What Trump Represents To Me

I wrote this several weeks ago and thought: what’s the point of even writing stuff like this? It’s a glorified Facebook rant, to be echo-chambered among my friends on Facebook for what reason? It’s also divisive. I was going to delete it. I promise to my 13 readers this is my only Trump post. And who cares? – it’s just my perspective. Talking politics is kinda boring, depressing, and makes me sound like an old whiny pessimist baby. I don’t enjoy thinking about it. But, considering that political systems are the only way to solve real world problems, it’s hard not to care.

Even optimism has its limits and demands a shred of evidence. And Hope, a religious virtue, doesn’t apply here baby.

Trump represents the mass incarceration of Black people. The phrase”law and order,” which Trump uses knowingly and strategically, is possibly the most terrifying phrase to the Black man and to Black people generally. For very good reason. Historically speaking, it means nothing less than the mass incarceration of black men, which has been going on for decades and continues to go on. As The New Jim Crow shows, it’s the new Jim Crow segregation. History is littered with politicians using that phrase – “law and order” – and then creating policies or defending policies that result in putting 1 in 3 black men into the prison system, disenfranchising citizens and destroying families. Both parties are guilty of this. In fact, after reading the book From the War on Poverty to the War on Crime, I learned that tough-on-crime policies actually started with one of the best democratic presidents ever – good ‘ol Lyndon Baynes Johnson. To be clear, Republicans have been much worse, and much more open and harsh about it, but both parties are to blame. And intentions have nothing to do with it. Hillary Clinton, by her supporting some of Bill Clinton’s policies, by calling black men “super predators,” is guilty of the same shit (and I believe she apologized for that but, again, intentions don’t matter). Any politician can claim they had good intentions. They’re either lying or not smart enough (and we know they suffer from both). And Trump, if you judge a man based on what they say, could very well be the worst tough-on-crime president to date. His rhetoric, paired with his internalized racism (“I’m sure some of them are good people”), paired with his legal history of racial discrimination in housing, paired with his inaccurate hell-fire dystopian descriptions of “urban centers” (he would say “ghetto” if he could), paired with Rudi Giuliani’s idea of stopping and frisking black people on the street for being black. This is a recipe for what he would call a “disaster” (but he won’t call it that – he’ll call it “keeping our streets safe” from “bad people” or “thugs”).

Trump represents “no skin off my back.” In other words, I’m white, I’m male, I’m employed. I’ll be just fine thank you very much. Which means I could of voted for Jill Stein or whoever if I wanted (I didn’t). I didn’t wake up the next morning terrified. The worst thing I could possibly face is the loss of my pension, which I’m sure Trump would obliterate without a thought – not that he alone has the power to do that. I suppose that is a big thing. And that’s just me, standing on the pinnacle of privilege. Imagine other people.

Trump represents stupidity, idiocy, not being educated, not learning, not reading, not fact checking, not doing your homework, not qualified, not listening to science, not caring about objective facts or having a deep respect for them. He loved the stupid people that voted for him, and he seems to be uneducated himself. And if you’re stupid, it’s probably not your fault. That’s a societal problem. Our country made us stupid by having a stupid education system created by stupid politicians. So Trump represents a celebration of stupidity. Denying climate change, for example, which, apparently, might be some of the people he surrounds himself with as president (update: yes, he is), is the epitome and pinnacle of brash ignorance and willful stupidity. Good luck science. Good luck environment. You’re both fucked.

Although white children might be in luck because we invented a thing called “charter schools,” which is code for good white schools and everyone damn well knows it. Trump, by choosing Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education, is pro Charter school. Let’s fund those with public money, and let public education continue to under-perform on the global stage. White supremacy continues.

