Here we are.
In January 1898, the famous author Emile Zola wrote a stinging indictment of French leadership and its embrace of anti-Semitism for political ends. The scourge was, he wrote, a moral outrage, with powerful men embracing a deeply harmful, and potentially violent, ideology for short-term political gain.
Titled “J’accuse,” Zola’s public letter to the president of the republic – the immediate cause of which was to protest the military leadership’s anti-Semitic attacks on an officer named Dreyfus – still stands, more than a century later, as the gold standard for public intellectuals seeking to hold morally bankrupt political figures to account.
“What a cesspool of folly and foolishness, what preposterous fantasies, what corrupt police tactics, what inquisitorial, tyrannical practices!” Zola opined. “What petty whims of a few higher-ups trampling the nation under their boots, ramming back down their throats the people’s cries for truth and justice, with the travesty of state security as a pretext.”
I ACCUSE YOU, DONALD TRUMP, OF USING FEAR TO DIVIDE NEIGHBOR FROM NEIGHBOR. I ACCUSE YOU OF PLAYING RUSSIAN ROULETTE WITH AMERICA’S PRESENT STANDING AND ITS FUTURE POSITION IN THE WORLD. I ACCUSE YOU OF USING YOUR OCCUPANCY OF THE WHITE HOUSE NOT TO IN ANY CONCEIVABLE WAY IMPROVE THE GENERAL WELL BEING, BUT TO FURTHER YOUR NARCISSISTIC, VAIN, AND CRUEL FANTASIES.
During the election campaign, I attempted my own “j’accuse,” for the progressive web site Truthout, detailing the numerous ways in which candidate Trump was committing a form of moral treason – stoking up fears and hatreds that would be impossible to contain once unleashed. During that election season, Trump accused Mexican migrants of being drug peddlers and rapists, talked of banning all Muslims from entering the country, fueled rage against journalists and used crude racist and sexist rhetoric whenever the opportunity presented itself.
Since the election, Trump’s behavior has only gotten more appalling. We now have the grotesque, almost pornographic, spectacle of the most powerful man on earth using his platform to urge police forces to beat up suspects. Using his platform to denigrate immigrants as “animals” who like to torture young women. Using his platform to marshal the forces of the federal government against refugees.
Using his platform to personally attack private citizens. Using his platform to promote his nepotistic, almost Mafia-like web of family and business and political interests. Using his platform to attack programs that encourage racial and economic diversity in colleges.
Using his platform to hold Nuremberg-styled rallies using barely adolescent Boy Scouts as a background prop – a spectacle as creepy, and as redolent of insecurity, as that of a grown man boasting of his sexual exploits to gain street cred with a gaggle of awkward middle school kids.
Using his platform to urge states to make it ever harder for poor, especially nonwhite, Americans to access the ballot box. And most recently, allowing the North Korean leadership to draw him into a potentially apocalyptic, public game of nuclear bluff.
I could, of course, go on. But it is for unsavory lists like this that the convenient phrase “etc.” was invented.
Trump, in his full-fledged bullying, scaremongering, blustering cretinitude, is not just “un-presidential,” whatever that somewhat nebulous phrase means. He is actively and aggressively unhumane.
He scorns empathy and humility as weakness, curiosity about other cultures as effeteness, and actively embraces a might-is-right rhetoric (witness his snarling speeches in September 2016 and again a week after his inauguration in which he argued that America should have seized Iraqi oil, telling his audience “to the victors belong the spoils”) last employed in “the western world” that he claims to be saving from barbarian hordes by the expansionist Nazi regime from 1933-1945.
He has surrounded himself, domestically, by sycophants and propagandists who can serve as props to his fragile narcissism – witness the extraordinary spectacle of his first full cabinet meeting, much of which was taken up in outlandish expressions of praise for the president; and, internationally, by dictatorial buddies such as Erdogan, El-Sisi and Duterte, who are as far from embodying liberal, enlightenment values as are any modern-day leaders on earth.
Were Trump just a temporary distraction, one could perhaps choose to ignore him, or to minimize his importance by presenting him simply as a bizarre, reality-TV, outlier. A plastic president for a plastic age.
But there’s nothing temporary about Trump’s project. His vision, as laid out in his sickening “American carnage” inauguration speech, is to fundamentally reshape America as a nasty, brutish, ethno-nationalist citadel. I doubt that in the long run he will succeed in achieving this, not least because in addition to being a monstrous narcissist he is also chronically, dementedly, cartoonishly inept. Trump, the uncouth and uncultured businessman-president is, quite simply, a fiasco of a manager.
