Tweet Home, Alabama

 Published 9/25/2017 @ 6:44pm

The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, where about 3 1/2 million Americans live, was assaulted by Hurricane Maria and has been in severe distress. CNN reported it this way today:

Hurricane Maria whipped Puerto Rico with Irma-level winds, drenched the island with Harvey-level flooding, crippled communications, decimated buildings and damaged a dam that puts downstream residents at risk of catastrophe.

Yet help has been slow to come, officials and residents argue.”This is a game changer,” Governor Ricardo Rosselló told CNN Monday. “We need to prevent a humanitarian crisis occurring in America.”

Many believe the humanitarian crisis is well underway, as the island has turned dark due to the loss of electricity. Many also believe the Tr-mp administration, and Congress, are moving too slowly to confront the crisis. One of those many is Hillary Clinton, who tweeted:

President Tr-mp, Sec. Mattis, and DOD should send the Navy, including the USNS Comfort, to Puerto Rico now. These are American citizens.

Another critic of Tr-mp’s response is Clinton’s former spokesman, Brian Fallon, who tweeted today:

Trump’s racist neglect of Puerto Rico is threatening lives. It is time to start caring about the crisis there.

As for Tr-mp, he’s been busy, rallying and tweeting. But not about Puerto Rico. As we all know, he has more important things on his mind: uppity blacks “disrespecting” the flag by daring to take seriously what it stands, or is supposed to stand, for. Tr-mp tried to sell his racist gobshite in Alabama, where racism, judging by the rally-goers’ reaction to his “sons of bitches” tantrum, is still a valuable commodity.

Puerto RicoI suggested on Twitter that if Puerto Ricans want immediate help, they should rename their island “Alabama.” Maybe borrow a southern dialect when they beg Washington Republicans for help. Perhaps wear a Tr-mp trucker hat and refer to themselves as part of the “white working class” when they post pleas on Facebook. Whatever it takes.

The truth is that the disaster in Puerto Rico just hasn’t received, at least up until now, the attention it would have received if it had happened in, say, Alabama. If those Puerto Ricans were part of the white working class, a subject of much press coverage for months and months, they’d be bathing in clean water by now. And if you think that a big part of the reason they are not is because the Americans in Puerto Rico have something in common with the athletes in the NFL and NBA that Tr-mp is so preoccupied with, you are onto something. Tr-mp is, most clearly, a racist. In fact, his racial identity, and the way he used it during the campaign, more than anything else explains why he is where he is.

Ta-Nehisi Coates began his latest thought-provoking article (“The First White President“) with this sentence:

It is insufficient to state the obvious of Donald Tr-mp: that he is a white man who would not be president were it not for this fact.

The rest of that fantastic piece demonstrates why such a statement is insufficient. Read it, if you haven’t already. You won’t be disappointed. Some of what Coates has said I have tried to say for eight years now. But I can’t say it like this:

For Tr-mp, it almost seems that the fact of Obama, the fact of a black president, insulted him personally. The insult intensified when Obama and Seth Meyers publicly humiliated him at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner in 2011. But the bloody heirloom ensures the last laugh. Replacing Obama is not enough—Tr-mp has made the negation of Obama’s legacy the foundation of his own. And this too is whiteness. “Race is an idea, not a fact,” the historian Nell Irvin Painter has written, and essential to the construct of a “white race” is the idea of not being a nigger. Before Barack Obama, niggers could be manufactured out of Sister Souljahs, Willie Hortons, and Dusky Sallys. But Donald Tr-mp arrived in the wake of something more potent—an entire nigger presidency with nigger health care, nigger climate accords, and nigger justice reform, all of which could be targeted for destruction or redemption, thus reifying the idea of being white. Tr-mp truly is something new—the first president whose entire political existence hinges on the fact of a black president. And so it will not suffice to say that Tr-mp is a white man like all the others who rose to become president. He must be called by his rightful honorific—America’s first white president.

