- Privilege Dies Hard Despite 2008by Helenfogarassy
Note: Dated but unfortunately more timely than ever. Part of a think-piece collection entitled America Votes Obama to Biden Past Trump: a kalesidocopic view of the Trump phenomenon. It is a Hungarian-American view of a world where privilege fights equality to the death. Here goes.
Privilege Dies Hard Even After 2008
In the last press conference a week before he left office with the inauguration f the western industrialized world’s first nonwhite president, outgoing president Bush said he had seen people on television crying after the election of the new president, saying they never believed they’d see the day when a black man was elected president of the United States. “It’s going to be an amazing – amazing moment, ” he said of the swearing into office of the new president, adding that there would always be work to do in dealing with people’s hearts.
Whatever was in the outgoing presdient’s heart could not be known, but his Secretary of State was a black woman and his Attorney General was the first hispanic to hold the position, no matter if he resigned while under investigation for politicizing the Justice Department. Clearly the departing white president was no classic racist, but the contrast between his administration and one shaping up as a replacement was an indication of two radically different mindsets.
The departing president had assumed office through the intervention of the US Supreme Court at a time when the American economy was booming. At that point, America had little interest in the world at large after its abject failure with the 1993 Somalia intervention. Then the greatest attack against America on home soil occurred nine months into the departing president’s tenure. The administration’s sole aim after that was to make war on the world and issue warnings about “enemies.”
At home, a deregulated financil industry ran wild and then aground until the conservative party’s policies were soundly routed by the American electorate. To do that, the country jumped its historic racial barrier to chose the right man for a challenging job, even as the sitting president’s “inner circle” began a campaign to sell the country on a legacy aimed at transforming the invader of Iraq into a liberator of that country.
By contrast, the man about to become America’s first non-white president was assembling an administration unprecedentedly diverse in both gender and race, including “mutts” as the president-elect referred to himself after the election. By the historic inauguration day, it seemed clear that the “racial divide” ripping apart the young US throughout its history had died on 2008 election night and was at last laid to rest on January 20, 2009. Its death had come after a long illness in which America saw its fortunes decline, its standing in the world wither and its economic dominance shrivel. Still, ghosts of the deceased past malingered.
In addition to the legacy of liberator that the outgoing administration was promulgating, media coverage of the transition focused on the “gracious” reception given by the outgoing Bush family to the incoming Obamas. In the first weeks after the inauguration, Barack Obama created a media ruckus by appearing without jacket in the Oval Office. Michelle Obama was criticized for a sleeveless dress worn to her husband’s first address to a joint session of Congress, where a Republican state representiative shouted “you lie” in the middle of the new president’s address.
As was the case with the fall of apartheid in South Africa, racial barriers fell most soundly when necessity forced the change. Global economic pressure had forced the ruling South African elite white minority to cede power to the working black majority. In America, the immoral duplicity of an incompetent administration opened the eyes of the electorate to choose the right path toward progress and prosperity beyond the rutted grooves of outmoded, ineffectual cultural habit.
Still, nearly half of America had voted to continue the doomed policies that had led to conditions so dire that the “racial divide” was seamlessly breached. And yet a good number in America seemed to echo the words of the American Revolutionary war hero John Paul Jones, “I have not yet begun to fight.” In 2008, those uttering that 1779 oath were on te wrong side of the American revolution in a globalizing world.
- Toxic Trumpby Helenfogarassy
Note: A little dated but unfortunately still relevant. Part of a book entitled America Votes Obama to Biden Past Trunp: a kaleidescopic view of the Trump phenomenon. The book is a seies of think pieces on America in the 21st century.
A toxic person may be hard to define but sure is easy to spot. Saturday Night Live presented a skit about such people.
In the SNL skit, a couple arrives late for a group dinner and takes over the event with boring boasts about their recent vacation. They are oblivious to social cues, the lack of interest shown, the increasing verbalization of impatience, the abrupt departure of other guests. Some couteous couple clears the tab at some point to signal the end of the session. The offending couple stays, reminisceing about the good time they had on their vacation.
Toxic love has the same effect when only two people are involved. One dominates and the other remains sublimated for any one of a myriad reasons. Maybe the relationship relieves loneliness or offers some social advantage. For all those complex reasons, toxic love describes the relationship between Donald Trump and his base.
