Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Triggered

I had a visceral response to a black and white photograph someone posted on Facebook today. It showed a group of women lined up in a field, naked. Some of them were holding small children in their arms. The person who posted the picture explained that the photo was taken in Nazi Germany before the Nazis figured out the "final solution", that the women were Jewish, and that they were waiting their turn to be shot one by one and then buried in a shallow mass grave.

The poster wondered what the women were thinking and feeling as they waited to die. Were they afraid? Were they focused on soothing their frightened children? She also asked why their killers insisted that they strip naked: why that final humiliation? They were all just everyday women, with the thighs and tummies and breasts that everyday women have, and quite likely also the sense of modesty and vulnerability in nakedness of everyday women. It was that vulnerability that I had the visceral response to, as well as the knowledge of what would happen next, not only to them but to millions of others.

I wondered what their killers felt. Was it glee and exhilaration? Horror? Numbness? Hate? Did they feel like bigger men, having been empowered to kill?

The person who posted the photo did so in response to the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville.

It wasn't an over-reaction.

A woman, Heather Heyer, was killed at that rally, run over by a white supremacist. A rabbi waited in his synagogue with his congregation while heavily armed people with Nazi flags marched past chanting "no more Jews" and wondered what he could possibly do if one of these submachine-gun-toting fanatics burst through his doors. A disabled person in a wheelchair was doused with gasoline and threatened with an open flame. A UVA professor had a stroke while defending someone who was being beaten, and later died.

Anyone who marches with a Nazi flag, knowing what it stands for, voluntarily aligns himself with the murderous regime that decreed the death of those defenseless naked women. Anyone who knowingly aligns himself with that regime loses their right to be considered human, never mind the First Amendment. Anyone who aids, abets, and encourages them is in the same category. Not human, not animal (because no animal would do such a thing to their own kind), not vegetable, not mineral. A category all their own: evil.

The Charlottesville marchers are finding out that actions have consequences: they are being outed on Twitter one by one. Some are losing their jobs; others, who were violent, are finding out that there are arrest warrants waiting for them. One was even disowned by his own father. A part of me feels that it is good for them to experience the persecution they wish to inflict on others; another part of me wonders whether they'll become any less hateful and violent if they are shunned, unemployed or in jail. I somehow doubt it.

I have no answers, but I do know who unleashed this. Every thinking person does. Conditions may have been ripe, just as they were in Germany in the 1930s, but nothing happens until there is a Fuhrer to give his assent, and the assent has been given. It is now up to those who think and know and have the power to act to stop the madness.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

I gotta quit Trump

I gotta quit Trump. This whole Trump thing is interfering with my sleep. My meditation. My exercise routine. It's making me wake up every morning in a welter of anxiety and driving me into a rage several times a day. It's raising my blood pressure and making me fat.

It's gotta stop.

I'm sure I'm not the only who feels every day like they are living in a novel penned by Kafka. The outrages and absurdities just keep piling up. White supremacists rule in the White House writing executive orders expressly designed to harm people. Trump accuses his predecessor of a felony; his inane "advisor" claims surveillance by microwave oven. "Exhausted" secretary of state Rex Tillerson puts the nuclear option on the table regarding North Korea. The proposed health care law and budget take America back to the dark ages, cutting arts, science, environmental and safety protections, education. President Trump lies through his teeth EVERY. SINGLE. BLOODY. DAY.

Seriously, if someone pitched this to Hollywood as a movie script 30 years ago, they would have been laughed out of the room. But someone should have pitched it, and made the movie, because then maybe we would not be living it now. (I can see it as a Sacha Baron Cohen effort: "American President Borat". It would have made millions.)

Even as a reality show it's impossible not to watch. The suspense is unbearable: will the FBI nail Trump & Co. before they do irreparable damage? Will the Muslim ban stand? Will Neil Gorsuch be nominated and up-end the balance in the Supreme Court? Will the Republicans succeed in repealing Obamacare and replacing it with Ryan's hybrid monster-child of a healthcare act? Will Big Bird and the EPA be axed? Will Trump supporters ever see the light, get to the breaking point, and vote against the new and improved swamp? And, seriously, if things get bad enough, will the military and the intelligence agencies step in to remove the president before he starts a nuclear war? It would not be a good thing, politically speaking, but the way things are going, it's not something I would count out.

