Two Schools of Thought

There are two distinctly different schools of thought about whether Trump’s status as ‘presumptive nominee’ helps or hurts Hillary Clinton.  Strangely, both of these thoughts have merit and I am as yet undecided which will prevail.

On the side of his presumptive nomination being a deal-breaker in favor of Hillary, Trump is despised by most all democrats and a large portion of republicans alike.  He is the least qualified, least experienced party-affiliated candidate I can remember ever making it this far in the election process.  He has alienated entire groups of people: African-Americans, Hispanics, Muslims, women, immigrants, disabled people, academicians and scholars.  Clinton, on the other hand, is well qualified, has experience not only in domestic policy-making but also in foreign policy.  She supports civil rights and equality for all, she supports important topics like raising minimum wage, environmental protection and education.  It is rather like weighing the merits of eating a sugary donut vs. an apple, with Trump as the donut (though there is nothing actually sweet about him) and Clinton, the apple.

Thus one would think … but therein lies the problem.  One would think Trump wouldn’t stand a chance against an experienced, qualified candidate of the other party.  But, if we think back over the past ten months, we didn’t think he would get this far.  We didn’t think people would ever take the man seriously, and I am not sure they actually do take him seriously, but they vote for him anyway.  Why do they vote for someone who they know is not qualified to govern this nation?  They do so because of one thing and one thing only:  he tells them what they want to hear.  And willingly they believe because they want to believe, need to believe.  He first creates the need, the want, and then he tells them that he is the answer to those needs and wants.

Trump plays on the fears of terrorism, puts forth the fallacy that Muslims, Middle-Eastern immigrants, are responsible for terrorism and that there are so many of them in this country that we are in constant danger.  He stirs that pot relentlessly, and then, when the Islamophobia reaches a peak, he provides the “answer”.  He says he and he alone can fix the problem by deporting all Muslims, all immigrants of Middle-Eastern extraction.  Not only that, but he will “bomb the shit out of” Daesh and kill the family members, including children, of any and all suspected terrorists.  See how he first created a fear (terrorism), then a need (safety from terrorists), and then a solution (extinction).  This is but one example of his marketing blitz.

Trump is a businessman, and there is little difference between his tactics of creating a need, then fulfilling the need, and the tactics that businesses use called ‘advertising’.  He is marketing himself in much the same way that Mattel markets Barbie dolls and other toys.  They advertise them on Saturday mornings when your little kids are glued to television cartoons, then your kids are convinced they need as certain toy.  Never mind that the toy will not fulfill any real need and thus will be forgotten within a few short months, or even hours, and never mind the money you wasted.  The toy company got what they wanted and they really do not care if your child actually plays with the toy or not.  Just as Trump creates a need then promises a solution, a solution that he cannot possibly fulfill.  But people believe because they want to.  They need to.

All of which explains the second school of thought, which is that, while many democrats are thinking that Trump just handed the presidency to Clinton, it may not actually be so.  Certainly when one steps away from Trump’s rhetoric and realizes that he cannot come through with virtually any of his promises, then Clinton looks like the better option.  But … those who so desperately want and need to believe that there is an easy solution to the problems, real or imagined, of the nation, they believe Trump’s promises because they need to.  That is why we cannot simply assume that Trump cannot beat Clinton.  Trump has brought people away from logical thinking and plays, instead, on emotions.

What does it take to shed light on the fallacies that Trump is filling the airwaves with?  Almost all of his rhetoric has been proven to be lies, yet people do not seem to care.  What does it take to bring back humanitarian values that Trump has shredded?  So I ask again, what would it take to shock Trump’s blinded followers enough that they would see the reality that is Donald Trump?  In January, Trump made the statement that “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.” In January I scoffed at such a statement, but now I suspect he may have been right.  This is a sad statement, not so much about Donald Trump, but about the state of mind of many of the citizens of our nation. Trump cannot win on merit, but he may well win on bluster.

