It looks like our fearless leader wants to flex his muscles a bit and show the mean ol’ Democrats that he’s really not Putin’s puppet (“Swear to God! See? See now??!?”) so he’s talking about going harder into Syria. Trump says Obama was too weak on Assad and Putin, and frankly, it’s one of the few areas we agree. Hillary would have been tougher, and I would have supported that. I don’t support Trump getting tougher. I think Assad and Putin are murderers, that this latest massacre is a travesty, and I support some sort of intervention to stop the slaughter in Syria. But not by Trump and not by this administration. Simply put, we can’t trust them to make the best decision between a group of bad options, which is all we have here, which is all we almost ever have. They’re bad decision makers. They have no experience, no moral compass, no compassion, no regard for lives, American, military, civilian, or any other. They’re stupid, and they’re cowards. People like that are no good in a fight. They should stay out of them.
So one of the reasons I haven’t been writing a lot is because I have been reading a lot. Here’s a short walk through the things I’ve picked up lately, wrapping up with some words on racism, and why we can’t forget that it just handed the Presidency to a psycho.
Sarah Kendzior: The View From Flyover Country – This is a Kindle book released a while back by a Missouri writer and scholar about the worsening state of the economy in the mid west, with a focus on the conditions that have made it harder for people to find get jobs in certain industries – academics, writing, arts, diplomacy, government – without starting from a position of wealth and privilege. It’s a quick read, and excellent. Sarah Kendzior is a writer I found shortly after the election. Had I found her before it, I would have seen things leading up to it with more clarity. She is an expert on authoritarian states and dictators, and her work indicates that the rise of Donald Trump (whom she stated would win the election in early 2016) is something we could all have seen coming.
Jean-Paul Sartre: Anti Semite and Jew – I picked this up with some titles on authoritarian history. Many of Sartre’s ideas about “the Jew” are outdated, some probably misguided at best when he wrote them in 1945. But the things he has to say about the anti-Semite’s resistance to logic and reason are still useful. Their willingness to engage in bad faith arguments comes from the fact that they don’t really desire to win the argument or to win you over, just to engage, disrupt, outrage. He touches on the fact that anti-Semitism isn’t really about Jews so much as about the Anti-Semite’s cowardice which leads to his taking refuge in his desire to hate. Plug in “racist” for “anti-Semite” and it starts to seem more and more familiar.
Albert Camus: Resistance, Rebellion, and Death – a collection of letters, essays and speeches from a great French-Algerian writer who spoke against fascism most of his life. I don’t always agree with his views on colonialism. But he was a compassionate and brilliant man and to read his thoughts on the turbulent times he lived in and how they shaped his views concerning life and his art are fascinating, and his words of support to those rebelling against a fascist regime are certainly inspiring.
Dr. Ibram X. Kendi: Stamped From The Beginning – because it’s not just about fascism. Fascists often use racist rhetoric to appeal to wide masses and rise to power. But why does that work? This book is a comprehensive history of racist ideas in America. It is one of the more revealing books I have read. It’s like, I always knew racism existed, even that it was prevalent. But I never understood how deeply racist ideas are ingrained into our culture, our history, into our government, our policies, our way of speaking, our way of life. I always thought of racism as being peripheral to American history. But this book shows how it is central to everything we have ever done.
One of the most important things I learned from this book is that while most people thing that ignorance and hate beget racist ideas which beget slavery, the opposite is true. First people began to enslave others, for profit. Then they came up with racist ideas to justify their continued enslavement of others. Then people adopted those racist ideas and allowed them to feed their hate, and ignored facts that got in the way of their negative assumptions. Slavery didn’t come around because of racism. We invented and perpetuated racist ideas to justify slavery.
The reason this is important? Because this is why trying to educate away racism and hate doesn’t work. This is why it doesn’t work when you explain to anti-immigrant people that immigrants commit less crime and are not a drain on the economy and you show them facts to back it up. This is why it didn’t work to show a copy of Obama’s birth certificate to people who said he wasn’t born in the US. Racist attacks are not based on ignorance. Knowledge will not eradicate them.
In a deeper sense, this is why it is futile to argue about non-racially based reasons why Trump won and Clinton lost. Because it was never about any of that. But even though there’s a million logical reasons why this election was not about the economy, or Goldman Sachs, or the Democrats “failing to connect with working class voters,” people still ignore the facts and insist these are the things Dems need to work on. As if racism just didn’t exist.
I was worried that, when Hillary Clinton won the election, white America would just sweep the racism that allowed Trump to get as far as he did under the carpet and pretend it never happened. That’s what white America does. Right now you can find a million white folk to explain to you how the Civil War wasn’t about slavery if you want. But I am surprised that in the face of the white supremacist candidate winning, we are doing the same thing. Don’t buy this bullshit.
Donald Trump rode a wave of racism right into the White House. He burst on the political scene with birtherism and anti-Mexican rhetoric, basically jumping up like your racist uncle at a party and yelling, “That black guy, he ain’t one of us! And all these Mexicans? They gotta GO!” And when we forget that and sit here and talk about “the working class” when we really mean “the White Working Class,” we’re perpetuating that racism. We are complicit in that racism. It’s nothing new. But until we recognize it, we leave ourselves open to the same thing happening again.
This is not just right wingers. I’m seeing the same rhetoric from people that call themselves “progressives”, especially Senator Sanders, who continues to display the same blindness to these problems that cost him the primary.
Stop allowing this to happen. Please. Not one of us is free until all of us is free.
I’m off for more reading. Just started James Baldwin’s “The Fire Next Time.” This dude is throwing the fire this time. If you can’t read any of his work, at least see the Oscar-nominated documentary about him called I Am Not Your Negro. It’s outstanding.
Thanks for reading.