Trump’s Tribalism

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“We hold these truths to be self-evident…”

A friend and I have been discussing what presently holds America together. It’s a grandiose question full of dire import (the end of the Republic, the death of America) and the potential for overwrought hand-wringing and silly wishful thinking (if only we had a George Washington!).

Both Left and Right and had staked out their territory on their respective positions and demographics. As of 2016 we seemed heading towards a turning point: would the Left finally triumph in a definitive sense? Was this the Flight 93 election? The tribes were well-established, the battle lines drawn, but then along came Trump who not only rewrote the political playbook, but re-framed American politics and national identity. What has he done?

Whither Have We Come? Whither Shall We Go? 

From the start, America was a pragmatic and propositional nation. The early colonies didn’t exactly get along with each other. The constitutional convention was called for out of necessity, and the resulting constitution bears the marks of compromise. To call the American founding purely pragmatic, though, would be to miss the significance the Founders and their compatriots placed on ideals (life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness) and the importance of sound character (Never tell a lie. Early to bed, early to rise…etc.). Bereft of these propositions,  Americans feared a descent into tyranny.  The Founders were optimistic, though wary of human failings.  The Constitution itself was designed to keep human ambitions and passions in check but was not sufficient to curb abuse. Men must be self-governing. As Lincoln put it some years later, “If destruction be our lot, we ourselves must be its author and finisher.” The American experiment could work if Americans remained good citizens. Continue reading

Breathing Easy: The Morning After the Election

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They’re dancing now.

 

The fever pitch of this election has only started to abate. As people realize that Trump isn’t the second coming of Hitler, tempers and passions will cool. The pessimist in me thinks it will be, in the end, a return to business as usual. The optimist in me expects the economy to roar and the conservatives to lock down the Supreme Court for a generation. If we can avoid stupid wars, that would be nice too.

I’m not that old. This is the first presidential campaign I’ve really paid any attention to (the last one I was happily removed overseas). But that’s where reading books and talking to older people provides perspective.

Older people.

There’s this couple I’m close to. They’re educated conservatives. They’re good people, and as long as I’ve known them, they’ve been peaceable folk. The last eight years of Obama, though, knocked the stuffing out of them. They didn’t like his policies or his condescending, arrogant tone. Hillary was as bad or worse. The last eight years plus the prospect of another four put them on edge like I’ve never seen.

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Decius’ Flight 93: Trump and the Failure of Conservatism

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On first reading, I fist-pumped my way through Decius’ grand smashing of the sleepy, next-election-we-will-win, post-Reagan conservatism. On second reading, I was a bit more circumspect. Here are my two cents.

Rhetorically, the piece begins with shocking metaphors: charge the cabin of the hijacked plane; Russian roulette with a Hillary semi-automatic as opposed to spinning the cylinder with Trump. It’s Trumpian in its bluster, and anyone who takes it overly seriously has no sense of humor or hyperbole. How long before people begin to get it? He’s New Yorker. That’s how they talk.

That said, the article resonated with me. Continue reading

The Politics of Victimization: Trump Beats The Left At Their Own Game

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A recent hack from Gucifer 2.0 has revealed that the DNC has intentionally sought to minimize the influence of the Black Lives Matter movement in the Democratic Party. In an effort to contain the virulence of these activists, the DNC has recommended that its operatives and politicians listen politely to the activists but limit their influence. The memo also instructed candidates to advocate policies that “rebuild the relationship between police and community” by exploring ways to reform police training and limit abuse. The position clearly leans towards the “cops are guilty” mentality, but also demonstrates the DNC’s unwillingness to let their radicals get out of line.

This, of course, prompted a reply from BLM: “We are disappointed at the DCCC’s placating response to our demand to value all Black life. Black communities deserve to be heard, not handled. People are dying.”

No surprise there.

And of course, this underscores Trump’s message: the Democrats don’t care about African Americans, they just care about the votes of African Americans. Consider the fact that for decades the Democrats have controlled some of America’s biggest cities and African Americans still languish in the ghetto. Something isn’t working and Trump’s saying as much. While the liberal media has gone ballistic over this, they refuse to countenance the fact that they, not hick Republicans from the midwest, bear responsibility for the state of the inner cities. African Americans, more than anyone else, have suffered in countless ways over the past decades under Democrat rule and now under the Obama administration (the slow “recovery” has hurt them more than most). If a black Democrat in the Oval Office can’t help his own people out, why not take a shot with the billionaire? Oh, and the alternative? Hillary: a woman whose husband oversaw the slashing of welfare benefits and a dramatic increase in black incarceration. And yet the Democrats still maintain a chokehold on the black vote. The irony: before emancipation the Democrats owned the black vote (3/5s per slave) but now they completely own the black vote (one whole vote per person!).