Trump represents fake religion and everything that’s wrong with religion – and I consider myself religious. He’s not a religious person, and he’s not a good, nice, or decent person either – except to his friends of course (religious people are great at that). But masterfully, he convinced the masses of fake religious people, hiding behind their fake religious political party, to vote for someone that is so far from Jesus’ teachings it’s embarrassing. And then these fake religious people have the audacity to make fake religious excuses for voting for Trump, which is annoying to hear. Like “I believe God can use Donald” and “I believe God controls elections” and “I believe Donald will surround himself with good, smart people” or “I don’t really like him” or “it’s not about Trump.” Are you kidding me? Whatever makes you sleep good at night. Just know that you are watering down religion for good honest people; just know that you and Donald are the vipers and snakes that Jesus was referring to, when he was referring to hypocrisy.

A proper religion response to this whole debacle, although very depressing and defeatist, would be to disengage from politics altogether, to give up and give the system a middle finger. Disengaging from power structures, in fact, is a very religious idea. This could be based on a teaching that Jesus was probably right about – that politics has nothing to do with the Kingdom of God, or righteousness, or the good life. Socrates was the same way. The real struggle is the spiritual struggle, and that’s a struggle we can actually win. In other words, politics is wordly, and wordly things are greedy and corrupt by their very nature. Politics has been the game of greedy, type A, white powerful men since day one. What makes us think that will change? Are good, decent people going to suddenly wake up tomorrow morning and want to be a career politicians? Probably not – they’ll be a teacher instead, and not get paid shit for their troubles. Unless they move to Sweden where they will be prized as educators of future people in the world.

The most effective response, in my slightly educated opinion, is massive, grassroots movements, ones that reign in power and demand things from it. Like the Civil Rights Movement of MLK, or the Black Power Movement (which was snuffed out swiftly by racist politicians), or the Black Lives Matter Movement, or several other movements I cannot name because they were started by women and thus forgotten or suppressed or ignored or taken over by men. Anyway, coordinated mass movements have shown to create policy changes, usually watered down policy changes that take a bite out of certain discriminatory policies. But make no mistake about it. We white men have a short game and a long game.. Unless anti-racist people control power, these successes will always be temporary, will always be threatened, will always be revised and watered down. As history has shown.

Trump represents the billionaire class. This is so obvious it doesn’t need to be mentioned, and he’s proud of it. He’s the spoiled rich kid who never moved beyond high school, as his emotional intelligence shows. He inherited wealth, which probably wasn’t taxed as it should be, which is unAmerican. He doesn’t pay taxes and thinks it’s smart. He wants to cut taxes for rich people and business. But rather than see Trump for who he really is – a spoiled rich kid that inherited wealth and still somehow managed to go bankrupt several times – white people would rather see him as the embodiment of the American Dream, of what’s possible for anybody that is given the chance and works hard and isn’t impeded by silly democrats and their spending and welfare state and taxes and love of helping Black people and Hispanics (which isn’t even true unfortunately). Trump is a lottery ticket and maybe they can win too.

Trump represents anti-feminism, masculinity, testosterone, power, backroom deals, and violence. He’s a sexual predator, a megalomaniac, and everything that’s wrong with the sexist culture that men have created and (many) women go along with. Women are property, either to be taken care of and praised (if they’re pretty and on his team) or harassed and ridiculed (if they’re ugly or cross him).

Or perhaps most white people don’t like him, as polls seem to suggest. We all don’t like the system, it’s not working for us. That’s one thing we all agree on, and I’m truly glad we do. We all hate the entire political system. We all hate politics, and are sick and tired of the status quo. We agree. I hope Trump breaks the system, shakes it up. I hope he sets term limits, bans lobbyists, and all sorts of anti-establishment things. Fire every single of them – federal, state, local. Let’s start from scratch. I’m sure there’s some specific things that he will do that I will agree with. But at what cost? Even better, let’s start a direct democracy where real people vote on laws. My faith in Trump to do anything rational is equivalent to my faith in ferries or ghosts. A bad tree produces bad fruit.

What Trump Represents To Me

White People Talking about Racism

It’s a sick irony that a person like me – white, male, privileged – is in a privileged position to talk about racism in America. The epitome of privilege! Several months ago, after giving a talk at work that briefly touched on racism, a fellow African American colleague of mine approached me and basically said that my voice was powerful because I’m white. I was a strong ally. I hadn’t really considered that.

