We’re a People with Too Many Perverted Priorities
As these news days pass, there seems little that ennobles or feels as if it will make life better for most people I know. Instead, as a country, we seem to be rewarding bad personal behavior and unethical acts that insist on belittling others to benefit us as individuals.
Increasingly, what Trump or Republican congressional leaders say seems strictly aimed at diverting attention from the administration’s actions and public goals. The tax bill passed by the Senate is proof. Despite a passel of studies, reviews and assessments of what the bill will do, Trump insists this is an effort to cut middle-class taxes when it clearly benefits corporations. Despite the certainty that eliminating the individual mandate will adversely affect seniors and those facing chronic illness, Trump and supporters see liberation from a requirement. Despite a history of companies keeping unspent profits in the bank or spending to pay down debt, the administration insists that there will be a better payday coming as a kind of trickle-down of corporate success.
Increasingly on the foreign front, this president seems sure only about offending allies like the British, and insisting that he is “handling” the North Korean nuclear weapons program, over which he clearly has few effective countermeasures. He shows that he cannot listen to even his closest advisers, and he is willing to risk at least regional violence in declaring Jerusalem the official Israeli capital, even when they have not asked for this.
Instead of worry about the substance of foreign policy, Trump is spending his time weaving plots against his own secretary of state and decimating the professional ranks of the foreign service. When the current secretary, Rex W. Tillerson, leaves, we’re told the president will fill the job with someone like Trump believer Mike Pompeo, who will not question the boss even when question is necessary.
Increasingly, we learn that even Congress has no idea how many troops are deployed in Afghanistan, Niger, Yemen and other faraway places. We have no idea what our American goals are in these areas other than some kind of vague anti-terror stance. We seem to be pressing the case for selling American weapons around the world. Yet somehow, it is more important for this president to spend his time retweeting hateful anti-Muslim videos — being distributed by extreme far-right Britons — especially since they are not what they were said to be.
Increasingly, Trump is telling people that the Access Hollywood tape was not actually a recording of him; he has started telling people again that Barack Obama was not born in the United States; he cannot stop himself from tweeting without checking on even the general truth of his statements. The number of political people, news organizations and everyday people who openly see his actions as a manifestation of some kind of self-delusion is remarkable.
At the same time, the voters of Alabama today seem on the edge of electing an accused pedophile who is a Bible-thumping champion against gays and transgenders—with the help of the president and his supporters. Trump cannot own up to allegations himself, and he insists that denial of charges is sufficient for the Alabama Republican. He seems not to have noticed that we are in the midst of an actual up-churning of policies affecting sexual harassment that seems more than a bit uncontrolled and ill-directed. At the same time, the stock market is going wild in glee over garnering the prize of billions and billions in unpaid taxes with absolutely no obligation to hire more employees or offer more healthcare or make the world better in any way.
I find myself in a world awash in celebrating profit over doing good, celebrating the protection of those who have made it over those who can’t, celebrating those who, by circumstance, were born American over those who have sought out and worked hard for that status. I find myself in a country where religious liberty means enforcing “Merry Christmas” greetings, and ignoring shootings in churches, or rising hate crimes aimed at Muslims, or even acknowledging that “free speech” was not put into place to make it easier to shout anti-Semitic slogans at Jews.
I find myself in a country that wants to support building up what is already the world’s biggest, baddest military to the detriment of providing healthcare to seniors, a country that expects others to cower if we even threaten to consider using our military, a country that still cannot even find sufficient ways to support the veterans of that military to find jobs and mental health services upon coming home.
I find myself in a country that supports bullies over owning up to behavior that bullies, that can’t consider empathetic social policies because its leadership lacks empathy. I live in a country that no longer can separate responsibility for self from the need to win, regardless of the policy at hand. So, we can’t effectively support Puerto Ricans recovering from hurricanes; we find it easier to deport displaced Haitians than to help them; we cannot find the heart to keep immigrant families together, and we are willing to deport DACA immigrants who were brought here as children by families seeking a way to support themselves.
We should have a president who actually wants to Make Americans Great Again rather than one who wants to win at the cost of squashing others.
Featured Photo: Police and state troopers in Ferguson, Mo., following the announcement that the officer who killed Michael Brown would not be indicted (November 2014). Photo by Adrian Garcia via The People’s Tribune.
Terry H. Schwadron is a former editor for The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times and The Providence Journal and is an active volunteer with immigrants and writers and plays trombone in New York City. He blogs here.