Will we wait too long to jump?
From Wikipedia: The boiling frog is an anecdote describing a frog slowly being boiled alive. The premise is that if a frog is put suddenly into boiling water, it will jump out, but if the frog is put in cold water which is then brought to a boil slowly, it will not perceive the danger and will be cooked to death. The story is often used as a metaphor for the inability or unwillingness of people to react to or be aware of threats that arise gradually. I can think of no metaphor more apropos to our sitting President and the damage he has already done in less than two weeks in office. As it turns out, we are a nation of frogs, and we are slowly boiling to death.
This has gone beyond ‘facepalm’ and/or other cutesy Internet meme-related content. We are in an arena that has real detrimental ramifications. The fallout from the total and complete incompetency of President Trump, his cabinet, and advisors have already proved to be destructive to our standing in the international community. We have poked many bears, and with respect to our national security and other nations, some of those bears have nuclear capabilities. We have angered long-time allies and friends, and we have alienated entire people groups who are now being targeted by other American citizens because the bigots in this country are now emboldened by Trump & Co.
What causes me to shake my head in despair is that there are still so many supporters of President Trump who are sitting by and watching what can only be described as a slow-moving train wreck. Their complaints about those who are speaking out against Trump are mind-boggingly immature. Calls for detractors to ‘get used to it‘ are more in line with an adolescent who just commandeered the last swing on the playground. Those of us who actually understand the potential fallout and the real ramifications of Trump & Co’s decisions, executive orders, agendas, etc., and plan to block, boycott, and protest in response to our real, legitimate concerns, are often told by Trump supporters that WE are the ones who are wrong because we are adopting a ‘well, they did it first‘ defense. I wish I could adequately convey how utterly fatuous this is, by the way. Seriously. These people think they can get away with committing what is tantamount to a hit and run. Look, you don’t get to punch someone in the face, then complain about being hit back. It makes you look like a fool. But I digress…
Apples and Oranges
One of the most common retorts by those who still support Trump is that “other countries are also banning immigrants.” Japan, China, Australia, etc. The only problem with this is that we are not other countries. They don’t have our heritage or our constitution. They don’t have a rich history of immigrants building their nations. They don’t have precedents that have been set over centuries for taking in refugees. They don’t have a Statue of Liberty with a plaque on it.
Therefore, this comparison is meaningless. Another comparison is that of other Presidents. Specifically President Obama. The Washington Post published a story on this recently that asks the question of the difference between what Obama did and what Trump did regarding the immigration ban, since it has become increasingly popular for Trump supporters to blame Obama for the fallout. It reads as follows:
First, Obama responded to an actual threat — the discovery that two Iraqi refugees had been implicated in bomb-making in Iraq that had targeted U.S. troops. (Iraq, after all, had been a war zone.) Under congressional pressure, officials decided to reexamine all previous refugees and also impose new screening procedures, which led to a slowdown in processing new applications. Trump, by contrast, issued his executive order without any known triggering threat. (His staff has pointed to attacks unrelated to the countries named in his order.)
Second, Obama did not announce there was a ban on visa applications. In fact, as seen in Napolitano’s answer to Collins, administration officials danced around that question. There was certainly a lot of news reporting that visa applications had been slowed to a trickle. But the Obama administration never said it was their policy to halt all applications. Even so, the delays did not go unnoticed, so there was a lot of critical news reporting at the time about the angst of Iraqis waiting for approval.
Third, Obama’s policy did not prevent all citizens of that country, including green-card holders, from traveling to the United States. Trump’s policy is much more sweeping, though officials have appeared to pull back from barring permanent U.S. residents.
Same goes for comparing Trump’s actions to those of other former Democrat Presidents, which I see appearing more and more on my social media accounts. These are conveniently in the form of a meme, which offers no validation and includes no details, because those details would reveal the ‘apples and oranges.’. Of course, when a former Republican President is used for a comparative meme, it’s a different story altogether. Especially His Holiness Ronald Reagan.
Many celebrities have spoken out rather loudly regarding the immigration ban. Many Trump supporters have retorted with the question of why have these celebrities not taken in refugees into their own homes. This is a ridiculous question for so many reasons. The main one being that this is not how refugee placement works. Refugees are not stray dogs. However, the sum total of the money that celebrities have donated to helping refugees in various areas of need number into the tens of millions of dollars. They are also lending their considerable influence and valuable time. Not to mention that dozens of celebrities are themselves refugees.