Matthew Ahmann (left of King) was an important part of the Civil Rights Movement
Matthew Ahmann (left of King…the white guy) was an important part of the Civil Rights Movement

My voice is powerful because white people need to be convinced of racism, because white people have the power, always had, and, sadly, because white people won’t believe black people when they talk about it. White people listen to me because I don’t need to talk about racism, ever. I have no skin in the game. It doesn’t affect me directly. In fact, I could just shut up and enjoy my white privilege thank you very much. I could live a happy, insulated life without troubling my delicate little mind. Yet the search for truth and love prevails in my heart, and the hearts of many. And once I learned about the facts of racism, and the history, and the disease that it has become, I could never look back.

And immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he regained his sight, and he got up and was baptized. Acts 9:18

Yesterday I learned that 51 percent of African American children are born into poverty. The ability to comprehend these facts in an empathetic, compassionate way; the ability to put faces behind these monstrous numbers, the ability to realize that your experience might be different than others. It cannot be denied. Such a light cannot be put under a basket.

White people talking about racism is comical, especially if hidden behind the internet. On one side, you have white people that don’t see it, or don’t want to. They also get highly offended if you mention “white privilege” because it suggests that they didn’t completely control their own destiny, that they didn’t pull themselves up from their own bootstraps. I get it, I really do. It’s hard to take credit away from yourself. On the other side of the argument, you have white people that are correct.

Yeah, I know, that sounds arrogant. But it’s time to be blunt. This is a debate composed of facts and one side has them. The other side has opinions, fears, anecdotes. When a rational person considers the facts, statistics, and trends of racism in America, there is one logical conclusion: that racism still exists on a systemic level. So, anyways, the two groups of white people basically talk past each other, shakes hands, agree to disagree, and life moves on. Agree to disagree?

We need to stop talking about race!  Right? That’s the problem, say some white people. Colorblindness. Well, it’s a nice thought. We tried that. It doesn’t work. When a group of people are getting the shaft, and those people happen to be black, then we must consider race at that point. That’s step one. In a perfect world, we wouldn’t have to talk about race. Because racism wouldn’t exist. We don’t live in that world.

The first step of alcoholism is admitting you have a problem. Have we reached the first step? Not even fucking close. I do think things are getting better, and I’m optimistic in the long run, but it’s hard to be happy when looking at the causalities – and the years roll by.

White People Talking about Racism

How I Learned that Racism is Real

The problem with racism is that it’s not a problem. Correction: for many white people it’s not. For various reasons, we never have to think about it, we are rarely confronted with it. Therefore it doesn’t exist. But the other problem with racism is that it does exist. And it’s still tearing our nation apart. Here’s how I became convinced.

this book was my eureka moment

Growing up in a completely white Upper Peninsula, racism was as foreign as black people. We are as diverse as a hockey team.  Yet oddly, even though none of us actually knew a black person, judging by the way we talked, there was plenty of racism going on. The N-word was used frequently and jokingly – old people and young. In high school, black jokes were on the level of ‘yo mamma’ jokes and a favorite pass time. This is called demonizing the Other; hating what you don’t understand. It’s a dangerous form of ‘passive’ racism. Still, by the time I left for college, I didn’t give it much thought. If someone asked me about racism, I may have said that racism was overcome by Martin Luther King or something textbook like that. Correction: I actually did know one black man in Menominee. I actually had hung out with him on several occasions, but partly because he bought us beer. Still, perhaps having this initial connection started everything for me.

In college I took an African American Literature class, perhaps by accident. I read Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, Toni Morrison, and Zora Neale Hurston. The scales began to fall off my eyes. I began to experience the world as a black person in history. I became interested in Martin Luther King Jr. I fell in love with his teachings, his writings, his speeches, his life and martyrdom. I listened to the “Mountaintop” speech completely enthralled, emotional, heart pounding. But still, I was studying the past. I was only half way there. I had the historical context, but now I needed to start interpreting current events in the light of past events.

