Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Silver Linings

Work for something that is good, not just because it stands a chance to succeed. 
- Vaclav Havel

The ongoing narrative you hear incessantly from the folks who support the current president come hell or high water, is that those of us on the other side are so upset that Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 election, that we will not support Donald Trump no matter what he does. Now I certainly can't speak for everyone, but for me that assessment is balderdash.

For starters, despite the fact I still believe Hillary Clinton was unquestionably the most qualified candidate, I pledge no allegiance to her. I love this country and wishing a president to fail, no matter who he is, is tantamount to wishing the country to fail. I have two children whose future is far more important to me than wishing harm on a particular administration. That is of course, unless the administration is up to no good. For me the jury is still out on that one.

Can there be anything good we in the opposition can take away from the current administration? Well the economy is good. As the president keeps reminding us, the stock market continues to break all-time records and unemployment is currently at a record low, especially in the African American community. Having said that, how much the good economy at the moment is attributable to Trump is debatable. The American economy has been on the upswing since the Obama administration and what we are seeing today is very much a a continuation of that. The world economy is also thriving, in no small measure due to trade agreements that were forged by previous administrations, the same ones the current president has promised to re-negotiate. More importantly, bull markets do not necessary portend a sustained, healthy economy, as it is the nature of markets to fluctuate. Just as sure as the effects of gravity, markets go up and they go down taking the economy with them. All of us over twenty have seen the devastation of and overvalued market crashing. It happened most recently in 2008. I'm still underwater with my mortgage thanks to that recession.

The Obama administration with the help of Congress placed regulations on Wall Street to help avoid a recurrence of such an event. In its ongoing efforts to eliminate all regulations on business, and the president's insatiable desire to overturn everything his predecessor did, this administration is doing all it can to eliminate those regulations, practically inviting another devastating recession or worse. Could I be wrong about the economy and Trump be right? Well for my sake  and the sake of this country, I certainly hope so, but I have grave doubts.

Other than the good economy at the moment, I can't think of anything else remotely positive involving the current administration. This week my wife discovered the quote at the top of this post from the late playwright/President of the Czech Republic. Not that I needed reminding that Trump is no Vaclav Havel, it just made me yearn for something much better than what we have. Frankly I can't imagine Donald Trump even considering working for the common good, just for its own sake.

His tax cut is a glaring example. Now I'm happy to keep more money in my pocket, but it has been well established that that this tax plan disproportionately favors the wealthy who will continue to enjoy its benefits long after they dry up for the middle class and below. I also know that this tax cut promises to raise the federal debt by trillions of dollars, money that my children and their children and probably their children will be responsible for paying back. I also understand that Republicans in Congress plan on addressing the debt problem by slashing social programs like social security and medicare, while not taking away a penny from defense or immigration control. Not to mention its effects on universal health care coverage will be devastating. That may play well to the president's base, but how that amounts to the common good, I have no idea.

At this writing, Donald Trump is in the middle of delivering his State of the Union address, right now speaking about a horrific murder committed by illegal aliens. He is promising the victims' relatives sitting in the House Chamber that he will insure that such travesties will never happen again, certainly a nice gesture. By that he means he will crack down on immigration, legal and otherwise to accomplish that goal. What he fails to mention is that he is grossly exaggerating the problem of crime committed by illegal aliens, as there is no credible evidence to suggest that undocumented people in this country commit a disproportionate amount of crime compared to say, native born American citizens. Of course no one supports  criminal aliens but as Trump supporters are quick to point out, the Obama administration deported more criminal aliens than any other administration. Which to me begs the question, if Obama was doing such a good job deporting the bad guys, why are you folks so quick to point out what a disaster our immigration policy is? Tpically the answer to that qustion is crickets.

Anyway, as a result of Trump's efforts to stem immigration to this country, hundreds of thousands of innocent people who have called this country home, some for decades, people who have contributed in spades to this nation, will needlessly suffer. Once again, Trump is capitalising on irrational fear in order  to stimulate his base. That may be good for him politically, but how it translates to the common good, I'll never know.

Still these are policy disputes, the kind of things that people of good faith on both sides of the political spectrum have disagreed from time immemorial.

The real damage I believe that this administration is doing to this country, is the undermining of institutions that are the backbone of our democracy. In one short year this president has done his utmost to discredit the judiciary, the free press, the Central Intelligence Agency and most recently the FBI, all in an effort to cover up some shady if not outright illegal actions of his own.

The most egregious of these is his relationship with Russia. I have absolutely no idea to what extent Trump's dealings are with that country with whom we have an adversarial relationship. But charges of collusion with Russia and its hacking into our last presidential election are extremely serious. I can only imagine if I were president and suspected of involvement in an act that was detrimental to this nation at best, treasonous at worst, I would bend over backwards to not interfere with an investigation that meant the difference between clearing my name or sending me up the river. That is of course, if I were innocent. Trump may or may not be guilty of collusion with Putin Russia, but he certainly is acting guilty.

I could go on and on composing a laundry list of things that make me distrust Trump's intentions, but that list would go on for  hundreds of pages so I won't bother.

After Trump's SOTU address, Joe Kennedy, a congressman from Massachusetts, and grandson of Robert F. Kennedy, gave a stirring rebuttal. Speaking passionately about this administration's lack of compassion and humanity, he brought up something I've been thinking about for the past week, the next generations of Americans who may not be burdened with the same stupid fears, biases and prejudices of my own generation. In his speech, Kennedy mentioned a sign carried by a child attending one of the women's marches held last week all over the country. The sign said: "your generation may build the wall, but my generation will tear it down."

That reminded me of my ten year old daughter who is without question, the moral compass of our family. She and I were having a conversation about a family we all know, a member of whom is transgender. I pussyfooted around not knowing how to bring up the subject to my little girl who set me straight by saying "he's transgender isn't he?" She said it as nonchalantly as if she were describing someone who had blond hair and blue eyes. My daughter also has a friend who will be attending another child's "gender coming out party" this weekend.

The time's they are a changin' and  I'm convinced that child's sign is right, it will be my daughter's generation that will tear down that godforsaken wall, if it ever gets built in the first place.

The unescapable fact is that Trump is president and will be until he no longer is. One can only hope that our democratic institutions as proscribed by our constitution, are stronger than he is. As they say, if something doesn't kill you, it will only make you stronger. That may be a silver lining in itself.

On the other hand if the Trump administration does indeed kill us, or at least our democracy, then all bets will be off.

Stay tuned.

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