Ah,Trump. Not exactly the kind of fellow I’d like to spend too much time contemplating, lest he ruin what seasonal cheer still remains as our world lurches from one apocalyptic scenario to the next. And yet, there is something both fascinating and repellent about the man and his hairpiece, and equally hairy ideas.
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It’s as if the American dream lay down with PT Barnum during a hurricane and a chimera for our time was born: one part huckster, one part demon, one part faux patriot.
Trump embodies America and its traditions as much as Norman Rockwell. He is the grandson of a German immigrant who made his fortune on Klondike brothels and was a prominent KKK leader, and it’s no wonder Trump voters are often second-generation immigrants themselves, who want to keep their tenuous hold on economic stability “safe” from yet more immigrant hordes. Forget the better angels of our nature, Trump appeals to animal instincts for survival. But there’s certainly nothing “un-American” about that, in spite of a White House spokesman calling Trump’s proposal to ban Muslims from coming to the United States “totally contrary to our values as Americans.”
Trump is the end product of a nation built on slavery, slaughter of native peoples and ruthless settlement of their lands by religious zealots and Puritans. He is the son of an America built on successive waves of immigrants who endured racism and violence but clawed their way to middle-class respectability until they too could demonize the next wave of immigrants from their safe property-owning, employed and pensioned status.
The thing is, now the American Dream – if it ever really existed (perhaps for a brief white middle-class postwar moment when returning GI’s got help with education and real estate purchases?) – is in tatters. The gap between rich and poor – like everywhere in the world – has become obscene and dangerous. Education and home ownership and full-time employment are entitlements of another era, and a vast underclass of Americans have only their animal instincts and their Wal-Mart guns to fall back on.
Just as the Taliban got their foot soldiers from the post-Soviet invasion Afghan refugee camps, just as ISIS recruits from Iraq’s lost “no future” generation of young men who came of age knowing only war and sanctions and occupation, so too does the Donald find his supporters living in the shadows of the dying American dream.
The marginalized, the dispossessed and the profoundly uneducated love this man not only because he reflects their paranoid, ill-informed world views back to them, but also because, however perversely, he gives the impression of “sticking it” to “the man”; of revealing the truths that no one will dare speak to a moribund party of old boys.
And weirdly, to a certain degree, they are right. In the theater of American politics, Trump is breaking the fourth wall. He is opening the screen on the great and powerful Oz and revealing what lies beneath.
Despite Paul Ryan claiming that Trump is “not who we are as a party,” a Rasmussen Reports survey says that 66 percent of Republicans favour Trump’s proposal to ban Muslims from America. And Trump’s extreme ideas about racial profiling are already a de facto reality in uber-ally Israel, as any recently harassed, strip-searched and denied-entry Arab-American can attest.
I have to admit to feeling certain sympathy for the Trump devil, when the likes of Benjamin (I support racist, murderous settlers) Netanyahu and Dick (Haliburton earned 39 billion from the illegal Iraq war I helped instigate) Cheney began to call him a monster. The spectacle – rather like Saudi (home to Wahhabist extremists) Arabia suddenly championing the cause of the war on terror – was too much to stomach.
Especially in light of the fact that a dangerous, race-baiting new bill (Bill 158) was passed this week in the U.S. House of Representatives with 90 percent support and is only a Senate vote away from becoming law. Under the guise of “national security,” the bill would effectively restrict travel of foreign nationals to the U.S. who had travelled to Iraq, Syria, Iran or Sudan within the last five years, as well as dual nationals of said nations (regardless of their political affiliations, i.e. even those who had fled as refugees). In essence it would legislate a “second class” of U.S. citizens.
Now as a journalist who travels regularly to the Middle East, who knows if I’ll ever get to see an America run by Trump (I may never get a visa!). But if I do manage to penetrate the new Fortress America and survive a misguided Islamophobic attack by a Wal-Mart gun-slinging patriot, I might find a less hypocritical nation: one where domestic and foreign policies are more closely aligned.
Unlike the current long-time status quo – an America that practices “democracy” and “compassion” at home, but fascism abroad (consider Obama’s heartfelt condolences to the victims of the Sandy Hook school shooting, while U.S. drones continue to kill children in Pakistan and Yemen at an unprecedented rate) – an America led by Trump would at least be honest about its intentions.