BY VERN TURNER
Everyone saw this coming down the escalator in 2015. What ended up being the second biggest mistake this country ever made [slavery being the first biggest] took no time in mouthing off his racist views about Mexicans and Muslims. He would save doing that to black people in code words via tweets and “private” discussions. We knew this insulated, enabled rich guy was the spawn of a KKK member. We knew he was sued twice for racial discrimination in renting out his apartments in New York. We knew he lied about everything regarding President Obama’s country of origin. Hell, he knew it, too.
I just finished a Facebook exchange with someone who insisted he was proud of our president today. Today, the day after he made available to our media the utterances of vulgar and racially painted “conversation” with U.S. senators and representatives, Trump engendered pride among his fellow travelers.
Sen. Dick Durbin had the guts to go before the cameras and microphones to tell the world what the president said and the language he used. The word “shithole” had never before been used, on purpose, on network television, or repeated by every moderator on every talk show and news program. When the moderators were downplaying it and using “s—hole” as a substitute, the crawler on the screen reminded us of what our “president” said in a meeting discussing immigration reform. A really classy and elegant guy, our president …
Those of us with even a shred of decency, are outraged by this blatant display of hate and bigotry, yet that guy on Facebook was proud of his president. One would expect others in the Oval Office, at that time, to come forward and either confirm or deny Sen. Durbin’s comments. Nope. The other six members of that meeting, all Republicans, remained silent as of this writing, almost 24 hours after the event that sullied the office of the president and our nation.
[Editor’s Note: Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-SC, subsequently broke his silence, confirming what Sen. Durbin first reported – that Graham immediately rebuked the president during the White House meeting.]
My immediate question is: Will we be able to regain the good will of our friends in other countries, and how much negotiating power have we irretrievably lost?
The facts are that immigrants have always been a net gain for our country. Even slavery provided cheap economic benefits for our economy at the time despite its horror. We have fought hard for over 150 years to rub out the stain of that mistake. Chinese indentured servants built our cross-country railroads and worked in our mines to extract value for the maw of capitalism. Mexicans and other Latin people worked our agriculture, both as legal and illegal citizens to keep food prices low. They also bus our tables, change our sheets and nanny our children. Immigrants from India and Pakistan come here for a college education and often stay. Why? Because our capitalists have always wanted to avoid paying top dollar to labor of any kind at any level, but it’s still more than they would make in their native countries who have “lower” standards of living than we do. It is important to note that there are more educated professionals with one or more college degrees from Africa and Asia – as a percentage of their population – than “native” caucasian Americans. So, what’s Trump’s problem with immigration from those “shithole” countries?
Since he singled out African countries and Haiti in the Caribbean, it is clear what he meant. He also underscored his position by asking why we don’t bring in more Europeans in general, and, yesterday, from Norway in particular. Gee. Let me think … What could be his reasoning? Oh. Right. People from Africa and Haiti tend to be people of color. People from Norway are almost all white. Aha! So the KKK influence from daddy Trump and those who have surrounded him most of his sheltered life have helped create this monster of bigotry, aka our current president. Now what?
We must get past our outrage. Rachel Maddow was fairly sizzling with anger while reporting and commenting on the day’s events. I look forward to seeing how well she’s recovered. I’m still trying to recover from wanton defamation of our country, too. I took an oath when I joined the military to defend and protect the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Donald Trump has now clearly, unambiguously defined himself as a domestic enemy of the Constitution by defying his oath of office; “the best of his ability” just doesn’t work as a defense when it comes to bigotry writ large like this. Our immigration laws are still the law of the land, and he and his Republican lackeys must follow or modify those laws based on the spirit of our founding documents that declare that all men are created equal. We prided ourselves on being the beacon of liberty and freedom to the rest of the world. That copper lady standing in New York harbor is that elegant symbol of our intent as a nation.
