Beyond Good and Evil

Dr. Ronnie J. Hastings

Dealing with Donald, or, A Citizen’s Survival Guide for Trump’s Apparent Presidency

As promised, here’s some suggestions that have popped up to use the next four years or so, and, amazingly, the man in these suggestions has not been inaugurated yet. For starters, some preliminary comments:

a) Lest we citizens not exactly thrilled with the outcome of the 2016 Presidential election be accused of being closed-minded, we must perpetually allow for the possibility, no matter how minuscule it may appear, we will need to show support for any actions by the new administration that meet our approval. None such have appeared thus far, in my opinion, but, then, for us eternal optimists, hope springs eternal.

b) Any specific causes or organizations I cite herein are merely personal suggestions that work for me. The reader should substitute and/or add the name or names of his/her preferences for mine, if desired.

c) We must banish thoughts of doing everything we can to discredit Trump, else we become no better than the grid-locking Republicans in Congress and elsewhere who held our nation hostage for petty political purposes during Obama’s two terms. Again, if Trump does well, let’s be supportive. For the good of our country, we must hope he does well.

But the sad reality is, he’s been our President-elect a little over a month now at the time of this writing, and there is little or no encouragement for us to be optimistic. Logically, we need to play it safe and assume the worst, else we are guilty of not being prepared for whatever may come. This is a suggestive guide for being so prepared from my point of view.

The philosophical modus operandi when dealing with Donald is to think of history as a parade of great ideas, not a parade of great men/women. Since none of us, living or dead, was or is perfect, thinking of history this way saves us frustration and disappointment whenever an individual’s imperfections become apparent. As Presidential candidates go, Trump is one of the most imperfect in a long, long time. I’ve not seen one like him since Nixon.

Wielding history in this way, American history is on “our” side. Donald is not only a narcissistic, grown-up, and greedy playground bully, he can be compared to the likes of mega-maniacal Nixon, to past fascist dictators like Hitler and Mussolini, and to present fascist-like dictators like Putin (Apparently now Putin is the richest individual on the planet.). If he (Trump) actually tries out some of his ideas (e.g. the wall) while in office, Dr. Rick Covington’s suggestion that they could be compared to some of Mao’s idiotic and tragic policies would be well taken. Obviously, to use history in this way, we must know our history; we cannot “brush up” on American and world history too much in the days to come.

Nixon was forced to resign when threatened with impeachment for his part in the Watergate break-in; “Tricky Dick” was a criminal and clearly in violation of his oath of office. Trump is already setting himself up to become in violation of his oath of office, in my opinion, by essentially taking the same position as the Russians on the hacking scandal (Can you say “treason,” boys and girls?), and by deliberately clinging to conflicts of interest (refusal to publicly release his taxes, violation of the emoluments clause) once he is in office, in clear violation of Constitutional requirements of the President. If the possibility of impeachment grows after he takes office, we must be patient, for, if I remember my Watergate history correctly, it took months for the pressure on Nixon to build up to where he found himself “painted into a corner.”

“Gird your loins” with the history of elections of Presidents who did not receive a majority of the popular vote. Personally, I think comparing Trump with Rutherford B. Hayes is quiet rewarding. In the election of 1876, Republican Hayes received 47.9% of the vote compared to Democrat Samuel Tilden’s 50.9% (Compare these numbers with Trump’s and Clinton’s percentages, taking into account the third-party percentages.), yet in the shameful “Compromise of 1877” a deal was cut between the two parties wherein Hayes could be President in exchange for the Republicans removing federal troops from the South, thereby ending Reconstruction and ushering in the systematic disenfranchisement of former slaves, the infamous “Jim Crow” laws. Incidentally, as I’ve discussed with Dr. Jon Reese and others, we can assure that the President-elect is always the one who receives the majority popular vote nationwide (without having to amend the Constitution): As several States have already done, have the State’s Electoral College (EC) set of voters pledged to vote for the candidate receiving the national majority vote, a result that can be reliably known today by the time polls close in Alaska and Hawaii. The EC vote would then be a redundant affirmation of the whole country’s choice. Clearly, this would have elected Al Gore in 2000 and Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Hayes’ administration followed upon the heels of U.S. Grant’s corrupt administration, helping to perpetuate the infamous “robber barons” of the late 19th century (You know, the villains in the newest Lone Ranger movie starring Johnny Depp as Tonto.). These characters notoriously rode tax breaks toward destruction and rape of the environment, all in the name of profit. Sound familiar? Trump appears to be a modern-day version of a robber baron, giving big business in particular and business in general a bad name. He is “in bed” with the huge oil and gas industry (e.g. Exxon-Mobil) so snugly, he clearly is anti-environment. In other words, he not only doesn’t care about our rights, he doesn’t give a crap about our planet. Those who worship at the shrine of money, mammon, and capitalism need to be reminded there are lots of “filthy rich”examples much better than Donald, like Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, and Oprah Winfrey.