The rational mind plays a minimal role in love at its best. In toxic love, the faculty of reason cements the harmful bond. The more that family and friends object to the union based on its visible effects, the more that the special bond is reinforced between the toxified lovers. Outside criticism only serves to prove the special connection others can’t understand. A special soul-to-soul language renders the union sublime. The connection is a mind-meld ala Dr. Spock of Star Trek.
Parties to a toxic love enter into the arrangement as eagerly as anyone hit with Cupid’s arrow. At first both people are euphoric with the new sense of belonging. But in toxic love the joys become drowned in conflict as the needs of one exert undue pressure on the one meeting those needs. In toxic love, the bond deepens with every investment made when a storm is weathered as a couple until some climatic event severs the union irreparably. Unfortunately, the rupture often occurrs in the form of a catastrophe.
Following such a break and premised on survival, the toxic one either faces legal charges or moves on to new conquests. The driving needs of the toxic person are stronger than any bonds formed. With no such parasitic needs, the wounded partner is left lonely, betrayed, abandoned and often devastated. Years can go tnto parsing the course of the affair, the forks in the road that led to continued loyalty instead of an earlier exit. In chastened memory, the beloved morphs from a heroic rebel into a dizzying control freak. Through a bruised and wounded worldview, the healthy survivor recognizes that toxic love isn’t blind. It wEARS 3-D kaleidoscopic goggles.
To those not enamored, the toxic love between Trump and his base is obvious. In a healthy love, leader Trump would soothe and inspire those aggrieved in America.. Outside criticism would occasion introspection, not the venom that he needed to draw his captives closer into the union. In a healthy love, Trump could even have held the raucus rallies that both he and his base so loved. But once he spewed the vitriol that acted as a cathartic for both, the smitten -base would have gone home to ponder ways to further strengthen the bond between themselves as the needy ones and the object of their love, the great man who let them love him and with that gave them a purpose in life.
To those not smitten, the rallies remain painful to witness even in the tiny snippets now allotted them in the media. Trump insults, blames and demonizes all who stand between him and his base. They stay loyal, if they do, because he draws the stalwart remainers into the toxic cocoon he continues to build for them by destroying their dignity and self-respect.
“Love me or hate me, you gotta vote for me cause your 401K is going down the tubes if you don’t,” Trump told supporters at a New Hampshire rally. Whether or not the base interpreted the threat accurately, they applauded. “No way I would’ve come to Erie if I wasn’t down in the polls,” he told a rally crowd in Pennsylvania. To anyone but the base, that was quite an insult.
To all appearances, Trump was oblivious to his own toxicity. The bloated ego that came from easy conquests among the vulnerable needy left him no room to recognize others. The base to him no doubt consisted of numbers, noise, boos and jeers. They were signals of a readiness to anticipate and carry out his every wish, But to those who were lucky enough to escape and recover from a toxic love, the great show of ardor was a sign of doom.
“The lady doth protest too much,” said a character in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The phrase meant that too much outward show betrayed internal unease. Equilibrium was bound to restore the senses in at least a good number of the smitten Trump base.
- Ukraine Defines Democracyby Helenfogarassy
Democreacy is rule by the people but who in the global digital world knows who the people are or what they want? Russia’s unwarranted and unlawful aggression against Ukraine has clarified the meaning of democracy in a global world.
Societies around the world have galloped toward development since the Second World War introduced the alternative of annihilation with the nuclear bomb. The United Nations and its multitude of bodies and agencies has played a major role in bettering life in now near-200 countries. This vast network takes on a human face in the novel entitled The Midas Maze. The plot centers on the pitfalls inherent in the juncture of people working in governments with the nessary evil of bureaucracy to keep it all in line.
Bureaucracy had its heyday in the Soviet period behind the Iron Curtain that shrouded Eastern and Centrall Europe from all contact with democracy. In that system, red tape and its use for terror were the ways to elevate the ego by oppressing those pushed lower down in the henhouse pecking order. The Light of a Destiny Dark is a novel based on a memoir that brings to life the grim bleakness of life under that system.
The mayhem of global red tape is captured in Mission Improbable: the world community on a UN compound in Somalia. The memoir is a tribute to communicating across cultures where success or failure depends on any person’a indivual personality. The book shows that Integrity and good will transcend cultural differences.
