I’m still trying to get used to seeing Jim Bakker in the news again. I’m old enough to remember when his initial scams were alive and well. I remember how painfully obvious his deceits were. I remember the outrageousness of it all, not just his own lies, but the utter gullibility of his followers. I distinctly remember realizing with some degree of sadness that his followers must not merely have been fooled. To say they believed in this man (and his wife Tammy Fae) required a trace of dishonesty in itself. They couldn’t simply be fooled. They had to be lying too. I remember the scandal that finally broke Bakker’s financial empire, and I remember his statements about Jessica Hahn. Like so many of those uttered by God’s top salesmen, Bakker’s confessions were littered with excuses and self-serving narratives that showed little contrition and plenty of bad faith all around. It may have been a sex scandal that broke his old over PTL ministries, but it was fraud that sent Bakker to prison, fraud perpetrated in the name of Jesus and sold primarily to retired pensioners who could ill-afford to bankroll the lavish lifestyle this man enjoyed at their expense. But here we are. Bakker is back, and he is selling Jesus once again.
Because people never really seem to learn from history.
Not the lessons that matter anyway.
Is this a newer an wiser Jim Bakker? Can we trust him now? Is he a better man than the one who clearly did have an affair, and quite possibly raped the woman he had the affair with? Is he more honest than the one who bilked his followers out of millions with the promise of lifetime memberships in PTL and membership benefits he never even tried to deliver?
That’s not really the question to ask though, is it?
Bakker is who is he, who he always was. That should be perfectly clear.
Better to ask if we are a better and wiser society?
Have we done anything to protect ourselves from the likes of Jim Bakker, or is America just as wide open for this sort of scam as we were back in the gullibility jubilee that was the Reagan era? Are we still going to humor two-bit huxters with the miraculous power to turn thoughts of Jesus into perfectly material cash? Do we have any means of holding the likes of Bakker accountable for their perfectly antics?
Or are we still unable to do anything about them?
Take no solace in your own intelligence!
People like to imagine that those who fall for the likes of Bakker are simply stupid, that the sort of crime in which he engages amounts to a sort of poetic justice. “Anyone dumb enough to fall for that sort of thing deserves what they get,” so I am often told. But that’s just an evasion.
Critical thinking skills won’t save any of us, especially not in our twilight years. Televangelism is a business that works by catching up on the tail end of our own better judgement. Many of those who give to the likes of Bakker better might have known better at some point in their lives. Many would have laughed him out of the room in their younger days. This is one of the main features of televangelism. It’s a business model that can wait for us to lose our our intellectual edge, to give up some of our skepticism, and to embrace hopes we might once have shunned.
…and to accept the token promise that giving our hard-earned money to some perfectly mortal human with grifter written all over their every word and deed we can somehow make good with a divine force capable of making everything right in the end.
We may know better now.
Make no mistake.
The likes of Bakker can wait until we don’t.
Does it need to be said?
Bakker is hardly alone. I don’t know about you, but I’ve long since lost track of the number of times one of God’s surrogates has been caught making off with money meant for him, …pardon me, Him. I can’t easily count the number of His faithful who’ve been caught in the wrong bed, hotel room, or sex club either, to say nothing of the number of those denouncing homosexuality, or offering some cure for it, who found their way into the arms of someone of the same sex. Time and again, it turns out that the message of god just doesn’t fit well in the mouth of its mortal medium.
No, the problem isn’t simply that Christians are just as human, and just as flawed as the rest of us; it’s that Christianity (or at least some versions of it) often proves to be the worst thing about these people. Left to their own vices, many of these people would prove little less than perfectly human, but high on God, they are a hazard to others, and a constant threat to many more harmless than themselves.
I can understand someone whose love life is a train wreck, but when that person makes a living promoting a more perfect vision of what that life should be, damned right I expect them to live up to that vision. Or to give it up when that vision proves fatally flawed. When selling that message becomes a multi-million dollar business, I am just a little less forgiving about the whole thing.
Bakker isn’t a fluke. He is poster boy for a type of business that has always been fraudulent to its core.
Yes, I said ‘business’. Televangelism is a business. It may enjoy non-profit status, and it may generate all kinds of god-talk, but it is absolutely a business. The likes of Bakker prove this time and time again. These men are in it for the money. That should be perfectly obvious to all concerned.
Jim Bakker is a business man. His business is Televangelism.
Right now, that business is good. With Kanye West celebrating his new Jesus-flavored branding scheme in Texas with Joel Osteen and Paula White enjoying a gig as the spiritual advisor to Donald Trump, it does seem to be a good year for huxters with open wallets and talk of God falling out of their open mouths. Jerry Falwell, Jr. and Franklin Graham have certainly been enjoying their renewed access to the worldly powers made possible by the Orange man in the White House. Of the course the common element in all these sordid stories (and countless others) is Donald Trump himself.
Few things could be more odd than the way conservative Christians have embraced Donald Trump, this man who has never shown the least bit of interest in anything but worldly pleasures and worldly powers. The allegiance that so many of America’s entrepreneurial Christians have sworn to this man seems like a clear and loud confession to their own hypocrisy. You couldn’t possibly ask for a more blatant condemnation of conservative Christian politics, than the support these charlatans have shown to Donald Trump. It makes no sense at all.
Well it makes no sense if you take their messages seriously.
On another level, it should come as no surprise at all that a man who once bilked countless pensioners out of their life-savings in a fake university would find common cause with an entire industry that thrives on the life savings of the old and infirm. It should come as no surprise that people who spend their entire lives talking about an absolute authority with perfect power to determine matters of right and wrong would jump at the chance to support a man who recognizes no authority other than his own whim. That those who conceive ultimate authority in the form of a ‘Lord’ would prove unwilling to defend the checks and balances of a constitutional republic from a political movement recognizing no power capable of saying no to ‘The Leader’. If you pay any attention to the way that America’s political Christians think about power and authority, their willingness to support Donald Trump should prove no more surprising than the fancy cars and homes enjoyed by evangelical leadership. The Televangelists who turn this mentality into big business are acting in perfect concert with their normal MO when they line up to bend the knee before their perfectly mortal savior. With or without Jesus, Donald Trump is the answer to their prayers, and they know it.
Jim Bakker is back, and he is now enjoying a resurgence of his own media popularity. Much like the Reagan era, this is his time. He isn’t back because he has changed his ways, much less because he or any other televangelist gives a damn about Jesus. He is back because the rest of us haven’t done anything about the particular kind of crime at which he excels. If we had, Hell trump would be in jail right now, as would so many other big business pastors.
America is still wide open for any thief smart enough to allude to the promise of eternal salvation instead of foolishly offering a quid pro quo in explicit and concrete terms. We are still willing to watch the elderly lose their life savings to these crack-pot con artists, just as we are willing to tolerate so many other crimes whose victims don’t have enough power and money to matter. They have an ally in the White House now, and these people who sell Jesus for a living grow bolder every day. What they deliver to Donald Trump is a political base willing to take his word (and theirs) on any of the controversial issues of the day. What Donald Trump offers them is the support of worldly powers, powers left unchecked by the very gullibility of a political base that would donate money to the likes of Jim Bakker or spend it on an institution like Trump University. It’s a good time to be shameless. So, I guess it shouldn’t surprise me to see the likes of Bakker back in the news.
No doubt, we will see much more of him in the future, and of others just like him.
Yesterday, the Idiot-in-Chief retweeted this little bit of tripe from one of the lesser grifters riding his crappy coattails to fame. This retweet an entire Gish Gallop in a single tweet. Seriously, you could write a book on the many ways in which this is simply stupid.
Idiots will idiate!
But the particular idiocy that I keep coming back to is this. This is the President of the United States, and Epstein was a high profile suspect in a Federal institution. Epstein’s welfare was the direct responsibility of federal officials, and those officials answer to Trump. If Jeffrey Epstein was killed by ANYONE, it is ultimately the responsibility of Donald Trump. More to the point, that Epstein died in this facility absolutely IS Donald Trump’s responsibility. No hypotheticals needed! Yet trump sits there, just like any other couch-potato, musing on the possibility that something awful might have happened as if he were not himself implicated in the very rumors he is spreading.
Donald Trump is arguably the most powerful man in the world. (Well, to be honest, that status would probably belong to Putin, but that aside,…) Trump is arguably the most powerful man in the United States, and yet he still reacts to major political events as though he is simply Archie Bunker sitting in the comfy chair with nothing better to go on than his first impression of a news item and no more responsibility for the events in question than any other guy who just walked into his living room tired from a long day of work and sat down in a chair to learn about events well beyond his scope of power and expertise. The problem here is that Donald Trump isn’t just another guy sitting in a chair learning about the news from the pundits of his personal choice. He is in charge of the institutions in question and this death happened on his watch. Ideally the President of the United States should do more and know more than this President appears to, and there is every indication that this appearance of a hapless hackwit with neither self-awareness nor public consciousness is absolutely the underlying reality of this living facade.
