BY VERN TURNER
My e-mail spit out a missive from an old adversary in Texas. This nameless guy is a retired FBI agent and Vietnam veteran. For some reason, he has fallen into the pit of the ultra-conservative, rightwing, reactionary school of “thought” where only his [and his fellow travelers’] opinions matter.
He recently sent something that was terrifying in its venom and mindless war-mongering attitude toward any perceived adversary. It was basically a “bomb the shit out of them” rant that misquoted history and denigrated anything to do with statesmanship and diplomacy. He surfs the rightwing internet for the most vile and unsophisticated hate pieces he can find, but that one was his own.
Today, it was a piece about how some retired Air Force pilot thought that the major thing wrong with this country was that it still harbored black people. The piece was filled with those “Some of my best friends are black” absurdities, while blaming all our ills on black people. It made me wonder how people like that get through their days out in public. How could they possibly tolerate the best experiment in racial/cultural/ethnic diversity in the history of mankind? Moreover, how do they justify their own whiteness as being ever so much better, statistics be damned? Wasn’t there some international disturbance having to do with a “master race?”
This leads me to another bit I read about how some people involved with chronicling politics these days give thanks to our founders, our Constitution and the dedicated patriots who serve as civil servants to keep our great country moving. These journalists are caught in playing the Trump game. Sarah Sanders treats them like children while promoting the lies she’s told to tell and the snarling arrogance of someone who dislikes people that report the facts and the truth.
They thanked the checks and balances that are working, so far, to keep a rogue president from blowing up the nation and the world. They gave thanks to Rex Tillerson, who, it seems, is managing to hold the blonde bellower at bay just enough to keep us out of another illegal war. Other rational cabinet members, like James Mattis, are working hard behind the scenes to aid Tillerson.
The same cannot be said for the other cabinet appointees. Their sole purpose seems to be to dismantle their own departments. Why, just this week, this president nominated a guy who wrote the book on how to rig elections as head of the Census Bureau. How do you suppose that’s going to work out?
Since Americans are so pre-occupied with sex scandals, we can give thanks to Roy Moore, Al Franken, John Conyers, movie stars, entertainment moguls, news anchors, and even Trump himself, for feeding our tabloid maw of stupid behavior. Some of these instances are due to the “Me too” movement from women who have indeed been sexually assaulted and abused by irresponsible men who pushed their power onto them without regard for their acceptance of such behavior. Good for them! I’m sick of having these fools tar all of us responsible men with their brush of sexist abuse and thoughtlessness.
In the case of Trump, his accusers represent the mode of his operation throughout his known life. But here’s where it gets confusing. While the self-righteous scream and wail about having “lesser” people drop out of political races or resign from their current positions, Trump gets away with it without anyone screaming for his resignation.
Oh, there are people who are resurrecting the 15-19 women who have accused Trump of overstepping norms of decency, and that is a good thing. He deserves every bit of flack about this that comes his way. I just don’t see the hue and cry for Trump’s resignation that Moore is getting. Why not?
So, here we are, Thanksgiving week, 2017, with a plate full of social and political issues clamoring for resolution. To whom or what do we give thanks for stupid people doing dumb things, smart people doing dumb things and an elected government that cannot govern, because it is owned and operated by corporate and banking oligarchs?
We certainly can’t give thanks to the 90-plus million voters who stayed home and helped the decrepit Electoral College elect one of the worst people in the world as our president. Who can give thanks to Scott Pruitt, who is working diligently to undo the regulations that kept our drinking water safe and our air breathable? Who can thank Betsy DeVos for pushing to rid the nation of public education? Corporate America can, that’s who.
Who can thank the Republicans in Congress for crafting a totally partisan tax “reform” initiative that places increased tax burdens on the middle class and the poor, while giving the richest among us very large tax breaks? Who can thank the cynical and tortured minds of the Republican party who use egregious “services” like ALEC [American Legislative Exchange Council] to write the laws that allow millionaires and billionaires to deduct private jet expenses from their taxes while disallowing underpaid school teachers from deducting their out-of-pocket expenses for supplemental school supplies … like pencils, paper and paper towels. Having been down that road, I regularly spent over $1,000 per year on necessities that the school board wasn’t able to fund.
