BY VERN TURNER
We are all familiar with the statuary of the three monkeys demonstrating their innocence from negativity. The statue kind of reminds me of the Trump phenomenon and his supporters. Once these people have committed to Trump’s rhetoric, there is no turning back. These supporters – who candidate Clinton just identified as a basket of deplorables – hear, see and speak no evil no matter what nonsense, vitriol, demagoguery, bigotry or other primitive emotion comes vomiting forth from the Donald’s mouth and psyche.
But maybe it’s not Trump’s fault. Maybe he is truly the master of the con writ large. And the would-be market for snake oil purchases is all in for his scam and scheme. What’s funny [or sad] is that Trump keeps belching lies by the bundle and falsehoods by the truckload, and his followers keep screaming for more. Try to point out the “inconsistencies” of Trump’s tirades and some true believer will do his or her best to rearrange your facial features. Videos of many of his “rallies” illustrate that first hand.
Meanwhile, the public at large wrings its hands and mouths conciliatory comments like, “Well, I don’t like Hillary, either. She is such a liar.” What?! Oh sure, she’s had some problems with truth-telling during the 30-year witch hunt conducted by disgruntled and clueless Republicans. It’s what happens when your life is scrutinized by a slavering media for the slightest misstep. Well, give the media some credit here. They have been exposing Trump’s lies and idiotic statements for over a year, but it seems to make no difference among the Millennials and some other demographics. They remain on the fence. The true believers, on the other hand, eat it all up and beg for more, even promoting violence against the other candidate and those who think.
The demographics who keep saying they are undecided voters in spite of the obvious nonsense from Trump and his dangerous world views befuddle everyone. People! This is not a beauty contest. This is a campaign for the leadership of our beloved country and most of the free world. Here again, the Trump believers see him as their savior for “speaking his mind.” Really? I think it’s the fact that he is speaking their mind. He has tapped into their reptilian brain and is feeding those primitive instincts for all its worth. So, one might ask, “Who are these people, how did they get this way and what do we do about it?”
The pundits keep telling us that the Trump-ites are disaffected, frustrated, cast-by-the-wayside, un-educated laborers that used to vote Democrat. They are angry, and have opted to go with their more basal instincts. Trump has also enabled these pissed-off people to vent their hatred, direct it at those they think are the cause of their demise and stagnation in life and has allowed them to feel good about being racist, xenophobic and hypocritical. All this stuff has come roaring out of the wounds of our past that have been covered by the scabs and scars of modernity and civility. Now the wounds are open, thanks to Trump’s hateful scalpel, and they are showing the world the sordid underbelly of our national disgraces: slavery, prejudice, xenophobia and, above all else, fear.
Yes, it’s still there. We claim to be the land of the free and the home of the brave, and all that is fine. Except we also harbor the ignorant, the hateful and the narrow-minded hypocrisy that makes us all look foolish. Nobody has drawn a black pencil circle around those behaviors like Trump. Not even the disgraceful posturing of creatures like Orville Faubus and George Wallace can match the groundswell of mindless misery that Trump has brought forth. I seem to recall another authoritarian “leader” who used the same tactics and even the same rhetoric as Trump to sway millions of his oppressed people into believing his “strength as a leader” was most important. Worshipping strong leaders is one thing, but having them evolve into butchers is quite another. Can we be so sure of Trump not making that transition?
Perhaps there should be a fourth monkey added to the sculpture. Maybe it should be embrace the ignorance. It’s a monkey shining a flashlight in one ear and seeing the beam come out the other side. This would be symbolic for the ignorance that now sweeps our land. For 40 years the so-called conservatives have been actively seeking to destroy public education and make all schools profit centers for those wanting to promote an Orwellian agenda of mind and behavior controls. Sound far-fetched? Try picking up two textbooks in Texas on any subject you like. One book should be in today’s classroom, the other should be out of the archives of texts from 1970. If you didn’t look at the copyrights you might not be able to tell which one is which, because the older one will be more challenging in its content and its verbiage. Because of the constant attacks on teachers unions and the dumbing down of school curriculums, our children, and more recent adults, tend to graduate without a clue as to how to make an important decision about anything. They are total products of television marketing and have few critical thinking skills.
In my book, A Worm in the Apple: The Inside Story of Public Schools [Amazon.com], I dwell on this phenomenon and its latest horror, No Child Left Behind. The result has been not an improvement of learning and acquisition of knowledge, but a net loss of information in spite of the internet and all the sophisticated learning tools found mostly in the richer school districts. The poor kids? They get even less exposure to solid information, but that shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone paying attention. It’s been like that for over 100 years in most big cities.
The point of this rant is that the people who follow Trump blame everyone but those who caused their economic and domestic stagnation and ills. It was the Republicans who passed laws to send their jobs to foreign countries. It was the Republicans that allowed corporations to pressure unions to end their representation of the working classes. It was Republicans who wouldn’t fund our embassy security in 2011, thus enabling the tragedy of Libya and Benghazi. It was the Republicans in federal and state governments who have been cutting public services while cutting taxes for the rich. Heck, even prominent Republicans can’t stand Donald Trump and refuse to support his campaign. Hello? Anybody there? Oh sure, there are complicit Democrats involved, but it’s a function of lobbying influence after all. Don’t forget that the enabling of corruption was brought to us by Republicans with their Citizens United lobby contesting rulings by the FEC. The Republican-compliant Supreme Court opened the hen house door for the corporate foxes to buy our government.
As with so many of my friends and acquaintances, I’ve had this discussion with those who favor Republican candidates to no avail. They are true believers for reasons known only to themselves, because their stock answer – “I’d never vote for Hillary!” – rings the bell of the fourth monkey. Many of these same friends have shared stories with me about how they’ve lost life-long friends to this wretched political atmosphere that has been polluting our democracy for so many decades. Many of my oldest and best friends won’t even bother to respond to e-mails or calls. This is what a divided country must look like from the personal level.
This divisiveness and constant yammering about Muslims, border wall, lies, more lies, strong defense, immigration, taxes, bad trade agreements and pipelines is really not a good sign for our future. I look at my relatives’ and friends’ children and want to cry. What kind of country are we leaving them, when we can’t even help ourselves do the right thing about our health care [now below 30th in the world] and our education [now below 20th in the world] while we beat our chests and worship our false idol, money.
Anyone who thinks we, the United States, can produce a perfect candidate for president – or any other national office – is living in a dream world. That dream includes the time when we still thought that electing citizen-level representation was the right thing to do.
Today we are electing corporate extensions to make laws that the corporations and banks want, not what’s best for the people. I hope all who read this will pass it along to those who haven’t been paying attention. Please remind them that they might wake up some morning next January and realize they no longer live in a democratic republic, but rather in an irrational dictatorship.
– Vern Turner lives in Marble Falls, TX 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.