All this makes it very hard to quit Trump and especially hard to quit Twitter, where all the breaking news, real and imagined, can be found. I have a feeling that when things unravel, they will unravel fast, and I want to be there to catch the news when they do. Every day I look to see whether President Trump has quit, been arrested, or ordered impeached. I look morning, noon, and night, and I feed on the intriguing tidbits presented by @20committee, @LouiseMensch, and @maddow, and @KeithOlbermann's juicy rants. But all this keeps me in a state of high dudgeon 24/7 and makes it difficult to sleep. Sometimes I even forget to eat. My friends call it an obsession; I am pretty sure that it's a mental illness now affecting a lot of Americans.

To qualify: I am a history major and the daughter of a woman who had to spend years in hiding during the Second World War. In the first capacity I am keenly aware of political threats of historical magnitude. Make no mistake: Trump is one. In the second, some part of my limbic brain has identified Trump as an existential threat to my own survival. I am watching him the way a small animal watches a predator from hiding. I am watching him and his dangerous tribe, and also the apex predators circling him who might take him down. I am rooting for my kind, the millions of other small animals living in the forest, and I find it impossible to look away because all our lives might depend on what happens next.

So I can't quit Trump.

Monday, January 9, 2017

More thoughts on Trump's presidency

I'm not suicidal, but if there were some painless, effortless way of de-materializing soon to exit the planet, I would certainly give it due consideration. Call me a coward, but between climate change and politics we could be entering a time of potential pain and chaos that I am not sure I want to see first hand.

I am a historian by training. During my university years I made it my goal to study the history of the Western world from the time of the Greeks to the modern era. The general idea was to have a time-line and an overview. I also threw some international relations into the mix and had the pleasure and honour to study with Janice Stein. While I do not claim to have great depth of knowledge, I do have breadth, and what I see happening in the world today scares me.

I am not the only one to perceive the birth pangs of a New World Order that will supersede the one that has kept us safe from nuclear war since the end of World War II. The U.S. and Russia seem to be lining up against China, and China is feeling justly threatened. If you have ever seen the movie "Hero", or even if you just know anything about China, you would have a frisson run down your back at the prospect. And if you studied enough history, you will know that humanity has never managed to forge a New World Order, even a better one, without first getting into a major war. After millions are killed and the dust settles, the participating countries agree to sit down and negotiate an agreement to create lasting peace. While that may be great for the survivors, it's not so useful for the millions that died in the meantime. In the gap between the death of the old order and the birth of the new there is scope for a lot of human suffering. There is also no guarantee that most of us will survive the next Great War or even that the world will be a place fit to live in after it's done.

It doesn't help that we are living in an era of reckless leaders. Putin has been an adventurist for a while, but now we are adding Trump to the mix. Since November 8th the new president elect has been busy provoking China through tweets and through overtures to Taiwan. China has now twice in official media proposed teaching Trump "respect" and just today vowed "revenge" if Taiwan is recognized. This is from a country that has been so reticent in expressing criticism that it usually just "regrets" whatever it disapproves of. Many people see Chinese retaliation in the form of a trade war, but Chinese actions (the snagging of the U.S. drone, flying a nuclear bomber over the South China sea) say otherwise.

While people are focusing on Trump's tweets about SNL, or Hamilton, or Meryl Streep's Golden Globes speech, or even on the national peril created by his antediluvian advisers, there is real peril afoot internationally that's more pressing even than the potential overturn of Roe v. Wade. I note that the last person to realize the graveness of any situation would be Trump himself, who has shown every sign of not being willing to listen to the experts and whose chief talent seems to be to make any situation that arises exponentially worse.

As of January 20th he will have the nuclear launch codes and the absolute authority to declare war. So yes, I am worried.