But what this Joker-like figure is far more likely to accomplish is the permanent wrecking of America’s unique status as the “indispensable nation” serving as glue for a liberal, pluralist, open international order. What he is far more likely to preside over is a permanent reduction in America’s global standing, as populations the world over look at his behavior and his actions and his values, look at the chaos he has unleashed, and the politics of fear that he has ridden to power in the United States, and turn their backs in contempt and shock.
And that is why I say, again, “j’accuse.” I accuse you, Donald Trump, of using fear to divide neighbor from neighbor. I accuse you of playing Russian roulette with America’s present standing and its future position in the world.
I accuse you of using your occupancy of the White House not to in any conceivable way improve the general well being, but to further your narcissistic, vain, and cruel fantasies. You are a morally puny man, Donald Trump, a bloated fellow who feels big only by making others feel small.
You puff up your chest and urge the police to beat up suspects, and urge the military to show no mercy on the enemy, and urge intelligence agents to torture those thought to be terrorists, not because any of this this will really make America safer but because in your twisted understanding of the world strength is shown only through violence.
And I say “j’accuse,” too, to the GOP leaders in Congress and in statehouses around the country who know exactly how toxic and unstable Trump is, yet continue to tolerate his banalities and his politics of fear in order to get their way on tax cuts, deregulation and judicial appointments.
Shame on the whole sorry lot of you. In tolerating a madman in office, you are permanently diminishing the country, you are scarifying its vital democratic edifice, you are coarsening the culture and playing havoc with the lives of millions of vulnerable people. The history books are never kind to men and women of such craven attitude. You are collaborators in Trump’s vile passion play.
SASHA ABRAMSKY’S 2013 BOOK,“THE AMERICAN WAY OF POVERTY,’ WAS LISTED BY THE NEW YORK TIMES AS ONE OF THE 100 NOTABLE BOOKS OF THE YEAR. HIS NEW BOOK,”JUMPING AT SHADOWS: THE TRIUMPH OF FEAR AND THE END OF THE AMERICAN DREAM,” WILL BE PUBLISHED BY NATION BOOKS IN SEPTEMBER. HE CAN BE REACHED AT SABRAMSKY@SBCGLOBAL.NET.
‘When we fiercely hate one another, we make ourselves vulnerable to propaganda and demagogues. Hate blinds people to the truth.’
Jimmy Carter’s advice for President Trump: “Keep the peace, tell the truth”
“You are part of our community, and you must be part of our fight against hate.”
Use whatever skills and means you have.
Offer your print shop to make fliers. Share your musical talents at a rally. Give your employees the afternoon off to attend.
Be creative. Take action. Do your part to fight hate.
[SOUTHERN POVERTY LAW CENTER]
“The good news is, all over the country people are fighting hate, standing up to promote tolerance and inclusion. More often than not, when hate flares up, good people rise up against it — often in greater numbers and with stronger voices.”
•••“And I think the reason that what happened to Heather has struck a chord is because we know that what she did is achievable. She wanted to put down hate. Let’s channel that difference, that anger, into righteous action and say to yourself, ‘What can I do to make a difference?’
-Heather Heyer’s mom. [Heather was murdered while protesting against hate and bigotry in Charlottesville, VA.]
Author and national correspondent for The Atlantic Ta-Nehisi Coates gives his first full interview since the inauguration of the current US president. He talks with Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman about his forthcoming book, “We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy.” At first glance, the title suggests the focus will be on President Barak Obama’s presidency, the first African American president. However, it begins post civil, during Reconstruction.
“The book takes its title from a gentleman who stood up in 1895, one of the black congressmen appointed during—or who won during Reconstruction, immediately after slavery. And as South Carolina was basically cementing the disenfranchisement of African Americans, he said, you know, “Listen, we were eight years in power.” And he listed all the great things that the African Americans, really, the multiracial government, you know, a tremendous experiment in democracy that followed the Civil War, had accomplished—you know, reforming—really, forming the first public school system, you know, reforming the penal system—just a list of governmental accomplishments that they had done. And he struggled to understand why folks would then perpetrate this act of disenfranchisement, given how much South Carolina had advanced during this period.
And the great W.E.B. Du Bois pointed out that the one thing white South Carolinians feared more than bad Negro government was good Negro government. It was precisely the fact of having made all of these accomplishments, because they ran counter to the ideas of white supremacy, that gave the disenfranchisement movement and the redeemers their fuel.
