Saturday, December 3, 2016

Election 2016: The postwar world


America has always been aspirational to me. Even when I chafed at its hypocrisies, it somehow always seemed sure, a nation that knew what it was doing, refreshingly free of that anything-can-happen existential uncertainty so familiar to developing nations. But no longer. The election of Donald Trump has flattened the poetry in America’s founding philosophy: the country born from an idea of freedom is to be governed by an unstable, stubbornly uninformed, authoritarian demagogue. And in response to this there are people living in visceral fear, people anxiously trying to discern policy from bluster, and people kowtowing as though to a new king.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

I think that you will all agree that we are living in most interesting times.

Joseph Chamberlain, 1898



Nobody knows, from sea to shining sea, why we are having all this trouble with our republic.
Thomas McGuane, "Ninety-Two in the Shade"



WE’RE THREE WEEKS and change into the social experiment that some lazy and short-sighted lexicographers have wrongly labeled “Trump’s America,” and we can see where this is going already. There have been few surprises, and too many at the same time. See the picture next to these words? This is the nation we’re invited to believe in today.

He hasn’t even raised his miniature hand to take the oath of office yet, but we’re already living witness to the vision of this nation according to Donald John Trump, a cold, impersonal, casually brutal, utterly transactional nation bristling with weapons and grievances; an angry country willing to walk away from its treaties, to galvanize the champions of its more divisive persona, and marginalize millions of its own citizens in the ultimately futile pursuit of reversing the course of its own history.

For the first time in our national history, incompetence is officially a presidential virtue; an absence of tolerance for dissimilar cultures, a lack of empathy with everyday people, and an absence of experience in governing are no barriers to attaining the American presidency.

For women, black people, Latinos, Muslims, immigrants and LGBTQ Americans, much of the subconscious panorama of life — challenging enough to start with — is now even more engaged in dealing with the dumb parade, those perpetrators of the various civil crimes, slights and microstupidities that happen on a daily basis, part of the existential capoeira that is life for us, and them, and others, in the United States of America. Numerous threats real and perceived, bad manners and supremacist acting out are the much of the order of the day. Let us count some of the ways.

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At least five mosques — five in California and one in Georgia — got the same corrosively hateful letter over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Among other threats made in the handwritten missive was one made on behalf of the apparent president-elect, Donald Trump. “He’s going to do to you Muslims what Hitler did to the Jews.”

The letters, which called Muslims “children of Satan,” were sent to Islamic centers in San Jose, Long Beach and Pomona, Calif. over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend and, since then, from an address in Savannah, Ga. The letters hailed the apparent president-elect as the “new sheriff in town,” just the man who’ll “cleanse America and make it shine again.”

“You Muslims are a vile and filthy people. Your mothers are whores and your fathers are dogs,” the letters state. “You are evil. You worship the devil. But your day of reckoning has arrived.”

The letters went on to say that Muslims “would be wise to pack your bags and get out of Dodge.”

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THE HATE campaign targeting California houses of worship must be investigated as an act of religious intimidation, and our state’s leaders should speak out against the growing anti-Muslim bigotry that leads to such incidents,” Hussam Ayloush, executive director for the Los Angeles office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, said in a statement as reported by The Washington Post.

CAIR also said that the FBI questioned Muslims in eight states (and possibly more) in order to follow leads about a previous threat from al-Qaeda to carry out attacks before the Nov. 8th election, The Post reported.

Hassan Shibly, a lawyer and executive director of CAIR in Florida, told The Post that his clients were asked whether they knew the al-Qaeda leaders killed in U.S. military strikes last month and whether they knew anyone with terrorist intentions in the United States or abroad.

“The FBI actions . . . to conduct a sweep of American Muslim leaders the weekend before the election is completely outrageous and . . . borderline unconstitutional,” Shibly told The Post. “That’s the equivalent of the FBI visiting churchgoing Christians because someone overseas was threatening to blow up an abortion clinic. It’s that preposterous and outrageous.”

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The Evansville Courier Press reported on Nov. 26 that police in that Indiana town were looking for the mouthbreathing deplorable who vandalized the predominately black Liberty Missionary Baptist Church on Thanksgiving.

The unknown person used chalk to scrawl “Kill All Koons” on the church’s back door and “Koons Inside” on the church’s van.

“I’ve been the pastor here for 17 years and we’ve never had anything like this,” the Rev. Todd Robertson, church pastor told the Courier Press.

It was the second time in November that the church was hit with racial slurs. According to the Courier Press, the latest incident happened shortly after the church handed out nearly 300 meals to people in need.

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Delta Air Lines has banned an as-yet unnamed Trump supporter, a blazing asshole whose over-the-top partisanship made for unwanted in-flight entertainment aboard a Nov. 22 Delta flight from Atlanta to Allentown, Pa. A video of the passenger’s antics, taken by another passenger, went viral over the Thanksgiving weekend. The man was seen clapping and shouting at passengers, “Donald Trump, baby!”

“We got some Hillary bitches on this plane?”

“Trump! It's your president,” the man yells. “Every goddamn one of you. If you don't like it, too bad.” Eventually he STFU and sat back down and was allowed to remain aboard the flight.

Delta apologized, with Delta CEO Ed Bastian writing in a memo to customers to say “the behavior we see in this video does not square with our training or culture.” Bastien added: “He will never again be allowed on a Delta plane.”

