Saturday, February 18, 2017

Trump Adopts Terrorism

Many have lamented the tide of decline of liberal democracy throughout the world, me among them. Clearly, the tide has moved into the United States. For a few weeks after the election I was willing to give some breathing room to Trump, to see how much was talk and how much would be action. My wife warned me that this was not a wise stance. But I found myself hoping. Denial is a primitive psychological defense, and I have long employed it. I was using it with Trump. No longer. The cabinet appointments have been horrible. And now the shock and awe of anti-immigrant terrorism has been overwhelming. I'm more than there.

Trump has a large following. Not a majority, and I'm hopeful that I am not in denial in thinking that it won't be such ever, but they sure have taken over. It's scary. I'm hopeful again not to be in denial in observing that Nazi control of Germany arose from weak governmental institutions, as opposed to strong American governmental institutions, and in observing that ours is the economics of prosperity rather than Germany's economics of Depression – although if Trumpism is to continue, the result could well be depression, it's true. I'm hopeful when I look at the world of the caudillos and observing that their traditions were less secure than ours, and that the gulf between rich and poor was wider, although understanding that ours is growing. I am cautious, but I'm hopeful.

But as Peter O'Toole defiantly declared in Lawrence of Arabia, nothing is written. They look like they are making a good try at it, riding the international wave. Executive Orders, the product of decades of executive strengthening, are providing the surfboard to ride the wave. EO's provide a narrow platform; it would take legislation to provide a motor on the board, and at this point we have to bless the tradition of the filibuster, a bulwark against tyranny of the majority. Bless you.

So what do you do if you only have a board and not a motor? Trump and the Republicans in their tolerance/support of him – I was going to say “Right Wing Republicans” but that has become a redundancy – have shown every caudillo inclination, and envy of the capacities of Putin to do what he wants with no troublesome restraints of separation of powers. Torture, victimization of minorities, bullying, suppresion of the press? Not a problem! “Do to them what they do to you,” not “do what is right,” is the mantra.

So, what you do is adopt the tactics of the enemy where you can, and get around Congress as best you can. You pick on those who are most powerless, you go for shock and awe. So, you can't deport all the 11.5 million undocumented immigrants without a lot of money and legislation – and you don't call them “undocumented immigrants,” but “illegals” – but what you can do is to terrorize them. Nothing wrong with terror, is there, if you use the standard of what “they” do to “us?” And within every society are goons who would love to do just that. ICE probably has them, they just are not wearing brown shirts yet, not yet.

Make widely visible raids, arrest random sympathetic people, mothers, saints if you can find them, put them in police vans, have children crying on TV, show the distress. Worldwide opprobrium? Bring it on – it's publicity. Defy, find people to defy. Instill fear, empower bullying. It's even better and cheaper than actual mass deportations. Terror works, it insinuates itself into the society, not just those at current risk, but those who view themselves as the next group.

Which is why I agree with everyone who says, “Resist!” Institutions and traditions are important, but in the end it takes people, specific persons, to act within those institutions and to follow those traditions. Today, even as I write this, I am at a committee meeting of the AAP, where we broke the ice by going around the table and saying what political success we had recently had, each one personally. Most people said they had been to the women's marches. Others said their kids had been there. I thought of my family's resistance, and then I noted our personal efforts to help some undocumented immigrants to get legal. Apparently all it takes in their case is money. We're happy to help. I'm thinking we should just put a sign out on our front lawn: “Resist!”

State-sponsored terrorism is a fearful thing. We're seeing the start. It's time to remember those who helped the Jews in Europe and pay back. It's time to resist. I'm still thinking that this evil wave will be meet by a far bigger counter-wave that strengthens us even more by current knowledge of how strong our democracy is. It's hard, seeing all the hatefuls in office. I just hope I'm not in denial.

Budd Shenkin

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