There is no underlying truth to anything Trump says or does, no deeper meaning or real intention underlying the many misleading slogans which constitute the entirely of his political engagement. Donald Trump is the surface impression he creates, nothing more and nothing less.
…all of which is why it is so disturbing to see the President talking as though he were not implicated in events unfolding under his own authority. Donald Trump is the proverbial man (as in ‘the man’) talking about the politics of his day as if he were just another underdog, just another guy trying to make sense of another scandal, a scandal in which he doesn’t seem to see himself, even though he is all over it.
It’s an iconic moment, this tweet. Trump at his Trumpiest. It is also the present GOP and its most GOPest, a party completely devoid of any sense of responsibility for anything it or its members do.
I suppose Republicans have played the underdog for as long as I can remember, but that particular theme wasn’t always quite so prominent as it is now. There was a time when it was substantially overshadowed by themes of respectability and adherence to time-honored traditions. When I was in college Republicans were more likely to hold themselves up as the standard of moral and intellectual propriety from which liberals sought to free themselves. Back then the proverbial Man was understood to be a conservative Republican, and Republicans typically assumed a level of authority across the board which is fundamentally inconsistent with the ethos of rebellious underdogs fighting the powers that be. They were the ones telling the rest of us how to live, and quite often they were happy to tell us why they had the authority to do that.
If you ask me, it was Rush Limbaugh. It was Limbaugh that taught conservatives the joys of playing the smartass in the back of the room instead of posing as the Professor and then having to answer somebody else’s smartass questions. Limbaugh never tried to assert the authority of tradition; he always preferred to mock the efforts to liberals in whatever they happened to be doing. He set aside the authority tat was once so central to ‘conservative’ politics and instead opted to play the underdog fighting against somebody else’s authority.
It was also Limbaugh that taught bigots and bullies all over the country to think of themselves as conservatives, and to filter their hatreds through a political lens. You don’t hate blacks or Mexicans or women or homosexuals, or any of these people, so went Limbaugh’s message. No, you hate liberals, and you can always identify a liberal by their willingness to advocate for any of these groups. What looks on the surface to be hatred of an oppressed minority is instead, according to Limbaugh, rebellion against the oppression of those who would tell you how to think and act. That was a powerful message, a bigotry-laundering, and a successful one at that. Today’s bigots don’t just come out and say that they hate this group or that group; they consistently tie their contempt to some narrative about liberalism. It’s liberalism that they really hate, so they want to believe, even if their anti-liberalism means consistent attacks on underprivileged minorities.
In point of fact, Limbaugh’s hyper-politicization of prejudice goes hand-in-hand with his assumption of under-dog status. In retrospect, this was the real-pay-off for decades of PC-bashing. It enabled ‘conservatives’ to disavow any sense of responsibility for the real world outcomes of anything people experienced as a result of the culture wars. In their rejection of political correctness, hateful words directed at the powerless became spirited rebellion aimed at the real powers that be, and those who sought to help the unfortunate became oppressors in the new plantation system. (Don’t laugh, the DNC as a plantation system is a prominent theme in republican circles. It’s shit, yes, but the deplorables are eating that shit right up!)
What Limbaugh did was to help the racism goes down by teaching conservatives to think of someone else as the real authority. That authority could be the liberals, the Democrats, the coastal elites, Hollyweird, or whatever else you care to imagine as the over-arching power behind any policy that might help the underprivileged. Either way, someone else always had the power, and the expression of prejudice became, under his influence, resistance to that authority. When you use the N-word, you’re not really attacking African-Americans. No, you are just offending liberals. If they weren’t so touchy, then you wouldn’t have done it, right? How many times has Limbaugh played this gambit and countless others like it? And how many of those now flashing the ‘OK’ sign in racist circles have done so just because it would offend liberals, not because they endorse white supremacy.
…supposedly at any rate.
Anyway, my point is that all this PC-bashing which has long since become central to ‘conservative’ Republican thinking effectively transformed the GOP’s relationship to power and authority. They are no longer the 80s-era Christians telling us who to marry or what books to read or how we should dress. No, now they are the ones defying authority. And thus punching down has come to look an awful lot like standing up to the Man in the rhetoric of cultural conservatives.
Donald Trump took over the market for this message in his Presidential campaign. PC-bashing was a big part of his act from the very beginning. Nobody has ever inhabited the role of the politically incorrect rebel with such abandon. Under Trump, defiance of political correctness became everything from the usual racial epithets and sexist slurs to outright violence against protesters or explicitly discriminatory policies. In being politically incorrect, Trump wasn’t just hurting people’s feelings; he was declaring his intent to hurt people in very real and very tangible ways. Lest we dwell on his victims too much, trump has always (true to form) called our attention to some external power, some liberal authority, that is always the real reason things had to get so ugly. Trump’s every exercise of power counts now as defiance of the ultimate power, the ‘deep state.’ With such a fictional power somewhere out there, how could any mere mortal be anything but an underdog?
…unless of course that person was an emissary of the deep state!
But that role, the role of a deep state emissary, is of course reserved for Trump’s enemies. By definition, they are the real powers that be. If someone gets in his way, they are the ones working to maintain the status quo. And Donald trump’s every abuse of authority takes on the significance of fighting the power of that deep state and its surrogates. The children who have suffered in his internment camps are really the victims of that deep state, so the deplorables tell us, just as those who died in those camps are really victims of the deep state. Everyone he hurts is really the victim of that other power, the shadowy deep state that made all of this necessary. That is reality as Trump and his ilk understand it. So when this faux-Underdog in orange is sitting on his ass learning that his own people have let an important prisoner die, then he too can imagine that it must really be the fault of someone else.
Someone with REAL power!
It stands to reason that Trump would blame the Clintons. Of course they too may have reasons for wanting Epstein to be silent, so he can make a case for it, but Trump has other reasons for pointing at the Clintons; those that have more to do with story-line. The notion that the Clintons did it fits the narrative he has been using since the 2016 campaign. Far from diminishing her authority, Trump inflated it. He made Hillary into a surrogate for anything the government had ever done that his fans might have found objectionable. Whatever powers she might have had as a Senator or a former First Lady, they were dwarfed in comparison to the power that trump attributed to her in his campaign rhetoric. I lost track of the number of times Trump blamed Hillary for anything that did or didn’t happen in Congress when she was there (and even when she wasn’t). Trump held Hillary personally responsible for things well beyond her control so many times in the actual debates it was laughable. As if she, simply by being a Senator, were directly responsible for everything Congress (or the President) did. I wondered then, as I do now, how anyone could be so gullible as to believe him? But I also knew it was a powerful story-line. It made Hillary a symbol of government, of the establishment, of anything that disaffected Americans could imagine themselves to be up against.Trump then had only to oppose her to become a hero to many.
…even to those who would be hurt by his policies.
In Trump’s rhetoric, Hillary (and the Clintons in general) came to represent the government as it is and he came to represent government as anyone might imagine they wanted it to be. (That Trump never really provided policy details or even finished his own damned sentences certainly made it easier for others to imagine the details as they wished.) The logic of Trump’s rhetoric has consistently made Hillary (and the Democrats) responsible for actual policy and real-world consequences. He in turn occupies an ideal world of government that is divorced from anything, even his own policies. So, I suppose it really shouldn’t surprise us that the Democrats in Congress have been responsible for every failure of the Trump administration. Neither should it come as any surprise that we’ve been hearing “What about Hillary” for close to 3 years now. To the deplorables, she is still government as they imagine it to be, or at least everything that’s wrong with it, and Trump is still government as they might hope it will be. Anything bad that actually happens is still her fault. This symbolism just isn’t affected by facts. It never was. And that is why countless people look to her whenever something goes wrong, even if it is directly the result of something Trump himself has done.
It’s also why a President whose own Department of Justice somehow took one of the most important prisoners off suicide watch can sit there on his ass and wonder out loud if the Clintons didn’t really do it.
I’ve been to the future, and I came back with a review of Donald Trump’s official library. That’s right; I’m a time traveler, or at least I was this evening. I know, I could have used this power to bring back important information about climate change or impending wars, but I really wanted to see what was in that library. So, that’s what you are getting here, a review of the Donald Trump Presidential Library and Museum.
The library itself is really kind of hard to miss, being a fifteen-story tower, and of course you do have to wade through the casino to get there, but you can’t mistake the front entrance to the library itself, sitting as it does just off to the side the gambling hall. The name of the library is printed in great big golden letters, right over the doorway.
