Follow Me On
The Woman in White Marble

{Click Marble or visit Books in the main menu}

Dis-Ease: Living with Prostate Cancer

{Click or visit Books in the main menu}

« One Year Home: Calculating my Health | Main | One Year Home: Could be Better, Could be Worse »

One Year Home: American Politics and the Art of Survival

After thirty years away, I’ve been back in the United States for one year. It feels like I’ve returned to Never-never land, a Never-never land that has gone over to the dark side. The U.S. is a two party political system, or at least it was. Some are now saying that with the Republican Party forming into separate tribes each with their own ideology, organization, candidates, elected officials, and big time financial backers, the Grand Old Party is just a shadow of its former self. Furthermore, Andrew Bacevich on Moyers & Company argues that if Donald Trump becomes the GOP candidate for president he will “demolish its structural underpinnings…” and that if he were to win in November, his election would “alter its very fabric in ways likely to prove irreversible.” Perhaps that’s why the party’s old guard establishment is doing everything it can to defeat its own front runner.

It’s difficult to fully comprehend the utterly bizarre carrying on of the Republican Party given I have been looking in from afar for thirty years. It’s surreal. It’s crazy. It’s a little bit frightening. All the party candidates are so far to the right that I suspect even good old racist Dixiecrats of yesteryear might be put off if we could whisk them into the present. John Kasich is always described as the moderate candidate, but he can only be considered moderate in comparison to the others. To what degree various candidates are actually qualified to be president is questionable (though I realize being politically qualified is often considered a detriment by voters). Ben Carson, while lending genuine comic relief to an otherwise painful process, certainly was not qualified to run the country (one thinks of the Egyptian pyramids with delight). Ted Cruz often sounds like he is addressing a prayer meeting rather than a political rally, while at the same time creating a mountain of blatant lies and dirty tricks that can only impress (hated by his Republican colleagues in the Senate, he is hardly the party establishment’s chosen savior). Jeb Bush, who was the party establishment’s assumed king (remember back when – it seems like another life time ago), proved to be an embarrassment drawing ever decreasing crowds, driven once to demand people applaud one of his killer soundbites. Despite his scolding tune and the embarrassed look on his face, no one applauded. It was painful to watch. Marco Rubio simply can’t learn to fly (though he is now the great Hispanic hope for the party). Chris Christie, a man who “tells it like it is”, jumped ship after demolishing Rubio and then tied his future to a billionaire loud mouth racist xenophobe (as a result of his endorsement it seems his career path has been stopped in its tracks, much like traffic on a gridlocked bridge).

And what is to be said about Donald Trump? It is Trump who is exciting the Republican voters, millions of them. He would be nothing without them. They love this self-proclaimed admirer of Vladimir Putin, who identifies Mexicans as rapists, says he would date his daughter if only she weren’t his daughter, declares he will torture prisoners and will defy international law by killing the children and spouses of terrorists, will defy constitutional law by banning the entry of people into the U.S. based on their religion – just to list a few of his more infamous declarations and attitudes. As Robert Johnson pointed out in The Guardian, Trump has abandoned the political coded language begun when the Republican Party began wooing southern Democrats – think Goldwater, Nixon and Reagan – and instead speaks his racism and hatred for foreigners out loud. Interestingly, in this Never-never land of political antics, Christian Evangelicals and fundamentalists are flocking to this biblically illiterate, multi-divorced, philandering, womanizing, foul mouth, man’s man. I guess if Jesus were an American politician he would be just like Trump. Or, it may be the case that American evangelicals never were about God and good Christian purity, but instead were about, are about, political power. As I’ve always said, we’re cultural beings first and religions beings second. Still, it is, in a perverse way, enjoyable to see this level of hypocrisy coming from the purest of the faithful (imagine the evangelical response if Trump were running as a Democrat, which could have happened if the wind had shifted ever so slightly).

Caricatures of Republican presidential candidates by DonkeyHotey with Flickr Creative Commons License. The GOP debates have descended into shouting matches. I hardly knew what to do while watching the candidates literally shouting over each other in a chaos of juvenile, delinquent, male machismo (Carly Fiorina dropped out early, though she was as butch as the next guy in her aggression and lies). Poor Carson had to plead with someone to attack him he was so lost in the chaos. I had to wonder what their mothers were thinking. And if you wanted to believe, despite the evidence, that the candidates for president of the United States of America had not actually landed in the landscape of an adolescent dystopia, your hopes were dashed when Rubio implied that Trump had a small penis (I say “implied” but even kindergarten children knew what he was saying). To the relief of all Trumpoids, Trump made it perfectly clear in the next debate that he actually has a big penis. The Republic can rest in the knowledge that our possible next president is well endowed. And we shouldn’t be surprised at Trump’s wanting to clear up the penis controversy. Trump was glad to tell the world that when Mitt Romney was running for president and seeking his endorsement, that if he, Trump, had told him, Romney, to “get on his knees”, the blow job would have been freely given.

