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Hair on Fire

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Tone. Optimism. Presidential. And of course, pivot. Those words were bandied about in breathless punditry after Trump’s speech last Tuesday.

With expectations so low they’ve sunk beneath tectonic plates, the public is supposed to be grateful that Trump actually wasn’t incoherent and vicious in addressing the Congress of the United States, nor did he declare nuclear war (yet). Instead, he delivered a list of self-promoting pseudo-achievements, lied his way through as-usual-wildly-inaccurate statistics, and offered abstract promises with no detectable content other than over-reliance on hyperventilated adjectives.

True, he might not have been lying when he said we need to pump tens of billions more into our miniscule military budget, because he’s so ignorant he might not know we already spend more on our military every year then do the seven countries that spend the next most, combined. But liar, ignoramus, or both, he plans to eviscerate environment and health budgets to splurge on war toys.

I’m not going to respect this speech by analyzing it, as so many have done. The ability to read cliché rhetoric from a teleprompter doesn’t deserve my brain time. But I will note three things I found particularly offensive, which garnered little press coverage or even (wrongly) positive coverage.

  1. Trump highlighted victims of crimes committed by immigrants (when immigrants actually are less likely to commit crimes than people born in the USA). Yet he devoted only nine words to the murder of Indian engineer Srinivas Kuchibhotla in Kansas by a white man shouting, “Get out of my country!” Trump never even named Mr. Kuchibhotla, or acknowledged a whit of culpability for fostering a climate of hate. (As I write this, news comes that a Sikh man, standing in his own driveway in a Seattle suburb, was shot by a masked white man yelling, “Get out of my country!”)
  2. It was a cruelly cynical play for sentimentality, which even the press fell for, to spotlight Carryn Owen, widow of Ryan Owen, recently killed in Trump’s slapdash Yemen raid. Still deep in mourning, she wept and prayed while everyone stood and clapped at length; then Trump grossly proclaimed the prolonged applause a “record for Ryan.” I hope the ovation gave Carryn Owen some comfort, though in the quiet hours of the night she is still alone having to cope with raw grief. Not surprisingly, Trump made no mention of her father-in-law, Bill Owen, who has refused to meet with Trump and is demanding an investigation as to why this hurried raid was ordered just a few days after the inauguration. I hope Carryn Owen never comes to understand how she was used before the entire country; all the while Trump’s language about the raid—blaming the generals and Owen’s combat brothers—betrayed his lacking any sense of responsibility. It hurts the heart.
  3. Showing a similar lack of conscience or compassion, Trump’s manipulative display of a severely disabled rare-disease survivor, in her wheelchair in the presidential guest box, was used as the hook on which he hung his promise to eliminate most FDA regulations that stop drugs from getting to the market before thorough safety testing–implying that this young woman would not be ill if she had only had access to untested medication. Apparently Trump has never heard of a drug called thalidomide.

The one gladdening moment was articulated mutely by the Democratic congresswomen, all of whom wore white with touches of purple—women’s suffrage colors—in a statement of solidarity with each other, the Feminist Movement, the Women’s March, and all things anti-Trump. But I also have to say that the Democratic response following Trump’s speech was almost as ridiculous as what they were responding to. I’m sure former Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear is a nice enough man, but awww gee! Somebody must’ve thought it would be a smart way of reaching “the blue-collar masses” to choose a 70-year-old, out-of-office, white guy lifted from a Norman Rockwell painting to drawl his folksy pomposities at us. They couldn’t find young, smart, charismatic Democrats, like New Jersey Senator Cory Booker? Or Washington Congresswoman Pramala Jayapal? Or California Senator Kamala Harris, or the Castro brothers? Democratic Party! Must we citizens do all the work fighting reactionary Republicans and hold you upright at the same time? Must we form a new party–say, The Indivisible Party—to make you sit up and take notice?