But Trump actually wants to change that and he’s forcing the Republicans, who have for too long disregarded the black vote as not worth the effort, to actually acknowledge the barriers that confront African Americans. Trump is insisting that the GOP stop talking about abstract freedom, and limited government as the panacea for everything, and actually make a case for how they will make things better for Americans, including minorities. Truth is he has always talked about making America as a whole great again, now he’s just playing the left’s game and emphasizing minorities who are part of that thing called America.*

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NYC Neighbors: Terra’s Terrible Tantrum

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Archibald Motley’s “Getting Religion”

 

In NYC we all live on top of each other.

Crying kids, yelling neighbors, loud parties, sex, you hear it all. In my little coffin of a room I have neighbors above, below, and beside. Walking up the stairs to my apartment, I pass more neighbors than used to live in my South Dakota development composed of two acre lots. In NYC your personal space, your personal life, is separated from others by thin walls.

You run into people on staircases. Smile, nod, get out of the way. It’s polite but curt. NYCers have a reputation for being brash and unfriendly, and that’s partially true. We got places to go, things to do, and whereas the rest of the country gets from place to place hidden in their cars, we walk the streets exposed to the weather and the smells and when we bump into someone its flesh and blood and not an exchange of insurance information. Further, while you can hide from the world in your car when you’ve had a bad day, in NYC it’s all on the street. So yeah, we’re all on edge a bit more, but maybe that’s just perception because there is nowhere to hide. But we’re friendly, too, and when parties collide on the roof (the night of the lunar eclipse was special, people playing music and dancing around, and burning lists of past pains in pagan revelry) we enjoy meeting a neighbor or a stranger. Not friends, but friendly. And in a pinch we help each other out (forgotten keys, package pick up, feeding the cat).

It’s in moments of conflict, though, that neighbors begin exchanging notes and because the walls are thin, everyone knows when something is going down. In this way it’s easier to be a good neighbor in NYC. Continue reading

Harlem Sketches #3

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Bodega left. Bar beyond (two blocks).

Bodega. 136th and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd. 2 AM

It’s a bender and I want one more beer so I wander downstairs to the 24 hrs service window at the bodega. I start to make my order through the glass shield that separates me from the attendant when a dude shows up with some ladies on his arm. He’s middle aged, short, got a belly, and is decked out in nice threads, a gangster cap, and a gold chain. He barges right in on me and begins making his order, talking a mile a minute.  “Excuse me. Boss [referring to the attendant], give me Miller Light, tall boys. Two of them. No, make that Bud. And ladies, wait, what do you want? Cigarillos? Boss, two cigarillos, wait, what? No cigarillos, oh Newports? Excuse me. Boss, Newports.” He looks at me and I’m just smiling, tired, a little drunk, and amused. “Sorry boss,” he says to me, “I’m just making a quick order.” I nod, “Sure man.” He looks at me, “I know you. You hang around here.” I cock my thumb behind me, “Yeah, I live right back there.” “Yeah, boss, I’ll only be another minute. I know you.” Looking back at the ladies, “Girls, you want something else? Miller Lights? Ok, boss, two more Miller Lights. Come on, boss, hop to it!” Turning my direction but speaking rapidly to no one in particular, “Damn hot night, these nights. Damn hot.” His money goes into the turnstile window, it spins and the goods arrive. He’s off as quick as he arrived.

“Alright, boss,” I say to the attendant, “A tallboy, St. Ides.” It’s a rapper’s beer. I don’t like rap, but 8.2% works just fine by me. Continue reading

Rage Against the Machine: Mr. Robot Gets the Axe

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Today I finished watching Mr. Robot. I don’t mean that I caught up completely on the show. What I mean is that I tossed it aside into the tomb of the other shows I dropped because they didn’t make the cut. Some people find it odd that I drop shows like yesterday’s garbage, but that has always been easy for me. I am very jealous of my time. Now Mr. Robot will rust away beside the ruined forms of Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, The Affair and all the other victims of my jealousy. Why would I do such a thing? Well, the short answer is that Mr. Robot is a badly written show. I don’t know how else to put it. It Is not very often that I am so repulsively driven away from something. If I must, then I will extrapolate a little.

Mr. Robot is a painfully laborious metaphor for adolescent angst and daddy issues that are felt strongly by this young generation. It’s simple and boring. The protagonist is robotically controlled by his father manifested as some kind of stress induced hallucination. We’re talking high school creative project level concepts here. Aside from that not a whole lot happens. A hacker group takes down society, but not really because most everything still functions. The entire plot (and I use that term very loosely) is framed by a character that is not simply an unreliable narrator but an incomprehensible one. Obviously that doesn’t make for good storytelling. A better name for the show would be maybe “Let’s Do Drugs and Mope Around Because Capitalism,” or “Screw the System with a System Reacting to the System”. Everything evolved is involved, and the writers of the show don’t seem to understand that basic reality. In fact Mr. Robot is only superficially involved and to an extent that watching it is like a never-ending car crash somehow spiraling into an infinite navel gaze because dad wanted me to get a job.

My final argument for why Mr. Robot did not make the cut will be made in the form of a simile: Mr. Robot is like a few high school boys got high while reading about Nietzsche and computer software before somehow finding a robotic replica of Bernie Sanders’ hand and using it to masturbate onto a bunch of strawmen.