I was fortunate enough to visit the North Shore of Oahu between Christmas and New Year’s, and I enjoyed a week off from social media and the news cycles. It was an amazing thing to do, to exist in the world before me of big waves and trade winds and feral roosters, and most wonderfully, where the stress of politics didn’t intrude too much. Despite the fact that such a thing is possible, the unreality of American politics can’t be ignored forever. Upon my return I was dismayed to discover that my bubble enclosed, echo-chamber of libtard, lily-livered, pansy-assed, pinko, commie, queer, abortion-loving, anarchist friends had not dispensed with the Trump Organization. I’m sorry, I meant the Trump Administration. Sure enough it was still there, perpetuating the absurd farce that it is. So I re-acclimated to the new abnormal and continued to try and wrap my brain around the phenomenon. I must interject here that I am a fairly simple guy when it comes to the complexities of lawmaking and government, so I never really understand why justice seems like such a difficult thing to find in the machinery of the federal government. My blitz of calls to various Senate Committees and congressional reps illuminated quite clearly the ridiculousness of the process—that justice is much more difficult to find when you start seeking it. I figure that when there’s evidence of fraud and foreign tampering in an election, simple common sense would dictate that the whole thing needs to be halted and set aside, and the quest for truth should outweigh the imperative to keep moving forward on tainted ground. But clearly I haven’t met the federal government. After only a short while, I began to long for the breaks off Haleiwa.
As I had done on my previous trip to the islands, I read James Michener’s fictional tome on the Hawaiian Islands, and a few things struck me that I will attempt to tie in to the clown party that has become the American landscape. The missionary known in Michener’s book called Abner Hale was a righteous Christian, and he had very stringent ideas about his mission and the way life should be transformed through the aggressive and dictatorial infliction of Christianity on the islanders. Abner Hale’s cry of a passage from Ezekiel, ‘he who whores with Trump must also get syphilis’ was Michener’s way to reference the narrow perspective held by missionaries in the nineteenth century, for Abner Hale was a by-the-book Christian, and he had no tolerance for idolatry and surfing. Only Christ can walk on water. ‘Who are these savages without Christ?’ Hale exclaimed in many different ways. They must cease to worship their gods the way they had for a thousand years because God is the true God. It was this inflexibility, coupled with hubris, that arguably led to the demise of the native Hawaiian people during the missionary age, and set the stage for regular old American imperialism, racism, destruction and greed to become rule of law in Hawaii. I digress. Sort of.
I would be remiss if I misquoted Ezekiel 23:30, for the actual passage states:
I will do these things unto thee, because thou hast gone a whoring after the heathen, and because thou art polluted with their idols.
As Abner Hale’s cry, it was a rather vicious indictment of spirituality in the islands, and he was hell-bent on destroying the pagan gods and heathen practices that were interfering with his attempt to convert the native Hawaiians to the true and absolute virtue of Christianity. There would be no freedom of religion on the Hale watch. When one believes that their way is the only way, there isn’t much need for religious freedom. It’s actually a threat, I suppose.
Back on the mainland and back in the present, it occurred to me that firmly held beliefs, whether they are right or accurate or based in empirical reality or whatever, define people. I look at the cabinet appointments of the Trump organization, I mean uh administration, or the actions of the GOP congress or the senate with bewilderment, with shock, with confusion, and with wonder. I make the fatal error of wondering why. It is simply that people innately believe that what they are doing is right. I think that helps me because I kept trying to look at the GOP and the Trump organization, I mean administration, from the vantage point of their being like me, and these opposing ideals clash such that a battle between rightness and wrongness erupts. Like the early missionaries, people simply believed that their way was the way. They must feel a similar responsibility to tame the savage idolatrous world with their righteousness and their policies and their laws. This is rather well established I’d say. But now the GOP has a wolf in Orange clothing in their midst. The relationship between the Orange Party and the Grand Old Party is an interesting and new phenomenon. They have formed a strange covenant, and the dynamics present opportunity for their political enemies.
The fact is that Donald Trump is, and will be, a weak president. He is weak because of his deportment. He is weak because of his lack of knowledge and experience, because of his lack of perspicacity, because of his outlook and orientation, because of his delusion, and because he is hugely unpopular. He is weak because he doesn’t understand democracy, nor does he even understand the basic workings of the system itself. He is weak because he only understands the world in terms that fail to exceed even a most rudimentary grasp of complexity and nuance. He is weak because he really does represent a party that now merely resides inside the GOP, and despite the fact that divisions inside the structure have yet to break it entirely, the cracks are showing, and the stress points can be seen by his detractors and his enemies as focal points for exploitation. I put this is terms of weakness because this is the only manner in which he relates to the world, in terms of weakness and strength, in a particular approach to life that most people outgrow as children. And this is how he appears to be trying to govern, or dictate, or whatever the hell he is doing. And for that he is weak. And in the simple world he lives in, weakness is the fatal flaw. It will seal his fate.
