Thursday, August 27, 2020

Trump's "Law & Order" is the Enemy of Truth, Morality and Justice

Subconsciously, we human beings, as creatures of cognitive psychology, often associate the concept of law with the concept of ethics.  However, as someone who has taught ethics courses at three state universities, let me share one of the basic points of Ethics 101, namely, that law and ethics are very different entities.

Laws are not necessarily, or even likely to be, ethical.  Conversely, ethical ways of behaving can be outright illegal. 

When "law" backs the ascent of a fascist like Donald Trump, when "order" means thuggish, racist, and even murderous police enforcement, then law & order become the opposite of morality, justice and their deep association with the founding ethical principles of this country. 

These principles include "self-evident" truths.  They include equality, equal justice under law, the right to freedom of speech and freedom of assembly.

Again, law and order are not automatically good.  Look at North Korea.  Look at China.  Plenty of law & order.  And yet also evil.  Atrocity.  Brutality.  Mind-control.  Surveillance.  Oppression of all basic freedoms.    

Democrats would be wise to counter Trump's framing with a simple, clear point:  "law & order," as used in his rants, is the opposite of Truth, Morality and Justice.  In association with the latter, our Founders insisted on a Bill of Rights and a Declaration of Independence. 

Trump's "I am the LAW & ORDER President" is a dictator's proclamation.  He perverts law and order, makes it dirty, as he does with so much else.

 Jacob Blake's sister speaks out, Trevor Noah Commentary


Monday, August 24, 2020

Yes, Trump is Plausibly a Fascist, John McNeill is Wrong.


An article by John McNeill was recently featured in the Washington Post titled, "How Fascist Is Donald Trump?  There's actually a formula for that."

Although this article is two years old, it still earned a front-page position on the website.  McNeill includes the brief assertion that, yes, Donald Trump is a major threat to our democracy; and yet his overall message is that Trump is not a fascist.  

This conclusion is based on "the 11 attributes of fascism," all of which can be numerically quantified by assigning a certain number of points called "Benitos."  After doing the calculations, McNeill states:

"Add all this up, and you get 26 out of a possible 44 Benitos. In the fascist derby, Trump is a loser."

I have three general comments on this article. 

First, it relies heavily on late-stage Hitler and Mussolini to provide its paragon of fascism.  For instance, one attribute is "Fetishization of Youth."  Trump is given zero Benitos on this scale, reducing his level of fascism.

What?  Why is this attribute important?  And why is it as relevant as "Leader Cult," another one of the attributes? (on which Trump gets four Benitos).

This kind of problem troubles the whole list of attributes.  Why are they so essential?  Why do they have equal weight?  Furthermore, how are you measuring them?  Not only the choice of attributes but the quantification scheme is highly problematic.

Compare McNeill's trait-based definition of fascism to Madeline Albright's key insight, in her recent book, that fascism is not a governmental system but a means to gain and maintain power. 

Aha!  Far better, at least as a starting place.  It takes context into account.  Trump is a fascist by this standard when you add his racism, sexism, white nationalism, xenophobia, golden-age nostalgia, and so on.  

Second comment.  The author's tone is bizarrely playful.  The "fascist derby."  "Benitos."  C'mon, really?  We're talking about evil, and threats to world stability, not Netflix movie ratings.

This bizarre playful tone, along with the conclusion that Trump isn't even close to a real fascist, creates an underlying theme that is still trotted out way too much by the media--foolishly, I would add: 'Trump isn't all that bad so stop worrying about it so much.'

Third comment.  This relates to Albright's insight that fascism is a means to gain and maintain power.  Maybe there's another important question we should be asking:  Would Trump do the things that Mussolini and Hitler have done, if the current power structure allowed it? 

Based on his professional diagnosis as a malignant narcissist, a person who has no conscience at all, and who possesses an all-consuming urge to be worshipped,  and who is inherently sadistic, there is certainly a case to be made that the answer to the above question is yes.  White nationalist Trump would indeed violently impose whiteness as a pure, superior race--if he could get away with it.

Didn't he just recently--Lafayette Square--try to send 10,000 troops into the streets?  Wasn't he stopped only by Defense Secretary Esper and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Milley?   

In any case, we should be distinguishing between early stage and late stage takeovers (scary, yes I know.  I live in sorrow--but there's still hope from this next election).  

Also, we should be looking at the psychology of Trump, not ignoring it.  Psychology is far too often ignored as a science, often due to each academic discipline setting up its own little intellectual fiefdom.

In conclusion, McNeill's article is highly flawed, inappropriately playful, and in effect dangerous, because it tends to make readers think, "Oh, it's not so bad."  When in fact, it truly is that bad--and more.  The entire geopolitical balance is at stake.


Friday, August 21, 2020

A Briefer Future Format

I'm going to try and bring back this blog in a shorter format, something more conducive to my new situation.  It has been a difficult stretch for me, as for many of us.