And I don’t think it was very different under President Barack Obama. I think it was, in fact, you know, his modesty. It was the lack of radicalism. It was the fact that he wasn’t out, you know, firebombing or, you know, throwing up the Black Power sign or doing such that made him so scary, because I think what folks ultimately fear is Africans—is kind of the ease with which African Americans could be integrated into the system, because it assaults the very ideas of white supremacy in the first place.”
Transcript excerpt from the interview:
AMY GOODMAN: Do these grassroots movements give you hope—
TA-NEHISI COATES: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: —right now across the country?
TA-NEHISI COATES: Yes, they’re all we have. They’re all we have. They’re all we have. I smile when I see them. I’m happy to see them. They’re all we have right now.
An explosive and raw capture into the minds of white supremacists by VICE NEWS//8.16.17
“On Saturday, August 12th, hundreds of white nationalists, alt-righters, and neo-Nazis traveled to Charlottesville, Virginia, to participate in the “Unite the Right” rally. By Saturday evening three people were dead – one protester and two police officers – and many more injured.
“VICE News Tonight” correspondent Elle Reeve went behind the scenes with white nationalist leaders, including Christopher Cantwell, Robert Ray, David Duke, and Matthew Heimbach — as well as counterprotesters. VICE News Tonight also spoke with residents of Charlottesville, members of the Black Lives Matter movement, and the Charlottesville Police.
From the neo-Nazi protests at Emancipation Park to Cantwell’s hideaway outside Virginia, “VICE News Tonight” provides viewers with exclusive, up-close and personal access inside the unrest.
Late Show Host Seth Meyers:
“You can stand for a nation, or you can stand for a hateful movement; you cannot do both.”
“And for those of us who study the history of hatred, bigotry, and the evils of Nazi Germany, the prospect of such relevance is most uncomfortable. If my work has taught me anything, it’s the importance of keeping the boundaries of one’s moral universe as wide as possible.”
RUNNING FOR OFFICE
The will of millennials did not prevail this election cycle, as seen in the map that went viral showing that if millennials alone decided the outcome, Hillary would have won.
So the question now is: What can we do about it?
One of the biggest and boldest actions is for more millennials to actually run for office.
- Know why you’re running
- Build your own team
- Hone your message
- Constantly seek feedback, including from people who disagree with you
- Yes, money matters
- Prepare for it to be all-consuming
- Getting the media’s attention isn’t easy
- Credibility is transferable
- You have to really, truly believe you will win
- Don’t let people discourage you
Cable news – – platforms for a language of hate and fear. “Every time we hook ourselves up to a device that shocks us into a fear-based posture on a regular basis, we’re making a choice about the world and how we experience it.”
“What if the fear and malaise and anger isn’t merely being reported by cable news…
What if it’s being caused by cable news?
What if ubiquitous video accompanied by frightening and freaked out talking heads is actually, finally, changing our culture?
Which came first, the news or the news cycle?
We seem to accept the hegemony of bottom-feeding media as some natural outgrowth of the world we live in. In fact, it’s more likely an artifact of the post-spectrum cable news complex in which bleeding and leading became business goals.
There’s always front page news because there’s always a front page.
The world is safer (per capita) than ever before in recorded history. And people are more frightened. The rise of the media matches the rise of our fear.
Cable news isn’t shy about stating their goals. The real question is: what’s our goal? Every time we hook ourselves up to a device that shocks us into a fear-based posture on a regular basis, we’re making a choice about the world and how we experience it.
They want urgency more than importance. What do we want?
[I wrote this months ago, and every time I’m about to post it, I hesitate because recent events make it look like I’m writing it for that reason. Finally, I realized that it’s never a quiet moment in the media cycle any more, is it?]
It’s a bug in our operating system, and one that’s amplified by the media.
I’m listening to a speech from ten years ago, twenty years ago, forty years ago… “During these tough times… these tenuous times… these uncertain times…” And we hear about the urgency of the day, the bomb shelters, the preppers with their water tanks, the hand wringing about the next threat to civilization.
At the same time that we live in the safest world that mankind has ever experienced. Fewer deaths per capita from all the things that we worry about.
Risky? Sure it is. Every moment for the last million years has been risky. The risk has moved from Og with a rock to the chronic degeneration of our climate, but it’s clear that rehearsing and fretting and worrying about the issue of the day hasn’t done a thing to actually make it go away. Instead, we amplify the fear, market the fear and spread the fear as a form of solace, of hiding from taking action, of sharing our fear in a vain attempt to ameliorate it.