When I arrived, there were two showgirls and a carnival barker out front. I’m told that the number of showgirls varies and sometimes Geraldo Rivera takes the place of the carnival barker.
“You’ve been to the fake libraries, now come see the bigliest book depository ever inspired by an occupant of the Big House.”
I asked if he meant ‘White House,’ and the man said ‘of course.’
Entrance to the library is free, but donations are encouraged. If you contribute $30.00 to the Donald’s 2036 political campaign, then you also get two free drinks at the casino floor and one spin on the roulette wheel (as a $5.00 bet). Also, the showgirls will like you more if you donate. I asked how Donald’s health was holding up and they all assured me that rumors of his demise were all fake news. He would surely be President at the turn of the next century.
I laughed of course, and they just stared at me.
In the end, I agreed to pay $60.00, but the barker assured me that this was the best deal as it gave me VIP membership and I would receive a special bookmark signed by The Donald Himself in his own sweat, the result of long hours spent in service to the fabulous people of the United Golf Courses of America. Having agreed to this, I was actually charged $452.36. The difference I was told was due to inflation, and anyway this would automatically enroll me in a 1-credit starter course at the newly resurrected Trump Graduate School of Bigly Business. “Don’t worry,” the barker said “everyone of Donald’s students gets an A.” I was a little more worried when this fee was referred to as a down-payment, but anyway, I figure I have a decade or so to figure out how to wiggle out of any future payments.
I couldn’t see Donald’s signature. One of the showgirls reminded me that it had been signed in the sweat of unpaid laborers, just like his checks.
Once inside, I met a young man in a business suit who asked me if I was ready to make America great? This turned out to be the reference librarian. I asked him if America wasn’t already great after all these years with Trump at the helm, and he insisted that it was becoming greater all the time. If only the Dumbocrats would help solve the crisis at the border with Columbia, our country would surely get better soon. That and people really needed to get over the whole black lives matter thing! Also, he was pretty sure the folks at CNN would need to go in front of a firing squad by Wednesday. I asked if this wasn’t a little harsh, and just a bit against freedom of the press, and the man assured me that Fox News would be allowed to write anything they wanted about the executions, just so long as they ran it through the Ministry of Final Public Perspective.
“The Ministry of Final Public Perspective?”
“Yes, Tomi Lahren has been in charge of that agency for the last 6 or 7 years. She’s absolutely doing an amazing job.”
After staring at the man for a few moments, I asked if he could direct me to the book stacks. He responded by offering me a complimentary copy of “The Art if the Deal” and telling me that I could certainly go on in and enjoy the books. Feel free to look around; we are the greatest library since Alexandria, probably even better than that one, certainly better than that Library of Congressional Commies!
“Okay, but where do I go? What kind of books does the Donald Trump library specialize in?”
“Oh, we have all kinds of books,” he assured me. “We have the greatest portrait ever painted of any president ever. It was done by this Argentinian guy. You know, they love The Donald down there. And then of course you have the entire exhibit of red ties. We have a special collection of small vials containing the tears of Democratic leaders, small children from the border, and of course the entire nation of Puerto Rico.”
“Nation of Puerto Rico,” I asked. “Isn’t it part of the United States?”
“Oh you hear all kinds of rumors these days. You know those Dems plant all kinds of lies in the newspapers, the history books, assorted government documents.Just lies! All lies! Ivanka is heading a committee. They are going to get to the bottom of it for sure!”
“Okay,” I said, “but can you tell me something about the books?”
“Oh of course, do you know we have a special signed copy of The Bonfire of the Vanities by that Wolf guy, something or other.”
“Are you sure he’s still alive. I thought…”
“Look dummy!” He snapped. “Don’t be a lie-brul. I saw that Wolf guy personally sign a couple thousand copies of Bonfire just last night. He was on a roll.”
“Really,” I just stared at him a moment and then decided to shift the topic a bit. “So, where is your own copy? I mean the one still here in the library?”
“Oh it’s, …hold on a minute. We have it around here somewhere.” The man shuffled through some papers, then hit a speed-dial number on his desk phone. “Hey Mooch, do you know where we keep the book? Yeah, that one, the book? …Are you sure? I mean, I could have sworn they took it up to the fourth floor sometime last month. Okay. I’m not gonna do that. Seriously, no. Could you just tell me. …Okay, you’re sure? Yeah, I think this guy actually wants to see it. But if you’re sure, that’s where it is, then that’s where I will send him.”
After hanging up, the man turned to me and said he was pretty sure the book was on the third floor. Seeing me head toward an elevator, he quickly waved me off.
“Oh no. No, no, no, the contractors never finished installing the cables. They got mad or something. Nobody knows why. You’ll have to take the stairs.”
I hesitated a moment, then moved towards a doorway marked “Stairs.”
The man waved at me and raised his voice. “Be careful of the third step, and be sure to walk on the right side. Some of them are a little rickety. And if you hear a cracking noise, just hold onto the railing and try to distribute your weight as evenly as possible.”
Seeing my alarm, he added; “At least the whole staircase is covered in ivory, brought fresh from Africa.”
“Yeah,” he chuckled, “you won’t be seeing any more of that any time soon.”
He was still laughing as I left the room.
I arrived at the 3rd floor limping a little bit and nursing my wrist. It took me several minutes to catch my breath, but I looked around and I must say that I couldn’t find a single book. In fact, I found nothing but awards given to Donald Trump from various sources. They included every Boy Scout badge ever conceived as well as a few I didn’t recognize; “Trophy Wife” and “Ocasio Ownage” seemed new. I also noticed an Emy, Three Oscars, and the entire array for Country Music Awards from the last three years. Every wall was plastered with honorary doctorates on display from what seemed to be every college in the country.
“Price of accreditation.” Another young man came walking up to me. “If them damned professors want to keep dumbing our kids down, the least they can do is send a few coolaids down Donald’s way. Each of his kids has quite a collection too.”
“Accolades?” I asked.
“Did you mean accolades?
“Yeah sure. Whatever buddy! Can I help you?”
“I was looking for a copy of the Bonfire of the Vanities?”
“Really?” He seemed quite shocked. “What for?”
“Well, I thought maybe I’d read it…”
“Oh yeah, sure. Of course. I read it too. I think we all read that one. Donald did. Did you see his fire badge? That’s what good reading skills will get you. Only I don’t think it’s up here. Maybe down on the second floor?”
“Are you sure?” I was really dreading the return trip down that staircase.
“Yea, of course. …Well let me check.” The man got out a walkie-talkie. “Hey Mooch! I got a guy here, who, wh… well, I mean… um.”
Turning off the walkie talkie, he looked right at me and said; “Mooch told me to tell you to stop being a dickhead and look at the trophies.”
“Don’t make the Mooch get medieval on your ass!” He broke into an evil grin. “You should see what he did to the last panzie-poofter fella that came in here looking for some kinda literature.”
“I just…” I stammered a bit here. “I know this book comes with Donald’s personal recommendation, and I really wanted to see if I could get my hands on a copy. I don’t mean to be a problem, but this is, I mean…”
“Ah yes, The Donal’s himself does vouch for it. Don’t worry about it, I gotcha” The young man softened his stance a bit and nodded his head. After switching the dials on his walkie-talkie, he began; “Hey Sarah! …Yeah, Sarah, I got a guy here looking for a copy of the Bonfire of the Manitees. Yeah, that’s him. Well we had one make it up here last week too. I mean, sometimes these people just come in. Yeah, well can you… No, don’t tell Mooch. He’s already mad. Can you just tell me where you think the book might be? …yeah, okay. Thank you Sarah.”
After hanging up the man looked at me and said; “She says the book is definitely on the second level.”
“So, I should just take the stairs back down?” I was beginning to gather my courage.
“No, I wouldn’t do that. It’s definitely not there.”
“But didn’t that woman say…”
“Oh yeah, she’s totally sure it’s on the second floor.”
“It’s clearly not there,” He nodded his head. “I would head up to the fourth floor and go into the diplomatic archives. Here, take another copy of ‘The Art of the Deal’ before you go.”
I made it to the fourth floor with only a moderate loss of blood, but all I could see were golf clubs and pictures of towers under construction. There was one at the base of the grand canyon, another on top of Mount Rushmore, and one in Yosemite. I saw labels for “The Bear’s Ears,” and Niagra Falls. The center-piece of the whole floor appeared to be a giant model of a special tower built with an open center containing a great big fountain. That one had several model Bison and a couple moose scattered across the grass around it. It had been labeled; “Trump Faithful.”
I shuddered a bit at this last find, but I also noticed a small room sectioned off from the main area. So, I headed right over there. It was indeed where the diplomatic archives were kept. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you anything about this place, because the woman inside it spoke only Russian. I kept asking if anyone else was available to talk to, but she just stood there in front of me with a great big range of newspapers behind her, all of them fully blacked out, shouting ‘nyet, nyet’ at me, I really wasn’t ready to go back down the stairs yet, so I kept trying to get through to her.
