We all know our society is conflicted right now. My understanding of the nature of that conflict has changed dramatically over the last few years, and I’d like to share what I’ve learned.
“We the People” by StevenANichols is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Like most, my initial view was simplistic. There was good and evil. Each issue had a right, and a wrong. I brushed aside arguments against my view as ignoring complexity, while being oblivious to my own oversimplification. Then I started listening. And I learned that even if the other person is “wrong”, I’m always going to be missing perspectives and relevant information.
In reality, each individual is unique, with a different experience, different motivations, and different biases. Each Trump supporter supports Trump for a unique reason, and often it’s an internal core value that you would have to dig in order to actually address. Sometimes it’s valid and unknown to you, which can change your perception of reality. Something else you didn’t know to take into account.
Early in Trump’s administration I found myself at a crossroads where one of my core values was challenged. As much as I disagreed with someone’s argument on why things were going wrong for so many people, I couldn’t escape the realization that although the people around me had great intentions, we were certainly the group benefiting from the system we were apart of.
One of my skills from my days in the tech industry was in understanding large complex systems. I did this through abstraction. Basically treat the complex system as a black box. You can just look at the inputs and outputs of a system without knowing how it works, and not worry about understanding the how until you need to know.
You can look at Trump supporters collectively and treat them as identical, but each person tends to have a handful of primary concerns. From my conversations, here are some of the common primary concerns that I’ve heard from individuals, regardless of party affiliation or Trump Support.
Each of these topics is important. A single minded focus of any given topic ignores the equally valid concerns of others.
When people see some things as beautiful,
other things become ugly. \
When people see some things as good,
other things become bad. Being and non-being create each other.
Tao Te Ching — Lao Tzu (Stephen Mitchell version)
They are looking for the president that will cause the economy to do the “right thing”. Some will measure by the GDP, some by the Dow Jones Industrial average, some by their own investment portfolio and net worth.
They can range from activist investors with large wealth funds, to small time investors just watching the value of their 401k, with investment choices delegated to someone who can provide high returns.
These are the people I’m most concerned with, since their control over the government over the last 30 years have been putting profit over community, country, and the survival of the species.
Democrats have been a much more effective champion for these Oligarchs, with Bill Clinton managing to provide a surplus based on enabling them. The Oligarchs are open to supporting each party, based upon their whims.
After the Citizens United decision, Donald Trump was selected from their ranks by the very people they had been starving.
Absolute liberty is chaos.
And a man must take with him to the house of death an adamantine faith in this, that even there he may be undazzled by riches and similar trumpery, and may not precipitate himself into tyrannies and similar doings and so work many evils past cure and suffer still greater himself, but may know how always to choose in such things the life that is seated in the mean and shun the excess in either direction, both in this world so far as may be and in all the life to come.
— Plato’s Republic 10.619a
Real liberty must balance the needs of the many with the needs of the one. The details of that balance are always open to continuous debate, but the idea that people should have the freedom to prey on others is antithetical to the original American Dream.
American Dream Redefined
People have been talking about the American Dream since the term was initially popularized by James Truslow Adams in… medium.com
The details can range from predators in schools to the idea that any move towards state’s rights would result in the return of slavery.
Their own opinion must be enforced by policy or violence, but they will accept what they perceive as the lesser of two evils from any given choice.
I’ve spoken to many people who are willing to accept Fascism if it means that abortions will become become illegal.
Some people know exactly what group of people is responsible for our situation, and want to focus on the people instead of the choices.
Some will blame Muslims, Immigrants, Christianity, Theists in general, trans people, Capitalists, Socialists, Boomers, etc.Personally I think people who consider themselves to be Capitalists make the largest personal destructive impact, but that is due to specific choices that they could change as individuals.
While bigotry is not a left or right issue per se, Trump has been actively embracing the bigotry within his party, and has encouraged and protected violence.
They believe our way of life is under attack from foreign influence.
They see our oligarchs invest in other countries, and interpret it as foreign power taking our work.
They see competition for remaining jobs being taken by immigrants who are willing to take less money, and blame the immigrants looking for opportunity instead of business owners who skirt or violate the law in order to reduce costs.
They see refugees at our border and demonize them while ignoring the role our country played in creating their bad situations at home.
The specifics of an individual’s Nationalism can vary. Some define their Nation based upon birthright citizenship. Others are more restrictive, including White Nationalists, or individuals who only consider those who share their beliefs as truly being “American”.
Many Americans still have a better dead than red attitude. The understanding of what constitutes “Socialism” has eroded however.
Some have legitimate concerns about government focused on creating government to support people in the long term.
To others, Socialism includes any form of “collectivism”, which can include the concept of working for a greater good rather than personal enrichment.
To them, the motivation for a policy is either irrelevant or met with a lack of trust. Universal Basic Income as part of a limited plan to kickstart entrepreneurship would be equivalent to recommending UBI as a way to get votes.
At the end of the day what exists are the choices and actions of individuals.
Regardless of personal ideology, the choices that they make have real world impact on those around them.
The problems in our society are individuals who make self-serving choices, and the systems and people who reward them for those choices.