Next time a Trump supporter asks why outspoken Celebrities haven’t taken any Muslim refugees into their homes, ask them why they have not taken in any Christian refugees into their homes. Chances are you will get a reply similar to “I do volunteer work at the church,” etc., etc.
Nazis, Fascists, and other Deplorables
Here we go. The White Elephant in the room. I posted a status a while ago on my Facebook page that reads:
I read in another group a missive from someone who fought in WWII and witnessed the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps and his dissatisfaction about the comparisons of Trump to Hitler, stating that if was ever in the presence of someone who did that, he would beat the hell out of them.
I responded that the worst of the worst is often used as a benchmark for comparison. This bodes true for everything from earthquakes to despots. Earthquakes start as tremors, despots start as populists. My grandmother’s generation suffered greatly under Mussolini, and many were murdered under his regime.
But he made the trains run on time and gave powerful speeches, much like Hitler.
So much blood was shed in the years of the war to end all wars, so many of our fathers and grandfathers lives given in the pursuit of eradicating those terrible monsters and their accomplices.
My father, who served in WWII, told me long ago on one of those rare occasions when he even spoke about the war, that it is the duty of every American to be vigilant, to never forget the past, to always be wary of anyone who even sounds like they might espouse anything even remotely similar, and to never ever be under the false impression that history will never repeat itself.
My father was a wise man…
It used to be considered bad form to bring up Hitler in a debate or argument. There is a principle known as “Godwin’s Law” that states:
“As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Hitler approaches 1. That is, if an online discussion goes on long enough, sooner or later someone will compare someone or something to Hitler.”
Comparisons to both Hitler and Mussolini are becoming more and more common, and they are not coming from Millennials or even GenXers. They are coming from Boomers and older citizens who fought in WWII. Not just Americans, either, but also those people of a certain age who were witness to the rise of the Reich and of Mussolini’s Italy. They were there, in the flesh, as these two leaders ramped up their campaigns and grew in popularity. They witnessed their legitimate elections. They lived through the increasing changes that were made in their societies and in the way their governments were reshaped.
Their comparisons are first-hand, and they are genuinely frightened because they see history repeating itself. While the world may never allow another Holocaust to happen, it will stand by while the United States of America’s unique Democratic Republic implodes at the hands of a President and an administration that is either inept at governing due to the lack of experience in foreign and domestic affairs, has a nefarious agenda, or both. And the fallout for the average Joann and John Q. Public will be disastrous, regardless of who they voted for. There are already multiple websites and social media outlets that are dedicated to giving a platform to those who had voted for Trump, but are now regretful that they did. They know they were lied to, and are now being screwed by the man who solved the problem of the swamp by draining it and then refilling it with people who are worse than those he got rid of.
President Trump and his administration have given millions of people cause for fear and outrage. Keeping up with them can be both practically and psychologically difficult, especially considering that most of the changes being made are at the behest of a very dangerous man named Steve Bannon, who is a White Supremacist sympathizer and has given voice and a platform to the alt.right movement, which includes Nazis, racists, bigots, anti-Semites, and the rest of the cesspool that gets their daily dose of information from Brietbart – of which Bannon is the former CEO.
What should terrify you is that many times when Trump is compared to Hitler, a significant swath of his supporters actually defend Hitler rather than admit that the President is a mentally unstable man who suffers from Narcissistic Personality Disorder, and is likely a sociopath. There are none so blind as those who cannot see.
As Robert Reich pointed out:
Trump is unhinged and ignorant; Bannon is nuts and malicious. If not supervised by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, their decisions could endanger the world. In Trump and Bannon’s view, foreign relations is a zero-sum game. If another nation gains, we lose. As Trump declared at his inaugural: “From this day forward, it’s going to be only America First.”
Some of you are old enough to recall John F. Kennedy’s inaugural, when the young president pledged to support any friend and oppose any foe to assure the success of liberty.
But Trump makes no distinction between friend and foe, and no reference to liberty. As conservative commentator Charles Krauthammer observes, Trump’s view is that all other nations are out to use, exploit and surpass us.
Not incidentally, “America First” was the name of the pro-Nazi group led by Charles Lindbergh that bitterly fought FDR before U.S. entry into World War II to keep America neutral between Churchill’s Britain and Hitler’s Reich.
Trump and Bannon’s version of “America First” is no less dangerous. It is alienating America from the rest of the world, destroying our nation’s moral authority abroad and risking everything we love about our country.
Unsupervised by people who know what they’re doing. Trump and Bannon could also bring the world closer to a nuclear holocaust.
