Wednesday, June 21, 2017

273. They divide us, then ask for unity

In the wake of the shooting of a Republican congressman practicing for a charity baseball game in Virginia, politicians from both parties, among others, have called for the end of divisiveness, to come together as a country.

Politicians also bonded together: “An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us,” Paul Ryan proclaimed.

Politicians can’t have it both ways. They can’t purposely, explicitly, and even angrily divide us for votes and then ask us to pull together when that divisiveness ends in tragedy.

President Donald Trump has called other Americans “losers” and “the enemy.” He led his supporters in chants to lock up Hillary Clinton. He tried to impose a travel ban against Muslims and build a wall to keep out Mexicans he described as rapists and killers. Donald Trump Jr. said Democrats weren’t even people.

The country is divided as perhaps never before. Just read the comment sections on national stories — people are mean and angry. They are looking for a way to vent.

I think the American public increasingly feels that politicians put politics and party before people. Previous disagreements with Republicans were ideological, in terms of policy, where opposing arguments were genuine and worth contemplating, even compromising. But today, due to differences in morals and values, it’s hard to warm up to a Trump voter.

Politicians have been sticking it to the poor and middle classes for a long time. They cater to lobbyists and the interests they represent. They help the rich get richer and put the wealth in the hands of a small percentage of Americans while stacking the deck of opportunity and class mobility against the poor and middle classes. The middle class barely gets by; the poor are portrayed as a burden, requiring public assistance and nearly voiceless.

Most of all, politicians take care of themselves. Political money decides elections. Politicians are well paid, with excellent benefits, refuse to impose term limits, and gerrymander districts.

More than ever, politicians are insulting the people they represent. They say some things that are nearly incomprehensible and fail to represent reality. They tell the lies that they know people want to believe. They say they are going to do things they have no intention of doing.

At some point, people have had enough.

I am a certified pacifist, but I understand violence and the reasons for it. I understand that war is sometimes necessary to stop tyrants like Adolph Hitler or terrorist groups like ISIS. It’s self-defense, for the greater good, on a larger scale.

I also understand — but of course do not agree with — political terrorism. Attacks are either random as an ideology, or in the most recent case, directly targeted at political figures. The political terrorist often feels oppressed and the intent is to create fear.

Republicans have canceled town hall meetings and are currently working in secrecy on a health care bill. Protests have broken out all over the country. And now this political shooting in particular, and others in general. In a sense, it is a tiny modern rebellion. It is a little like the American revolution in which the Continental army would disrupt the British army with unconventional warfare, hiding in trees, disappearing into the night.

While I would advocate activism, through peaceful protests and civic engagement, and I still believe in democracy and the integrity and responsibility of elections, not everyone is a pacifist. And the more politicians turn their backs on the people they represent, insult them, even mock them, the more they risk violent protests, angry town hall meetings, and political terrorism.

It is not until politicians decide to stand up to corporations, institutions, the wealthy, and other political interests that America will be what she can be. It’s about doing the right thing regardless of who benefits.

It might be indecorous to note that Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, who was shot at the baseball practice, is a strong Second Amendment advocate and had an A+ rating from the National Rifle Association. He also voted against the measure aimed at keeping the guns out of the hands of individuals with mental health issues. I am sure Scalise will remain defiant, but it is true that often people don’t act until their interests have been affected.

If politicians really want to end the divisiveness that is growing in this country, they need to stop talking and lead by example. We need publicly financed, civilly-debated elections and term limits. We need real discussions, in which politicians can speak openly without the fear of betraying supporters or becoming a sound bite for the other side. We need to stop giving air time on the major news stations to the political surrogates, who often lead the way in absurd partisan commentary.

People need to feel that politicians really understand them, and care about them — and will make the tough decision for them.

Enough talk.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

272. No, I won’t get over it

Gosh, if I only had a dollar for every time a Democrat or liberal was told to “get over it” in response to Donald Trump winning the presidential election.

The ironic part is that Trump is not over the election himself. It drives him crazy that he lost the popular vote by nearly three million votes. He keeps saying he won in a “landslide,” but in truth the election was decided by about 70,000 votes in key Electoral College states. And it drives him bonkers that many more people attended President Barack Obama’s inauguration than his, so much so that he had his people lying for him on the issue.

On the hypocritical side, Trump (and many of his voters) could not get over the question about Obama was born, dragging the issue forward even after Obama produced his birth certificate. He also could not get over how much golf Obama played, only to play golf much more than Obama. And let’s be fair, much of America, probably most of those who voted for Trump, never got over Obama getting elected — twice.

Isn’t it time that Trump got over the mainstream media? Trump’s relentless and obsessive attack on the media clearly interferes with his ability to run the country. He sends out a preposterous tweet and then loses his mind when the media challenges it. Trump also needs to get over shows like “Saturday Night Live,” which has ridiculed presidents, candidates, and other government leaders for decades. Samantha Bee opened a recent show with the question to Trump, “What’s wrong with you?” She and other political comics like John Oliver — while they appreciate the surplus of material — are slowly getting over the jokes at his expense. At some point, it is not funny anymore.

Maybe Trump should get over his unconstitutional travel ban, which keeps losing in court, being recognized for what it is: religious discrimination. And Trump should get over his preposterous wall. His proposals and continued insistence that Mexico is going to pay for it is just short of delusional.

What does surprise me is how quickly Trump supporters are getting over him. His approval rating continues to nosedive, sinking from 47 percent in February to approximately 38 percent now, according to FiveThirtyEight.

These people seem to have gotten over the urge to defend his lying and have become keenly aware of the clear indication that this is not about the middle class, jobs, tax reform, or health care— it’s about Trump, the Trump brand, and making the wealthy wealthier. They are also realizing there is not going to be a wall, health care reform is headed to disaster, ISIS has not been defeated in 30 days, and that the president has not “drained the swamp.”

I think almost everyone is over Trump and his ties to Russia. There are glaring concerns about possible collusion and obstruction of justice, and Trump didn’t make things easier for himself by littering his administration with those who may have had Russian ties. His apparent harassment of FBI Director James Comey to end the investigation doesn’t resemble the actions of an innocent man.

Surprisingly, many business leaders who looked to benefit from Trump’s stance on regulations have had enough of his dedicated ignorance to climate science and negatively view his decision to pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement. General Electric CEO Jeff Immlet said, “Disappointed with today’s decision on the Paris Agreement. Climate change is real. Industry must now lead and not depend on government.” Gap Inc. issued a similar statement: “We will continue to work with like-minded businesses, NGOs, and other stakeholders to support solutions that will create a more sustainable and economically strong future for the people and communities touched by our business around the world. It’s not only the right thing for the planet, but also the right path forward for business growth, job creation, and human health.” Government leaders of six states have stated that they will continue efforts to reduce carbon emissions despite Trump’s withdrawal.

Finally, I am under no obligation to “get over it.” I am over the election, but I am not over — nor should I be — the incredible damage Trump is inflicting on the country and around the world. My morals and values are not subject to election results. I will keep fighting for issues such wealth inequality, climate change, discrimination, social justice, national health care, and animal compassion.

Frankly, I am appalled that Donald Trump was elected president.

I am not going to revisit every transgression that should have led a moral and principled America away from Donald Trump. It is hard to get over the realization that nearly half the voting public was willing to throw their values in the gutter just to make sure Hillary Clinton wasn’t elected, to make sure a Republican won, or to stick it to liberals purely out of spite. I also cannot get over what I thought were “reasonable” Republicans in public office who continue to support Trump, living up to the mantra, “party over country.”

I will perhaps never get over it. That’s my right. I thought we were so much better than this.