Eventually I learned that I had once been videotaped cheating off a friend’s test in third grade. Additional footage of me walking on some forbidden grass, staring longingly at the head cheerleader of my high school, and rolling through a stop sign somewhere in Houston Texas followed. Finally, I figured I better get out of there.
She gave me a copy of “The Art of the Deal” before I left.
I stood staring at the entrance to the staircase for some time, because I just wasn’t ready for the challenge yet. A young woman happened along and asked if I was the one looking for a copy of the Bonfire of the Vanities. I said ‘yes’ of course, and she told me that they were looking for it somewhere in the basement.
“The basement?” I asked.
“Well yeah,” she said. “We really wanted to keep it out for public admiration, but we think SHE swiped it.”
“You know,” she looked around a bit and then whispered; “HER.”
“I really don’t know,” I said. “Who could possibly…”
“You know,” the woman cut me off. “The one mentioned in the Bible. The woman who tempted Adam in the form of a plumbing snake; the one who told Jesus he was a loser even though he was the coolest billionaire ever; the one who once emailed every secret of the Kentucky Fried Chicken recipe directly to Muslim terrorists. The woman who must not be named!”
“Really?” I think my jaw just about touched my toes at this point. “Hil..”
“NO!” She shouted. “She must not be named. Really she mustn’t.”
I stood there in shock, but a little relieved to find out that, um, you know who, was still alive. After all, quite some time had passed. But anyway, I had a hard time wrapping my mind around what the young woman had just told me.
Seeing my surprise, the woman made a point to nod some more. “You must not name her, except in official campaign literature of course. And if you make a point to spit aterwards.”
“Of course,” I said, “but do you have any of that literature here in the library?”
She shook her head and offered me another copy of “The Art of the Deal.”
“Okay,” I said. “So, you are saying that she, SHE, the woman who must not be named is here? In the library?”
The young woman nodded her head vigorously. “Also her daughter and I think a few cousins. Some of her neighbors. We also have a bunch of them angry Democrats in there too.”
“Really?” I asked (again). “You mean Mueller’s team? Are they really still around?”
“Them or their children. We got ’em all, along with most of them Holly-weirdos. Roseanne is back on television, of course, but sometimes they let other people do a show too.”
“And you keep all of these people in the basement? Along with Hi…?”
She just glared at me.
She nodded again. “Sometimes they let her out. I think it’s to scare people. We think this time she might have stolen the book.”
“To read it? That’s really what she does when she gets out.”
“Well she WOULD!” The Young lady positively sneered. ” I hear them types read all sorts of things. Mostly fake news.”
“Well,” I asked, “do you have any real news here? Maybe some history?”
She thought long and hard at this before answering; “Maybe go back to the first floor and talk to Spicy.”
It was a very long day.
I left with three fractured ribs and four broken toes along with a sprained ankle. I would eventually get 28 stitches and a court order indenturing me to the GOP for a period of not less than 6 generations. I also received 13 copies of “The Art of the Deal.”
I give the library 5 out of 5 stars. It’s absolutely the best!
(Please tell the Russian lady I said that.)
You know what might have worked? For me anyway. If a report had been made in the wake of a comprehensive immigration review, or just a comprehensive review of border security. If that report had included the unlikely recommendation that a wall be stretched across the entire border, or (more likely) if such a review had recommended renovations to existing stretches of wall, or even adding more wall in selected locations. Hell, I could imagine a wall helping to prevent accidental deaths among other things. I know there are people who advocate completely open borders, but I’m not one of them, and I don’t think the vast majority of modern liberals take such a view either. If such a report had come out, and Donald Trump had said he wanted to implement the changes recommended in that report, that might have worked. A lot depends on the details, but I could see myself supporting such measures.
But that is not what happened.
What happened was the semi-conscious anal fistula that currently occupies the White House came down that damned escalator and gave a shout out to all the white supremacists in the nation. He made a point to tell them he was on their side. It’s a point he has come back to time and time again. Whenever that flaming wank-maggot needs to feel a little better about himself, he stirs the racist pot by coming back to immigration and hitting that subject with a bigger dumber hammer.
Donald Trump didn’t advocate immigration reform. He hasn’t restricted his attacks on immigrants to those who come here illegally, and he certainly hasn’t made any effort to ensure that his policies will actually help, even to curtail illegal immigration, which was on the decline before he took office to begin with. He hasn’t even made responsible use of the resources already at his disposal His brinksmanship on the issue has included the demonization of all immigrants (including legal immigrants and genuine refugees), the demonization of Muslims in general, the orchestrated kidnapping of children, active promotion of immigrant caravans (only to use those very caravans to trigger riots at the border).
There are legitimate concerns about immigration, and about border security. If you think those concerns have anything to do with Donald Trump’s approach to the subject, then I have a degree from Trump University to sell you.
So here we are, waiting for Trump’s big speech at the border. He will do what he always does, which is to speak power to truth and wait for the engines of bigotry to make his malicious fairy tales into an accomplished fact. The deplorables will do what they always do which is to try and read more reasonable themes into his bullshit on the one hand, and then use his claims to press the the boundaries of bigotry on the other. If Trump supporters have their way, the utter bullshit that is every word seeping from the mouth of this festering bloodfart will one day pass for truth.
It isn’t. It never will be.
As sure as the sun rises this coming speech will be lies piled on top of more lies. We’ll be lucky if it doesn’t turn out to be the modern American version of the Reichstag Fire Decree.
Okay, so by now everyone knows, right? Donald Trump has recently said he wants to change the Fourteenth Amendment so as to eliminate birthright citizenship, and he wants to do it without another amendment. The problem according to the idiot in the White House is that some scholars (he assures us) say the prevailing interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment is just wrong. Changing it, according to this view, is not a case of rewriting the rules so much as it is a case of just changing the way we interpret them. Therefore, the Cheeto and its enablers think he can do this with just an executive order. Nevermind that Obama’s use of executive orders was proof positive that he himself was a demon from a special Muslim Hell sent to personally devour the Constitution right along with all the babies and pizzas ever served in Tea Party Hell, Donald Trump is thinking he’s just gonna do it.
And the deplorables sing, doot, doot doot, da doot, doot doot doot…
Some folks tell me that this is a distraction from bomb scares and right wing shooters, or maybe some other legal decision that Donald is going to quietly sign into being while we stand aghast at the orange Hell that has become of our sweet country, but then again, maybe some of those are distractions from this, or maybe someone is distracting us from a election. I dunno. I give up on trying to sort out what’s supposed to be a distraction from what. The problem with all the distraction talk is it assumes that Donald and the deplorables are focused enough to have clear priorities in the first place. That notion is about as plausible as a degree from Trump University.
But all of this does raise an interesting question; what is the case for saying the 14th Amendment doesn’t actually make the children of foreign nationals into U.S. citizens if they born on U.S. soil?
Let’s start with the text itself. Section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment reads as follows:
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
The first line contains the case for birthright citizenship, and that case is commonly accepted by most people with any professional responsibility to handle such matters or argue them in a courtroom.
So, why would anyone think they are wrong?
The quick and dirty version of this argument is to simply say that this doesn’t apply to foreigners, because they are loyal to another country and another set of laws, so they aren’t subject to the jurisdiction of the U.S.
The quick and dirty version of this argument is also very stupid, but yes, I have met people who make precisely that argument, as stated above, and without adding anything else to the argument.
Anyway, the quick and dirty response to the quick and dirty version of this argument is to point out that foreign nationals, undocumented immigrants, modern secessionists, and full-on fugitives from the law are all subject to U.S. law whether they like it or not. If that’s just a matter of opinion, it’s an opinion likely shared by those with the power to make it so.
The quick and dirtier argument is that the 14th Amendment was written to protect the freedman from Jim Crow laws passed in the wake of the civil war. — You know what, let’s all just take a moment here to appreciate the fact that those now reminding us of this fact as a means of denying citizenship to Latinos contain a lot of the same neo-Confederates whose sympathies clearly aren’t with those recently freed slaves anyway, …or their descendants. The 14th Amendment has always been a great big thorn in the side of the bigots who want to resurrect the old South. There is a clear pattern here, and it sure as Hell isn’t defined by careful attention to historical facts and details of Constitutional law. — Anyway, the point in this quick and dirtier version of the argument against birthright citizenship is that the law was always mean to protect a specific class of people, newly freed slaves, and that our nation’s present habit of applying it to just about anyone born in our country extends the application of that law beyond its original purpose.
