Trump critique: OK vs. Not OK

Not OK:

  • His mental health.
  • His body shape.
  • His need for a mobility device to get to the G7 photo.  Josh Marshall, looking at you:  “Look on the bright side. Could have been a mobility scooter.”  Seriously?

OK:

  • His policies, cronies, ignorance, and greed will kill us all.

Patriotism as political correctness

New Orleans is finally doing the right thing and taking down statues of famous traitors.  The linked story relates that “opponents see this as suppressing or rewriting history in the name of political correctness.”*  Says one such opponent:

This is American history, whether you like it or not.

I find it curious that the only way these opponents can see to preserve history is through monumental statues of traitors and enemies of our country.  (Side question:  how many of the opponents have American flags on their cars or sweaters or lapels?)

On the opponents’ theory, the only way we can learn the history of World War II would be to erect a statue of Adolph Hitler; avoid suppressing or rewriting the history of the Cold War by installing a statue of Stalin (perhaps the Russians a few extra lying around); tell the true story of all of the brave boys of the revolution by putting up a statue of George III?

No one is preventing anyone from learning about the history of the civil war, individual sacrifice and brutality on both sides, or who these guys were who used to be displayed greater-than-life-size in the middle of traffic circles.  Books — and movies and TV specials, for those less inclined to read — abound for learning just about everything you’d like to know about those awful years.  Hell, even our ignorant president seems curious about what the heck could possibly have caused the Civil War.  But the people we honor through giant carved slabs of rock should not include those who tried to rip our country apart in the name of enslaving our fellow humans.

Preview of coming blog posts I may or may not ever get the energy to write:  Conservatives don’t understand hypocrisy because you have to (1) be capable of rational thought (“one of these things is not like the other”); and (2) give enough of a shit to engage in it.  And, I suppose, (3) not have your entire worldview and sense of self defined by the need to reject it.

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*I also deeply love this use of political correctness:  now simple loyalty to country is dismissed as “PC.”

Discipline before rule of law

As most of you know by now, Trump fired FBI Director James Comey last night.  He commissioned a rationale from the Department of Justice, which he presented to Comey with a cover letter from Attorney General Sessions.

Here is the first sentence of Sessions’s letter:

As Attorney General, I am committed to a high level of discipline, integrity, and the rule of law to the Department of Justice.

Discipline first; rule of law third.

This is inconsistent with the oath of a civil servant, whose first duty is to the rule of law:

I, ——–, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.

The attorney general takes that same oath.  (TW:  This links to the swearing in of Attorney General Loretta Lynch, which may cause fatal levels of nostalgia for the decency, fairness, and the rule of law.)

Hell, even the oath Sessions took to become an attorney in Alabama requires him to support the United States Constitution (albeit second to the Alabama Constitution — I suppose just in case they secede again) and nowhere speaks of “discipline.”

I, ————, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will demean myself as an attorney, according to the best of my learning and ability, and with all good fidelity, as well to the court as to the client; that I will use no falsehood or delay any person’s cause for lucre or malice, and that I will support the constitution of the State of Alabama and of the United States, so long as I continue a citizen thereof, so help me God.

I was interested to learn that Sessions has also sworn not to “delay any person’s cause for lucre or malice.”  Let’s see how that plays out in the Trump/Russia investigation.

Ultimately, Sessions is a mean, insecure, racist punk.  His need for discipline reveals a lifetime spent fearing independent or abstract thought, essential to support and defend principles instead of people.  He’s the one of those little shits who always surround the school bully, egging him on.  Vincent Crabbe or Gregory Goyle to Trump’s Draco Malfoy.

Image: four wizards from Harry Potter, middle school-age kids in black academic robes. All white. Second from left is Draco Malfoy, blond and sneering. To either side and slightly behind him are his sidekicks.

Prejudice leaks

I wonder about the term “micro-aggressions,” because they’re neither.  They seem to me to be prejudice leaks, neither aggressive nor — because they reveal an entire worldview — micro.*

We all have internal worldviews that are full of prejudices and assumptions.  Some true, some false; some examined, some unexamined; some praiseworthy, some benign, some offensive.  Then we encase the whole mess in the persona we are presenting to the world.  A thick exoskeleton of personality that is all most people ever see.

Image: Michelin Tire logo - human figure made of tires, with the effect of a puffy, tire-encased human.

Many people choose to encase themselves in an open-minded persona.  Maybe it helps them fit in to a liberal social circle or workplace.  Or maybe they genuinely believe they are open-minded.  It’s important to their self-image.  Or maybe it’s important to you to believe they’re open-minded.  They’re your friend, teacher, colleague, doctor, pastor.  You want to believe they see you as you are.