Then, I found myself watching the inauguration of Barack Obama in tears. It takes a lot for me to cry, but the historical, symbolic and real significance of the situation was overwhelming.

What really brought me to the precipice – my eureka moment, the tipping point – was reading the book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. This book is heavily based on facts and statistics, from an author who was skeptical to begin with. The statistics regarding black men and prisons blew my mind. It brought everything together. Other books followed. Racism is institutional, widespread, and debilitating for millions and millions of Americans every single day. It’s no person’s fault and it’s every persons’ fault. The truth had set me free and it didn’t look good.

Now I witness events like Ferguson and Eric Garner and I understand. Racism is a complex thing, but once you understand it, you see it in the big places and in the small places. It’s a disease that has many symptoms. The choking of Eric Garner without consequences is a symptom of a much larger problem. There is no doubt that we have made meaningful progress, but there is more to be done. I’m not going to talk about solutions here, but I will say this: white people and black people (and Muslim people and minorities) need to connect on a massive scale. We need to live together, work together, worship together, share power together. We never integrated.

How I Learned that Racism is Real

the Varieties of Racism

I’ve been reading a fantastic book (Dog Whistle Politics) on the coded racial language that politicians use to scare people and get votes (specifically, how Republicans are able to get poor white people so scared that they will vote against their own interests).

Hate
Actual hatred or animosity. The Klu Klux Klan, for example, when they were hanging black people from trees. Simple, obvious, crazy, gets all the attention; yet it’s the least common nowadays. Do you know many people that actually hate black people? Didn’t think so (or at least they won’t admit it).

The sad thing about this form of racism – actual hatred – is that our Supreme Court has adopted it as the only kind of racism…good luck proving that your employer actually hates you because you’re black. According to Michelle Alexander (The New Jim Crow), this has made the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 impotent and meaningless.

Institutional
The American prison system is the best example (read The New Jim Crow if you want your mind blown). If you look at the shocking statistics of African American men in our prison system, you can only come to one reasonable conclusion: the entire criminal justice system is, so to speak, racist. Or, another way to put it, African American men are disproportionately represented in the prison system (and that’s a huge understatement). But it’s a tricky thing. One person is not behind this kind of racism, it happens slowly, and it’s hard to track down. But it’s effects are quite obvious; a racist tree will produce racist fruits; whether it’s housing, jobs, or government programs.

Unconscious
If a white person walks by a black person on the street, typically something will happen in their brain that resembles fear. This is sad be true (I have read that several experiments were done on this). In America, we have been taught to fear black men; and so we do. It’s nothing that we did, it’s simply the air we breath, the culture we live in, what we learned from media, and the long history of oppression that we inherited. As Carl Young might say, racism is part of our Collective Unconscious. And that is a scary thing.

Nixon used race as a political tool, called the Southern Strategy

Strategic/Political
Perhaps the most insidious of all is when politicians use racism for political gain (again, utilitarian thinking rears its ugly head). According to the book I’m reading, both parties are to blame but especially the modern Republican Party, which was essentially built on a racial platform (called the “Southern Strategy”). Have you ever wondered why poor white people vote for a Party that gives tax cuts to the rich and slashes social spending? Whether it’s the coded racial language of politicians, the race-baiting of right wing media, or the non-stop fear mongering about Muslims and terrorists – white people are scared shitless.

Natural?
Some people make the argument that we evolved to naturally discriminate against human beings that look different than our tribe. I’m skeptical, and I’m not sure if this is widely accepted, and I don’t know how much science this is based on, but I do know it’s out there. Some people explain the happiness of Norway and Sweden, for example, by pointing out the fact that they all look similar. People obviously point to their progressive tax code and liberal laws as well. Interestingly, racism seems to be infecting these countries as outsiders trickle in.

I suppose I can see an evolutionary advantage to being skeptical of “outsiders”–that is, people that clearly are not part of your own cooperative survival group–but race is a different concept all together.

the Varieties of Racism