Russia’s current leader Vladimiir Putin was a beneficiary of the Soviet red tape form of government. Since the 1989 collapse of the Iron Curtain and the ensuing collapse of the Soviet Union due to a corruption economy, Putin has plotted to bring back the order he expected would spring him into even greater heights An opening came with Donald Trump, an opportunist of the world leading US democracy.
A writer’s view of this unholy union is presented in America Votes Obama to Biden Past Trump. The book of thought-piece essays suggests that America was not itself while under the double assault of an American huckster and a former Soviet intelligence agent. Yet when America survived and was coming out of its coma, Putin turned to his second choice as a useful country to entrap.
Ukraine was a former Soviet satellite that had suffered through the routine corruption that engulfed many former captives when newly liberated. But Ukraine had turned decidedly toward democratic ways since shedding its Soviet yoke. Putin invaded Ukraine to warn other neighbors that democracy was his enemy.
The world’s democracies rallied to support Ukraine as it fought off the brutal assault. The fierceness of Ukraine’s resolve to preserve its fledgling democracy brought world leaders to its aid. At the forefront was US Preisident Biden fighting to restore democracy in his own country. Unfortunately, the US was not alone in that crisis of democracy.
In much of the industrialized west, tyranical forces campaigned to gain an upper hand in governing. It seemed the prospect of a globalizing future scared many and they found comfort in the reassuring if faulty promises of autocrats, some of them allied with Putin.
Early in his attack on Ukraine, Putin threatened the use of nukes if anyone stood in his way. To avoid a direct conflict that could spark a new world war, western powers imposed economic sanctions. Russia responded by blackmailing Europeans dependent on its energy resources. The resultant hardships caused flickers in support for Ukraine but the democratic will held out in league with Ukraine’s aim, Even the United Nations came out of mothballs to negotiate solutions to cross-border standoffs. The only element missing from the robust effort was a full-throated cheer from the US public far removed from Ukraine.
Of course the US was exhausted. Like all the world, it had suffered through Covid. But the land of freedom, opportunity and free speech had also been mired in mired in a political whiplash it couldn’t shake off. Reality had been buried in layers of information ranging from alternate to fake. Ukraine was a reminder of the values that had founded the US. Perhaps that link between Ukraine and the fiercely independent US would draw US attention to other countries fighting for the same values that have one core element in common.
The attack on Ukraine by Russia is a clear-cut case of good in contrast to evil. Without provocation, sovereign Ukraine was attacked by Russia for the sole pupose of subjugating it. through destruction until it gave in. Similar forces at work in all countries including the US will do well to take note.
Good gains allies and gathers momentum by the evidence of its effect. Evil exhausts itself in unreliable allies who themselves need to be defended against. That’s a lot of work on top of the energy needed to build the walls keeping out the undeniably more alluring good.
- States United by US Election 2020by Helenfogarassy
After Trump lost the 2020 election and refused to concede, America seemed more divided than ever. In one way that was true. A record number of votes were cast for both the Democractic and Republican candidates. But beneath that divide, America was more united than ever.
In 2016, Trump lost the popular vote but took the Electoral College votes of the midwestern states in part because he played to their “forgotten” status in the overall image of America. That image was based on media criteria for covering activities considered to be of national interest. Not only were news networks located mainly in New York but the economic and political drivers of American life were located on the East Coast. Cultural drivers were located on both coasts. The other parts of the country became newsworthy only when crime was horrific or the weather brought disaster. The 2020 election campaignin a Covid year changed that dynamic.
In 2020, all states could become newsworthy at any moment because of the Covid pandemic and the way Trump handled the disaster in an election year. One by one, states like Minnesota, Missouri, Arizona, Geeorge, Florida and Texas emerged and entered into the national consciousness of a country forced to pay attention during successive lockdowns. The Trump penchant for holding rallies in swing states that could flip in his favour further brought notice to locales formerly known only as part of a region such as the Midwest, South or Sunbelt. Finally, the crises that ensued in wake of those rallies began a whole new round in the news cycle circuit, particularly in relation to color.
