Monday, January 23, 2017

AWAKENING


I remember a brief Facebook interaction last summer after Bernie Sanders bowed to Hillary Clinton. I had made a statement that I would never vote for Hillary Clinton. One of my female Facebook contacts took umbrage. I explained to her that I would prefer to see someone like Donald Trump elected because he would precipitate real change. I said at that time, if I recall accurately, that I was not sure if I would vote at all. I did vote, but for neither Trump nor Clinton. I would have voted gladly for Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren. 

The demonstrations over the past weekend have encouraged me. I do believe Donald Trump is a change agent. I do not believe that Barack Obama was a significant change agent beyond his breaking through the race barrier in American presidential politics. For some detailed facts on the Obama presidency, look at this Stephan Molyneux wrap-up

For most people, I suppose, that was enough. I have never been racially fixated about evaluating job performance, so I expected him to do a better job than he did. I specifically criticize his failure to move single-payer health care through a Democratic-majority Congress in his first two years of office. As head of the military, he continued America's wars of aggression and regime change in other nations, despite his Nobel Peace Prize. Obama's expansion of  a corrupted welfare system, rather than reforming it significantly, did a disservice to the nation's health and well being. His catering to the financial sector was obvious after the debacle of 2008, for which no major player was prosecuted and jailed. Obama continued the Bush bail-out scam. He continued catering to The Federal Reserve and its international counterparts. 

Donald Trump is not presidential in the least. No argument there. He is no statesman. Agreed. But how well has humanity been served by statesmen in the big picture of human history? 

Richard M. Nixon was one of America's most loathed presidents. I loathed the man almost as much as I loathed his predecessor, Johnson. I have to acknowledge that Richard Nixon was a very effective president. He coalesced a limping anti-war movement. He opened the door to a non-hostile relationship with Communist China. He started the EPA. He expanded Medicare. He established OSHA. He desegregated schools. He started anti-ballistic-nuclear talks with the USSR. And more. Frankly, next to Richard Nixon, Obama looks like a president of very limited accomplishments.

Nixon's greatest accomplishment was awakening the public to the corrupting influence of power. This man who had done great things condemned himself to the historical label of "crook" because he wanted too badly to win. Hillary Clinton may have fallen to a similar fate, not as a crook so much as someone who misunderstood the public's mistrust of her and her husband. Trump's victory was not a reward for his megalomania. It was simply a better application of his megalomania over Hillary Clinton's. 

This brings me to the much overused, and abused, concept of "hope". 

Obama's election posters shouted Hope and Change in cartoonish simplicity, reminiscent of Stalin-era propaganda. Perhaps the hope that he would not make things worse was realized. However, change was not his strong point. Hope is a poor substitute for vigilant participation in government. Change only occurs when those who are presumed by the powerful to be governed refuse to be governed to some degree. Institutions should be governed (administered) in a true democracy, even in a true republic like the U.S.A.. The people should not. The people should choose policy and procedure by keeping their hands upon the shoulders of those they elect. 

Donald Trump has awakened some women and minorities to fear of being governed against their interests. This awakening is long overdue. The false post-racialism of the Obama years, made all too evident by the anger of the Black Lives Matter protests, had lulled many coastal Americans into a false sense of security within the status quo, which Obama spooned out with his calm rhetoric. As wages and benefits continued to drop, Obama calmly spoke of new jobs and a recovering economy. As The United Kingdom roiled with the Brexit debate, Obama cautioned against change there. As the U.S. military and CIA contributed to debacles in Libya and Syria, Obama preached a false gospel of restraint and non-aggressive caution. 

Trump is a creature of different stripes altogether. Trump roars at America's door. And America the Average is waking up. Those who are awakened begin to see their world as it has become. Some, like bourgeois White women, filter what they see in terms of discrimination against them. They shout for equal pay and increased benefits at a time when working-class women are struggling with an unemployed husband, working themselves at Walmart for peanuts, and children badly educated in public schools. And Black Americans have awoken to a country which has left them even farther behind. LGBT Americans have awoken to the fact that marriage and military service have not been panaceas. They also realize that their grip on righteous indignation over injustice has loosened, especially if they are White and bourgeois. 

People stumble when suddenly awakened. I predict there will be a lot of stumbling and grumbling as people in the U.S. wake up, stumble around and stub their toes on each other's selfish issues. But blaming the rooster for not waking you up earlier doesn't solve anything. 

Trump is that brash rooster. But the solutions to the problems he has made all too clear lie with the people, whether they voted for him or not. Whether the people are capable will be shown in due time. Will they stop buying gas-guzzling SUV's? Will they stop buying too many things with too much credit? Will they continue to depend on exploited non-American labor to support their materialism? Will they fight for universal health care, universal public education of the highest quality, universal fair compensation for employment in healthy environments? Will they change their habits to support a healthier global ecosystem? I have been awake a long time, and I have my doubts. 

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