The Statue of Liberty was given to us by France. We embraced the generosity and the magnificence of that symbol. They knew we had the right idea about recognizing freedom from want and the liberty to pursue a better life. And guess what? We did. We allowed a million Irish immigrants to escape starvation. They were greeted with prejudice and disdain, not because they were Irish, but because they were Catholics. We greeted millions of Eastern European immigrants escaping pogroms and starvation. They, too, were greeted with prejudice and disdain, mostly because they didn’t speak English. Guess what? Eventually, the good people of this country overcame the inherent fear of “the others” and incorporated these folks into our mainstream way of life, ethnic neighborhoods notwithstanding.
Sure, there were and are certain “tribal” imperatives between these white peoples’ neighborhoods, but they are nothing like the divisions of what we see between black, brown and Muslim neighborhoods and white neighborhoods. Yes, racism and religious foolishness fuels those divides, but they are much, much less dramatic and severe than they were even when I was a kid growing up in Cleveland. One could say that in my lifetime, thanks to the life work of people like Martin Luther King [his day is on Jan. 15], Bobby Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, John Lewis, Medgar Evers and so many others who, literally, sacrificed their lives for justice and harmony between the races, progress was made. All that civic work from the ‘60s and ‘70s was working until 2008.
The election of Barack Obama was a watershed event that did two things, one good, and one very bad. The good was that we elected one of the most articulate and elegant presidents we’ve ever put in office. Yes, he made mistakes and did some things that could have been done much better. The bad was that his election scraped the scabs off of healing racial divides and let the screaming monster of racism back into the conversation.
This blowback to Obama’s election was fueled, of course, by the Republican propaganda machine and exploited by right-wing talk radio and the absurd bigotry of Fox News. Between Rush Limbaugh and Roger Ailes, the flames of hate and bigotry were fanned and fueled every day and every night. The less strong of us succumbed to that institutionalized hate and prejudice until they were seething with resentment.
Hillary Clinton, sadly, received the overflow of that resentment and became the unwitting victim to the racism that was emerging from the political swamp like a fever-dream monster. Yes, she had flaws and the Democratic Party failed miserably to educate the electorate and provide it with a viable alternative to the Republican monster waiting in the wings.
The Electoral College was put in place to prevent the election of tyrants and crazy people. The founders never imagined that a political party could become so craven and so consumed by corruption money that it would put up somebody like Donald Trump as a presidential candidate. This occurrence defined the Electoral College as the anachronism it is. The “EC” has given us two minority presidents [Trump lost the popular vote by three million to Clinton] and both have done far more harm than good. George W. Bush was another disengaged president who was “advised” by those with agendas that ended up costing the world $35 trillion in a matter of weeks. The attacks on Sept. 11, 2001 caused a serious overreaction against countries that were not responsible for those attacks: wars in which we are still engaged. Remember, it was a constant state of war that helped destroy Rome, too.
But the presidency of Donald Trump is something much different and even more sinister than merely wrecking an economy or invading a sovereign nation for vengeance and a grab for oil. No, this presidency is about defiling America’s heart and soul. It is about how misinformed, dystopian, pseudo-intellectuals, funded by the likes of Robert Mercer, can change and destroy so much hard work and blame all the world’s ills on the predecessor who happened to be not all white. No, the voters didn’t speak. The few who did vote [92 million voters stayed home], coughed up an orange hairball of hate, bigotry and incompetence at absolutely the wrong time. If we can somehow avoid a nuclear war, the rational people in this country might just see the error of their ways, and vote out those who stand in the way of removing this president from office. It’s clear that President Trump has no understanding of what this country stands for, what it fought for and what it means to promote freedom and liberty for all. This president is only about himself, his prejudices and his bigotry.
We are a better country than having Donald Trump as president. We have a soul that ultimately embraces freedom and liberty and equality and fairness. We are not paranoid like Trump. He represents none of our values and our goodness as a nation. Simply put, he has got to go.
– 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.