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Policy & Politics Mt. Rushmore

Published on July 4th, 2020 | by Steve Hanley


Everything Trump Touches Dies — RIP America

July 4th, 2020 by  

Writing in the New York Times, contributor Timothy Egan offers up this take on the insanity taking place at Mount Rushmore this weekend when Americans are celebrating the birth of our nation. Egan delves into the symbolism of the setting in the Black Hills southwest of  Rapid City, South Dakota.

No country can last long without a shared narrative. You wonder, on an Independence Day when the mood of the country is more angry and fearful than it’s been in a long time, if this nation can ever have such a thing again.

I think we can. But to make that happen, it will take an imaginative projection of the best instincts of those four imperfect men whose visages are chiseled into stone, as well as the Sioux warrior honored just down the road.

Before we get to them, let’s talk about him. Trump wants a fireworks display in the pine forest around Rushmore in the middle of fire season. There will be no required social distancing for the crowd. And the world’s most powerful narcissist will be projecting his dream to have his face carved next to those of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt.

There you have it — everything that is so awful about him in one appearance, putting the lives of American citizens and a national landmark at risk to protect his eggshell ego.

Clearly, America is at a crossroads. White people are pointing guns as black people who dare to speak up about the abusive relationship they have had with this country since 1619. People in Texas are enraged because they are told to wear masks in public and maintain social distancing to protect themselves and others from infection. They say it amounts to an assault on their liberty, as if liberty means being free to cross the center line of the road if we feel like it, urinate on our neighbor’s petunias if the spirit moves us, or wander around a state capitol with an assault rifle at the ready because an executive order from a governor requires people to self-quarantine in their homes.

What America has come to stand for is a total disregard for the rights of others or the community as a whole. It’s all about what we want. Never a thought should be spared for those who live around us. The poor are demonized. It’s their own fault if they didn’t create a dot-com that made millions in an IPO. As Vince Lombardi taught us, “Winning isn’t everything. It’s the only thing.” That perversion of what sports used to be about has now taken root in the nation’s capitol, where loathsome characters like Mitch McConnell puff out their chests and declare, “Winners make the rules. Losers go home.” What a desiccated distillation of democracy that is!

Make America Great Again — Again!

100 years ago, the Klu Klux Klan reinvented itself under the guidance of William J. Simmons into an organization dedicated to “100 percent Americanism” and white Protestantism. [Most people do not know that the Klan was originally an anti-Catholic organization.] The new Klan was tightly bound up in Christian virtue and patriotic pride, according to The Atlantic, but what it was first and foremost was a white supremacist group that railed against the influx of immigrants, especially those with swarthy complexions. In every respect, it was in direct opposition to the sentiments expressed by the writings at the base of the Statue of Liberty.

It was the embodiment of a human characteristic that seems to be baked into our DNA. Everyone wants to close and lock the clubhouse door after they get into the club. Trump and his closest advisers such as Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller fanned the flames of white paranoia into a conflagration in the mind of Donald Trump and his supporters. Make America Great Again is not unique to Trump. It has been part of American culture, to a greater of lesser extent, since the country was founded.

Enter Rick Wilson, a Republican political operative who wrote a book in 2018 entitled “Everything Trump Touches Dies.” A review in The Guardian includes a number of short excerpts, including these:

  • “Everything about Trump’s opening speech was moral poison to anyone who believed in any part of the American dream. Everything about his nationalist hucksterism smelled like … a knock on the door of authoritarian statism.”
  • The right is “merrily on board with a lunatic with delusions of godhood.”
  • “There’s an odds-on chance that our grandchildren will hear this tale while hunched over guttering fires in the ruins of a radioactive Mad Max-style hellscape.”
  • The Trump administration has been “a hotbed of remarkably obvious pay-to-play and crony capitalist game-playing. How obvious? Think 1970s Times Square hooker on the corner obvious … The degree to which this president has monetized the presidency for the direct benefit of himself, his soft-jawed offspring, and his far-flung empire of bullshit makes the Teapot Dome scandal look like a warm-up act in the Corruption Olympics.”

Wilson doesn’t even bother with a catalog of Trump’s unending list of failures — a casino in Atlantic City, Trump Steaks, Trump Airlines, Trump University. Apparently, for no reason anyone can fathom, the current president has a fixation on the fact that his last name happens, through no effort on his part, to have been associated for centuries with card games in which certain cards outrank others.

He has spun this happy (for him) coincidence into a construct that has allowed him to make money simply by attaching his name to things. There is no rational reason for it, other than the internal machinations of an unstable psyche, any more than there was a rational reason why Charles Willis Manson allowed his brain to fixate on the fact that his name could be rearranged to read “Charles’ Will Is Man’s Son.” Several people died a brutal and violent death because of such a mental derangement, and America is in danger of suffering the same fate.

The Mount Rushmore Stunt

One does not have to be a student of history to see the disturbing parallel between the enormous taxpayer funded publicity stunt at Mount Rushmore last night and the grotesque outdoor rallies orchestrated by Joseph Goebbels that featured bonfires, powerful spotlights, and the amplified ravings of another madman.

People cringe when Trump and his coterie of sycophants are compared to Adolf Hitler, but the truth is, both men rose to power by extolling the virtues of white people and demonizing others. For Hitler, it was Jews and Gypsies. For Trump, it is Blacks and Hispanics. The cast of characters is different, but the play is the same and we all know how it ends.