On April 2, I started to show symptoms of COVID-19.  I proceeded through the stages:  weakness, fever, then later lung and some kidney issues.  It never became very serious, but it lasted a while.  I took myself out of quarantine on May 13.  In the rural area where I live, there was no testing at the time, and I relied on CDC web pages for general guidance. 

Around the same time, as with many of us, I was hit with new financial and professional challenges.  (I work as an adjunct professor, never more than a contract worker for the state university system, which gives me no benefits and a poverty-level income).  While before I could save a hundred dollars a month, if I lived like a stoic, I now struggle not to sink too fast into the red.

Then on June 3, I went to bed wondering if I would wake up in a dictatorship, due to Donald Trump's wish to send ten thousand troops to Lafayette Square to break up a peaceful rally of citizens exercising their rights to freedom of speech and freedom of assembly.  Fortunately, two individuals stopped that from happening (according to WaPo):  the Secretary of Defense, Mark Esper, and the Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mark Milley.  On that night, these two men saved the Constitution as a viable document.

We here in the USA continue to live in a vortex of pandemic, economic crisis, social protests, and Trump's continuous and major threat to our democratic system.  The period from now until 2021 may be the last time in my life that I live beyond the grip of an authoritarian regime.  Conversely, if Trump is thrown out of office, it may signal a reformation, a bright epoch for equality, rights, decency, and democracy.  The USA is the wealthiest country and has the strongest military.  It isn't far-fetched to argue that as the US tilts, so tilts the globe.  The fate of humanity-- --autocracy or democracy--hangs in the balance during these precarious, tumultuous months. 

To be clear, autocracy as present in the USA includes:  White nationalism, fascism, racism, sexism, islamophobia, homophobia, xenophobia, kleptocracy, plutocracy, and the monarchic worship of hate-mongering demagogue who, by clinical standards, is both a narcissist and a sociopath.

Indeed, part of what has crippled me mentally is the fact that so many people could bow down to such a repulsive figure, when by resisting him they could live such better lives and more noble lives, and also found a quality future for their children.  For instance, we could have good government healthcare--but instead, more than half of our White population fixates on imaginary problems related to supposed dangers posed by immigrants and Black people.

Democracy, in contrast to Trumpian autocracy, is indeed, as Joe Biden, the Democratic candidate for President, put it, on the side of Light.  For instance, Biden's Vice-Presidential pick is a Black woman (who also has Indian heritage).  Yes, this alone is a magnificent thing, all by itself.  If that comes as a surprise, you aren't engaging the full virulence of racism and sexism in this country.  

Aside from all that, Kamala Harris, the VP candidate, is inspiringly and outstandingly competent.

Although for years I've been warning about the rise of fascism, this blog being one of my standard soapboxes, I find it very different to face what's going on directly, rather than just writing about it with foresight.  Intellectually,  sure, I saw this coming.  Psychologically, I can't come to grips with how quickly the Republican leadership sold out our values, whether in abject cowardice, or simply lust for their rung in the hierarchy.  Either is awful.  Either is despicable, dreadful, pitiable and infinitely sad.

As for me, my writing time is more precious than ever.  Most of what time I have, I put into my novel.  I'll be finishing the current draft soon, the fourth draft, and then I'll read it through out loud, one last time.  I work on it every day, even during the teaching semesters, except when a migraine headache looms.  I have to stop then.  The migraines are absolutely debilitating.  I'm talking paralytic pain.  No light, sound, or movement allowed.

I do think it will be a great novel.  It deserves to reach the world and to change it.  Desert, of course, doesn't translate into success.  I did write it to be stimulating and engaging and I'll market it aggressively.  In any case, it is something I've always wanted to do--the extreme exercise of my mental potential for the greatest challenge I could possibly face.  The content has been as soul-draining as validating.   It has plundered my passionate, social, and spiritual riches.  There is a higher statement buried in the dual plot.  This statement is sotto voce and it is not pure or innocent.  It gets heavily challenged, diluted, and suffers within the drama, love, war, beauty, monstrosity and apocalypse.

As I see it, my purpose is to finish this novel, whatever the financial or other expense.  It's not merely selfish.  I am no better than anyone else, but no worse either.  And to the extent that we can throw ourselves into the ordeals of prophets, channeling something greater than our carnal needs--aspects of art, good, and collective conscious--I consider myself a prophet. 

I am also, still, a poet, writer, thinker and ethicist.  My head is full of thoughts.  They bustle through, quite impatient.  My hope for this blog, at this juncture, is merely to share some of those thoughts in a brief format.  Maybe they will be useful to someone 'out there'.   Even if not, at least I'll relieve some of the pressure on my bulging, scattered, inefficient brain (A brain I love by the way, though I'm no Albert Einstein or Mary Shelley).