And here, history gobbles up law. Context eats text, and the whole nation let’s out a big fat bigoted burp in celebration.
…if Donnie and the deplorables get their way anyway.
The problem here is that the context doesn’t in itself elucidate the text, it just gobbles it up. (Yep, I’m sticking with that imagery.) If you go back up and read the text above, it simply doesn’t say; “Hey southerners, black people are citizens, so stop treating them like shit!” No, it doesn’t. Instead, it presents us with a perfectly general principle, and that principle is not limited in scope to the specific historical context in which it was written. Those who wrote it could well have defined its scope more narrowly if they wanted to. They didn’t.
Far from helping us to understand the meaning of the text, this pseudo-historicism invites us to ignore the text on account of an historical factoid.
So, the quick and dirtier argument is also stupid, but I really must insist, I have met people who have made precisely this argument, without adding anything else to it. It’s unimpressive. It really isn’t all that clear that Donald Trump or the vast majority of his supporters have anything more going for them than this simple sleight-of-hand gimmick, not withstanding that we can all see them palming the cards even as they congratulate themselves on a winning hand.
But is there more to it?
Yeah, well, kinda. If you aren’t too particular, there is an argument to be made that goes a little beyond this kind of idiocy. It takes us back to the clause “and subject to the jurisdiction thereof.” Some folks would have us believe that there is specific reason to think this clause was not intended by those who wrote it, debated it, and voted on it to apply to foreign nationals. If that’s the case, they maintain, the children of those nationals would not be made citizens by simple birth here in the U.S.
What is that reason?
Well it isn’t a question of legal versus illegal immigration, because America wasn’t really trying to control immigration at that point in our history. So, don’t let any deplorables take you down that dumb-ass dead-end either.
No, the argument rests on the possibility that the framers, so to speak, of the Fourteenth Amendment specifically said that its protections did not apply to non-nationals. If we can find people involved in writing the law who said it shouldn’t apply to foreign nationals, so the argument goes, then we should assume that the phrase invoking jurisdiction was always meant to exclude them. The Supreme Court has already ruled that children of legal immigrants are entitled to birthright citizenship under the 14th Amendment, and no doubt the anti-birthers consider that a mistake, but more importantly, they will insist the court has never applied this standard to the children of illegal immigrants.
…which once again, is a distinction that wasn’t made when the 14th Amendment was drafted and ratified.
That really should be QED right there, but these are strange days indeed, so I guess we’ll have to go a couple extra rounds on the topic.
One of the most idiotic versions of this argument comes from a misquoting of the principle author of the 14th Amendment Senator Jacob Howard who stated:
…[E]very person born within the limits of the United State, and subject to their jurisdiction, is by virtue of natural law and national law a citizen of the United States. This will not, of course, include persons born in the United States who are foreigners, aliens, who belong to the families of ambassadors or foreign ministers accredited to the government of the United States, but will include every other class of person
Those using this passage to argue against birthright citizenship typically make one minor alteration the text. They add an ‘or’ before the clause saying “who belong to the families of ambassadors…” This transforms the original text, taking what is in effect an elaboration on a single concept and makes it something of a list. The ambassadors become one more class of people in addition to aliens, whereas the original text is simply spelling out the same concept with a variety of different phrases. Michael Anton, a former aid in the Trump administration pulled this stunt. He still insists that the ‘or’ just spells out the actual intent better for the audience. He is lying of course.
The argument isn’t always made on such disingenuous grounds. Not surprisingly, the Congressional debates over the 14th Amendment contain an extensive discussion of the range of people covered under the provision. There were many questions about how this might or might not apply to Indians, and in particular to Indians who retained connections to their own tribal communities. There were questions about how it might apply to Chinese immigrants and gypsies, etc.
Far from a clear concept, citizenship itself emerges as a tangled mess of a idea in these discussions. One gets a general sense that while many of the participants assumed that anyone in the United States was entitled to the legal protections in the Bill of Rights (which puts them at odds with much of the right wing today), they also recognized that the right to vote among other things was in fact limited to people who were not loyal to a foreign nation. They also distinguished the basic rights that might go with simply living in America from the right to hold property and/or the obligation to serve in the military if drafted, and all of this was discussed under the banner of ‘citizenship’. One gets the impression that those debating the 14th Amendment weren’t all that certain as to just what citizenship entailed. A few had definite opinions to be sure, but as a group, they are not all on the same page.
The whole issue is further complicated by the precedent set by the Civil Rights Act of 1866 which contains explicit language excluding those loyal to a different nation, and an assumption by some participants that the 14th Amendment really does the same thing. In effect, people looking at two different documents containing very different language seemed to treat them as though they meant the same thing.
…which is a problem.
Here is the relevant text from the Civil Rights Act with the relevant section in bold:
To protect all Persons in the United States in their Civil Rights, and furnish the Means of their Vindication
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,
That all persons born in the United States and not subject to any foreign power, excluding Indians not taxed, are hereby declared to be citizens of the United States; and such citizens, of every race and color, without regard to any previous condition of slavery or involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall have the same right, in every State and Territory in the United States, to make and enforce contracts, to sue, be parties, and give evidence, inherit, purchase, lease, sell, hold, and convey real and personal property, and to full and equal benefit of all laws and proceedings for the security of person and property, as is enjoyed by white citizens, and shall be subject to like punishment, pains, and penalties, and to none other, any law, statute, ordinance, regulation, or custom, to the contrary notwithstanding.
You can see that this doesn’t match the text of the 14th Amendment. Simply put; those who now assume that the 14th Amendment was always intended to exclude children of foreign nationals born in the United States would be right if they were talking about the Civil Rights Act. When talking about the 14th Amendment, however, they are talking about a very different text, and the relevant clause is simply lacking. Instead, such people must look for commentary from supporters in the Congressional record or some source of comparable value.
When they aren’t deliberately misrepresenting Jacob Howard, opponents of birthright citizenship usually reference Sen. Lyman Trumbull of Illinois, who maintains in the Congressional Record that the passage only applies to ‘complete’ citizens of the U.S. and goes on to argue that Navajos, for example are not complete citizens because, being still separate in some sense from the rest of the U.S., they do not vote and maintain their own separate jurisdiction.
(Don’t get your hopes up, racists! This fact has changed.)
Of course one problem with the Navajo example is that it applies to people who actively maintain a separate jurisdiction within the U.S., thus being yet another instance of the degree to which the legal framework for Indian tribes emerges haphazardly within the case history of the Supreme Court. The role that Indian tribal governments play in the legal framework of the United States has never been clear, and that has always complicated the rights of the nation’s indigenous peoples. So, the example is troublesome, to say the least.That said, the example is hardly beside the point. A good portion of the discussion about exemptions to the jurisdiction of the U.S. is driven by the very explicit question of whether or not it would make the entire native population into citizens. Those using comments about that debate are in fact exploiting the vagaries of of Federal Indian law to generalize an exemption from citizenship for non-nationals.
Yes, that’s right. People who want to keep Latinos from becoming American citizens are trying to remind us that the 14th Amendment was only supposed to protect blacks (another group these bigots are not too fond of), and they are resting their argument on efforts to keep Native Americans from voting.
Irony abounds. At last it would, if it weren’t dead already.
How Trumbuell’s point relates to the children of foreign nationals is another question. But if we take Trumbull’s claims in terms of the most general implications possible, the notion here is that full citizenship includes those who can vote and who re subject to the draft, etc., not those who, while entitled to protections of citizens, remain separate from the general population. Again, he is talking about the members Indian tribes, and again, this sense of the issue would match the text of the Civil Right Act; it does not match the text of the 14th Amendment.
The distinction between full citizenship and something slightly less did not escape these people; it is all over their discussion, and yet they did not write it into the text of the 14th Amendment. So, what do Trumbull’s comments amount to? Likely as not, a degree of confusion on his part, but those who use him to suggest a new reading of the 14th Amendment do more to show us that people don’t always understand the rules they advocate than they do to show us that the rule in question was clearly meant to exclude the children of foreign nationals.
This is one of the big problems with Constitutional originalism; its advocates continually present us with a case for following the rules as America’s founders (or at least those framing particular laws and constitutional provisions) would have understood them, but the understanding of such people is often as shifty as that of anyone we know today. This is one of the reasons we write things down folks; to fix what we mean in a static form, so that you can’t just keep changing your mind. Constitutional originalism effectively enables modern legal scholars to take that fixity out of the equation and cherry pick the past for the most convenient quotes possible. In this case it substitutes a general sense of how some proponents of the 14th Amendment might have understood it at the time (at least when debating the rights of Indian peoples), for the language of the text itself. When the language contradicts its interpretation by their preferred historical sources, they urge us to go with the sources instead of the text.