At this point it is necessary (and perhaps comforting) to note that when we speak of Orange Party and GOP voters, we are dealing with a minority, and enumerating that minority is important. As it turns out, only approximately 28% of Americans eligible to vote voted for the Orange candidate. We’re really talking about less than a third of voters here. We can go crazy about the third of people who couldn’t be bothered to vote at all later. Anyway, I watched a piece on MSNBC where a correspondent went to a few swing states and interviewed Trump voters, because I gather people are still incredulous about how anyone could, in good conscience, vote for this person so lacking in character and vision and decency. I witnessed a few things that are worth noting. First I will say that some running theories are that racism won, or that poor rural workers swung the apparatus because of their woes. What I saw on this interview only served to aggravate my bewilderment. In a diner outside of a city, in the America we are spitefully told that liberals ignore and despise, we saw a laid off factory worker, a Mormon housewife, and a stereotype of the blue-collar Caucasian worker. Each in their own way explained their decision to back the new Orange Party candidate. The unemployed factory worker and the blue collar guy were sort of easy to figure. They wanted economic power and class superiority, respectively, and where they felt weakened. The last eight years, somehow, had instilled in them some sense that their economic situation and their impending class inferiority was the fault of the liberals, so the Orange candidate represented hope for lifting them up with the ruse and con of his phony populism. I should note, too, that class is just a polite way of veering off into good old-fashioned racism, and racism that is ingrained and secreted and an apparently massive undercurrent in the American electorate. The Mormon housewife was a bit different, but perhaps even more puzzling. She insisted that her choice was not in any way related to the Orange Party values on display, for she claimed she wasn’t asking him into her home, merely to be ‘head of state.’ This is a baffling acknowledgement that the Orange Party values aren’t hers, and that while they disturbed her enough to form a defense about, somehow she permitted herself to overlook the moral midgetry of the Orange candidate and actually pull the lever. I think everyone develops a narrative for the world and their response to it. And quite often that narrative is not based in fact or reality, but in deep-seated beliefs that facts and objective reality simply cannot permeate. As the group assembled in a diner, the Mormon housewife mentioned reluctantly that she felt the Orange candidate was a protector of her religious freedom. As it turns out, the blue collar white guy and the Mormon felt that when it came to ‘religious freedom,’ they seemed to feel strongly that the Orange Party was somehow fighting to safeguard this concept as they interpreted it. Now, I don’t know what that means, really. I can’t quite figure how these voters concluded that The Orange Party was a champion for religious freedom, but I assume he appeared to be the champion of their religious freedom. Now, where did the assault on their religious freedom begin, exactly, I have no idea, but judging from the visceral and emotional response to that notion from both of those Orange Party voters, the notion was deeply rooted. The reaction telegraphed irrational fear, yes, and certainly a misconstrued idea about the concept of religious freedom, and most definitely illuminates the xenophobia and the fact that people of certain faiths feel threatened by actual religious freedom in practice.
The type of change that appears warranted in terms of hearts and minds will occur in inches, and over generations, unfortunately, and at this point we only have two years to change the math. And in four years, we have to have that math unequivocally locked. The reality that there is any support at all for the Orange Party is soul crushing, but reality cannot be ignored, however in vogue such a tack might be. If we take these three voters as representational of a cross-section of the Orange Party voter, convert one of those voters, and well, that’s an election. The easiest is the guy who simply wants a decent job to support his family. I had no sense that he was entrenched in some deeply ingrained ideology, nor was he bound to some set of beliefs other than his desire to support his family. However puzzling the other folks were in their thought processes and rationale, the door must be open to shift the ground for at least some of these voters as well. In many respects I feel like that is not a job I am well suited for. Clergy and churches are better situated for that fight, although I have seen attempts to de-legitimize the Christianity of both the GOP and the Orange Party fail miserably. And a war of righteousness is just an ugliness I’d like to leave to the righteous.
The future of the world under the Orange Party is unsustainable. That isn’t so much a reflection of my righteousness as it is objective reality. The type of work that lays before the people of this nation is complex and broad. While we will not lay aside our idealism or our vision for a sustainable future, we are forced to play defense for a while. We don’t pull the goalie. We work hard to keep the score low. The GOP is more vulnerable because they’ve invited the Orange Party into their big tent, or perhaps more appropriately, they are in many ways held hostage there. It is a strange covenant, and it is theirs to manage. But it is ours to ensure that it is broken.