I’ll always be amazed at the rabble who insist we need a business person in the White House. History doesn’t bear the weight of that argument, in my opinion; greedy capitalists tend to morph into Scrooges. The robber baron lesson means in a Trump administration we must support those from whom the robber barons steal — the poor, the hungry, refugees fleeing one or more of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and the infirm. Give to humanitarian and charitable organizations like UNICEF, the Red Cross, the Red Crescent, the Clinton Foundation, St. Jude, Shriner’s hospitals, Make-a-Wish Foundation, and Jimmy Carter’s Habitat for Humanity, to name but a few. As individuals, we usually can’t afford to give to all, but at least we can give to one.

Trump is of my generation, so we all need to know how to assess members of my generation, the so-called “Baby-Boomers.” Only part of my generation “took” to the “3-pronged” social revolutions of the 1960’s — 1) the Civil Rights Movement, 2) the Women’s Movement, and 3) the Anti-war Movement. I graduated high school a “male chauvinist pig” in 1964 and emerged from undergraduate school at A&M in 1968 “inoculated” by all three prongs. Another member of my generation, Hillary Clinton, over about the same period of time, morphed from a “Goldwater Girl” to working for voters’ rights for the disenfranchised in far south Texas. But I’m afraid too many of our generation did not “take” to the revolutions, and Donald Trump was certainly one of those. I’m guessing over half of my generation merely replaced their parents and/or grandparents, emerging from the revolutions unchanged and longing for the “good old days” of the 1950’s. We know Trump’s dad dealt with housing for blacks in New York City following Jim Crow laws. Moreover, Trump’s financial successes appear to be the result of “daddy bailing him out,” rather than the result of Trump’s business acumen. In other words, Trump in the 21st century still apparently believes the world is still “ruled” by rich white men, as it practically was back in the 1950’s before the revolutions. So, when dealing with my generation, individually find out if he/she “took.”

As a person “stuck” politically, morally, and socially in the 1950’s, Trump cares for no one’s rights but his own. Consequently, he seems capable of bigotry based solely on xenophobia, in my opinion. Our support of organizations directly defending the rights of us all, especially if we are not white, male, rich, and Protestant, is now of greatest importance. I plan to join and support the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). For women’s right to make their own choices about their lives, I want to support Planned Parenthood. I also want to lend my support to Sanctuary Cities who give succor to desperate immigrants looking to America for their salvation. In all situations wherein anyone’s civil rights are being denied, we must speak up, not tolerating such denial ever. Just the fear of losing one’s basic rights can devastate lives; recently a student I was tutoring spoke of a friend of the LGBT community sobbing in fear over the 2016 election’s outcome.

What about the younger generations than mine, which I will call the generations of my children and my grandchildren? Why would they vote in 2016 against their own best interests, or not vote at all? Many seemed to squander their vote on a hopeless third party (Look where that sort of thing landed Iceland recently in a many-partied election!), or they believed Trump actually cared about the working class. I think these voting patterns showed the inability to recognize propaganda — the inability to not only think critically, but to think skeptically. Even young children can learn to recognize truth not from authority, but from evidence. Basic education should universally include course work demanding critical and skeptical thinking skills, like well-taught science and math classes. I support good strong civics curricula which emphasize the principles upon which our Constitution was based, and I support high school philosophy courses wherein students are taught to question everything they are taught. This is why I feel compelled to support science education groups like the National Center for Science Education (NCSE). Students should not only be able to distinguish between propaganda and political reality, they should also need to distinguish on their own science from pseudo-science.

Moreover, we need to keep hammering home the idea of free higher education for successful students in state colleges and universities, just like public education is “free” to the “customer” in the classroom. If lottery, gaming, and horse racing revenues were plowed into higher education, plans such as the one put forth by Bernie Sanders and embraced by HRC could easily be paid for. The idea is admirably based on merit, rewarding successful academic work; whether a student gets funded for the next semester depends upon meeting the standards of success in all courses in the previous semester.

Then there were those “one-issue” voters who voted against Hillary or for Donald as if their “favorite” issue was the only plank in the party’s platform, or the only concern of the party’s policy makers. Many of these myopic voters seemed to me to be evangelical Christians whose one issue was abortion, or the make-up of the future Supreme Court. These voters need some sort of rationality therapy wherein a party’s total platform is scrutinized to produce a “political spectrum average.” This “plank average” comparison, I think, would show any open-minded citizen that for decades the Democratic party’s average is by far more humane, uplifting, Christian, tolerant, safe, and supportive than the Republican party’s. It is part of our job to provide this therapy in elections to come.

