The things we never used to say:
Is our president willing to sacrifice all Americans to a violent, civil war for his own gain?
|Whitney Fishburn||Oct 2, 2019|
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vol. 1 issue 31
About two months ago, I wrote a piece about what has felt increasingly like a barrage of military helicopters coming way too close for comfort here in DC, and in other U.S. cities. I didn’t draw any direct conclusions, but I pointed out that there are things happening that we aren’t getting straight answers on, but that empirically, there are more military helicopters and it just feels wrong.
The reaction I received from readers was varied, and indicative of the fractured and surreal moment in time in which we now live.
Some thought I was a paranoid dork. Others blasted my naivete for not knowing that such missions are essential because of course, didn’t I know that there are foreign hostiles embedded in the US just waiting to take over.
But most chilling was the person, an official in the government, who remarked, “Isn’t it horrible, that educated people such as we are, now are actually worried about these things? That things we never used to say, we are saying?”
Now there is this from New York Times columnist Thomas Edsall, who actually mused out loud in print that it is possible POTUS is counting on using military force to stay in office should he either be impeached or lose in the upcoming election. Edsall canvassed a range of normally sanguine experts across various specialties such as US election historians, poll watchers, political scientists, Constitutional law professors, and others to gauge their thoughts on whether we would be forced into a civil war by this man if he doesn’t get his way.
There was no consensus, but there were some upsetting explanations for why it’s entirely possible. Too many to enumerate here, which is why I hope you will read Edsall’s column. But this stood out to me:
Bruce Cain, a political scientist at Stanford, argued in an email that Republicans will be very reluctant to turn against Trump. “In the Republican mind-set, the rules about transparency, legislative process and conflict of interest were driven by liberal reform groups not by people who actually wield power in America’s interest. America is teetering toward socialism and cultural chaos. Hence, the President has the right to push the boundaries of his power to achieve the right outcomes…”
Cain described current events as, “Nixon redux but worse. I naïvely thought we passed this test as a country already with Watergate and Iran-contra but it seems that our periodic assaults on democratic values are like a bad weather cycle made worse by a more extreme political climate.”
These are not the frightening scenarios outlined in Edsall’s piece, which include the stark assessment that the president has been not-so-subtly signaling to guns rights groups to prepare to take their ammo to the streets and not be afraid to use it; but they are currents that we most definintely are riding on, ones that the docu-mental podcast with former Senate Secretary Kelly Johsonston pointed to during my discussion with him about post-Watergate ethical over-corrections having led to there being an undue influence of special interest groups.
I think that is important to cogitate upon. In another docu-mental podcast, the one that actually enraged some listeners, I spoke with Dr. Allen Dyer about the president’s narcissism (which neither Dr. Dyer nor I ever denied exists) being a reflection of our larger ills. Namely, that he is evidence of us being a sick electorate, that we are and have been fractured and obsessed with our special interests rather than our unity and progress for some time. And if it’s true that this goes back to the Watergate era, then we’ve been ignoring the symptoms for decades, and now we are in full-blown crisis.
Does anyone remember the Michael Cohen testimony to Congress? I know it seems thousands of years ago, but it was only this past February. Aside from the surprising — but encouraging — admission on this brief docu-mental soundbyte that Congressmen Elijah Cummings (D, Md.) and Mark Meadows (R., N.C.) are friends and have used that friendship behind the scenes for the sake of equanimity in dealing with this president, there was this: If Trump loses in 2020, “there will never be a peaceful transition of power,” Cohen said.
Pillory Cohen all you want, why on earth would he say something so disturbing and otherwise unrelated to the testimony he was giving about paying off porn stars unless he knew something tangible and material about the president’s thinking on this?
There are real monies being spent in preparation for urban warfare. That is undeniable, thanks to ICE not being able to properly redact its own plans. Is that due to the military’s fears of dystopia, as reported earlier here, or is it something even darker, which sounds impossible, and yet…
Amy Siskind, a former Wall Street executive-turned-activist, founded The Weekly List to document every single abnormality of our current political lives because, she says:
“Experts in authoritarianism advise to keep a list of things subtly changing around you, so you’ll remember.”
So we’ll remember? It feels like a wail to commit to memory something once glorious, before it slips away, like Atlantis sinking to the bottom of the sea.
It is depressing. Would our leader put us all at such risk, does he hate us that much?
From the Edsall piece:
Bart Bonikowski, a professor of sociology at Harvard, reiterated the importance of norm violation in Trump’s governing strategy. “It signals to Trump’s (overwhelmingly white) supporters that he’s willing to represent them at any cost, even that of liberal democracy itself.”
Bonikowski contended that, “Whether perpetrated by “journalists, independent judges, career civil servants, or legislators,” Bonikowski wrote, “any attempt at checking his power is seen as a betrayal of him, his supporters, and ultimately, the nation.”
If you are one of those who does despise what you see happening before your very eyes, then what is the solution? It is not to retreat into despair. Don’t treat this presidency like the Alamo; we are not all automatically doomed, not yet. And anyway, what makes the Alamo special is that there was no way the Texans trapped inside could win against the Mexican forces, but they fought anyway: they kept hope.
I believe hopelessness is a sickness. It’s what leads to the election of people who do not have your best interests at heart.
First, as Johnston told us in that podcast, elected officials will actually do what you tell them, not the media. You have to call them, write them, and talk to them in person. You can’t outsource that to special interest groups and the media. You have to engage with them, you have to make them tell you themselves, “Why do you support this president?” Make them look you in the eye when they tell you. And then tell them your feelings and expectations about that.
You’re not the media; you don’t need to worry about whether they will give you access if they don’t like you. Make them worry that they won’t have access if you don’t like them.
I know, it’s so much work. Then take the time to write letters to your local paper. Elected officials do read them. Consider this op-ed in a recent Washington Post from former Congressman Jeff Flake (R., AZ.). It’s headlined, “Fellow Republicans, there’s still time to save your souls” and features this call to action:
At this point, the president’s conduct in office should not surprise us. But truly devastating has been our tolerance of that conduct. Our embrace of it. From the ordeal of this presidency, perhaps the most horrible — and lasting — effect on our democracy will be that at some point we simply stopped being shocked. And in that, we have failed not just as stewards of the institutions to which we have been entrusted but also as citizens. We have failed one another, and we have failed ourselves.
Let us stop failing now, while there is still time.
My fellow Republicans, it is time to risk your careers in favor of your principles. Whether you believe the president deserves impeachment, you know he does not deserve reelection.
Jeff Flake’s words alone aren’t going to push his former colleagues over the edge: Yours are the words that will translate into their action, or their inaction.
If you’re complaining that Congress isn’t doing their job, then ask if you are doing yours. You are supposed to have oversight of every elected official. Do you regularly give them a performance review that they can see and understand came from you, their constituent?
But also, set the tone, people. Consider that your words, whatever they might be, have the potential to be inflammatory to someone, enough to incite them to react in ways we never used to react, at least not openly, to one another.
That is not an exhortation to be quiet. It’s a plea to listen very closely to one another regardless of what you believe. Because you really and truly might be wrong. And more so, you might be surprised by what you learn, which could include that the things we never used to say are real, and that you personally are in physical danger at the hands of this president.
Friday’s podcast will be with Ronald Purser, PhD, a San Francisco State University business professor and ordained Zen Dharma Teacher in the Korean Zen Taego order of Buddhism. Dr. Purser is the author of McMindfulness: How Mindfulness Became the New Capitalist Spirituality. We will be discussing how mindfulness might be robbing you of your power to act, even if you feel good about that powerlessness amidst all that bliss.