Coates rightfully complains about those “theoreticians”—like libertarian Charles Murray, co-author of The Bell Curve—who believe Tr-mp’s rise is the fault of liberals who despised and condescended to “the white working class.” If you have read any of the post-election analysis, which is still going on, you have no doubt heard this point made. Even some liberals, like Anthony Bourdain, have fallen for that nonsense. Coates quotes him:

The utter contempt with which privileged Eastern liberals such as myself discuss red-state, gun-country, working-class America as ridiculous and morons and rubes is largely responsible for the upswell of rage and contempt and desire to pull down the temple that we’re seeing now.

Well, let’s see. Is that what liberals, whether “Eastern” or anywhere else in America, do? And even if we do, is there some truth in it? You tell me, after you read a piece published recently (“For those in the Party of Tr-mp, the Republicans—not the president—are to blame“) by Jenna Johnson, a reporter for the Washington Post. She interviewed Tr-mp voters in a small town (population: 8,461) in Granville County, North Carolina, a place she described as a long-time “Democratic stronghold” that “was one of six rural counties in North Carolina that flipped from voting twice for Barack Obama to voting for Trump last year.” (Tr-mp won by less than 700 votes.) Johnson began her piece this way:

During one of their usual morning gatherings at the Bojangles’ restaurant in this rural town near the Virginia border, a group of retirees from a local Baptist church shook their heads at the failure of Washington to repeal Obamacare, lower the national debt, build a wall along the southern border, kick people off welfare or get anything else accomplished.

Should we call these folks “ridiculous” for desiring to build Tr-mp’s ridiculous wall or to kick people off welfare? Or should we try to sympathetically address their “white working-class” mentality, which they undoubtedly carried into retirement?  How about this from the article:

“I think he’s an idiot, but I voted for him,” another church member chimed in, as others laughed and a woman sitting across from him countered with: “As opposed to what was in there before?”

Should liberals dare to call out this brand of stupidity? Should we be afraid to say critical things about someone who proudly admitted they voted for a candidate they considered “an idiot”? More than that, should we back away from saying harsh things about someone who is dumb enough to suggest Tr-mp is not as much of an idiot as Obama was? Huh?

How about this:

Many of the church members gathered at Bojangles’ last week pointed to the president’s Christian faith, saying he brought the Bible and prayer back into the White House. Even though Trump rarely attends church himself, he frequently talked about religion on the campaign trail, promising that with him in the White House, Christians would once again feel free to openly say “Merry Christmas.”

“President Trump has talked more about Christian values than any of the last two or three presidents that we’ve had,” said Wayne Overton, 79, who is retired from the Postal Service and now raises cows on a farm a few miles outside of town and tours the country in a motor home. “And I admire him for picking the vice president that he picked. If something happened, our country would be in good hands.”

I don’t care what Charles Murray thinks. I don’t care what Anthony Bourdain thinks. I don’t care what anyone thinks, if they think this kind of ignorance and irrationality and thoughtlessness shouldn’t be addressed forcefully just because it exited the lips of white people, working or retired, in North Carolina or Alabama or anywhere else white folks think they are an oppressed people. These white “Christians” are rubes and their views deserve contempt. And those who think the election of Tr-mp had very little to do with racism are part of the problem and deserve, if not contempt, at least fierce criticism. And those who argue, as Tr-mp’s press secretary laughingly tried to do today, that his remarks in Alabama about athlete-protesters—who all happened to be black—have nothing to do with race, they are either liars or don’t understand the country in which they live.

After charging liberals with some of the same sins as right-wingers, Coates quotes Bernie Sanders:

Some people think that the people who voted for Trump are racists and sexists and homophobes and just deplorable folks. I don’t agree.

Coates responded to this perfectly:

This is not exculpatory. Certainly not every Trump voter is a white supremacist, just as not every white person in the Jim Crow South was a white supremacist. But every Trump voter felt it acceptable to hand the fate of the country over to one.

