Bottomed Out

It was our old friend Bill Shakespeare who wrote, “The worst is not/ So long as we can say, ‘This is the worst.’ (King Lear).

I’m not a Shakespearean scholar, but I think this phrase means that in life, you can’t recognize the low point until you’re past it. The nadir is visible only in hindsight.

Indeed, how many times have we said that our team can’t keep losing, or that we can’t drop any farther into debt, or that the neighbors can’t blare their horrible music any louder than they do?

And then all those things just keep happening.

On a cultural level, how often have we said that gun violence can’t get any more horrific before a real change in our laws occurs? And how many times have we shouted that the blatant racism so many Americans endure cannot be tolerated any longer?

And then all those things just keep happening. 

So it’s worth considering if Trump has reached the limits of his repugnance. Does ripping children away from their families, and then locking those kids in cages, constitute the worst thing that he has done? 

For a man whose stomach-churning misdeeds are too plentiful to count at this point — and whose behavior at times seems like a heavy-handed liberal satire of an evil Republican — well, yes, this seems to be the worst thing so far.

But remember, we also said that about Charlottesville, which seems almost quaint in retrospect.

In any case, it’s difficult to imagine a more inhumane, sociopathic, un-American act than the administration’s policy of separating families. More than 2,000 children have been yanked from their parents, an action that many doctors say can lead to lifelong trauma.

And for what purpose, exactly?

Apparently, it’s the White House’s way of getting tough on illegal immigration (despite the fact that native-born Americans are a bigger threat than undocumented people). Or it’s an effective deterrent (despite the fact that it’s not). 

Or it’s a negotiating tool, which is mind-boggling in its cynicism and indifference to human life. Or it’s all the fault of the Democrats, a pathetic excuse that volleys between grotesque lie and a feeble passing of the buck. 

No, there really is no good reason for this change in policy. It is nothing more than the Trump Administration’s wild careening toward increasingly far-right policies, combined with an urge to appeal to its nativist base, mixed with the president’s well-documented hatred of Latinos, all topped off with Trump’s disdain for compassion, decency, or any of those weak, crybaby emotions.

It is exactly what many liberals feared back in November 2016. And it is exactly what so many rage-filled bigots voted for. And it is the absolute worst.

Which all means that the worst is yet to come.


Land of the Brave?

Now in its fourth century of existence, the United States of America has withstood the birth pangs of violent revolution, a bloody civil war, the enslavement of millions of its residents, the brutal forces of racism and xenophobia, the Great Depression, multiple recessions, the murder of some of its most brilliant leaders, two world wars, Vietnam, Iraq, and the September 11 attacks.

But you know what we can't possibly endure? You know what would break our back and destroy the nation?

That would be the impeachment of Donald Trump. 

Yes, according to many commentators, impeaching the lunatic of Pennsylvania Avenue would be bad for the country, even a “grave injustice.” And plenty of Trump supporters have threatened to “begin a second civil war in the U.S. if President Trump were impeached.”

Even our old friend Nancy Pelosi said “pushing Trump out of office would further ‘divide the country’ and suggested it could do more harm than good.”

Oh, I know that two other presidents have been impeached — one just a couple of decades ago. And nobody ever suggested that trying to remove Bill Clinton from office might result in America’s collapse. Although to be fair, that was all about a blowjob, which is far more of a crisis than silly things like selling out the nation to a homicidal dictator of a hostile country. I mean, it’s about priorities. 

And I know that this nation has endured warfare, natural disasters, civil rights outrages, drug epidemics, economic collapses, rioting in the streets, and even the rise of disco (that one really stung). But clearly, we’re just fragile princesses when it comes to the strain of a Senate trail of the president. 

It’s best to just avoid the whole thing and go about our business.

After all, we wouldn't want to upset Trump’s hardcore supporters, who as we know, are a minority of the population, have had their every concern or insecurity elevated to national prominence, and are driven primarily by racism, hatred, fear, and ignorance. No, let’s just kowtow to them even more than we already have.

It’s just a good thing that we’re not implying that if a subsection of America threatens violence, we’ll all give in — oh wait, that’s exactly what we’re implying. Never mind.

Well, at least we’re not saying that corruption, incompetence, and neo-fascist tendencies would actually be rewarded, rather than punished, which is horrifying in both the present and because of its ramifications for future presidents. Check that — I guess we are saying that too.  

And we’re certainly, most definitely not saying that all the talk about the rule of law, and the importance of checks and balances, and the sanctity of the Constitution, and the strength of America’s institutions, and the integrity of its very culture — all that is meaningless. Oops, wrong again — we are not just implying that but screeching it from the rooftops.

But still, whatever horrors the Mueller investigation uncovers, we should all just ignore them. Yes, only good things can come from denying reality and appeasing madmen. 

We should do this, you know, for America’s sake.


Get Up and Go

As I’ve mentioned before, my mom emigrated from El Salvador. She’s been a US citizen for decades now and has never regretted her decision to leave Central America.

We all know, of course, that the United States is a nation of immigrants (ok, not all of usknow that). 

Still, the only reason that this nation exists as a major world power is because, over the centuries, millions of people, originating from just about every country on Earth, took huge gambles and endured hardships to come here for a shot at a better life.

It’s the American Dream, right? 

Well, maybe that’s no longer true.

You see, a recent article in Bloombergasked the completely logical question “Why do Americans stay when their town has no future?”