In effect, those reading birthright citizenship out of the 14th Amendment seek to see the text of the amendment itself swallowed up in a historical narrative. That this narrative itself is quite debatable is an objection in itself, but as a contextualization strategy for reading the 14th Amendment, it is utter bullshit.
This is a version of context suitable for Halloween, because this kind of context swallows up the very text it is intended to shed light on. No, these people aren’t upholding great constitutional principles, no matter how much they would wish we believed that; they are simply weaponizing obscure historical details, and they are doing so for the clear purpose of hurting some of the most powerless people on U.S. soil, the children of undocumented immigrants.
Of course the central irony here is that those pushing a reading of the 14th Amendment that excludes birthright citizenship are not acting in the spirit of the provision in any sense. Whatever else may be said of the 14th Amendment, it was certainly meant to protect people badly in need of help from the violence of racists intent on oppressing them. Historical obfuscation aside, those pushing this narrative today are seeking to empower racists Hell-bent on scapegoating immigrants from Latin America for our nations many problems. As much as these people may tell stories of standing up to great bastions of power and fighting a liberal establishment, these people really are punching down. They are punching down with a vengeance, and summoning a vision of historical context well suited to that purpose. Their argument fails as a point of principle. As a political agenda, it’s monstrous.
…and as far as Halloween monsters go, this one is pretty lame.
From: Principal Stiffton, Everytown Public High School, USA
Re: Locker Room Talk
I wanted to follow up on our conversation earlier this afternoon and share with you a few of the parental concerns brought to my attention earlier this week. I have already spoken to the parties in question. I have tried to assure them that the conversations occurring in our locker room are much as they would be for any other intermural sports teams in the country. Unfortunately, several parties are simply not satisfied. They seem quite certain that our games have become the site for talk they regard they regard as dangerous and possibly harmful to the moral development of their young children. No. They don’t actually want you to do anything about it. They just want to make sure these conversations are limited to the context of the locker room.
The sexual content, you already know about, but again, I must tell you that none of the parties in question have called for any investigations. We don’t need to know if any of the activities your football players bragged about during the post-homecoming celebrations actually did take place. The parents are actually quite relieved to find that such specific sexual activities were not discussed in the context of Sex Ed classes. Please discontinue any ongoing inquiries regarding specific allegations made about or by your players. What happens in the locker room, according to these parents, should stay in the locker room.
A couple of new concerns have been raised. Mr. and Mrs. Smith are apparently quite convinced that you have been holding seminars on global warming during the pregame briefings. I really tried to assure them that you are only a part-time science teacher and that you would of course reserve such discussions for the classroom. On the contrary, the Smiths insisted that such conversations were fine so long as they occurred only during the weigh-ins for the wrestling team. In fact, they only brought it up to assure me that this was the perfect place for such matters. The other concerned parents all assured me that they were in agreement with the Smiths.
Actually, “agreeance” was the term the parents used, and one of the words in “Climate Change” was consistently replaced with some form of scatological reference. Nevertheless, all the parents in question found the topic quite appropriate for the locker room. They just don’t want you to bring the subject up in any of your actual courses.
Many of the concerned parents had much the same views regarding the subject of evolution. You may answer any of the questions Billy Johnson asks about that subject you like, they assure me, providing you limit your answers to the half-time pep talks occurring during the basketball games. If other students must hear the answers to these questions, our parents parents insist it must not be in any actual classroom. Also, they would prefer that you leave textbooks out of it. If any literature must be consulted, it should be op-ed pieces authored by economist and sundry pundits. You may present all sides of the issue, of course, but our parents would very much prefer that you keep the science out of it, and that you limit these talks to the locker room. We don’t want anymore incidents like the graph you presented in home-room last week.
You needn’t worry yourself about the subjects of genocide, slavery, or imperialism. It is quite all right if the baseball team discuss these things during practice, or more specifically, before and after practice. The group of concerned parents just wanted me to make sure these conversations were not coming up in the history classes. I will speak with Mrs. Jones about this; she has been warned twice already, and I am really getting quite frustrated with her over the whole thing, but that is no concern of yours. To the best of my knowledge, our parents have no concerns regarding your own role in the whole ‘structural racism’ incident. I told them that you would never encourage students to use such words off the field or outside the locker room, and they have accepted my word on the matter.
Asked if they had any concerns about Russian meddling in American elections, the gutting of environmental regulations, understaffing at the state department or the establishment of internment camps on U.S. soil, none of the parents in question seemed to know what I was talking about. I don’t believe any of them have been in a locker room within the last few months, and they do not seem to have encountered the subjects in any of their chosen news sources. Suffice to say that our parents have no concerns about any of these subjects. Your players are free to bring up any of these matters during the course of game preparations. You might ask them not to raise any of these topics in any of their classes, however, and perhaps to avoid discussing them with any of the adults in their families. I think morning calisthenics will offer you the perfect opportunity to warn your players about such matters, but the time and place for that discussion is entirely up to you.
This is really the extent of the matter as far as I understand it. Again, please cease any active investigations into the rumors you have been hearing and do make a point to help the students understand what should and shouldn’t be shared with their parents. Some of the things we talk about in school just isn’t fit for fragile ears. In any event, please remember that what is said in the locker room must stay in the locker room.
That is all.
Respect means different things to different people.
More to the point, respect means something very different for those of us in civilian circles than it does for those on active duty in the military. I couldn’t begin to do the latter subject justice, but I will hazard the observation that respect seems to an elaborate theme in military life. It is reflected in a number of practices and ritualized in a number of ways. It forms a prominent them in stories told by soldiers from just about every generation. Those of us who’ve never been there have the luxury of putting respect in the back our minds, We notice outright disrespect when we see it, and we may even notice markedly respectful behavior when we see it, but most of the time, we can let the issue ride, so to speak. The very notion of respect must mean something very different to someone who has to live in a world where rank matters and salutation is obligatory. For them, respect is an affirmative obligation. For the rest of us it is assumed.
I keep this in mind when I hear veteran’s complain about failure to stand for the flag. I also keep it in mind when I hear demagogues working damned hard to put veterans between protesters and the rest of us. It’s a dilemma. I want to respect someone’s service, but I am also keenly aware that the terms of that respect can be a real threat to my freedom and those of my fellow citizens.
There is a reason that militarism is a prominent theme in fascist circles, and it isn’t because those in such circles have any special respect for the military. No. The elaborate ritualism of respect which is such a part of military life is precisely what fascists want from the rest of us. It’s a kind of ethic, they would very much like to see generalized to the rest of the population. This kind of agenda is easily framed in terms of respect forthe military,
The likes of Donald Trump want us to salute just as a soldier would; they want us all to affirm our loyalty to the state, in terms we do not choose, at times and places wherein failure to do so will cost us something, the respect of our peers if not our actual freedom. Herein lies the perverse trick behind the argument that we must all stand for the pledge or the Anthem, that failure to do so amounts to a direct and willful attack on our military and the veterans who have served in it. That messages seeks to impose a dose of military discipline on the rest of us. Those pushing this message are effectively packaging a very real act of aggression against the citizenry as a simple courtesy.
It’s significant that this message comes nw in direct response to protests over the health and welfare of a significant portion of the American public. The protests carried out by so many players taking a knee in the NFL have a significance of their own, and that significance is NOT a willful attack on the military. They are protesting police abuse and violence directed at African-Americans. The protests are aimed at trying to get something done to curb such abuse and give African-Americans (among others) a
fighting chance cooperating chance of surviving a traffic stop or just a walk down the street. Putting respect for the military front and center in the response to these protests effectively replaces any dialogue the protesters might hope to generate about civil rights with a debate about respect for the military. It answers a legitimate concern about the rights of American citizens with a demand for express loyalty from those very citizens. It should be said those responding to the protests have been remarkably successful in this regard. We talk less now about police abuse and much more about soldiers and flags.
We can argue about whether or not pressure from the Trump administration to stop protests at football games actually violates the U.S. Constitution, but the central symbolism remains the same. What the Trump administration has effectively done is to say; “fuck your civil rights, give us our due!” In requiring its players to stand for the Anthem, in direct response to such pressures, the NFL has effectively bent its knee, and the end result will be a national gesture of obedience unparalleled in recent years. Whatever else the National Anthem meant before, this coming football season it will also mean obedience.
The message is rendered just a little more toxic when one considers that the Star Spangled Banner contains a passage mocking the hopes of escaping slaves. Folks don’t sing that line anymore, but it certainly does raise questions about what the song really means to various American citizens. Those demanding we all stand and put our hands over our hearts typically envision a pure statement of love for our nation, a nation that serves us all equally, and one whose claims on our loyalty is pretty much the same for all.