Trump cannot possibly follow through on 90% of his promises if he is elected. The foundation upon which our entire government rests will not permit it.  I suspect that most voters, in some part of their minds, know this.  They just do not care anymore.  They just want somebody to tell them it will all be okay, someone they can hand their troubles to and go to bed feeling secure.  Never mind that it is a false sense of security.  Is there a simple solution, a simple way to put Trump back in his box?  I doubt that there is a panacea, but the ultimate solution must be comprised of educating the voters, which is 80% the role of the media, who have frankly been doing a lousy job of it.  It must also require that Clinton do a better job of marketing her policy beliefs, playing up her strong points and addressing those that are concerning in a forthright and honest manner.  And last, but not least, it requires We The People to stop being lemmings and start thinking … thinking of what a Trump presidency would really mean, thinking of truth vs. falsehoods, and start questioning what the candidates are saying, start thinking with logic instead of sheer emotion.  We need to think on a global, not an individual basis.  For it is not about just one person.  Perhaps John F. Kennedy said it best in his famous quote, and one of my personal favourites: “My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”

Fly The Friendly Skies????

planeI envision this sometimes:  I sit down at my laptop, check messages, log onto the New York Times and find …. Stories about people caring for each other, people helping their fellow humans, people promoting love, not hate.  I envision opening my Word document and starting to write about humanity, rather than the lack of it, about people being kind.  But today is not that day.  Today is the day that the very first story I read was about a young man  being removed from a flight simply for speaking Arabic to his uncle on the telephone.  Today is just another day for me, another day where my blood reaches the BBB – boiling before breakfast – point.

Imagine how you would feel if you traveled to, say France, and upon boarding the plane you phoned your husband/wife back home in the states to let her know you were on your way home.  After ending the call, you are asked to step off the plane where you are confronted by police officers demanding to know why you were speaking English.  The police did not like your answer, so they call the Département de la Sûreté/SécuritéTerritoriale (DST – the French equivalent of the FBI).  Meanwhile, your flight has left without you. The DST bring in dogs to sniff you, your head is pressed against a wall and your hands restrained behind your back.  You are then taken into a small room and questioned, asked to tell them everything you know about the KKK.  You are questioned about your family ties in the U.S., about which political party your family supports, what religion you and your family follow.  Think about that one for just a minute.

The young man was Khairuldeen Makhzoomi, who had been attending an event in Los Angeles along with U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.  He is a senior at UC Berkeley who is double-majoring in political science and Near Eastern studies. Obviously an intelligent young man. Mr. Makhzoomi’s father, a former Iraqi diplomat, was executed in 2001 under Saddam Hussein’s rule.  His remaining family, mother and brother, now reside in Berkeley, California.  The airline was Southwest Airlines.  They issued an official statement about the incident, stating “We regret any less than positive experience a customer has on Southwest.”  I am certain that made Mr. Makhzoomi feel much better.

If this were an isolated incident, it would be bad enough.  But alas, the very same week, an unnamed Muslim woman from Maryland was removed from yet another Southwest Airlines flight, apparently for no other reason than that she was wearing a hijab.  Last month, an Arab-American family was removed from a United Airlines flight, again for no discernible reason.

It is called Islamophobia and it is a disease that threatens to disrupt the lives of every man, woman and child of Middle Eastern descent.  It is vicious, cruel and evil, and it is apparently incurable, affecting a large portion of the population in the U.S.  There have been so many cases of Middle Easterners being removed from flights that there is an expression for it:  Flying While Muslim.  It is similar to the expression “Driving While Black”, which was coined as a result of blatant racial profiling of African-Americans by police.

Obviously, I have a fatal flaw, a mental deficiency that does not allow me to understand hatred toward any specific group of people.  I believe this flaw is a genetic condition, as neither of my parents understood it either.  It is impossible to look at a person and discern whether that person has a kind heart or not.  It is impossible to look at a person, or listen to their language and know whether that person will do you harm or not.  Within months after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941, the U.S. government began rounding up people of Japanese descent, most (62%) were U.S. citizens.  They were robbed of their property and sent to internment camps for the duration of WWII. Is this where we are heading once again?  Some in this nation believe that Islam is evil, that all Muslims have evil in their hearts and that people of Middle Eastern descent have no right to be in this country.  Those people are wrong.  Just like people who believe African-Americans are somehow inferior.  They are also wrong.

I do not pretend to know the cure, or even the treatment for the disease of Islamophobia, but the one thing I do know is that we must work as diligently toward finding the cure as we do toward finding cures for AIDS, Ebola, Zika, and cancer.  Indeed, Islamophobia is a form of cancer.  Just as lung cancer eats away at the lungs, Islamophobia eats away at the heart, the mind.  There is no reason to hate or harm any person, any human, based on their nationality, skin colour or religion.  There simply is no reason.  In my lifetime I have known more cruel Caucasians than Middle Easterners, Asians, Hispanics and African-Americans combined.  It is well past time for us to work together to cure this disease.