Then they say:

I’m so sorry your husband uses a wheelchair” ::furrowed eyebrows concerned face::  or

“are you the nanny?”  or

“where are you really from?” or

“you must be the first person in your family to go to college.”  or

“you’re so articulate!” or

is the father still in the picture?” or

“I know your kid has two moms, but who’s the real father?”

and a little fissure forms in the exoskeleton and the prejudice leaks out.**

Image: Michelin Tire logo - human figure made of tires -- with a small hole in his head and lines indicating a leak.

Suddenly you can see, in that small leak, the entire worldview that sits inside the protective exoskeleton.  That they view disability through a lens of pity.  That they have seen your skin color or facial features and constructed an entire narrative that has nothing to do with you.  That their views of LGBTQ families are stuck somewhere around 1950.

In many cases, it’s not aggressive,*** but it’s not micro.  It’s an inadvertent glimpse of an entire worldview you didn’t know existed, or didn’t want to know existed, or hoped against hope and experience did not exist, or perhaps they didn’t know existed or had been suppressing or had never stopped to think about or didn’t even have the framework to understand.

Prejudice leaks.

It doesn’t sound as cool as micro-aggression.  It sounds like something that requires padded undergarments.  But I honestly think it’s a more accurate description.

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*I realize I’m wading into an arena that has been the subject of a good deal of academic thought, research, and writing, and that I have 0.00 qualifications to take on that analysis.  This is a strictly non-academic view, from someone who has witnessed many real-life prejudice leaks that seemed neither micro nor aggressive.

**Not bad for someone who can’t draw, eh?

***There are plenty of cases where comments like these are aggressive, but in that case I wouldn’t call them “micro-aggressions,” I’d call them “prejudice” and perhaps also “being an asshole.”

Hard to believe it’s been 20 years.

My father, Peter Robertson, passed somewhere between April 15 and 16, 1997.  Not a day goes by that I don’t think of him, wish for his advice, remember a goofy moment, and feel deeply sad that he left us so soon.  More than anything, though, I feel very grateful for the 36 years I got with him.

He always liked to tell the story of being born in a cabin in Wyoming, though the reality is that my adventure-prone/family-avoidant grandfather had come to Wyoming to try to start a dude ranch, which he abandoned after (1) his father-in-law joined them to keep an eye on him; and (2) his second child (my uncle) was born.  Dad ultimately spent most of his childhood in St. Louis, as a white kid surrounded by privilege who rooted for civil rights and Jackie Robinson.

Image: white woman (Amy) in short sleeve shirt and khaki shorts and older white man (Amy's dad) in a short sleeve shirt and blue pants stand in front of log cabin.

My father and me at the “log cabin” the year before he passed.

He was a lawyer who devoted his professional life to advocating — in state government, at the EEOC, and as a consultant — for civil rights and specifically equal employment opportunity.  Outside his professional life, he enjoyed languages, travel, the coast of Maine, card games, the St. Louis Cardinals, fried eggs over easy, trains, grilling in the snow, pretending to understand my brother’s Chem E thesis, Christmas morning, and his almost endless extended family. Nothing made him happier than gathering everyone around the table — at home or a restaurant — for a long, conversational meal. He’d show up at our colleges or law/grad schools and gather up a big group of classmates and friends to go out to dinner. Nothing fancy – ever.  Most commonly a diner, or some egregiously Americanized Chinese restaurant (lemon chicken, anyone?).  After he passed, many of his professional colleagues told us similar stories:  he was always gathering everyone together for a friendly dinner after any event.  With that in mind, in creating his headstone, Bruce and I paraphrased a line from MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech —

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

and added this plaque:

Peter Clendenin Robertson
November 5, 1935 – April 16, 1997.
“Let us sit down together at a table of brotherhood.”

Triangular granite stone about 18" high, bearing a plaque: "Peter Clendenin Robertson, November 5, 1935 - April 16, 1997. "Let us sit down together at a table of brotherhood."

Love and miss him, and am deeply grateful for everyone who has shared his stories over the years.  If you knew him, grab some friends and remember him over a plate of lemon chicken.

Update:  here’s a post with additional fun photos:   https://thoughtsnax.com/2010/11/05/photographic-tribute-to-my-dad/  

Ignorant, Evil, or Both?

The Trump Administration’s latest trainwreck, via the NYT:

Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, set off an intense backlash on Tuesday when he suggested that President Bashar al-Assad of Syria was worse than Hitler and said incorrectly that Hitler had not used chemical weapons during World War II or against his own people.

Is he ignorant of gas chambers?  Or did he mean to imply that German Jews were not Germans?