Historially in America, color referred to racial distinctions. Since the 2000 election in which the Supreme Court handed the presidential win to Republican George W. Bush over Democrat Al Gore, Red and Blue have come to indicate the party most likely elected by a state. According to Wikipedia, most states were technically Purple in that the population overall was a mix of Republicans and Democrats. The Red or Blue designation was based on the all-for-one nature of the Electoral College. All Electoral votes went to the party with the most votes in an election, which brought in a critical urban/rural divide still notable in most states.
Under Trump, racial elements became subsumed into the political make-up of a state. Since most property was owned by whites, blacks and other minorities tended to migrate to urban areas. That urban\rural divide was most successfully exploited by Trump when he first entered politics in 2016. He was an East Coast renegade under the Republican banner who targeted Democratic Blue states with depressed economies. Most of those states still had vast rural areas and major cities with large minority populations, a combination ready-made for a divide and conquer offensive.
Trump won the Midwest with promises that failed to deliver. Jobs heralded as returning were hyped and followed up with a few short-lived early successes while actual jobs dried up and factories closed. Deluded solid urban Midwesterners grumbled along with rural neighbors whose farms were decimated by Trump trade wars. Those stories were covered by the Trump-maligned media, which put a human face on the disappointment even as tax cuts to the super-wealthy drowned the impact of the pittance tossed to the middle class, particularly when trickle-down expectations turned up empty. Meanwhile, the plight of Midwest States blended with newfound challenges posed in the Southern border states where the Trump Wall and his immigration policy created a brand new kind of schism.
Catchy as campaign slogans, the “Wall’ and “tough on immigrants” cants were duds in practice. The Wall was an ecological and community disaster. The anti-immigrant policy with its ICE raids ended in images of fathers ripped from families and children torn from parents, sobbing alone in cages with not even attendants to give them comfort. Even anti-immigrants in the nation as a whole were incensed by the barbarity toward Hispanics, which brought attention to the variations in the country’s many Hispanic groups. The empathic response to basic human injustice blasted into worldwide outrage when black George Floyd was murdered by a white politce officer in plain public view as caught on videotape.
In response to the George Floyd murder, Trump said it was terrible but that more whites died at the hands of police than blacks. Not only was the claim untrue, it was an indication of just how underhandedly Trump assaulted basic human dignity. He gave the expected lip service of his office oto to betray at the same time his true attitude devoid of empathy. Indeed, throughout the 2020 Covid election year, the level of empathy that a person could summon became the primary characteristic that both divided and unified the country’s diverse population.
Way back in about 500 b.c. Confucius outlined the three paths to wisdom. Contemplation was the most noble. Imitation was the easiest; and experience was the most bitter.As a product of all three paths, empathy played a major role in driving the response to Trump’s handling of the Covid pandemic. Those able to identify with the feelings of others were apt to comply with guidelines to mitigate effects of the Covid disaster. Those unable or unwilling to feel the pain of others were most likely Trump fans who preferred mode of self-expression was rageful defiance.
By Confucian standards, Trump was not a wise man. He bragged that he did not contemplate. boasting that he knew more than “the generals” and called doctors “morons” who didn’t know anything. Those were signs he found no one worth imitating. By all accounts, his experience was limited to wheedling money out of others and conniving press coverage. Thus by extension of Confucian standards, it was safe to say Trump was devoid of empathy. Explicit evidence backed up the supposition.
While visiting a relief center after the deadly hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, Trump threw paper towels to victims hoping to hear words of comfort from the US president in charge of the US Territory. When reviled for the crass insult, Trump defended himself by saying they were “beautiful soft towels. Very good towels.” Such a level of insensitivity could appeal only to those who were already overburdened even before Covid hit. And perhaps because of the strong bond between the embittered and their fantasy redeemer, Trump supporters followed his directives on Covid.
Trump at first downplayed the pandemic, reassuring Americans that it would disappear like magic. When his exhortations failed to jump start an economy brought to a halt by mounting contagion and death toll, he turned the virus and the mitigatating measures to control it into political weapons for the forthcoming 2020 election.
Even as it unfolded, 2020 was destined to go down in history as a singular period of uncertainty, isolation, fear and social alienation. Particularly in an over-active America led by a hyperactive president, quarantine was a remedy tantamount to torture. But the enforced solitude leavened by news of the outside world gave occasion for Americans to realize just how stratified was their society, not just in pockets but across the board.