When we get nostalgic for past eras, for their culture or economy or resources, it’s interesting that we never seem to get nostalgic for their fears.
‘The enemy is fear. We think it is hate; but it is fear.’ -Gandhi
Guns and hate. Protests against Muslims outside a Phoenix mosque this past weekend. If there are truly only two emotions, love and fear, then what is it that these protesting Americans fear?
Dean Obeidallal a former attorney, host of SiriusXM’s weekly program “The Dean Obeidallah Show,” and a columnist for The Daily Beast,”wrote a piece for CNN online quoting Martin Luther King, Jr:
“History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.
He writes about the good he observed that day. The good people, the people who felt love, not fear, who came to counter-protest. Yet, there were also those trying to give what they got, calling the protestors names, like “Nazis”. When we belittle and fight hate with more hate, and violence, we are missing the opportunity to embrace the humanity of a group that is living in fear, and not understanding the power of the interconnectedness of all people. As a nation, when did we become so ethnocentric, wanting to deny immigrants and religions different from our own? Our country was founded on immigrants and religious freedom. In retrospect of history, it seems, at times, that we have not evolved very far. I am reminded of a chapter in Swiss psychiatrist and psychotherapist Carl Jung’s book Memories Dreams, Reflections, when he visits the Pueblo Indians in New Mexico, circa 1925:
“I observed that the Pueblo Indians, reluctant as they were to speak about anything concerning their religion, talked with great readiness and intensity about their relations with the Americans. ‘Why, (Mountain Lake said) do the Americans not let us alone? Why do they want to forbid our dances? Why do they make difficulties when we want to take our young people from school in order to lead them to the kiva (site of the rituals), and instruct them in our religion? We do nothing to harm (them). After a prolonged silence he continued, ‘The Americans want to stamp out our religion. Why can they not let us alone? What we do, we do not only for ourselves but for the Americans also. Yes, we do it for the whole world. Everyone benefits by it.”
Many protesting were Christians…in what name did they hate? Jesus? I am reminded of the bracelets that so many wear, “What would Jesus do?” Why did they forget to ask themselves this question before they began their hate-filled, fear-filled protest? I remember learning in my young Lutheran years that Jesus spoke of not resisting evil, but shining the light – – holding the conscious of God within.
The day of the protests I retrieved a beloved book by author Parker Palmer (founder the Center for Courage & Renewal) called, Healing the Heart of Democracy. He writes:“It breaks my heart when democracy is threatened, from within or without – – when we undermine ourselves by indulging in cheap animosities toward those who disagree with us instead of engaging our differences like grown-ups…”
He also writes:
I believe in the power of the human heart to do evil as well as good. The heart leads some to become terrorists and others to serve the hungry and homeless. The heart leads some to blow up federal buildings in order to ‘bring down the government’ and others to see that we are the government and must work together to fulfill democracy’s promise. The heart is a complex force field, no less complex than democracy itself, a maelstrom of conflicted powers that we ignore, sentimentalize, or dismiss at our peril. The human heart, this vital core of the human self, holds the power to destroy democracy or to make it whole. That is why our 19th-century visitor, Alexi de Tocqueville, insisted in his classic Democracy in America that democracy’s future would depend heavily on generations of American citizens cultivating the habits of the heart that support political wholeness.
Palmer dedicates his book to the memory of Christina Taylor Green, Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, and Cynthia Wesley.
“Christina died when an assassin in Tucson, Arizona, opened fire at a public event hosted by Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was seriously wounded. Addie Mae, Denise, Carole, and Cynthia died when violent racists bombed the 16h Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. When we forget that politics is about weaving a fabric of compassion and justice on which everyone can depend, the first to suffer are the most vulnerable among us – – our children, our elders, our poor, homeless, and mentally ill brothers and sisters. As they suffer, so does the integrity of our democracy. “
I am grateful for those who chose not keep silent this past weekend and support religious freedom for those who were being protested against. I am grateful that Mr. Obeidallal honored the counter-protestors with his article for CNN. And I am hopeful, as Palmer writes, that when the common good is threatened in our country we will “hang on and hang together – that we have the power to do just that in our hands and in our hearts.”
From Terry Tempest Williams, “Engagement”:
“The human heart is the first home of democracy. It is where we embrace our questions. Can we be equitable? Can we be generous? Can we listen with our whole beings, not just our minds, and offer our attention rather than our opinions? And do we have enough resolve in our hearts to act courageously, relentlessly, without giving up – – ever – – trusting our fellow citizens to join with us in our determined pursuit of a living democracy?”