To keep, in a Trump administration, our country from being too much under Russian influence, yet not restart the Cold War, we need to foster broader understanding of Russia and of our allies and adversaries overseas. Thanks to the glaze with which the greed of business can coat clear thinking, Trump is rightly already called, in Lenin’s words, “a useful idiot” for Putin’s Russia. It is Russia’s young populace we need to be concerned with. Read in the December 2016 issue of National Geographic about today’s young Russians and how suppressive of young minds Putin is, not only in the best tradition of Stalin, but also of Hitler and Mussolini. If Trump and his cronies continue to act like “Putin’s puppets,” Putin might well get away with his crimes in the Crimea, Ukraine, and Syria. We have to rally citizens to work to strengthen NATO, not undermine it. Germany’s economic and social leadership in Europe today should be a blueprint worthy of our consideration.

In dealing with Russia, we must remember this is a country that did not have a Renaissance, a Reformation, or an Enlightenment, as we had in the West (and which explain our rise toward democratic and universal suffrage). It is too late for Russia to have a Renaissance or a Reformation, but, just like Islam could use a Reformation, Russia could surely use a vigorous, modern version of the Enlightenment. And we cannot be the agents of these necessary changes; Russians have generate their own Enlightenment, just as Muslims have to generate their own Reformation.
We need to make sure our fellow citizens are familiar with the words “kakistocracy” and “kleptocracy.” (Look them up, and thanks to Karolina King for pointing the first out to me.) The gloomiest statement we can make right now about Trump is that he is busy assembling a kakistocracy (of which he is the head) toward a government functioning as a kleptocracy — all to the demise of what most Americans hold most dear. Talk about our Founding Fathers spinning in their graves!

Yet to dwell on this gloom to the point of fear, desperation, and/or resignation is too myopic of us. As I like to remind myself, “We’ve come a long way, baby!” to get where we’ve got to today! Remember things like when the Chicago Cubs won the World Series in 1908, women could not vote and African-Americans as well as Latinos could not play major league baseball. If you don’t have one yet, develop a perspective both broad and deep; such can be both personally and perpetually enlightening and encouraging.

As Delores Covington has rightly pointed out, we must always remain vigilant. Thomas Jefferson is usually given credit for statements like “Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom.” Moreover, Jefferson also reminded us that one of the most patriotic things we can do is be critical and skeptical of our government, which sounds oxymoronic. But TJ is right on point. WE are the government, a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. Self-criticism, both individual and public, is vital. One could say the particulars of this “survival guide” are suggestions on how to be critically vigilant, and, therefore, patriotic.

Clearly, the “vigilance point” above applies to ANY Presidential administration. To be vigilant would be just as important if HRC (or anyone else) had won the election.

Speaking of Thomas Jefferson, not only was he one of the first advocates in our country for public education, he was one of the pioneers taking the first steps toward universal suffrage, in the form of being an advocate for the “common man vote,” where a male got to vote regardless of how rich he was and/or how much property he owned. His concern responding to criticism of the common man vote was that an uninformed electorate might vote in an incompetent, dangerous person into public office; hence, his strong advocacy for public education. The 2016 election possibly might be seen as the election of Trump by an uninformed electorate — Jefferson’s fear might have been born out. Alexis de Tocqueville in Democracy in America expressed concern that the United States could be ruled by the “tyranny of the majority,” which is of little concern, in my opinion, if the majority is wise enough to respect the rights of the minority. Given that Trump was elected, however, by a minority of the electorate, uninformed or not, his particular election could also be seen as portending the “tyranny of the minority,” de Tocqueville turned upside down.

Over the years of too many Republican administrations, I have been energized by political protest music, like that of our new Nobel Laureate, Bob Dylan, and by songs like “Cult of Personality,” by Living Colour and “The ‘Fish Cheer’/I Feel Like I’m Fixin’ to Die Rag” by Country Joe and the Fish, as well as the instrumental National Anthem by Jimi Hendrix. All of you, I’m sure, can add your own inspiring music examples.

And don’t forget to be grateful for the great humor that will undoubtedly evolve from the Trump administration, as wonderfully illustrated by SNL. All political comedians and all us wanna-be-comedians are going to have a field day! To quote the Lennon/McCartney lyric from “Being For the Benefit of Mr. Kite, ”A splendid time is guaranteed for all!” Example: Who does Donald Trump think was the greatest job creator ever? Adolf Hitler! Hitler not only gave us the Volkswagen, he eliminated unemployment in Europe for years!


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