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IT’S APPARENTLY time to welcome back an old ... phenomenon. The swastika — you know it, you loathe it — has been making a comeback all over America. In recent weeks, and certainly since the morning of Nov. 9 — the 78th anniversary of Kristallnacht, if anyone’s counting — it’s become quite the thing, the minimalist, devastatingly evocative decoration in the post-election United States of America.

Damned thing turns up almost anywhere these days. Like a few weeks back on a Manhattan apartment building, the one where Brad Hoylman, a gay Jewish New York state senator, happens to live. Hoylman found two of the little bastards gouged into the building where he lives with his husband. On Nov. 11, someone painted one on a softball dugout wall in Wellsville, N.Y., southeast of Buffalo. If the symbol wasn’t clear enough, the message included the words, 'Make America White Again."

The symbol of the Twisted Fuckup showed up clear across the country. In Los Angeles that same day, a well-regarded top editor at the entertainment trade publication Variety discovered a swastika carved into her car.

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But don’t think this is purely a flyover event; the new preoccupation with the performance art of intolerance didn’t leave middle America out. The swastika’s literally turned up on sidewalks and storefronts and restaurant bathroom mirrors across our great land.

From the Chicago Patch:

BOULDER HILL, IL — Amanda and Joshua S. have always had problems with their neighbors, but this weekend it went too far.

Amanda, who asked that Patch not use her last name, woke up on Sunday morning, ran some errands and came home to two swastikas on her Springdale driveway.

“There was a pair of them at the bottom of our driveway,” she said. “I started walking around and there was another on the corner of our lot.” ...

Her biracial husband Joshua was called a "b---h n----r" Monday by a Hispanic kid surrounded by three black men, Amanda said.

“It’s complete and utter insanity,” she said.

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And some people want to go further than that to make the swastika an indelible, unforgettable experience. In the days after the election, after a heated conversation with some constituent, a staffer for Seattle City Councilwoman Kshama Sawant was told by the caller that “I will come and tattoo a swastika on your head and on that bitch’s head.”

The new rise of the literal symbol has, as you’d expect, led to a similar rise of the attitude and thinking behind it, the awakening of those angels of our more malign nature, the bad behavior — from racial insults to arson to felonious assaults — that’s always lurking just under our thin, thin skins.

The Southern Poverty Law Center reported that between Nov. 9 and Nov. 19, at least 867 bias-related incidents occurred in the United States.

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THIS IS the dawn of another America. The post-election iteration of our country is under assault. Post-election America is a smoldering, quietly angry place. Payback is top of mind, and many, many people are quietly terrified at what happens next.

That fear manifests in different ways. Vice Sports and The Daily Beast reports how Trump’s election may well be a martial arts instructors’ full employment act. Women, especially Muslim women, have increased enrollment in self-defense classes. “Enquiries and membership are increasing at completely unexpected numbers at both the Krav Maga Institute and Radical MMA. The Center for Anti-Violence Education in Brooklyn has been particularly overwhelmed,” VICE’s Sarah Kurchak reported on Nov. 23.

Erin Gloria Ryan reported in The Daily Beast: “a Muslim-American group requested self-defense training for 7,000 people. ... 300 people RSVP'd to a multiweek self-defense and violence de-escalation workshop the organization periodically offers. Their facility can accommodate 25 at a time."

“Many martial-arts and self-defense schools contacted by The Daily Beast say that women, Muslim Americans, and LGBTQ individuals account for an uncharacteristic portion of the latest barrage,” Ryan reported.

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If Cornel West is right, it’s all perhaps to be expected. West, the author of “Race Matters” professor and social agent provocateur, wrote in The Guardian after the election:

“White working- and middle-class fellow citizens – out of anger and anguish – rejected the economic neglect of neoliberal policies and the self-righteous arrogance of elites. Yet these same citizens also supported a candidate who appeared to blame their social misery on minorities, and who alienated Mexican immigrants, Muslims, black people, Jews, gay people, women and China in the process.

“This lethal fusion of economic insecurity and cultural scapegoating brought neoliberalism to its knees. In short, the abysmal failure of the Democratic party to speak to the arrested mobility and escalating poverty of working people unleashed a hate-filled populism and protectionism that threaten to tear apart the fragile fiber of what is left of US democracy. And since the most explosive fault lines in present-day America are first and foremost racial, then gender, homophobic, ethnic and religious, we gird ourselves for a frightening future.”

Damn, Cornel, stop biting your tongue. Say how you really feel.

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YOU LOOK hard to find anything resembling a bright side to all this. The election didn’t disappoint ... at least if you’re of a certain recreational persuasion.

Among the laws voters backed on Nov. 8 were measures approving recreational marijuana in California, Nevada, Maine and Massachusetts, and the use of medical marijuana in in Arkansas, Florida and North Dakota. The map of the cannabis-inclined states of America is less of a patchwork than it was before; the entire west coast from Washington state to California is THC-friendly, and due-east neighbor Nevada is too.

Which is probably a good thing, or at least an innocent thing. We’ll probably need a good pot buzz to get through the next 48 days. In any case, for all its benign narcotic properties, marijuana couldn’t possibly put this country into a stupor deeper or stronger than the one we imposed on ourselves on Election Day.

Image credits: Historical amnesiacs (top photo): Crosscut. Children of Satan letter: WXIA. CAIR logo: © 2016 Council on American-Islamic Relations. White nationalists cheer Trump: via The Atlantic. Building swastika: Brad Hoylman. Sidewalk swastikas: via Chicago Patch. Bias-related incidents chart: Southern Poverty Law Center. Shitheads on the LIRR tweet: +Eyewitness News ABC7NY . Bigot's truck: via Crosscut.

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