The Biggest Loser

toddler

The closer we get to election day, the more candidate Trump morphs from bully to whiner.

My microphone was faulty! The media’s out to get me!

Next will come the crybaby: I was robbed! It was a conspiracy! No fair!

Despite dire predictions of chaos and revolution after the ballot count shows Clinton won, I think it’s safe to say most people just will heave a sigh of relief that it’s over. And some of us won’t be able to resist yelling at the self-proclaimed victim of injustice as he stomps, pouting, out of the schoolyard:

Nyaaa, nyaaa – LOSER!

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The rise of the bully boys

trump Vladimir Putin Rodrigo Duterte

Trump, Putin, Duterte – Bully boys are ascendant.

They stoke hysteria in the already fearful with exaggerated pronouncements of crisis, then offer security in the form of a Big Daddy-knows-best arrangement. Scapegoats are targeted to justify aggression or oppression.

Their supporters believe themselves exempt from harsh tactics. Average citizens tell themselves that they aren’t one of “those people” causing problems. The wealthy or powerful think they can keep the guy from going too far. All accept the bully’s implied reassurance, after ranting threats at supposed enemies, “I don’t mean you.”

In the art of breaking deals, that will be just one more broken promise.

If you need a reminder of how far and how badly this can go, read “It Can’t Happen Here” by Sinclair Lewis or “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich” by William Shirer.

 

 

Trump’s America: land of the tweet, home of the craven

toddler

The contest this November is between fear and hope.

Those who are fearful of the world, the future, the unfamiliar, of change and of Others have given up on our democracy. They feel (often rightfully so) that they’ve been lied to, cheated and used. They see no security in their futures and don’t believe they can exert any influence over the forces that control their fates.

The hopeful also feel they’ve been lied to, cheated and used, but haven’t given up. They see change as an opportunity instead of a threat, a chance to reinvent themselves and maybe the country for the better. They aren’t looking for scapegoats. They’re willing to take the risks of tolerance and to give up some security to forge a path into the unknown.

One group sees democracy as a zero-sum game whose rules are rigged against them. They think they’re falling behind because Others are getting ahead.

The other group thinks that if everyone follows the rules, nobody will fall too far behind and everybody has a shot at winning.

People in these two groups have one thing in common: they’re all angry with each other. The fearful view the hopeful as dupes who will only bring on more of the same. They want reassurance that somebody powerful will seize control to protect them, and they’re willing to let that person blow the whole country to hell because they believe the system can’t be fixed. They confuse bluster with bravery, bullying with strength and compromise with betrayal.

The hopeful will have to drag the fearful, kicking and screaming, into the future of an imperfect democracy. In this country, we dare to venture forth instead of hunker down, we value liberty over security and we strive to overcome fear with courage.

 

 

Frankentrump’s monster: It’s alive!

 

The Republican Party has created the most oafish presidential nominee ever as surely as Dr. Frankenstein created his monster.

Start with dead ideas and keep digging them up, no matter how rotten: tax breaks for the rich, benefit cuts for the poor;  unlimited campaign funding for corporations, voting restrictions for people. Cobble together with beliefs, not facts.

Stoke the anger of voters by blaming the powerless. Deny reality. Refuse to leave the isolated echo-chamber of angry old white men. Expel those who sound warnings.

Zap the campaign with high-voltage fearmongering and watch this give life to an unnatural creation who appalls and frightens. It’s alive!

Voters naïve enough to go along with this are, like Little Maria, putting themselves in peril. The rest of us hope to kill the monster at the ballot box.

Failing that, we’ll see angry villagers storming the White House, and every other Trump property, with clubs and torches.

TIANANMEN 2.0

Protesters in Hong Kong rally for press freedom. Photo from Bloomberg.com

Protesters in Hong Kong rally for press freedom. Photo from Bloomberg.com

IS TOMORROW THE DAY CHINA’S LEADERS ORDER AN ATTACK ON HONG KONG?

 

It’s a clash that’s been coming since the British marched out of Hong Kong on July 1, 1997. Despite promises from Beijing and wishful thinking in Hong Kong, surely its people knew that China’s dictators someday would move to snuff out their freedom.

It may be inevitable.

The anniversary of the day Great Britain handed Hong Kong to China always sparks protest. Tomorrow’s anniversary will be especially tense. China’s state-controlled news media have been blasting Hong Kongers over their ceaseless clamor for democracy.

“If they overplay their hand – just like the folks did in 1989 in Tiananmen Square – the state comes down on them,” said a leading pollster in the city.

But as Martin Luther King Jr. and Mao Tse-tung knew, only by “overplaying their hand” can people successfully challenge power.

Perhaps the fear that ham-fisted repression could hurt profits from the country’s most prosperous city will keep Beijing from clamping down. It’s also possible that forceful and prolonged pressure from international powers could prevent Chinese tanks and guns from rolling into Hong Kong. Without outside aid, that little island is destined to be subsumed into a giant dictatorship where free speech is prosecuted as subversion and calls for democracy treated as treason.

And with the example of Tiananmen, there’s no way international leaders can claim they didn’t see this coming.

 

 

 

Fairness? Not our job.

Benjamin Franklin probably never imagined a United States of I've-got-mine.

Benjamin Franklin probably never imagined a United States of I’ve-got-mine.

 

Here’s how Chief Justice John Roberts explained the Supreme Court’s decision to let rich people give up to $3.6 million every two years to candidates and political parties they want to influence: “No matter how desirable it may seem, it is not an acceptable government objective to ‘level the playing field.'”

Really? Removing artificial, unfair barriers to citizenship, voting, education, jobs and health care is not an acceptable government objective? In fact, the job of a democratic government is precisely to ensure that all citizens enjoy an equal chance of influencing the policies that govern their pursuits of life, liberty and happiness.

In the ceaseless struggle by the many against rigged rules that favor the wealthy and powerful few, Roberts and his court cronies are on the wrong side. For now, that side appears to have the upper hand. But as the history of every revolution demonstrates, there’ll come a time when the structure of entrenched privilege collapses, crushed between the weight of unsustainable injustice and the pressure of popular uprising.

And don’t you know that Roberts and his ilk will be shocked, shocked, at the notion that their actions could have played any part in the uproar.

 

 

Freedom to threaten, not to compromise

Gun extremists insist that liberty depends on unlimited access to guns. In their view, firearms protect their freedom of expression to  threaten a lifelong gun owner with death, but not his right to disagree with them. 

gun belt buckle

Gun journalist Dick Metcalf, 67, suggested in his  column at Guns & Ammo magazine that requiring 16 hours of firearms training for gun purchasers was not an unreasonable infringement of their Second Amendment rights.  Every constitutional right, he wrote, is regulated in some way. He used the old example of that well-known First Amendment limit on free speech that prohibits people from falsely yelling “Fire” in a crowded theater. More recent versions of this argument would be joking about blowing up an airplane while going through security screening, or posting idle musings on Facebook about which fellow students you might like to shoot.

Unfortunately for Metcalf, his editors fired him after caving to threats about cancelled subscriptions from outraged readers and loss of advertising revenue from gun makers.

Democracy requires consensus, a meeting on middle ground achieved through compromise on both sides. What gun nuts endorse, with their hysteria, distortion and willful refusal to acknowledge rational arguments, is armed-to-the-teeth anarchy.  Every person a law unto himself and no central authority to tell him otherwise – if that’s what they want, they might like living in Afghanistan.