Pandemic lockdowns made clear that Covid affected everyone but that most were more affected than the affluent. “Essential workers” braved the virus to keep society functioning while others stayed safe. In that newly dawned reality, the George Floyd murder was an exlosive device that fused the racial, social and political components of government irrevocably.
In the long months after Covid hit, Trump emerged as a desperate man at a loss on how to proceed. Expressing no concern for people or their health, he pushed for markers of economic recovery while downplaying the virus with light–hearted quick fix tips that backfired when delivered with the presidential seal of authority. In response to racial inequity protests, he condemned left-leaning agitators. Those social contortions were downright painful to many, but the base held that he was doing fine and no one could have done better in a situation beyond his control. Taking note of the base, Republicans lined up behind Trump.
Viruses had not been considered intractable since the Middle Ages. The taming of pathogens had been a major focus of science ever since the Black Death killed 200 million people in the space of four years during the 14th century. Since then, smallpox and polio had been conquered. But Trump and his Republican enablers managed to convince a large minority of Americans to simply let Covid run its course. In the Trump crowd, that tactic was a call for hateful defiance.
The number of hate groups had been on the increase ever since the 2008 election of Obama as the first non-white president of the western industrialized world. Into that volatile arena, Trump threw a conflation of freedom with defiance with Covid mitigating measures as the object to be hated and defied to the point of death. “Liberate Michigan,” he directed a white nationalist group planning to kidnap and assassinate the Democratic governor of swing state Michigan, one of the many with complex power structures due to principle of states’ rights.
America has been widely viewed as a democracy based on the principles expressed in its founding Constitution. Technically it was most commonly considered a federal republic, meaning that a central government held together all 50 states that remained autonomous under the federal umbrella. Thus, states made their own laws about local elections, which included the positions that oversaw the federal elections for president and Congressional representatives. That was the vulnerability Trump targeted in the highly unusual 2020 election.
Throughout the messy 2020 presidential campaign, poll numbers of both candidates dovetailed with updates on Covid, news about natural disasters, racial protests, protests about masks and alarms about supply shortages, unemployment and stimulus stalemates. Not muddled enough,Trump began early to throw shade on mail-in voting and voter fraud. Then came the Postal Service scandal with slow-dows of service, and the unevenly conducted Decennial Census which would determine Congressional representation for the next ten years. Those factors combined with stimulus payments, increased unemployment benefits and small business relief. The result was that Americans began to realize that the larger issues of government had a direct effect on their lives.
To the hatefully defiant Trump crowd, the dependence on the government was the sign of a creeping socialism that would destroy the American spirit of liberty. In the wild west of the loosely regulated web network, they plotted, grew and connected. Meanwhile, mainstream America depended on news from the left, right and free-wheeling social media. But since personal bias selected the source, facts were drowned in skewed coverage. Thus, when Trump spoke from the presidential pulpit, his words were accepted or derided for the views expressed with presidential seal of approval. Thrown into a frenzy by mixed messaging, America provided an opening for the premonance of its fringe extremes.
Utra-extremists such as Qanon and militias were a small part of the population but they were loud, sinister and deadly with their brandishing of uncontrolled arms. Woven into the American tradition of independence and a romance with the outlaw, America’s fringe was convenient tool for Trump planning his own campaign of claiming voter fraud in preparation for losing the election and the presidency he may have felt he had not won fairly in the first place. That suspicion was best proved by the aftermath of the 2020 election.
When Trump became president in 2016. the result was dismay by the American majority followed by four years of protests. When Joe Biden won the 2020 election, the results were contested strenuously by the Trump camp and yet no fraud could be found. When Biden was safely sworn in as new president, celebrations went up not only in America but the world over. During the two-month transition period in which Trump refused to cooperate, the absurdity of Trump as head of the United States became starkly clear.
For four years. the greatest democracy in the world was headed by a full-blown demagogue who refused to cede power when defeated in an election that was fair by every electoral and legal measure. Further, he not only refused to leave the office he lost, he hounded the country with frivolous lawsuits while purging those who refused to corrupt the system on his behalf. Worst of all, he was hell-bent on obstructing the path of his successor who was bursting to tame the pandemic and restore America to its core values.
While, independence was an essential component of America’s character, so were the interdependency skills that allowed the Pioneers to expand and tame the Wild West Empathy born of wisdom was one of those. Trump and the pandemic had given America an opportunity to contemplate, emulate and experience first-hand the suffering of others. In short, America was growing wise to a rock bottom reality.
