Tuesday, May 2, 2017

7 + 45 = Bad Math


My favorite stories, hands down, have to do with human transformation. Someone locked away in some cold, dark part of themselves suddenly sees the light and escapes from the prison of their greed, hatred, self-loathing to emerge into the light of their better self. Probably the most well-known and radical example is Ebenezer Scrooge, that Bah Humbug old skinflint who is shown the consequences of his miserable life and given a chance to redeem himself. He takes it and the world is astonished.

No such miraculous transformation will be happening with 45. What you see is exactly what you get and it ain’t pretty. We all hoped that some of it may have been a posture just to get elected, but 100 days into his Presiduncey, there has been no revelation of a kinder heart, more intelligent mind or more open-to-discussion personality and short of the visits by the three ghosts, there will never be one. From the start, some found such “I yam what I yam” honesty refreshing, but that simply reveals the confused state of mind and troubled soul of our nation’s voters.

Take his recent comparison of himself to Andrew Jackson, the 7th President. As reported recently:

Trump made the comments after going on a lengthy riff about President Andrew Jackson, a past president Trump believes was similar to himself in his populist views and bombastic campaigning. "I mean, had Andrew Jackson been a little later, you wouldn't have had the Civil War," Trump said of the slave-owning president. "He was a very tough person, but he had a big heart. He was really angry that he saw what was happening with regard to the Civil War. He said 'there's no reason for this.'"
Not much subtlety to unpack. Of course Jackson was angry, the same way all the Southern States were. How dare the North imply that slaves were people entitled to the equality promised by the Constitution?! How dare they interrupt our great deal of free labor to make us rich?! Who do they think they are trying to disturb my sipping mint juleps on the porch of my plantation while the happy slaves did work they were grateful to have?! And since I (Jackson) myself own 300 slaves, ain’t no one gonna take them away from me!
For anyone who knows a little history, Jackson’s “big heart” was also responsible for the Indian Removal Act, causing much death and devastation as thousands walked the “Trail of Tears” from Florida to Oklahoma. This is the guy who Trump idolizes.
One thing must be said about Jackson that sets him apart from Trump. He was a man of his times. After all, it’s not unusual that he had slaves—as we know, Jefferson and others did also. It’s not surprising that he believed in Manifest Destiny and that the white race had both the right and duty to take land away from the “savage” Indians. This was common fare in the discourse of the times and he can’t be wholly judged by the standards of our time. 
Not so Trump. He’s alive in a time when the notion of white supremacy has been proven time and time again to be a shameful folly of our undeveloped ignorant stage of human evolution. The more civilized nations—Germany, Australia, South Africa and Canada, for starters—have embarked on their Truth and Reconciliation campaigns to confess to their sins and crimes against humanity. He should know better and instead is trying to drag us back down into the Dark Ages. Jackson never got to witness the extraordinary moral force and intelligence of people like Harriet Tubman (who soon will replace him on the $20 bill), Frederick Douglass, W.E. Du Bois, Langston Hughes, Richard Wright, Martin Luther King (for starters). Trump is—or should be—aware of their contributions and still persists in bending the moral arc of the universe away from justice. That’s a greater shame and crime against humanity from someone whose “big heart” is 10 times smaller than the Grinch. Without the hope of redemption.
Ironically, I also hung Andrew Jackson’s portrait in my bedroom as a child. In fact, I had commissioned my father to paint it after reading in 4th grade a biography of Jackson extolling his heroic virtues. The guy greeted me every morning and was the last face I saw each night before sleep.
But like Scrooge and the Grinch, I eventually had my moment of epiphany and realized I had been idolizing a brutal man unworthy of respect. And you, Mr. Trump?

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