this fact-talking stranger? Then their fallback position was, “Well, they live here and don’t pay no taxes.” To which I said, “You’ve got sales tax in this state, right?” They nodded. “Then every time they buy something, they pay taxes. You’ve got property tax in this state, right?” They nodded. “Then every time they pay rent, they pay taxes.” The good old boys then started talking about the weather. You gotta shut this bullshit down every time.

The truth is that undocumented immigrants pay all sorts of taxes, including income tax. If you are working on a fake Social Security number, you are paying into a fund you will never be able to withdraw from. These funds go to what the Social Security Administration calls the “suspense file,” and you old white Conservatives should thank those “illegals,” because they are helping to keep SSI afloat. A study released this year by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy found that undocumented immigrants paid more than $11.8 billion in state and local taxes last year. And that doesn’t even include fees and federal taxes. But the “I’m not a racist but…” crowd that rallies around Trump can’t be bothered with facts and figures. Brown people are ripping them off! Off with their heads!

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What Trump and his rabid flock deny is that every immigrant, undocumented and otherwise, has a personal story to tell. I’ve written about the families that come to America to provide for their children, not traffic drugs. Some, like my wife, walked across the border in the middle of the night. Even more arrived on airplanes with visas and stayed after their visa expired. (Trump’s fantasy wall won’t help there.) The Donald’s racist comments about them have brought these people to the front of the American story. (And if you don’t understand how racist those comments are, you are also racist. But there’s help for you, I promise.) These “killers and rapists” have started to tell their stories. And their children have started to tell their stories. They are not a burden on you “legal” Americans. They are making this country strong and profitable. Most are doing the work you whiners won’t do, for pay and in conditions you never would accept. They are working twice as hard as you and getting less for it. Sometimes nothing at all. (Just Google: Wage theft.) There are millions of stories, like the one 28-year-old Adriana Almanza went on YouTube to tell. Here’s your anchor baby and you and your demographic don’t have to “take care of” her. She will take care of you.

My wife and child are on Trump’s hit list but they are not a drain on your pocketbook. Trump’s corporate welfare friends in the finance industry are, but I promise you my Mexican family is not. My “illegal” wife worked hard to earn a green card and through her I have met many other hard working people who do not yet have papers and live in fear of deportation by Obama’s ICE. Trump would deport them all on “Day 1,” but they are more important to the health of this great country than he is. Our daughter, who Trump might call an “anchor baby,” is an American citizen because she was born here. I am willing to wager that Trump’s children got more unearned handouts than she ever will.

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The reality is that Republicans (including many of my family and Facebook friends) are scared shitless that America is changing in a way that looks less like them and more like my bi-racial daughter. They want to scapegoat an easy target the way that desperate dominant groups have always done when they feel their dominance slipping a tiny bit. The want to “restore” America to an imagined time when straight white males were the unchallenged authority. Sorry, old white guys, you can ride that sinking ship to the bottom of the ocean or join us at the fiesta. The stories of our immigrant friends prove the American dream is alive and well, pero el futuro es cafe.

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And just to be clear, I am not writing this as a PhD in sociology who has studied racism for over 25 years. This is not a policy blog. I am a father and husband who is angry and sad that his family has been devalued and dehumanized by a loud minority of Americans (not a “silent majority”) who are too ignorant and/or fearful to understand that this is a nation of immigrants and that’s what makes us great. We don’t need Donald Trump or his xenophobic mob to drag us into the past.

And if you are a Trump fan, just watch this music video to see the human side that Trump’s ignorant rhetoric covers up. Maybe it will reach your corazon.