But enough about Tuesday night, which already seems months ago because we’re now embroiled in new scandals: Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ meetings with the Russian ambassador during the campaign, and his lying about that to his own colleagues in the Senate hearing, under oath. Shock upon shock. Yet within hours, the regime was trying to pooh-pooh this bombshell, claiming that the only people alarmed about it were partisan Democrats or the enemy press or the untrustable intelligence community—all of whom, apparently, have our “hair on fire.” Personally, I’d rather my hair be on fire than my pants, from lying. If my hair’s on fire, it means I have intelligence blazing brightly beneath.

Here’s the thing. When Sessions is caught lying under oath to Congress, we’re supposed to be grateful that he’s “willing” to recuse himself from investigating, um, himself. When in his speech Trump appears as merely stupid and crude rather than a petulant maniac as usual, we should be grateful. Grateful.

That means a mass-brainwashing “normalization” process is now at high volume. So it’s time to refresh our repugnance.

Let’s mentally time-travel back to the people we were a millennium ago, in August. There we were, looking forward to the campaign ending, to not having to hear his voice or see his face every day; ready to roll up our sleeves and begin working to heal our land from the bigotry he had loosed on it. There was an end in sight and it was around the corner. Whether or not you were for Hillary, you assumed, as did most Americans (and the world), that she would win—and for the substantial majority of Americans (and the world) this was a very reassuring thought; for many, even a joyful one. Remember? Or cast your mind further back and recall how you felt when you first learned Trump was actually going to run. You ricocheted between laughter and incredulity. I mean, look at the man.

Seriously, look at the man. While I believe it’s unacceptable to judge people on those aspects of their appearance beyond their control, I also believe that how they choose to present themselves can be a revealing indicator of how they regard themselves–and how they regard, or disregard, others. It isn’t petty to pay attention to such details.

So look at him, and let the nausea you’ve been suppressing for months rise. Remember how not normal he is. That perpetually made-up face, a sullen orange. Those costly but ill-fitting suits left unbuttoned in front, lapels flapping like a gangster, with his tie deliberately knotted so that it falls extra long while the short end has to be Scotch-taped to his shirt. Such phallic imagery would be hilarious if it didn’t reflect his comments about grabbing women by their genitals or bragging about the size of his. The man has male pattern baldness—so what? Get a decent haircut and let your pate show, or shave it all off. How can this common condition possibly justify his dyed-urine-colored hair, so long on the sides and back it must sweep his shoulders each morning until he combs it over and lacquers it into place? His junk-food addiction and scorn for exercise are manifest in his overweight, thick, stiff body. His facial expressions range from anger through sulk to boredom. He doesn’t laugh. In fact, his whole family rarely smiles—though they grin for the cameras. (Someday, when the full story of this family surfaces, we will gasp in disgust—and everyone in this country, deep down, suspects that.)

Look at him. He chooses to present himself to the world as a menacing clown. This is not normal.

As candidate and electoral-college-vote winner—now in a position of power so vast he could erase life on the planet—this vulgar salesman from Queens has attacked (partial list) civil society, the rule of law, the Courts, the Congress, the press, former President Obama, the generals and military, trade partners and allies of the United States, NATO, the EU, and the United Nations. (Not counting his basic targets: Muslims, immigrants, women, Indigenous people, protesters, Chicago, etc., etc.). He’s surrounded himself with flatterers saturated with ambition and their own agendas, who validate his feedback loop of paranoia, grandiosity, murderous rage at any who might challenge him, and headline-grabbing crisis-upon-crisis management. The regime is not pivoting. In fact, The regime could be said to have adopted George Orwell’s dystopian phrase, “The war is not meant be won, it is meant to be continuous.”

Donald J. Trump is a profoundly disturbed man. To lose sight of his sickness is to forfeit our sanity.

And what about us? What we’re clinging to is the miraculous rising of ordinary citizens who choose to defend themselves, each other, the Constitution, and most wonderfully, foreigners. We cling to a free press that woke up almost too late but is now mostly doing its job with clarity and courage.

