Cry, the Beloved Country

January 9, 2016

Cry, the Beloved Country came into my mind earlier this morning, less because of the story it tells about pre-apartheid South Africa, and far more because it so aptly describes my country.

To say we live in interesting times does an extraordinary injustice to the phrase “interesting times.” “End times” fits the bill far better. I have been sentient for 14 presidential campaigns—Goldwater – Johnson in 1964 through the present embarrassment, and I’ve never seen a campaign come close to disgracing our nation as badly as this one has.

The leading candidate in the Republican Party held a rally in Vermont. Leave aside for a moment the utter vacuousness of the words coming out the man’s mouth, and the fact that so many are so willing to take him seriously. Focus on the belligerent and threatening tone he uses in talking to and about people—regular people, not the president and others for who he shows a disgraceful lack of respect—during the event. Here’s The Guardian’s report, and Donald Trump’s words:

Take him out. Get him out of here. Don’t give him his coat! Don’t give him his coat! Keep his coat. Confiscate his coat. You know it’s about 10 degrees below zero outside … Keep his coat. Tell him we’ll send it to him in a couple weeks.”

Read Philip Roth’s The Plot Against America, written in 2005, for an alt-history version of the 1940 election. FDR loses to Charles Lindbergh, who makes a deal with Adolf Hitler and imposes anti-Semitism on the USA. Ugly, and from memory, the campaign tone is not worse than what we hear from Trump and crew, and too many other R candidates.

Then there’s the matter of guns. President Obama announced a number of actions the government will take to prevent people who should not have guns from having them. You don’t think his actions will accomplish anything? Fine. You think he’s overstepping his authority? OK. But what we’ve gotten is a slew of commentators who claim the president faked his tears when he was talking about victims. Andrea Tantaros, a Fox News person, suggested the tears may have come from a raw onion on the podium.

So now, let’s talk about health care. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act aka Obamacare—and, by the way, the law that permits me to be both self-employed and insured—was signed into law on March 23, 2010. More than 2100 days have passed since then. The Rs have said, repeatedly, ad nauseam, repeal and replace. Dozens of times, they have voted to repeal the law, never once: (a) offering a replacement program; or (b) getting a bill through both houses of Congress. Well, on January 6, they finally managed to repeal the law. President Obama vetoed the bill on January 8. And about that replace part? “Just wait,” says Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. And what will President Trump do? “Something terrific,” which amounts to the usual claptrap. (Simon Maloy for Salon wrote Donald Trump’s “something terrific” Obamacare replacement would be hilarious — if it weren’t the GOP’s entire healthcare platform in July 2015.)

By the by, 8.4 million net new jobs exist, since President Obama took office. And during the full eight years during which President George W. Bush held office? About 1.3 million. Presidents don’t create jobs, and their impact on the economy is much less significant than people who like to blame someone want it to be. I only offer these statistics because they represent an exemplar for the fact that, in reality on the ground, the country has not gone to hell in a handbasket.

Unfortunately, right now reality means not so much for too many. Rudeness and bellicosity have taken over, and if the Rs carry the day in November, woe be all of us, and our beloved country.

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