Yes, the article is a look at our favorite fellow citizens — the white working class — and an examination of why they refuse to leave their dying small towns in search of better opportunities. After all, they are the descendents of hearty immigrants who crossed oceans for a new life. So why do they insist on sticking around decrepit mill towns and desolate farm communities, when in many cases, all they have to do is drive to another part of their home state?

The article, which makes for extremely depressing reading, quotes one low-income blue-collar worker as saying, “The American Dreamis kind of to stay close to your family, do well, and let your kids grow up around your parents.” 

Personally, I found that statement jarring. The article’s writers apparently agreed, calling the quote “a striking comment” because of the fact that “not that long ago, the American Dream more often meant something quite different, about achieving mobility — about moving up, even if that meant moving out.”

Let me mention here again that my seven cousins and I grew up together and were tighter than many nuclear families. That’s common among Latino families. In adulthood, we’re still close, but many of us have moved to other states to pursue the best lives for ourselves. Right now, we’re scattered around the country. In spite of having stronger bonds than most families (not a boast, just the truth), we also knew that all of us living in the same city for our entire lives was unlikely. Our parents came from other countries, so the concept of moving just wasn’t scaryto us. 

Contrast that to the residents of rural Ohio profiled in theBloombergarticle. They seem petrified of ever leaving their bleak environs. And this reluctance to move is “all the more confounding given how wide the opportunity gap has grown between the country’s most dynamic urban areasand its struggling small cities and towns.”

Economists are perplexed at this phenomenon. But keep in mind that these are the same people who wondered why so many Americans threw logic out the window during the Great Recession and held onto their underwater houses. One would think that economists would now have plenty of proof that Americans don’t make purely objective financial decisions and that emotions play a huge part in their behavior. 

So I guess I’m saying that maybe it's the economists who are clueless here.

In any case, “Americans have grown less likely to migratefor opportunity.” The statistics back this up. We see that “fewer Americans moved in 2017 than in any year in at least a half-century. This change has caused consternationamong economists and pundits, who wonder why Americans, especially those lower on the income scale, lack their ancestors’ get-up-and-go.” 

We would be remiss if we didn't acknowledge that the situation has “a stark political dimension, too, given how much Trump outperformedpast Republican candidates in those left-behind places.”

But what many experts don’t want to admit is that the fear of moving is related to the fear of change, which in turn is related to the fear of immigrants, and so on down the scale of anxiety. The basic factor here is the terror that the white working class feels about a changing world, and its members’ strong sense of entitlement that they never have to change a damn thing in their lives because everything must to be altered to maintain their status. 

Many people in these depressed areas feel that America owes it to them to make their towns boom again, regardless of the cost to the rest of the country. However, “it’s hard to arguethat, say, a town that sprang up for a decade around a silver mine in Nevada in the 1870s needed to be sustained forever once the silver was gone.” That would be ludicrous. But “if all of southern Ohio is lagging behind an ever-more-vibrant Columbus, should people there be encouraged to seek their fortunesin the capital?”

Um, yeah — they should.

In essence, “America was built on the idea of picking yourself upand striking out for more promising territory.”

What’s changed?

Only the specter of crippling fear.



Two Numbers

Don’t act so innocent.

It’s not like you’ve never lost 1,500 children.

Oh, wait… you’ve never lost almost 1,500 children. Neither have I. 

Neither had anybody, really, until this flaming oil spill of a presidential administration managed the truly impressive feat of misplacing 1,475 immigrant kids who were housed with adult Americans.

The administration says that the kids aren’t lost, per se, just “unaccounted for.” So that should make us all feel better.

But really, is it any wonder that an administration that yanks children away from their parents (and then blames Democrats for the idea) is unconcerned about what happens to minors put in its charge? 

There is no question that the Trump team’s sociopathic indifference to humanity, complete disdain for Latinos, and jaw-dropping incompetence have combined to create a situation where we have to ask, “So hey, whatever happened to those kids you nabbed at the border? You know, like well over a thousand of them? Any guesses?”

Of course, the other horrifying statistic that came out this week was the actual death toll of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. No, it wasn’t 64 people who died in the storm, which is the Trump Administration’s official tally. A new study says that the number is just a little, tiny bit higher — more like 4,645.

Yes, that is more Americans than died in the September 11 attacks. It is more Americans than died in Hurricane Katrina (i.e., the last time a Republican president fucked up the response to a natural disaster). In fact, it is almost as much as September 11 and Katrina combined.

But again, we're talking about primarily Hispanic victims here. So it’s not like they really count or anything.

These are just two numbers, just two sets of stats that display the Trump Administration’s contempt for any human who isn’t white.

They are numbers that make you weep.



The Goal of All This

In my last post, I asked a simple question: What’s behind Republicans’ strong drive to halt immigration and, by extension, to stop economic and technological progress?

Well, it’s clear that the point is not — nor has it ever been — to make America great or to make sure we’re number one on some imaginary list of the world’s greatest countries. 

No, the GOP’s motivation is to make sure that white people in general (and white Christian men in particular) continue to enjoy the cultural dominancethey have enjoyed for a couple of centuries now. All other goals in the modern Republican Party are subservient or incidental to this top priority.

It is the reason that Latino immigrants, black NFL players, and Muslim gold-star families are all the enemy, along with many other demonized subgroups. Trump’s embrace of white nationalism cannot be denied, and efforts to do so are increasingly delusional.

This disturbing moment in history is pivotal because it offers one of the few clear-cut moral choices that defines the nation and its people. Will you support a man who is clearly a hate-filled bigot, peddling soft-core racism? Or will you, at the very least ,object to this charlatan who has made xenophobia acceptable? 

It’s a pretty clear choice.