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      I spent a good chunk of my childhood in third world countries. Most of it was in Bangladesh, then arguably the poorest country in the world, but I visited or lived in Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Nepal and India, among others. There’s a feel to the third world one becomes familiar with: beggars, infrastructure that doesn’t […]
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The world goes on without us

Sam Harris, neuroscientist and philosopher, sat down for a bit of an unusual interview with Preet Bharara on Thursday. I highly recommend this interview for any liberal or lefty people out there. Harris touches on a core truth about what is going on between the two halves of American culture right now but doesn’t quite connect the dots. Sooooo close though.

Skip the first hour if you’re not into meditation. It’s probably good for you but if you’re like me, he starts sounding like someone promoting veganism. Ok, great, you like it and get so much out of it but I don’t have time to check out and go to a meditation retreat, which is what it’s going to take. Pass me a porterhouse medium rare please.

It’s the second half where this interview really shines when he talks about how crazy making Trump supporters are. I can’t summarize it adequately. You really need to listen. He gets closer than anyone I’ve heard about why they drive us nuts. It’s that they know that Trump is an immoral, unethical, destructive, liar and they don’t care. Some of them even like it that he’s taking a wrecking ball to our governmental institutions. There’s a sick glee about it. He is their instrument, a bloated, incredibly stupid, walking, talking orange anger instrument.

I’ve been told that murdering someone with a knife is the ultimate act of rage. That’s what being with a Trump supporter feels like. It feels like their anger has been unleashed, it’s gory and they’re not going to stop until they turn us into a crime scene. Maybe they’ll wake up someday and have a McMichael father and son matching “oh f#%*, what happened last night, I drank way too much” look on the face. But in the meantime, they’re going to kill all of us just jogging around trying to live our lives.

To me, Trump is like a great white shark. A huge, extremely dangerous predator that is constantly moving, constantly hungry, unthinking and driven by an insatiable instinct for ripping the guts out of the next person just taking a nice dip in the ocean. There’s no meaning behind what he does. His eyes are cold. His destructiveness has no ultimate goal. I don’t know if that makes him a true fascist or not because he doesn’t have an ideology except for self-interest. It should be self limiting but he’s tearing through our institutions more quickly now like he’s in the grip of some kind of feeding frenzy. We can perhaps assume that there is an ideology present that finds his blank, idiotic vengefulness extremely convenient. That topic has been discussed elsewhere by others in greater detail, probably in The Atlantic or Slate. But I’ve got a feeling that some of those true fascists were behind much of what happened in 2008 at the collapse of the finance industry and that they quietly backed Obama.

Now, onto Obama.

I spent eight years resisting Obama. Don’t get me wrong, he’d be a huge improvement over Trump if for no other reason than his propensity to wash his hands of any true action for the change he ran on is a much less destructive character flaw than Trump’s mindless, insatiable, ripping us to shreds. In this interview, I can see my own point of view expressed by Harris, and the prevailing consensus driven reality that is represented by Preet. It’s worth the time to try to unpack why Obama had an impact on the typical Trumper.

Harris says you are not a horrible person if you found Obama was not an immaculately conceived sinless human being. It is perfectly fine to criticize him and you shouldn’t be crucified for it or called a racist.

Preet takes the other position, which is what I think is what caused so many voters to give in to Obama. That is, sure, you can express a more critical opinion of Obama. But the fear of the real racists in our culture causes us to be more scrupulous and demanding of our own side. The reality is that for eight straight years, you couldn’t say anything critical of Obama without being accused of racism. Harris would say that’s unacceptable and would defend your right to rationally stick to your opinions. Preet advocates for a vigorous defense against racism even where it might not exist because otherwise the real racists win.

And that, my friends, partially explains what the now Trump supporters found so crazy making about the left. In a way, it couldn’t have been a more perfect exploitable opportunity for the Fox News programmers. Here was the “liberal” nominee weaponizing race to stifle genuine criticism because we Americans know that there are real racists out there. The Obama contingent knew what they were doing and they also didn’t care. It was much easier to pull this off when they made over the Clinton supporters as the “old coalition” of stupid, working class, uneducated voters who had no other reason to dislike him but the color of his skin. Neat trick to turn so many of us into such an unappealing caricature. Who says the left knows nothing about messaging?

It was the equivalent of the left telling the non-Obama supporters that they were just hatin’ Never Obamaers and their opinions could be dismissed.

