Friday, January 20, 2017

Obama Still Alive And Well After 8 Years - What Did Trump Say Today?

I remember back in 2009, that many of us worried that Barrack Obama wouldn't survive his presidency.  So as I watched the new president being sworn in, I was delighted to see Obama there.

I hope those who have great fears about the next four years, will see at the conclusion of the Trump presidency, that their worst fears weren't realized.

Meanwhile, some reactions to the new president's inaugural speech.  It wasn't a typical Trump speech.  He only used the word "I" about three times. (I say 'about' because the word counters can be tricky, especially with single letter words.  I checked some words using a search function, but I also used an online word counter. The numbers vary a bit, so my numbers here are approximate.)  He used 'we' over 40 times and 'you' and 'your' about 23 times.  The words 'environment,' 'constitution,' 'climate,' and 'health,' were not mentioned. Though he did mention 'the misery of disease.'   "Law' was mentioned once - as part of 'law enforcement.'

But it painted a vision of a dark America with many people suffering poverty, unemployment, crime, and bad schools which will all be made great again.  He talked about America First, a phrase used by Nazi sympathizers who wanted to keep the US out of the second world war.  You can see his competitive model of the world throughout his speech.  Our team is going to start winning again was a key message.  Another key message was giving power back to the people from the corrupt politicians.

Here are some excerpts and my reactions.  You can watch or read it all here.

"Together, we will determine the course of America and the world for years to come."
That was one of two uses of the word 'together.'  The other time it was attached to making America great again.
". . . today we are not merely transferring power from one administration to another, or from one party to another -- but we are transferring power from Washington, D.C. and giving it back to you, the American People."
Exactly who the 'American people' are, who 'you' is supposed to mean is not clear in this speech.  Though I suspect Trump supporters think it means them and Trump opponents think it means Trump supporters too.  
"For too long, a small group in our nation's Capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost. Washington flourished -- but the people did not share in its wealth. Politicians prospered -- but the jobs left, and the factories closed."
Government is the bad guy.  That's a pretty common theme in the US.  I've been thinking about a post that argues government isn't the enemy because it's been taken over by business.  If government is corrupt, whose paying to corrupt it?  All the corporations who spend billions on lobbying to pass laws that help them and kill laws that would make corporations more accountable.  

Trump doesn't mention the non-governmental multi-millionaire and billionaire class that is getting richer at the expense of everyone else, he only mentions their puppets, the politicians.  
"January 20th 2017, will be remembered as the day the people became the rulers of this nation again. The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer."
Who exactly will become the rulers again?  Not Native Americans or African-Americans, since they never were the rulers.  Not Asian-Americans or Hispanics.  Not LGBT folks.  Not women.  Who does that leave?  OK, he does mention women in the next sentence, but this is the 'forgotten men and women.'  Is this where he's talking about the Native Americans and all the others? Why does that seem like putting words in his mouth?  Toni Morrison's essay in the NYTimes offers one explanation of this part of the Trump appeal.
"You came by the tens of millions to become part of a historic movement the likes of which the world has never seen before. At the center of this movement is a crucial conviction: that a nation exists to serve its citizens."
This comes closer to classic Trump rhetoric - 'which the world has never seen before.'  You can make statements like this if you never read about history or about the rest of the world.  
"Americans want great schools for their children, safe neighborhoods for their families, and good jobs for themselves. These are the just and reasonable demands of a righteous public."
I bet if we sat in with the speech writers, we would have heard some debate about whether to mention health care.  Well, maybe not.  I doubt there was any discussion about climate change.

Here is where it begins to sound like a Communist Chinese report on human rights abuses in the US.
"But for too many of our citizens, a different reality exists: Mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities; rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation; an education system flush with cash, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of knowledge; and the crime and gangs and drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential."
"This American carnage stops right here and stops right now."
Why don't I think this is a call to restrict the sale of automatic weapons?
"We are one nation -- and their pain is our pain. Their dreams are our dreams; and their success will be our success. We share one heart, one home, and one glorious destiny."
This is the closest this speech comes to a unity theme.  But the idea that Trump feels anyone else's pain just doesn't ring true to me.  
"For many decades, we've enriched foreign industry at the expense of American industry; subsidized the armies of other countries while allowing for the very sad depletion of our military; we've defended other nation's borders while refusing to defend our own; and spent trillions of dollars overseas while America's infrastructure has fallen into disrepair and decay.
We've made other countries rich while the wealth, strength, and confidence of our country has disappeared over the horizon." 
When I was a graduate student, I was surprised to read a review of American foreign aid packages. The aid bills in Congress always stipulate that US products are used to aid other countries and for the most part US companies get contracts to do the work.  It was always a good way to distribute money to American companies and workers in the guise of helping others.  Let's not fool ourselves that spending money abroad hurts the US.  If it did, Congress wouldn't pass those budgets.  They get lobbied by all the companies whose products - often things they can't sell - are going to be bought by the US to ship overseas.  It's a great stimulus to the economy. (See especially the bottom of page 44 in this report.)  And military spending has enriched American businesses since the Revolutionary War.  

