Friday, December 23, 2016

Goodbye to Dignity in the White House


President Obama & the First Lady at the 2016 CBC Foundation Awards Dinner

President Obama & First Lady Michelle Obama at CBC Foundation Awards Dinner

It's a daunting prospect, four long years without an American president and first lady who have been a joy in every way and a constant reminder of the true nature of integrity, dignity, compassion, understanding, courage, sanity, coherence, brilliance of mind.

First Lady Michelle Obama spoke to OprahWinfrey in June this year about the next generation of women. When Oprah asked what single piece of advice she could give to young women, Michelle Obama's response, and she included young men, was that "We can never be complacent... The work always continues…We have seen in recent times how quickly things get taken away from us if we aren't vigilant."

Indeed. And that was in June. From then on the nightmare has just gotten darker and darker, as every decent human value has been assaulted by Trump and his cohorts.

Do we even know how to be vigilant enough anymore? Did we ever? Conservatives are very good at vigilance because they're often driven by anger and fear, which are the most powerful motivators to action. Liberals aren't so good at the kind of vigilance that's necessary to stop sociopaths from getting into power. Too often they try to see the best in everybody, which is good as an overarching philosophy, but not if it blinds you to the reality of what people's anger and fear will drive them to. And it's not much of a motivator. Let's all try to get along. If somebody is abusing your child, do you try to get along with them?

Don't sweat the small stuff. People say it a lot, but the small stuff is the early warning signal, it's the hairline crack. Small cracks never go away, they always widen, and if you catch them early, not much damage is done. The more you ignore them, the less sensitive you become to them until you only wake up when your house has collapsed.

Throughout the lead-up to the election, every intelligent person and journalist with a conscience and the capacity to separate media-driven hysteria and fake news from reality was shouting warnings about Trump. But it was too little too late.

Where has everybody been during Obama's terms, where the GOP has done everything it could to obstruct him and not do its job? Where was the liberal media outrage at Obama's unpopularity when he was doing a sterling job despite the obstructions? Where was our outrage at the vicious racism that was directed at him and the First Lady and at the up-swelling of racism and white fear of losing status quo that led to a burgeoning of white supremacist groups?

That's not where it all started, but it's where it could have been stopped. The GOP got away with not doing its job. It got away with the gerrymandering, with targeting minority voters, making it harder for them to vote. Those were some pretty sizable cracks.

It was small step from there to a candidate who would campaign on enabling hatred and assault on human decency in every aspect and encourage Russian interference in a presidential election and was too stupid to understand how that would imperil American democracy. A small step to millions believing fake news and to the main social media platform through which it was disseminated not identifying it until it was too late. The mainstream media didn't identify it either. From there it was easy for an FBI director to 'innocently' release a statement that would sway the election and hand it to a sociopath.  

Yesterday, apropos apparently of Putin's speech to his military leadership that Russia needed to upgrade its nuclear capacity allegedly so that it could penetrate sophisticated defense systems, Trump tweeted that the US needs to increase its nuclear capacity until people come to their senses about nukes. When I saw the news last night my blood ran cold. So best buddies Putin and Trump are in stand-off already.

Two out-of-control narcissists, hungry for control and desperate for affirmation, and both with the power to set off another world war. The alarming thing is that Putin is a terrible man but he's intelligent. The same can't be said of Trump, who is frighteningly gullible and manipulable. 

This is what happens when an over-enabled cheat, obsessive liar, a racist, a sexist and a bigot with an over-sized ego is elected with the help of a partisan FBI director and Russian intervention.

From the Obama Administration to this. Pave paradise and put up a parking lot. Vigilance; we need to upgrade our idea of what it entails. I've seen a huge outpouring of frustration on Twitter and Facebook from people who were vigilant, and who did speak their mind, over and over. Who turned out for the vote. But it was too little too late. Even as a non US citizen, I could have done more. A whole lot more.

Because this isn't just America's problem. It affects all of us. The racist bigot who is about to take over the White House has enabled white supremacy in the US, which has a ripple effect around the world. He will happily screw up international trade agreements and relationships and create massive uncertainty in the global economy. It would thrill him to increase nuclear capacity and give the order to bomb the shit out of a country at three in the morning because somebody in that country told the truth about him, or because he read something on a fake news site, or because he realized that the hair he has left is thin and straggly.

Before the election, I went to a lecture given in Cape Town by a visiting US professor, a passionate Democrat, unequivocally damning of the GOP and Trump. He said that up until recently his only involvement in politics has been to vote, but it's not enough anymore. It's not enough for any of us.

How did America go from the best to the worst? While we were sleeping. We thought we were awake but we were dreaming. Now we've woken up to a nightmare. What's left to do?