And still, the line is there…
A reasonable person might see that line as a problem. A reasonable person might understand how a black football player might not want to pay his respects through a gesture that denigrates his own ancestors. Of course a reasonable person would understand the concerns over police abuse in the first place, and a reasonable person might think that quietly kneeling during the course of the Anthem was a reasonable response to the whole situation.
Downright moderate when you think about it!
Hell, a reasonable person might want to review a few police procedures, not the least of them being the role of civil asset forfeiture in police budgets, and as a source of escalating conflict between police and certain policed populations. A reasonable person might want to review bias (latent or overt) in police actions and see if there is anything more than can be done to ensure that officers treat citizens properly. A reasonable person might want to ask questions about the significance of increasing militarization in police training and equipment purchases (something right wingers were once concerned about, …back when cows were the main issue of the day). A reasonable person might respond to the whole taking-a-knee debacle by trying to do something about the situation that gave rise to the controversy in the first place.
Reasonable people might be interested in such things.
But these are not reasonable times.
And so, here we sit, watching the Manchurian Cheeto move the whole nation a little further down the road to outright fascism, all with the full flag-waving support of good ‘patriotic’ Americans, millions of whom will sit right on their asses drinking beer next season as players are forced to bend the knee by standing for the anthem. These folks will happily remind us that the players are rich, and so they shouldn’t complain, so we are told. They will mock Black Lives Matter, remind us of the worst excesses done in its name, and they will enjoy the hope that the whole thing makes liberals a little less happy. What they won’t do is anything about the abuse of their fellow citizens at the hands of at least some Police
Consumer patriotism isn’t worth the price of the bean dip served with it.
We are often told that we should be mindful that soldiers have fought and died for the freedoms the rest of us enjoy. That’s a far more problematic claim than most seem to think. Our soldiers are as often used to protect financial interests (which may or may not include the welfare of the average citizen) as they are the rights or even the safety of the American population. That’s not there fault (they don’t get to choose when and where they fight), but the American military is far more abused by politicians using it for purposes other than the noble causes making their way into such rhetoric as it is by any protester in any cause out there. That’s something to consider when this thoughtless crap is tossed in the faces of those exercising the very freedoms in question. More to the point, if we are to remember people who fought and died in the name of American freedoms, that memory would surely include an awful lot of activists, protesters just like those people seek to silence with this feigned respect for the military. And its a perverse irony that respect for the one could so easily be used as a means of silencing the other.
…which brings me back to my first point salutation is an obligation for those in the military. For the rest of us, it simply isn’t. Whatever respect we owe those that have served, that respect itself is poorly served when we collectively take on the rituals and the obligations of the military, when we surrender the freedoms that the military has supposedly fault for. Those rights include the right to refrain from public gestures of fealty; they also include the right to walk down the street without fear of assault by law enforcement.
It’s a painful thing to think that some sincere people may be hurt by protests such as those taking a knee. It is at least as painful to think that some very insincere people will get the obedience they demand by manipulating a civilian public’s regard for military service.
At the end of the day, all of this leaves the primary issue untouched. We still have a law enforcement problem in this country. Some folks want to change that.
And some would rather us drink a beer and watch the gladiators salute the emperor before bashing their brains out for our viewing pleasure.
I’m often amused at the things that people say in defense of Donald Trump and his supporters. Okay, I’m as likely to be outraged as I am amused, and often I manage to be both, but for the moment, let’s concentrate on the amusing part.
Plenty of time to be outraged later. We get new reasons with each passing moment of the Orange Reich!
One of the most amusing twists in the defending-Donald game has always been the angle many deplorables took on the Serge Kovaleski incident. This would be the disabled reporter that Donald Trump once mocked at one of his rallies. Trump supporters have long since settled on a standard line of defense against this criticism. They will say that Trump’s decision to effect the speech and physical demeanor of a disabled person is actually a common bit that he runs on lots of people. They can even provide evidence for this in the form of several video clips in which Donald Trump mocks a variety of people in a similar way. So, the argument runs that Trump was not really mocking Kovaleski for being handicapped, because he actually mocks lots of people (including those who don’t appear to be handicapped) by pretending that they are handicapped.
…which would of course make him as juvenile as he is cruel.
This whole line of reasoning is a REALLY fascinating defense of Trump, because it amounts to the claim that Donald Trump actually makes fun of disabled people all the time. How this is supposed to prove he wasn’t mocking the particular individual, Serge Kovaleski, for being disabled is beyond me, though perhaps the notion here is that Donald Trump wasn’t consciously making fun of Serge for being disabled, because Donald Trump wouldn’t have been happy to mock him in the same way whether he was disabled or not.
It’s a particularly damning defense.
Seriously, how pathetic is that? That the best thing you can think to say about a man is that he wasn’t making fun of a particular disabled person, because he actually does that all the time.
…also, there is the whole matter of Donald telling us we should see the man before embarking on the whole charade. A reasonable person might take that as an indication that the coming display was a bit more than a coincidence, that it was perhaps meant to illustrate something about his actual demeanor of the person in question. A reasonable person might take it that way.
Not a deplorable.
But anyway, I really do think the most amusing thing about this really is the notion that it’s somehow better if this is a standard act in Trump’s bag of tricks. Of course this is also one of the most sad things about Trump and the politics of trumpetry; the normalization of things that ought to be outrageous. This particular defense doesn’t just ask us to let the whole thing go, it asks us to think of it as a normal thing, an acceptable mode of public engagement for a major politician.
…and thus the movement to make America great again serves in practice to make it a more pathetic place.
The nation recently got a whole new dose of that pathetic quality from Roseanne Barr, who, as we all know by now, recently chose to mock an advisor from the Obama administration in racist terms. Valerie Jarrett had her time in the cross-hairs of right wing hacks quite some time ago, and apparently, she is still a favorite target abuse among those whose pornography consists of mocking all things connected to Obama. At any rate, Roseanne chose to suggest that Jarrett was the product of a union between the Planet of the Apes and the Muslim Brotherhood.
There is of course a lot wrong with Roseanne’s joke, but the thing that most seem to have focused on was the racist imagery. The equation of African-Americans with apes has long been one of the major themes of racism, and that theme flourished in political-pornography aimed at the Obama family. Given Jarrett’s own African-American ancestry, it’s not hard to see where Roseanne was going with this.
We all know the fall-out by now. Barr’s show has been cancelled. She apologized. She also made excuses, and she now seems to believe she’s been mistreated. And so on…
One of the more pathetic angles in this already pathetic story is the effort to equate Roseanne’s behavior with that of various left-wing personalities. Much like the right wing response to the Kovaleski incident, those attempting to defend Roseanne show little but their own lack of concern with the very themes in question.
Several have tried pointing to Cathy Griffin, asking why the left didn’t condemn her for posing with a fake severed head. Why doesn’t this work? Among other things, because a lot of people on the left really did condemn Griffin’s gag. Right wingers keep pretending this isn’t so, but it is.
Then of course, there are a variety of people (among them Bill Maher, Keith Olbermann, and Joy Behar) who have said horribly mean things about Donald Trump over the years. Bill Maher, in particular, has been singled out, because he has apparently compared Donald Trump to an Orangutan. No matter how you slice this, it still comes up as pathetic whataboutism, but what’s particularly pathetic about this argument is that it misses the point. Calling someone an orangutan is rude, but calling an African-American woman an ape carries specific racist overtones. Does that seem like a double standard? Perhaps it does if you just ignore the entire history of racism. At the end the day, this argument proves little except that Roseanne’s defenders (who are at this point essentially Trump’s defenders) do not see racism as a problem. To them, Roseanne’s gaff was simply rudeness, nothing more.
Now add Samantha Bee into this mix. What did she do? She called Ivanka Trump a ‘c*nt’. This is at least a little bit more of a concern insofar as that particular term is perhaps the most derogatory insult you can use in American English, and that fact alone suggests use of the term may not be the most helpful thing someone can do if they care about the status of women in American society. Still, does it rise to the level of toxicity one finds in racial stereotypes equating African-Americans with apes? No. Not even close. Once again, the argument proves very little, other than that those fielding it don’t really have a problem with racist imagery at all. To them, this is a battle over rudeness, which is why the efforts they keep making to field a charge of hypocrisy against those on the left focus on rudeness more than social justice. They keep trying to accuse the left of violating its own principles, but they consistently mistake what those princples happen to be.
Of course this is just another example of the meta-hypocrisy shuffle. The right wing is fielding the charge of hypocrisy in order to cover up their own hypocrisy. While we debate whether or not any particular comic can say this or that rude thing, Trump’s defenders celebrate him for that very quality.
…but perhaps, this is fitting after all.
The king (and that is what Trump is to his supporters, not a President, a king) is entitled to certain privileges. Perhaps being able to insult people as he sees fit is, in the mind of the deplorables, simply one of the great privileges to which a man of his stature is entitled. What makes Donald Trump great in their eyes is precisely what would make anyone else terrible.