The sham of this giveaway to the rich and the corporations is simply irresponsible, craven, cynical and shameful.
“Not to worry”, say the Republicans, “the corporate money will “trickle down” to create jobs and higher salaries for the workers.” In an almost horse laugh moment, a gathering of CEOs said that that new money was going to the stockholders and raises for executive salaries. That’s right. Without blinking or grinning, corporate America said it was taking that $1.2 trillion windfall and putting it in their own pockets. If the trickle down theory needed any more debunking, I don’t know what it would be.
Meanwhile, almost 40% of Americans and 80% of Republicans think this is a good idea. Who does one thank for that kind of ignorance and mindless obedience to a failed economic doctrine?
Well, I’m thankful that I’m still healthy enough to read and understand how the greedier elements of our society are working hard to disenfranchise everyone but fellow travelers. I’m thankful that my mother gave me the discipline and wisdom to be able to cobble words together that other people actually read and understand. I’m thankful that we have a Constitution that the majority of the people in the land still believe in, even if their president doesn’t. I’m thankful that over 60% of our citizens disapprove of a rapidly failing presidency. It may set a new world record as the shortest democratically elected administration in history. I’m delighted to see so many corners of our society realizing what a horrible mistake we’ve made and are becoming activated and involved.
I’m thrilled by the number of people signing up to run for office. I learned recently that about 41% of elected offices across the country go on the ballot with only one candidate. The new flood of candidates will, hopefully, change that number. Perversely, I’m thankful that this president and this Republican Congress are so bad and so incompetent, that even the most somnolent non-voter is sitting up and paying attention. That is what will make democracy work the way it should.
I am thankful that democracy is a messy process. When it is working, debate and compromise are the keystones to the outcomes. When self-serving tax bills are rammed through on a strictly partisan basis, democracy morphs into something else: fascism. When the majority political party changes the rules in the middle of the game to favor itself, that isn’t democracy. That’s third-world fascism. When the president denigrates the Constitutionally protected free press as “fake news,” that’s not democracy. That is fascism and despotism promoted by a dictator.
I am thankful, therefore, to have lived long enough to learn enough history to see how these two systems operate for the benefit of mankind. One of those practices created the greatest economic and social hardship for the most people in history. World War II still holds the world record for fascist-induced killing and destruction of societies.
The other, democracy, represented by a democratic republic, though imperfect, has an inherent platform for doing what is best for the most within the society where it operates. Those democracies that have succumbed to fascism through economic terrorism (like the imposition of supply-side economics [No capital or social services] on Chile, Bolivia, Uruguay, et. al., by the CIA and Milton Friedman) have all failed via revolution and bloody violence. That’s the nature of fascism. The nature of democracy has the opposite effect on societies.
I am thankful that there are still enough thinking people in our beloved country that recognize that certain regulations are necessary in a capitalist, consumer-based economy. As much as the wolves of greed howl at the door of reason and control, the understanding that un-regulated capitalism will eventually destroy itself, is well-defined. Free markets are not free without regulation, because greed destroys the freedom and the fairness that is idealized. I am thankful for John Maynard Keynes for showing how governments and capitalists can work together for the increased benefits of all. Floating all boats is something to be thankful for.
When we all do well, we all do well. This is the basic philosophy of the New Deal from the Roosevelt era. It is also what the Republicans have been trying to destroy since 1934. I’m thankful that this philosophy is in my philosophical bailiwick, because I think those of us who strive to accomplish things, should do well.
– Vern Turner lives in Denver and is a regular contributor to The Oklahoma Observer. His latest book, Racing to the Brink: The End Game for Race and Capitalism, is available through Amazon.com.