Despite all his bluster and distortion of American Constitution justice, Trump lacked one key quality for being either a leader or a hero. Despite his iron grip on the hearts of his adherents, none of them ever said that they wanted their kids to grow up just like him.
- 10 Things to Love About America on MAGA Daysby Helenfogarassy
Note: This thought-piece intends to highlight aspects of American life that get buried in the day-to-day political mayhem. It is one of similar essays in a book entitled America Votes Obama to Bisen Past Trump: a kaleidoscopic view of the Trump phenomenon. It is actually a Hungarian-American view of said period with a healthy dose of the immigrant perception of America.
In 2008, America was the first western industrialized country to elect Barack Obama as a non-white head of state. In 2016, the pendulum swung backwards in the election of ultra-white media-made business tycoon Donald Trump. As Trump rolled back progress made under Obama toward global cooperation in critical areas such as climate change and health care, Americans could not be blamed for forgetting what made their country so great. A reminder could help those traits endure.
1. America has a great foundation. The 1776 Declaration of Independence stated that the new country freeing itself from England was based on an inalienable human right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The country has been a living work in progress ever since
2. The 1786 Constitution set out the rights that would be protected. Those included the right to free speech and freedom of the press, the right to assemble and right to bear arms.
3. Amendments to the Constitution spelled out rights not foreseen by the forefathers in line with their inferred intent as determined by judicial scholars. Thus over time, one-time slaves were acknowledged as full citizens. So were women, who won the right to vote in 1920.
4. In America, the ruler is the law. The ingenious part of the Constitution is its separation of the country’s governing structure into three branches. One makes the law, another puts the law into practice and a third mediates when the other two come into conflict. In the end, a legal interpretation of the Constitution wins.
5. America provides legal protections for its people. In the 250 years since its founding, America developed a legal system in line with the constitution to insure the rights of citizens as they evolved under law. Thus the 1966 Miranda laws gave unprecedented protections to the rights of the accused. Legislation under current consideration include those related to regulation of gun traffic and the right to choose medical care.
6. America is helpful and forgiving. Social aid is available to those in need, bankruptcy laws help out of financial jams. Legal aid is guaranteed and recourse is available to those unable to find justice under criminal law as well as to those who sustain serious injuries. When in doubt, lawyers are emply available. Rights organizations also offer legal services.
7. When legal relief for a grievance can’t be achieved, the American media offers potential outreach. American media is fan friendly to those who need attention brought to troubling or frustrating issues. The potential of this avenue for redress is seriously underutilzed due to red tape but it is a promising avenue for reining in social plagues like scams and price gouging.
8. America is friendly. Yes, America is a complex nation of immigrants. Violence occurs daily but those incidents are not the norm however they seem that way. Conflicts are inevitable and minorities get the short end of the stick. but the local bodega is like to convey a more accurate picture. The Mexican, Indian or Afghani owner behind the counter is there to please, which is the real person behind the threatening label of immigrant.
9. America is the land of opportunity for change. Americans have a Constitutional right to assemble. They are free to organize marches, sit-ins, sit-downs and walk-outs. All they need is a motivating cause, a permit and a starting spark to recruit others. America makes room for the aggrieved to collectively express views within the legal guardrails of the law.
10. America loves to party and have fun. A land of immigrants provides a year full of holidays to celebrate. The all-American 4th of July and Thanksgiving reaffirm a basic connectedness as Americans. Other prominent holidays included St. Patrick’s Day, Israeli Independence Day, Puerto Rican Day and the Caribbean Festival. Other festivals await recognition as America’s new immigrant groups emerge. Meanwhile, efforts can be made for greater inclusion of minority groups into the cohering tradional celebrations that endure.
These basic lovable traits about America could go on and they will once the dust dies down from the damage Donald Trump inflicted with his abuse of America’s mighty powers. That abuse includes tampering with the 2020 Census, a count every 10 years of people living in the US without regard to citizenship status.
The Constitutional mandate was included to keep track of how the young country was growing 250 years ago when it needed immigrants to tame a vast wilderness. In the 21st century the country is still growing, leaping over obstructionists with a vibrant greatness that comes from being a land of immigrants.