Back to the Frog
It’s bad enough that people still supported Trump up until Election day, what with the seemingly unending events and scandals that would have derailed anyone else within the first month of their bid for the White House. Bankruptcies, sexual assaults, misogynistic comments, racism, bigotry, appearing in two porn movies, being divorced three times, being an adulterer, and the list goes on and on.
The fact that he ended up in the Oval Office is not a testament to the need for change, but a testament to the gullibility of tens of millions of people who hung onto fake news, propaganda, and outright lies like their life depended on it. Even the Evangelical Church fell prey, believing that Donald Trump actually gives a rip about Jesus, the church, the bible and all things holy, to the point where some very prominent Christian leaders made complete fools out of themselves by preaching that Donald Trump’s Presidency was ordained by God, and that he is the biblical choice for the leader of the free world. Talk about one of the greatest con games ever.
While the water is boiling, Trump told a demonstrable lie about the size of the crowd at his inauguration — and predicted that the media would “pay a big price” for refusing to repeat it. He told congressional leaders at a private meeting that he only lost the popular vote because undocumented immigrants cast millions of ballots against him. He suggested America might once again have the opportunity to confiscate Iraq’s oil. He allowed his company to leverage the cachet of his election into a massive expansion of its hotel empire. He ordered the Department of Homeland Security to issue a weekly list of crimes (allegedly) committed by undocumented immigrants in sanctuary cities. He is prepared to radically reduce American funding to the United Nations. He signed a bevy of executive orders that were drafted by Mr. Bannon and likely not even read by Trump. He declared that his election had restored American democracy, in an angry, authoritarian inaugural address. He replaced the White House website’s page on climate change with a vow to drill for oil on federal lands.
He defamed a hero of the civil-rights movement in a series of racist tweets. He allowed his secretary of State nominee to pledge that America would block China’s access to its disputed islands in the South China Sea — a promise that, if kept, would almost certainly mean war. He named his son-in-law a senior White House adviser, in defiance of norms (and, very likely, laws) against nepotism. He called NATO obsolete. He repeatedly denigrated America’s intelligence agencies, then leaked plans to downsize them. He declared his openness to reviving a nuclear arms race. He named a billionaire investor — with an enormous, personal financial interest in deregulating certain sectors of the economy — as his special adviser on regulatory reform. He declared the American intelligence community to be inherently untrustworthy, after it produced information that he did not like. He said he doesn’t know why he should be bound by the One China Policy. He picked a man who once tried to call for the abolition of the Energy Department — but couldn’t remember the department’s name — as secretary of Energy.
The list goes on and on and on, and includes threats to the Free Press, the First Amendment, the Fourth Amendment, the Fifteenth Amendment, and several parts of the Bill of Rights. He has outright lied so many times that most people have lost count. Even to the point where his Minister of Propaganda, Kellyanne Conway, has re-dubbed his lies as “alternative facts,” a phrase so utterly stupid that it defies all sense of logic and decency.
Protests and Demonstrations
Yeah, this is always a thing, isn’t it? The fact is, though, that the ability to protest and demonstrate for the purpose of a redress of grievances is a constitutional right, and most of the reforms that are enjoyed by all of us were brought about by protests and demonstrations.
Of course, when a story pops up about a protestor or demonstrator acting badly, they are trotted out by the right as a shining example of all of those that protest for progressive causes. But when you get a conservative protester acting badly, the right immediately condemns them as a rogue or lone wolf. When this hypocrisy is pointed out, they scream for proof.
When it is offered, they condemn it as a lie from the liberal media. Such is willful ignorance and confirmation bias. Incidentally, they do the same when comparing Muslim and Christian terrorists.
The fact is that there are bad people everywhere, and sometimes they get involved in protests and demonstrations. These criminals should not be given the validation that they represent anything other than what they are. Yes, both sides do this. No, it is unacceptable either way. But they do exist, and they are used by the right way more often than by the left, and usually accompanied by fake news stories. Fake news stories, by the way, have become the go-to source of propaganda by Trump supporters, mainly because they are the go-to source by Trump, himself.
Many of these fake news sites are so popular with Trump supporters because they appeal to confirmation bias. They are anti-science, specifically where it concerns the reality and fact of climate change. They are anti-gay, many of them violently so. They disparage civil rights. They claim that liberals and left-leaning moderates are communists. They claim the LGBT community has an agenda to convert and then rape little boys. Some of this stuff would be downright hilarious if it wasn’t so damned frightening.