I was one of those people who was enraged by this because the left excused all kinds of gratuitous rule bending and primary voter disenfranchisement to get Obama the nomination. (Hello! California didn’t even cast its ballots at the convention in Denver in 2008.) We witnesses were told to get on the bandwagon or risk ostracism. When the dust settled and Jon Favreau types felt comfortable enough to be photographed groping the breast of a life sized cardboard cutout of Hillary Clinton, we were told to get over it. It was just hard ball politics they said as they continued to poke us in the eye with sharp sticks. In other words, the bare knuckled fight for the 2008 nomination exposed our own crazy making cadre of people who know what they’re doing is destructive but they just didn’t care. And they used the threat of the accusation of racism to make the left not care either. For eight straight years, Obama could do no wrong, which in a way wasn’t so bad after all because he didn’t actually do much.

Lest you think I’m wrong about that, go say something critical about Obama on Twitter. Criticize the creaky awfulness of the ACA that pitted lower income people against each other, requiring some of them to jump through ever higher hoops for shitty health insurance policies they couldn’t afford. Or try to discuss how he left the finance industry foxes guarding the henhouse after 2008. Remind people about how he stood between the investment bankers and the pitchforks. Do you think he did that on behalf of the hardworking working class people in America? Go read the book Bailout by IG Neil Borofsky about how Obama gave control of the treasury to the companies that were too big to fail. Harris brings up Obama’s milquetoast response to the beginning of the exponentially destabilizing war in Syria. We could go on and on but don’t try to talk about it rationally with an Obama supporter. The man was a saint and could do no wrong. Put aside the fact that he lacked Trump’s stupidity or immorality. He deserved a lot more push back from his own side than he got but most Obama supporters either vigorously defended him while simultaneously dismissing the “old coalition” and silently went along with the eight years of hard ball tactics for fear of being called racists.

My point is that the left willingly blinded itself to the installation of Obama by equally mysterious forces (my guess is they were mostly soft right wing) carefully hiding their ideology behind a shield of racism accusations. The now Trump supporters, some of them former “old coalition” Democrats took a lesson from it. Trump is a different and more deadly form of awful and they should have been more careful. But the method behind their madness is the same. They are going to shove Trump down our throats, cram him down there until we’re gagging. Some of them might very well be racists. There’s no doubt in my mind that Trump is. But even the least racist among Trump’s supporters are more than happy to take revenge, spurred on by the extreme right wing messaging on the right. They now have a worldview constructed for them by the sympathetic news readers on Fox who told them they should be outraged and fan the flames at every opportunity no matter how strained or ridiculous.

Am I saying we deserved it? No. Some of us predicted that there would be unintended consequences to the way 2008 played out. But let’s not forget that Reagan and Newt and Tom DeLay planted the seeds for the gaping rift between left and right that we see today. The left just stupidly gave their upper hand away when they didn’t hold the Obama administration accountable for the unfeeling and uncaring way the working class was treated in the wake of the financial crisis.

I don’t excuse the Trump supporters. What they are doing and allowing to happen right now is horribly destructive for all of us. It is immoral and if they give into that impulse, they are participating in evil acts. I’m not afraid to say it, not that they care. I think that’s the “banality of evil” that Hannah Arendt referred to.

The world in turn is walking away from the crime scene that is the United States. We have lost our standing and reputation. That is something that a whole country full of fluttering flags and heartrending schlocky renditions of God Bless the USA will never atone for or remedy. We are not number one anymore. That’s not just a lefty expressing some common sentiment of my side. It’s the cold, honest, looking at it in the broad daylight reality.

Karma is biting the Trump supporter in the ass right now very hard. It’s going to get worse as our quality of life collapses and crime and corruption become our standard operating procedure. I find it maddening too that people who have exemplary personal values towards their families and friends can become callous, ugly, unhinged Gollum like creatures whenever you talk about Trump with them. Unlike Obama, Trump has absolutely no redeeming qualities. It would be difficult to find a less admirable human being running a first world nation today. At least Obama had a good family life and didn’t go out of his way to seek revenge or rip whole government departments to shreds. If Obama was in charge, his response to this pandemic would have been exponentially better than Trump’s even if it compromised too much and fell significantly short of what could have been if he’d just exercised his will. The country would be hurt but not anywhere near the degree that it is now or will be in the future. ANY president in our past with the possible exceptions of Buchanan, Harding and Hoover would be doing a better job without the extreme long lasting negative consequences coming our way than Donald Trump has done. Even George W. Bush.

The failure or obstinacy of the Trump supporter to acknowledge that, dump Trump, and join us in defending our birthright is what is driving us crazy.