You see, those white church folks in Granville County, North Carolina, or those rally cultists in Huntsville, Alabama, last Friday night may or may not be closet white supremacists themselves, but they put all of us in the hands of a man who without a doubt had no trouble sending the message of white supremacy during the campaign and who, also undoubtedly, sits in the White’s House because of that strategy. Coates notes how even Barack Obama underestimated Tr-mpism, underestimated “the power of whiteness.” He puts it in a way I can’t:

Trump, more than any other politician, understood…the great power in not being a nigger.

That’s what Tr-mp was doing in Alabama. That’s what he was doing by trashing black NFL players who have been solemnly kneeling during the national anthem. That’s what he was doing by disingenuously disinviting Steph Curry, NBA champion, from a visit to the White’s House (Curry had already said he wasn’t going). Tr-mp was exercising, in front of people who well understood what he was doing, the “great power in not being a nigger.”

It will surely come to pass that Congress will offer some substantial relief help to Puerto Rico. And it will surely come to pass that Tr-mp will visit the islanders and photo-op his way from place to place. But that rally in Huntsville on Friday, and his subsequent tweets over the weekend, demonstrate where his heart is and has always been.

And it is up to us, those of us who have seen this backlash against Obama coming, to call out all of those who prioritize the “white working class” and refuse to admit the obvious: Tr-mp is using his whiteness, as orange-tinted as it is, as a tool to keep himself in power, to keep himself where, if the ideals of America still matter, he most certainly doesn’t belong.

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5 Comments

  1. This is a remarkable piece, Duane. It certainly isn’t enhanced by my endorsement, but I had to do something more than “like” it. Thanks for your good work.

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  2. Thanks very much. I appreciate that. Believe it or not, I cut more than 1500 words out of it. I was pursuing Coates’ discussion of how the white working class is manipulated by people in power, originally via something like “at least you’re not a slave” to today’s “at least you’re not black.” This partially explains why so many poor working class whites vote against their own interests. They don’t want to be associated with the Democratic Party, which they see as the party of black people, and cynical politicians send that message, either covertly or overtly. One thing Tr-mp has done is demonstrate how tenuously some Republican voters are connected to the harsh economic ideology of the donor class and the politicians they own. Many of these folks don’t give a damn about Paul Ryan’s economic agenda, but care very much about Tr-mp’s attempt to project white cultural supremacy. 

    By the way, I am reluctant, more and more, to write long pieces. I know the times have changed and folks don’t really take the time to follow anything longer than a hundred words or so, if even that. Again, I appreciate the fact that you did.

    Duane

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  3. We selfishly like your long pieces. The detail you incorporate is the grist for the layers of discussion that follow each post. You do the heavy lifting. Others of us add a little here and there — some more than others. It is not your responsibility to carry us, but we sure do appreciate it. Even when we debate and disagree.

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  4. ansonburlingame

     /  September 26, 2017

    Duane,

    My God, you have a lot of pent up stuff in you head after being away from this site for a while! Only briefly do I even try to comment on this and the more recent blog, both to a degree about “Alabama”, etc.

    First, regarding the NFL, watch https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kEcYDa7r4-I I agree with what the man has to say.

    Second, Janet tells me trump has tried for a long time to own a team in that league and has been rebuffed by owners “forever”. Is this payback? I certainly would not put it past him if it is.

    Finally, I don’t believe racism is the fundamental motive driving trump and his actions. It is more fundamental than that. I still see him as a quintessential “Damned Yankee”, the image of a fact cat from the north coming into “my lands” telling me what to do, and not liking what he has to say, at all.

    Anson

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    • Anson,

      Oh, I very much understand why you like that video. That’s too bad. The man in that video, who happens to be a police officer who has sympathy for Tr-mp, fundamentally misunderstands what this whole protesting thing is about. Bending the knee was actually a respectful way of protesting during the anthem. Kaepernick started doing that after talking with a teammate who had served. Previously he had been sitting.