This is the Party of Lincoln.

When John McCain ran for president against Barack Obama, his town hall gatherings and political rallies grew more aggressive as the campaign went on. At one point a man implied an Obama assassination might be a good idea. At a town hall gathering a woman said that the president of the United States couldn’t be a Muslim born in Kenya. To McCain’s credit, just as it seemed he might lose control of his followers, he said unequivocally that Obama was a good man, a good family man, a good Christian, with whom he had differing opinions. Fast forward to now. Trumps rallies are not only aggressive, they have become physically violent toward protesters. What does Trump do? He screams:

“Get them out, send them out of here!”

Thrown them out into the cold. Don’t give them their coats. Confiscate their coats. It’s about 10 degrees below zero out there. You can keep his coat..."

I’d like to punch him in the face I’ll tell you that…We’re not allowed to punch back anymore…You know what they used to do to a guy like that in a place like this? They’d be carried out on a stretcher, folks.” 

This is the Grand Old Party.

We’ve stepped through the looking glass. The GOP’s last nominee for president just gave a speech vilifying the front runner for the next nominee. One of the leading contender for the nomination believes “the moon might be as intimidating as Obamacare” and claims he was “bitten by an octopus”. Our leading politicians are challenging each other’s penis size on national television during what are supposedly political debates, while the man with the biggest penis, apparently (I’m going to have to take his word for it), wants to date his daughter and still believes Obama was born in Kenya.

Screenshot from Pierre Enouyed video on winningdemocrats.comTrump has been called a demagogue and a fascist. Hyperbole is never far from political discourse, but I do begin to wonder if we’re stumbling through the fascist looking glass as well. An attack on the First Amendment which he promises if he is elected president  – to prevent people from writing negative things about him – should give all of us pause. He is also being compared to Hitler, so add Nazi to the list. Recently at a rally Trump had his followers raise their right hands and pledge to vote for him come the important day. He too raised his right hand. Surely they saw what they were doing.

What a time to come home. What will I do if Trump actually does become president? I ask because I don’t have the confidence of the people who claim Clinton will easily beat the crazy man. She is so utterly hated by so many, and she comes with more baggage then an Airbus A380’s filled under belly. It seems there are only two choices and they are contradictory: radical disengagement or radical engagement.

Radical Disengage: If maintaining some semblance of peace and sanity in my life is my primary goal, this option is not unattractive nor is it unreasonable. It will mean letting go of any lingering mythical underpinnings I might have concerning the often stated exceptionalism of the United States. We will be just another nation state that, through anger and selfishness, elected and celebrated a dictatorial authoritarian fascist concerned about the size of his penis and his precious ego. It will mean turning off my radio and television at the news hour, forgoing newspapers, filtering my social media accounts, and refusing to talk to family, friends, and colleagues on all matters political. It will probably also mean ceasing to watch NCIS. It will mean letting go of the wider world while holding on to my smaller one. And I will have to do that until they come for my neighbors, friends, or family, or maybe even me. It will mean compromising and redefining my feelings about and understanding of what is moral and ethical. It will mean all that, and if it is President Trump, I may do it all.

But, of course, I won’t. How could I? However, in those infinite number of parallel universes, some of the Dale’s would, and I wouldn’t blame them.

Radical Engagement: Even contemplating it makes me weary, but what’s a person to do? What such engagement might mean is not clearly defined because Trump is not clearly defined. Will he as president actual do, or attempt to do, the things he shouts about? Will he build the great Trump Wall along the Mexican U.S. border, for example? Assuming he will be true to his word, then we can guess what is in our progressive future. Online petitions galore. Rallies and marches. Writing and speaking. Seeking solidarity with like-minded people. Visiting friends in prison. Going to prison. Grappling with the tension between Gandhian nonviolence and violent protest (let’s not forget that Dietrich Bonhoeffer wanted to assassinate Hitler).

For those my age, or there abouts, we will also have to fight being enveloped by a kind of political depression and weariness. We will have to avoid thinking about Vietnam, Contra wars in Nicaragua, death squads in El Salvador, and South African apartheid. We will have to, through some mysterious and yet unidentified means, be politically born anew to once again fight the good fight, if indeed any fight can ultimately be good. We will have to defend our language, our values, and our political positions. We will have to vote, and not just when it seemed convenient or when we're most frightened. And will have to cease being cautious.

Of course, I could be wrong about a President Trump. It could be a President Cruz, in which case we will have to also become Defenders of the Separation of Church and State. Trust me, we really will not want to lose that fight.

{Next week: One Year Home: Calculating my Health}

Copyright © 2016 Dale Rominger

Reader Comments

There are no comments for this journal entry. To create a new comment, use the form below.

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>