Real leadership is seeing the larger picture, and finding ways to spread that understanding. Bad leadership is harnessing the failings of others to achieve your personal goals.
Trump is a bad leader, elected by other bad leaders who saw him as a distasteful path to achieve goals. Putin is one of those bad leaders. Many more exist within our own country.
The Mercer family invested in Cambridge Analytica, which used data analytics and targeted advertising to manipulate the 2016 election. Bad leaders within the company went further, going so far as to ask Julian Assange for Hillary’s emails or other damaging information.
Theocrats like Barr, Pompeo and Pence work for a man of low moral character in order to gain power and insert Christ into our government.
Book after Book confirm that individuals within the administration are working to accomplish personal goals while keeping Trump’s worst instincts in check.
Cohn and Porter worked together to derail what they believed were Trump’s most impulsive and dangerous orders. That document and others like it just disappeared. When Trump had a draft on his desk to proofread, Cohn at times would just yank it, and the president would forget about it. But if it was on his desk, he’d sign it. “It’s not what we did for the country,” Cohn said privately. “It’s what we saved him from doing.”
It was no less than an administrative coup d’état, an undermining of the will of the president
-- Bob Woodward “Fear”
You can also see the relevant sentiment in “A Warning” by Anonymous, or the statements from any administration official who are conflicted about Trump but still helping him succeed for some “Greater Good”.
I want to cut through the noise. I agreed to serve in the administration with the hope that President Trump would be successful and remembered for the right reasons, even if many of us had serious misgivings about signing on. While the president can claim a number of real accomplishments, overall that hope was dashed—and our misgivings validated—by hard experience. Through a toxic combination of amorality and indifference, the president has failed to rise to the occasion in fulfilling his duties. In these pages, I will underscore what Americans should actually be concerned about when it comes to Trump and his administration, diagnose the problems, and propose how we can move forward. The opinions presented herein are my own; yet, there is scarcely a criticism leveled that is not also shared by many other officials on the team or those who have departed. Most are afraid to say so publicly.
“Anonymous” — A Warning
Trump’s tactics are authoritarian, in that he regularly ignores pushes the bounds of his office, ignoring or intentionally undermining the checks and balances on the Office of the President.
He has outright stated that there are no limits on his power.
This alliance of individuals willing to undermine the rule of law in order to achieve personal goals sounds a lot like Fascism to me.
“Fascism in power is a compound, a powerful amalgam of different but marriageable conservative, national-socialist and radical Right ingredients, bonded together by common enemies and common passions for a regenerated, energized, and purified nation at whatever cost to free institutions and the rule of law…Fascism in action looks much more like a network of relationships than a fixed essence.”
-- Robert O. Paxton “What Is Fascism?”
If Trump’s administration is not Fascism, it is dangerous in many of the same ways.
ICE agents are violating the rights of refugees and other immigrants in concentration camps, while using the Nuremberg defense.
“Children and parents get separated every day across this country when a parent is charged with a criminal offense. It’s sad to see children cry when you take a parent out of a home, but because it’s sad, doesn’t mean that we ignore the law.”
Thomas Homan — Former ICE Director
If a law violates Human Rights, then the law is illegal, and must not be followed.
History has shown us what happens otherwise.
I cannot recognize the verdict of guilty. . . . It was my misfortune to become entangled in these atrocities. But these misdeeds did not happen according to my wishes. It was not my wish to slay people. . . . Once again I would stress that I am guilty of having been obedient, having subordinated myself to my official duties and the obligations of war service and my oath of allegiance and my oath of office, and in addition, once the war started, there was also martial law. . . . I did not persecute Jews with avidity and passion. That is what the government did. . . . At that time obedience was demanded, just as in the future it will also be demanded of the subordinate.
— Adolf Eichmann
Overcrowded camps are vectors for the spread of diseases. The flu has already taken the lives of children in our facilities, and our government’s decision to not provide flu vaccines will eventually result in an outbreak that the understaffed facilities will not be able to handle.
Video shows final hours of sick teen who died in US border patrol custody
Video of the US border patrol cell where a 16-year-old from Guatemala died of the flu shows the teen writhing and… www.theguardian.com
The US won’t provide flu vaccines to migrant families at border detention camps
At least three children held in detention centers at the Mexican border have died, in part, from the flu, a group of… www.cnbc.com
These deaths will be both predictable and avoidable. Our failure to act leaves us responsible for those deaths.
While those in charge will predictably redirect blame, we should be held accountable by the international community for our indifference to human suffering.
Our Constitution provides for checks and balances against abuse of power.
These checks and balances are useless unless we have the political will to use them. We are not a Free country unless those protections matter when they are needed most.
Election is the method for selecting leadership for a defined term. It is not an acceptable tactic for removing corruption in power. If you are allowed to remain in office while violating the rules you took an oath to protect until The People replace you through election, then those rules no longer have any meaning.
All that remains is ritual.
When goodness is lost, there is morality. When morality is lost, there is ritual. Ritual is the husk of true faith, the beginning of chaos.
— Tao Te Ching (Stephen Mitchell version)