They feed on fear, and are chock full of stories that denigrate Muslims, blacks, gays, etc., and are full of inaccurate or skewed polls, charts, graphs and misinformation. Along with this, are warnings not to trust fact-check sites because they are, of course, the real fake news. Trump is leading the pack with this by calling the likes of CNN and The New York Times ‘fake news,’ simply because they published stories that aren’t full of praise for The Donald, and pretty much call him out on his BS. Fox has begun to do the same thing. I wonder how long it will take for Trump to label them as fake news. Either way, Pot, meet Kettle. This is how religious cults work. They brainwash you with lies, then forbid you to do any research because all the sources of information are from Satan or something.
We are in trouble. We have been in trouble since November 9th. And it is getting worse, because the Trump propaganda machine is running at full-tilt, producing material that not only systematically destroys the truth, but also further confounds the minds of those who adhere to it. Propaganda is the art of persuasion – persuading others that your ‘side of the story’ is correct. Propaganda might take the form of persuading others that your military might is too great to be challenged; that your political might within a nation is too great or popular to challenge etc.
Mein Kampf contains the blueprint of later Nazi propaganda efforts. Assessing his audience, Hitler writes in chapter VI:
“Propaganda must always address itself to the broad masses of the people. (…) All propaganda must be presented in a popular form and must fix its intellectual level so as not to be above the heads of the least intellectual of those to whom it is directed. (…) The art of propaganda consists precisely in being able to awaken the imagination of the public through an appeal to their feelings, in finding the appropriate psychological form that will arrest the attention and appeal to the hearts of the national masses. The broad masses of the people are not made up of diplomats or professors of public jurisprudence nor simply of persons who are able to form reasoned judgment in given cases, but a vacillating crowd of human children who are constantly wavering between one idea and another. (…) The great majority of a nation is so feminine in its character and outlook that its thought and conduct are ruled by sentiment rather than by sober reasoning. This sentiment, however, is not complex, but simple and consistent. It is not highly differentiated, but has only the negative and positive notions of love and hatred, right and wrong, truth and falsehood.”
As to the methods to be employed, he explains:
“Propaganda must not investigate the truth objectively and, in so far as it is favorable to the other side, present it according to the theoretical rules of justice; yet it must present only that aspect of the truth which is favorable to its own side. (…) The receptive powers of the masses are very restricted, and their understanding is feeble. On the other hand, they quickly forget. Such being the case, all effective propaganda must be confined to a few bare essentials and those must be expressed as far as possible in stereotyped formulas. These slogans should be persistently repeated until the very last individual has come to grasp the idea that has been put forward. (…) Every change that is made in the subject of a propagandist message must always emphasize the same conclusion. The leading slogan must of course be illustrated in many ways and from several angles, but in the end one must always return to the assertion of the same formula.”
Trump has suggested with some degree of seriousness, as has his Minister of Propaganda Kellyanne Conway, that the press be bought and anyone who published anything negative about Trump should be fired. But nothing to worry about, right?
The Fate of the Frog
I am not sure where this will all end up, but it doesn’t bode well. Trump’s immigration ban has prompted some of our allies and friends to either ban Americans from their countries, or are talking about doing so. Many other nations and their leaders have condemned his ban, and have called what he has done to the National Security Council as ‘crazy,’ specifically removing the consistent presence of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and giving Steve Bannon a permanent place. There are also serious questions being raised about his cabinet, their private emails, and their inexperience. Trump’s rhetoric toward China has put them on military alert and we are in the cross-hairs. Some reports that even Mexico is mulling over a ban of US citizens have surfaced here and there.
There are many from both sides who believe that Trump will be impeached before the year is out. But that would only leave Mike Pence in charge, and in many areas, he’s worse than Trump. In fact, the line of succession is pretty scary until you get to the Designated Survivor. What concerns me is that much of the information that is being absorbed by Trump supporters is either inaccurate or misconstrued, whether intentionally or otherwise. Yes, we are in trouble as a nation, because when you let a bunch of Fascists and Oligarchs take control of the government, it never ends well. You, the average person, regardless of who you voted for, will end up like Joe Pesci’s character in Goodfellas when he thought he was about to become a ‘made man.’
I understand that many people felt that a change was necessary, and that something had to give with the status quot of the federal government. But speaking not as a Republican or a Democrat, a Liberal or a Conservative, but as a rational human being, we could have and should have done a lot better than Trump. Those of us who are left leaning, many moderates, and even a handful of conservatives realize the trouble we are in. They understand that we are being outspoken because we are largely students of history, we know how to do research, and we are not so blind that we cannot see the writing on the wall.
Yes, we are in trouble…