Tears for a Nation Divided

On June 4, 1939, the German ocean liner MS St. Louis carrying 937 Jews seeking refuge from the Nazis on the eve of WWII, was turned away from the U.S. after having already been denied asylum in Cuba (this despite having previously purchased legal Visas) and later being denied asylum also in Canada.  Eventually these refugees were settled in other countries in Europe, and while nobody can know for certain, historians estimate that it is likely at least ¼ of these refugees subsequently died in concentration camps.  Today we are ashamed of the actions of President Roosevelt (Franklin D.) and others.  Why were these refugees turned away?  In light of the ongoing Depression, the US Congress had instilled very severe immigration quotas from each country, and German Jews were not considered an endangered minority but instead just regular Germans competing for the same limited number of Visas. The US felt that it had enough problems of its own that it wasn’t necessary to go looking for other peoples’ problems to solve. Sound familiar?

 

This is the post I have been hoping for five days not to need to write.  It is slightly longer than my usual, and for that I apologize.  It will likely offend some, and for that I also apologize.

 

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send Lady Libertythese, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

 

I cannot conceive of any who are more tired, poor, wretched and homeless than refugees of the Syrian civil war. And yet … where are those welcoming arms?  Have our hearts shriveled as surely as the heart of the Grinch Who Stole Christmas?

 

On Friday, November 13, 2015, murderers affiliated with the terrorist group Isis carried out multiple and simultaneous attacks on civilians in Paris, France. In the five days since, tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of U.S. citizens have become just as vicious as those who perpetrated the murders in France. They are suffering from a disease called “Islamophobia” which is the modern-day equivalent of “anti-Semitism”.  The symptoms of this disease are the utterances of such inane comments as “all Muslims are evil”, “this is a Christian nation”, “we will close our borders to refugees”, and other vitriolic speech.  Let’ me take a minute to respond briefly to these comments.

 

  • All Muslims are not evil. There is some good and some evil in everyone, and there are mostly good people and some bad people in every culture, every society, every religion.  Muslims are basically every bit as good as Christians, Jews, Buddhists, or Hindus and it is simply wrong to apply a label to them all based on the actions of a small few.
  • This is not a “Christian nation”, whatever that means. This is a secular nation that was initially settled by people who were seeking freedom of religion without retribution.
  • If we close our borders to the Syrian refugees, then we are signing their death warrant. The argument is that terrorists could sneak in disguised as refugees, so we should “throw out the baby with the bathwater” and keep every person of Middle Eastern citizenship out of the U.S.  To which my response is a not-very-eloquent “Bullshit”.

 

Bear with me for a moment while I share a personal story.  Two years ago, a family moved in next door, aided by the Catholic Refugee Services.  They were Iraqi nationals who had fled Iraq under Saddam Hussein, and now were refugees from the violence in Syria.  They spoke, at that time, about seven words of English, yet in the weeks and months that followed, we found innovative ways to communicate.  Fast forward to this week.  Last night, I baked cookies to send to them with my granddaughter when she went to their home to play with their three young sons.  Tonight, they sent dinner over to us so that I would not have to cook.  A few weeks ago when my car took her last, dying breath, my wonderful neighbors told me that I may use their car “any day, any time” to go wherever I need to go.  Are these the people that U.S. citizens are afraid of?  They tell of the months before they were able to leave Syria, how the parents took turns sleeping at night so that one was always looking out the window, watching for soldiers, listening for gunfire.  Ultimately they had to flee their home with only the clothes on their back and no shoes on their feet.  They left behind their family pictures, their money, the children’s toys … everything. I do not fear these people … I love these people, I admire their courage and to me, they are heroes.  Earlier today, a “gentleman” (I use the term loosely) told me that my good neighbors are “wolves in sheep’s clothing”.  I cannot remember a time that I have been more offended.

 

This fire is being fueled, not by the current administration in Washington, not by security experts, but by those on the far right of the political spectrum who are hoping to follow him in a little over a year.  This post is not about politics per se, but as I look at the rhetoric and the people’s response, I realize that those who would like to see us close not only our borders but also our hearts are responding to the ravings of men who are attempting to whip the nation into a frenzy to further their own political goals.  We need to step back, think calmly and logically, and realize that in ranting and screaming to keep those seeking refuge out of our nation, we are going against the principles upon which the nation was founded.  We cannot change our values, we cannot change who we are, and we cannot live in fear, for if we do, terrorism is not merely winning the war, it has already won.