      Then the police officer contradicts himself by scolding athletes for not knowing what they’re talking about just because they are athletes and, apparently, nothing more, while he praises Tr-mp, a know-nothing reality TV celebrity, for becoming president (his view, not mine; he is not, and never will be, a president to me). This guy thinks, like Tr-mp, that those black athletes ought to be grateful for the opportunity they have and stand there and STFU, no matter what they might think.

      And he says he reveres the flag. Yeah, he reveres it so much he has made an idol of it. He reveres it so much he forgets what it stands for, which is, among other things, the freedom to get down on your knee, raise your fist, brandish your middle finger, or whatever you want to do, while a racially-tinged anthem plays before a game.

      I have noted many former combat vets on Twitter saying they went through their entire combat experience without ever once hearing the anthem played. Some of them said they only heard it played once, at the beginning of their military service and never again. If the anthem is such a sacred part of our experience, why don’t they play it before a big battle during war, as they do before silly NFL games or baseball games or hockey games? The truth is that the anthem and, more important, the flag are symbols of our unity as a country. But if we can’t unify around everyone’s right to protest during the anthem, or protest any injustice they find under that flag, then those symbols are hollow. I understand why so many people get upset over black men, who have enjoyed real success, using a moment of reverence for our country as an opportunity to register a grievance against the country. But what I can’t understand is why so many people don’t get it that this country has achieved what greatness it once had (before Tr-mp) because of the liberty that flag is supposed to represent. That seems fundamental to me.

      Back to the video, that man used MLK as an example of how to do it right. Are you kidding me? MLK was excoriated by a lot of white folks for doing what he did. He was told to STFU also. Many thought he was purposely stirring up trouble in the South and then hightailing it out when the pot was boiling. I am convinced that MLK would most certainly condone what these young black men (and a few white, now) have been doing.

      I don’t like Kaepernick’s too-cynical views about politics. He is woefully misinformed or misguided. But he puts his money where his mouth is. And he has paid the price for his protests. He should clearly have a job in the NFL. But he doesn’t. And that’s the way the system works. And that’s part of the reason why so many have now become more sympathetic to his cause.

      Finally, read this:

      As a 39-year military veteran, I think I know something about the flag, the anthem, patriotism, and I think I know why we fight. It’s not to allow the president to divide us by wrapping himself in the national banner. I never imagined myself saying this before Friday, but if now forced to choose in this dispute, put me down with Kaepernick.

      That was written by Michael Hayden, the four-star general who was head of the CIA and national security adviser and all the rest of it. Tr-mp calling black athletes who dared to protest “sons of bitches” was a little too much for him. You, Anson, can believe that racism isn’t the “fundamental motive driving Tr-mp and his actions,” but the evidence all points the other way. Your only way out of ignoring that evidence is to admit that he is otherwise mentally ill. But he could be both a racist and mentally ill, which is my assessment.

      As far as Tr-mp v. NFL, yes he did want in the league, the most exclusive club of all. He tried to buy the Colts when they were in Baltimore (around 1981 or so). Just another failure in a long line of them for him. He wanted in the NFL so much that he bought a team in a rival league, called the United States Football League. Stupidly, he thought that would be his best way to get into the real thing. He pissed off all the other owners with his bombast and failure to stick to the rules (imagine that). Eventually that league folded and Tr-mp was blamed for it. Then he had a chance to buy the Patriots. He passed on that. Another great decision in his illustrious career of failures. Now that franchise is the second most valuable in the league. He later bid on the Buffalo Bills and his bid was so low he didn’t have a chance. The bottom line is that early on the NFL really didn’t want a damned thing to do with Tr-mp. Most of the  owners knew what he was and didn’t want him in their midst, as an equal. If only American voters had been that smart.

      Duane

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