The barrage about “gratitude” will continue every time Trump doesn’t self-destruct in a public meltdown; “Look!” they’ll say, “See? He’s changing!” Then, in a wink, he’ll tweet that President Obama is a bad, sick man who wiretapped him. (Is that a hallucination-induced reflection of Trump’s own behavior? In the past, he’s often accused others of doing what he himself would like to do—or in fact has done, and he himself has acknowledged that for years, he secretly taped his own calls for “business reasons.”) They’ll tell us we’re being “unfair,” that we should “get over it,” and “get used to it.”

Our job is to not get over it, to never get used to it.

Instead, get ready: for International Women’s Day: Organizers of the Women’s March have announced The Women’s Strike: The Day Without Women, Wednesday, March 8. Check out their website WomensMarch.com for details. And get ready for The Ides of Trump, March 15, a day when everyone who has marched, volunteered, boycotted, signed petitions, called Congress, etc., writes a postcard and mails it to Trump, demanding that he release his tax returns. Check out IndivisibleGuide.com, ResistanceCalendar.org, and related sites for more upcoming activism.

The regime is now considering forcibly separating mothers and children who are trying to immigrate at the border. Truly. Those terrifyingly violent moms and their exhausted three-year-olds fleeing from femicidal cultures in Latin America; those dangerous criminal toddlers sucking on pacifiers to keep them quiet so as not to be discovered while desperately seeking asylum. If Trump tries to enforce such a plan, the power of the Women’s Movement will descend on this regime with such fury as this country has never witnessed.

It will be up to us, again and again, to rip off the scab formed by time’s passage and the regime’s propaganda, as they try to seal the wound of our horror at this man and this regime. But painful or not, we need to keep the wound fresh for genuine healing.

This is a race against time. As Trump’s hubris increases and our protests grow more effective, the regime will feel more and more cornered. Public pressure will push Congress toward a tipping point until it finally has to move against him, whether through Article 25 of The Constitution or impeachment.

Or.

Or the Republic will find itself on even more perilous terrain, as the regime may strike back in a historically predictable manner. A February NYRDaily article by Yale Professor of History Timothy Snyder was a valuable reminder of that predictable manner.

On February 27, 1933, the Reichstag, the German parliament building in Berlin, burned down. Even now, we don’t know who set the fire. It could have been the anarchist immediately accused and executed by the Nazis or, as more recent scholarship contends, the Nazis themselves. It’s a truism that a foreign adversary (a “Them”) is required to unify unruly domestic populations (an “Us”) and thus solidify power. The author of our Constitution, James Madison, wrote, “The means of defense against foreign danger historically have become the instruments of tyranny at home. If tyranny and oppression come to this land, it will be under the guise of fighting a foreign enemy.”

So it was in 1933. As the Reichstag went up in flames, Hitler—newly named head of a government legally formed after elections the previous November—celebrated the fire, exclaiming, “There will be no mercy now. Anyone standing in our way will be cut down.” The next day, his government issued a decree for the “protection of the people in the state,” which deprived German citizens of expression and assembly and subjected them to preventative detention by the police. One week after that, the National Socialist Party, having announced that the fire was the start of a “terrorist campaign,” won a clear victory in parliamentary elections. In short order, the new parliament passed an “enabling act” allowing Hitler to rule by decree. Once the erosion of democracy had reached a certain point, it all happened swiftly.

Fact: It is unrealistic to think that in today’s world, this country can escape another terrorist attack at some point, whether externally inspired or internally staged.
Fact: The following words were featured in a New York Daily News full-page advertisement bought by Donald Trump in May, 1989: “Civil liberties end when an attack on our safety begins.”

Look at him. Donald Trump is not a sane man. Look at his regime. Neither is normal.

Now go to a mirror and look at yourself. Forming the Resistance is simple compared to sustaining it, intensifying it. Get ready, my friends, get ready.

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