Seeing American infrastructure rebuilt would be a great thing.  And it would be great for American businesses to thrive and for them to create lots of good paying jobs to build that infrastructure.  I just don't want them to get unduly wealthy, their employees overworked and underpaid, and a shoddy end product.  
"One by one, the factories shuttered and left our shores, with not even a thought about the millions upon millions of American workers left behind.
The wealth of our middle class has been ripped from their homes and then redistributed across the entire world."
This is a side-effect of capitalism.  Companies work to make a profit.  If they make more profit by going overseas, that's what they'll do.  But as many jobs, maybe more, are lost to automation of jobs.  In the 50s and 60s there were articles about how Americans would spend their leisure time when automation brought the work week to 30 hours.  What those writers weren't thinking was that the benefits would go to the owners, not the workers.  That 'leisure' is called today 'unemployment.'

It seems to me that 'ripped from their homes' was related to unregulated mortgage schemes ultimately the fault of big banks that were making money so fast they didn't care about the consumer.  Government's involvement was that they didn't regulate the banks closely enough.  
"We assembled here today are issuing a new decree to be heard in every city, in every foreign capital, and in every hall of power.
From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land.
From this moment on, it's going to be America First."
As mentioned above, America First, has a dark history.  If Trump sticks to his word here, his friend Vlad is in for a surprise.  I'm not holding my breath.
"Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs, will be made to benefit American workers and American families. We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies, and destroying our jobs. Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength."
No, other countries aren't 'stealing' our companies.  Even though they may be owned by Americans, these are Americans who weigh their costs and benefits and decide to ship jobs overseas.  
"We will reinforce old alliances and form new ones -- and unite the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the Earth."
I can't in any way defend people who murder women and children in cold blood.  But they are still human beings.  To deny that may be an attempt to distance oneself from the atrocities that humans commit.  The leaders who led the genocides in Africa used similar language - calling their enemies cockroaches to be eradicated.  Dehumanizing the enemy is practiced all over the world.   However misguided ISIS terrorists are, they come from situations where they are alienated enough to be susceptible to recruitment.  And then they are trained to obey orders and be loyal to the group.  

Here's a passage I'd love to have the new president discuss with, say, Charlie Rose or Bill Moyers.
"At the bedrock of our politics will be a total allegiance to the United States of America, and through our loyalty to our country, we will rediscover our loyalty to each other.
When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice. The Bible tells us, "How good and pleasant it is when God's people live together in unity."
Whoa!  Total allegiance to the United States of America!  I imagine a lot of Christians might argue that their first allegiance is to God.  Others might say their allegiance is to all of humankind, not just to Americans.  And what does that mean for people who don't agree with what the United States is doing - say like Trump until today?   Or people who have dual citizenship?  Is that going to be abolished?  What will happen to someone who has only 75% allegiance to the USA?  Should we have more loyalty to corrupt Americans than to saintly citizens of other countries?  

I like that he suggests there is no room for prejudice, but I don't understand how that follows from loyalty to the US. White Nationalists would argue they are completely loyal to the US, but with whites in power.  

Then there is the bible quote.  What exactly does "God's people" mean to Trump?  It's from the Old Testament, so does it refers to Jews?  Is it understood to mean Christians?  Christians and Jews?  What about Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and atheists?  It would be nice to hear an explanation of what Trump, or the speech writers, had in mind.  

Knowing that bible translations vary greatly, I looked it up.  Of 22 different translations, biblehub  shows only one that mentions "God's people."  All the others refer to when "brethren" or "brothers" live together in unity.  (One says 'brothers and sisters.")  To suggest that it's "good and pleasant' when brethren live together in unity, also suggests that it's common for them not to.  The bible it comes from appears to be one of the most used, which raises questions about how close to the original biblical language most American Christians are.  

This is going to be an interesting four years.  

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments will be reviewed, not for content (except ads), but for style. Comments with personal insults, rambling tirades, and significant repetition will be deleted. Ads disguised as comments, unless closely related to the post and of value to readers (my call) will be deleted. Click here to learn to put links in your comment.