There are many reasons to reject the kind of rhetoric, not the least of them being the obvious foibles of what aboutism, or false equivalence, or the tu quoque fallacy, or any number of idiotic twists in this hollow game. Yet, the most disturbing thing about these arguments would remain just how little appreciation those making these arguments seem to show for the toxic impact of racism in America. Each of these defenses shows us mainly that those making them do NOT see racism as a serious problem.
…which is why I say this is a damning defense of Roseanne.
Of course the real question here is who will be damned by it? Those making these arguments reveal their own racism in making them, but if they succeed in transforming the issue into one of mere rudeness, then the public at large loses. If these idiots succeed, then we damn ourselves to a world in which Roseanne’s joke is just another form of edgy comedy.
The second most memorable thing Michelle Wolf said at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner was that; “people are saying America is more divided than ever.”
Okay, at face value, the line itself isn’t all that memorable, but her speech and the reaction to it fairly illustrate the very point, which is memorable in my book. When a line from a speech captures that much of its own context, that will get my attention every time.
Listening to Wolf’s jokes, I find myself wondering if we could really expect people to take some of these jokes in good fun? It isn’t always clear from the content, but the stone faces scattered among those smiling and laughing tell a pretty clear tale. For some at least, these were not jokes; they were attacks. From her deadpan list of inconveniences ending with; “Trump is President; it’s not ideal,” to the suggestion that Kellyanne Conway should be struck and pinned underneath a falling tree, it’s easy enough to understand why someone might not want to roll with the punches here. Sure, someone could laugh it off, but it would be just as reasonable to take these as indications of genuine contempt. We could pick away at this or that point, but the reality is that the room was already saturated with divisions far too great for people to come together in laughter.
That’s the nature of humor though; it’s almost always at the expense of someone else. So, it’s always fair to ask ‘with me’ or ‘at me’? In this case, a fair portion of the right wingers present (and many who weren’t) clearly figured it was the latter. Of course they tend to assume this about much of the media and the entertainment industries as well. With increasing frequency, they would be right about that, but there is certainly the trace of a self-confirming prophesy to all of this media and Hollywood bashing. They don’t seem to notice when their favorite scapegoats aren’t following the script. Wolf took some serious shots at the media too, pointing out that they are largely responsible for Trump’s success, but today the right wing has bundled her up with that very media and used the dinner as yet another example of an ‘elitist’ culture holding them in contempt.
Some of us on the left might be tempted to suggest that the best fix for this problem is for today’s right wing politicians to try to be less contemptible. And of course the contempt is mutual; it has been for as long as I can remember. With countless ‘conservatives’ still telling stories about a socialist Muslim from Kenya, I have a hard time swallowing the notion that those of us on the left ought to rein it in, and lest anyone suggest this is merely the fringe of right wing politics, let me remind you that one of those fringe lunatics in the birther movement is in the White House right now.
..placed there by a wave of contempt for liberalism.
That contempt for liberalism is so strong it seems hard to escape the notion that Trump was placed in the White House, not because anyone seriously thought he was going to make America great again, but rather because they hoped he would break America as we currently know it. Even now, his cabinet is undoing over a century of work to protect America from threats to our safety, both domestic and foreign. Even now, Americans in Puerto Rico are still struggling to recover from a natural disaster, and from the willful neglect of an administration happy to kill Americans when he is offended by one of their leaders. We can debate whether or not Trump will ever do anything positive for this country, but there is little doubt that he is willing and capable of hurting a lot of people.
He was placed in office for precisely that reason.
…all of which makes it a little difficult to look at a speech such as that given by Michelle Wolf and say let’s cry foul this time. No, this, THIS, was going to far!
Still, the hypocrisy of the other guy isn’t much of an excuse for any we produce ourselves. Is there a serious argument to be made here? The main focus of scrutiny in this case seems to have fallen on Wolf’s comments about Sarah Huckabee Sanders. What did she say about Sanders?
Every time Sarah steps up to the podium, I get excited because I’m not really sure what we’re going to get: you know, a press briefing, a bunch of lies or divided into softball teams. “It’s shirts and skins, and this time, don’t be such a little b—-, Jim Acosta.”
I actually really like Sarah. I think she’s very resourceful. Like, she burns facts, and then she uses the ash to create a perfect smoky eye. Like, maybe she’s born with it; maybe it’s lies.
It’s probably lies.
And I’m never really sure what to call Sarah Huckabee Sanders. You know, is it Sarah Sanders? Is Sarah Huckabee Sanders? Is it Cousin Huckabee? Is it Auntie Huckabee Sanders? Like, what’s Uncle Tom but for white women who disappoint other white women? Oh, I know: Aunt Coulter.
People have been saying this amounts to making fun of Sanders’ appearance. Others have been saying, no it isn’t. And yes, the battle lines are pretty predictable on this one. The issue is already touchy, because a lot of folks have already taken some seriously cheap shots at Huckabee’s looks. What Wolf said is really mild in comparison to some of the comments and memes out there. In fact, she doesn’t appear to be commenting at all on Sanders’ actual body or face. The main joke here isn’t even about Sanders’ looks; it’s about her mistreatment of the press, and the fundamental dishonesty with which she has approached her work in this administration. In the process of making this perfectly valid, and perfectly relevant point about Sanders’ work, Wolf worked in a comment about Sanders’ eye shadow. That comment has become the focus of virtually all subsequent commentary on the dinner.
So, was this a comment about Sanders appearance?
I can think of two reasons to say ‘yes’ in answer to that question. 1) Sarah’s eyes have often been primary a focus of many of the cheap shots taken at her. So, when Michelle Wolf talks about Sanders’ eye shadow, she is hitting a theme well-primed by many others. If Wolf is actually commenting on eye shadow instead of Sanders’ actual eyes, then that’s a thin layer of powder away from a very common and very cheap shot. 2) More importantly, a comment about dress or make-up is already a comment about someone’s looks, and women in the public arena get dragged on that topic far more than men. Far from trivial, this is one of the double standards that makes it much harder for women to succeed in public life than men. Working that angle doesn’t just hurt Sanders; it hurts women in general.
If Wolf’s comment doesn’t measure up to the low standards of filth spilling from the mouth of Donald Trump over the years, it certainly doesn’t measure up to the high standard many on the left (and in particular feminists) have been trying to promote for about as long as I can recall. I don’t know that Wolf has ever committed to such standards, but the fact remains, she could do better. Hell, she was doing better! She was doing better in that very point. Sarah Huckabee Sanders is a professional liar. That was the point of the very joke in question, and everybody knows it. THAT point remains sound, regardless of the cheap shot Wolf unfortunately bundled into it.
Some of us could wish that Wolf had left her brief foray into physical commentary out of her speech, but it’s there. I can’t help thinking that brief moment of self indulgence was a god-send to America’s right wing, because that’s been the very means they’ve used to draw attention from the rest of the Wolf’s criticism, criticism which is very richly deserved. While the denizens of echo chamber do the meta-hypocrisy shuffle, hiding their own double standards behind an accusation of the same, they have successfully shifted the narrative about this speech away from the many horribles now nurtured by the outright fascism which has taken over the Republican Party, horribles Wolf was right to call out.
Horribles like Sanders’ many lies.
It may well be that the whole country has reached a point where we can no longer expect Americans of different political orientations to sit peacefully together and laugh at the same jokes, but no, both parties are not equally responsible for helping us reach that point. With a President actively and openly supporting white nationalists while Democrats continue to embrace more moderate conservative policies, I don’t see how anyone could seriously embrace the ‘both sides’ narratives out there.
I don’t really blame right wingers for not wanting to sit through a performance like that of Wolf. I blame them very much for bringing us to that point. The Republican Party didn’t have to put a living joke in the White House; they didn’t have to support a man so corrupt and so incompetent that every spokesperson for him has had to bend over backwards lying for him only to find the man debunking their own spin even as they spin it. They didn’t have to make themselves so contemptible.
But they are.
The Republican Party of today is not conservative; it is not patriotic; and it is certainly not Christian. It’s leadership is none of the things they pretend to be, and they all know it. This is why they cannot abide humor like that of Wolf. This is why Donald Trump wasn’t even there, and this is why others walked out. They cannot abide an honest stand-up routine, any more than they can abide a competent journalist. And this is why they want to focus on that one joke; to keep our minds off Trump himself (and Pence, and Sanders, and all the rest of the circus) and to lay the grounds for retaliation against future critics.
Oh, I did say that the line about Americans being more divided than ever was the second most memorable thing Wolf said in her speech. So, what was more important than that?
Flint still doesn’t have clean water.