The Religious Right Is Neither

Here’s Rick Wilson again commenting on Trump and his unwavering support by the evangelical community.

“All the things evangelicals had said for generations that made a candidate anathema were suddenly just fine … Being a goddamned degenerate pussy-grabber with a lifetime of adultery, venality, and dishonesty is not, to my knowledge, one of the core tenets of the Christian faith … Trump has opened entirely new theological avenues … There is literally not one aspect of Trump’s behavior as a citizen, a husband, and as a man that shows the slightest scintilla of repentance for anything, ever.”

It should be intuitively obvious to the most casual observer that the so-called evangelicals are predominantly whites who have wrapped their blatant racism in a blanket of religious fervor that bears no relationship whatsoever to the teachings of Jesus. He preached love for the least among us and how the meek shall inherit the Earth. Nothing could be further from a culture that extols the making of money and trampling on fellow citizens in order to ascend the stairway to heaven.

In the end, Wilson describes the Trump presidency as an “exercise in self-fellation.” You may have to look that up in your Funk & Wagnalls but the meaning is pretty clear if you have never actually used that phrase yourself.

The Illusion Of Strength

Writing in the Washington Post, Michael Gerson observes,

“The past few weeks have provided additional evidence of Trump’s primary driving instinct: to avoid the appearance of weakness. He wants, above all, to be seen as a strong man.

“More than an ideology or a governing philosophy, Trumpism is a certain view of strength. It is strong to crush those who challenge you — even if they are average citizens and you are the president of the United States. It is strong to strike back twice as hard and below the belt. It is strong to dominate and humiliate your enemies. And what is the opposite of strength? Mercy is weakness. Empathy is weakness. Changing in response to pressure (or reason) is weakness.”

I have on occasion compared Trump’s tantrums to those of a two-year-old with a full diaper. As a father and a grandfather, I feel I have some authority in these matters. Gerson makes much the same point. “There is something infantile about this conception of strength, and in a literal sense. The overwhelming desire to dominate others, even when that means hurting them, is often rooted in some deep hurt of childhood. But such an explanation is not a justification for needlessly jeopardizing the lives of others. Or for adopting the ethics of a low-level member of a crime family.”

Black Lives Matter

The Black Lives Matter movement has an historical antecedent — the long, hot summer of 1967 when many of America’s cities were in flames and the Black Panthers came to be regarded as domestic terrorists to be exterminated. White America did not know or care that the Panthers were providing free education and medical care to their followers. In other words, they were providing the services to their community that local, state, and federal governments refused to do.

The activism of Black people led directly to the rise of Richard Nixon, who rode into the White House on the basis of the hatred and bigotry embodied in his law and order message. The silent majority he catered to were all white people and he was the champion who would put the knee of government on the necks of our Black citizens until they learned their proper place in American culture once again. The fact that almost a third of all Black men have served time in prison since then is a testament to how successful Nixon and his followers were in crushing the African American community.

Trump made it clear last night in South Dakota that he feels the same way about BLM as Nixon did about the Black Panthers. Far from becoming a the kinder, gentler nation Republicans said they wanted a generation ago, it has become seething cauldron of hatred and bigotry under the Republican leadership of today as embodied by Donald John Trump, who says openly that protesters should be executed while he pardons murderers, con men, and thieves.

The Alternative

America’s long-term romance with democracy is at risk as Republicans everywhere try every dirty trick in the book to keep black and brown people from voting. Perhaps it is time to give democracy a boost instead of further restraints. It is unconscionable that many Americans have to take unpaid leave to vote. It is unconscionable that many Americans have to stand in line for 5 hours or more to vote. It is unconscionable that so many Americans are excluded from the voting process all together.

It is unconscionable that many of America’s poorest residents live in polluted neighborhoods and have no access to affordable health care. It is unconscionable that America incarcerates more of its citizens than the rest of the world combined and that many of its prisons are run by private corporations which lobby for tougher laws so they will always have plenty of prisoners to fill their jail cells. It is unconscionable that so many inmates are kept in soul-searing solitary confinement for 23 hours a day for years.

The way forward is a national conversation on race and privilege, one that incorporates the message of love as given to us by Jesus and not the lessons of hate as handed down by the angry punishing God of the Old Testament.

It’s time to decouple health care from employment. How bitterly ironic that many of the 30 million Americans who have lost their jobs as a result of the coronavirus pandemic cannot afford to treat the illness that led to their loss of employment in the first place.

Perhaps the most powerful distillation of what a modern democracy should be like was the song Imagine by John Lennon. Many of you may never have heard it so it is included here for your edification and enjoyment. I encourage you to listen to it and ponder the message of its words.

What Does This Have To Do With Clean Tech?

Some of you will get to this point and find yourself asking, “What does all this have to do with clean technology?” The answer is, “Everything.” If we are determined to live in a world where hatred and bigotry are the norm, we have lost sight of everything that makes keeping the Earth habitable for humans worthwhile.

Here is the message compressed into its irreducible minimum: Earth justice = social justice = racial justice. That’s all we need to know in order to build a sustainable society. Because if we don’t have those, what’s the point? 
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About the Author

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his homes in Florida and Connecticut or anywhere else the Singularity may lead him. You can follow him on Twitter but not on any social media platforms run by evil overlords like Facebook.

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