Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Half-Assedy Of Hope

I saw the results, and I said No. I wanted to stand, march, be in the company of those who were living this horror with me. This waking-up-in-the-night and this nausea and dread. To say No. No. No. No. No. It was important to be on record as saying No.

I've had second thoughts. Actually, just one tiny second thought. I saw a video once: an ex-convict was ministering to the incarcerated. He approached a man in the front row and brandished his fist. The man grabbed it. The minister pushed. The man pushed back. Hard. They were equals. Then the minister gave in, utterly. He let his fist subside. The man immediately quit pushing, and was astonished that he had. "This is your choice," the minister said. "You can push back, and that is what you want to do. But it's not your only option."

I'm not advocating surrender.  What I see is that people are persuadable. But they are never persuadable when presented with a fist. When we assure half the country that they're idiots and we alone hold the keys to the truth, half the country will push against our fist. We do the same thing. We're all dancing lewdly to the disco-beat of our own righteousness. It feels good, but we will never get where we want to be if we continue on this path. And where we want to be is too important to be sacrificed to our vanity.

I first thought about this when Obama spent so much time with the president-elect in the White House. It could have been a short visit. Lord knows, an awkward one, with the president in the same room with the man who pushed the birther lie about him for years and years. But President Obama is a wise and cool man. He has things he'd like to see accomplished. And scolding or snubbing the incoming president was not going to see them done. I like to imagine he was sympathetic. There's no reason to suspect otherwise: this is a man who puts himself in other people's shoes. Trump is in way over his head, and--at least right now--he knows it. He needs help, and I like to think Obama gave it to him. He laid out the complexities of the job, he sympathized, and he offered advice. First thing Trump said after that encounter was that he was looking forward to consulting with Obama in the future.

We know this guy.  If Obama had been at all condescending, he wouldn't have said that.

I like to think Obama gently let him in on some difficulties with abolishing the Affordable Care Act, with tearing up world treaties, with governing by dictat. I like to think he might even have suggested that there was more to this global-warming thing than a hoax by the Chinese, and that he might have a place in history if he led us in the right direction, and that he was in a unique position to do it. Trump might like a place in history.

Next thing I read is that Bernie Sanders offered his full support if Trump actually wanted to take on Wall Street. My friends on the left were outraged. Bernie had sorely disappointed them. Why? Because you must show your fist to the enemy! Then your enemy can push back. Now we're all pushing, and we get nowhere.

Except all Bernie said was he would support Trump if he wanted to take on Wall Street. What? Are we those people? Are we the ones who would obstruct Trump even if he manages to do something right, just to make sure he fails? I would like to imagine that Trump would be interested in collaborating with Bernie. He campaigned on similar issues. It would show him to be nobody's puppet. He might be in a rare position to get something accomplished, particularly if he gets credit for it. I suspect he'd like that.

Listen. Trump might have some blank spots on his slate right now. He hasn't thought that deeply about anything. He seems persuadable, at least a little. He's already demonstrated that by backing away from some of his campaign promises. Instead of supporting this, some on the left are hooting about it and reminding his supporters that they're chumps. He needs help, and right now he knows it. But he's also prickly. Tell him he's a moron, and he's not going to respond well.

If you subscribe to the Clicker Method of animal training, you always reward the behavior you want--even feints in its direction. And you fail to reward the behavior you don't want. That doesn't mean you punish the animal. Sometimes it means you just don't give it the attention it craves. It works for people, too. Your elderly mom calls every night to complain about everything? You don't tell her it can't be that bad. You don't tell her to perk up. You give her nothing, just let your voice trail off. Then when she says something more upbeat, you get all enthusiastic. Within a matter of days you've retrained your mom.

We are at an unusual intersection here. I don't have much hope. I deplore everything Trump claimed to stand for--but I'm not sure he was that invested in any of it. He was doing a reality show with himself as the star. He was giving the people what they craved. Yes, we must stand up for tolerance. Yes, we must stand up for civil rights, and our fellow citizens, and we must stand up for our beleaguered planet, every time we can. Yes, we must fight the evil ones among us who are encouraged by this man's mindless bluster.  Things don't look good, and we will have many opportunities to resist, to make our stand. But if, on any issue--say, he wants to replace Obamacare with single-payer--this guy gets a notion he wants to be a hero, I intend to let him.

54 comments:

  1. Wise thought and I do believe the only way to go. After all this way Trump may surprise us, but first we have to surprise ourselves...

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    1. Oh it's just one little sliver of hope. I don't have much and I'm still ready to march. I just want us to be ready to embrace any good thing that might accidentally happen, and not fail to recognize it out of a habit of gloom and obstinacy.

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  2. You said it so well, Murr. I have seen the "Clicker Method" in action, and it does work -- on animals and on humans. Another way of seeing it is that energy follows thought: if you only concentrate on the "bad" things, that is how reality is reflected back to you. There are "good things" out there, but you simply don't see them. It's important to concentrate on the things you deem good, few though they may be. If you concentrate on what you don't want, more of it will accrue in your personal account.

    Also, Trump was actually a democrat a while back. It's relatively recent that he switched parties. Perhaps he still has a more liberal lean, but knew he would never be elected as a democrat. He has a history of telling people what they want to hear, and no one else was listening to this segment of America. He merely had to parrot back to them what they wanted to hear, and we see the result. If they felt that someone else had responded to their concerns in some way, we would not be in this predicament. Sure, he may not act on their concerns, but what they really wanted was to be listened to.

    "If you want to lead the people, you can only do it by following the mob." -- Oscar Wilde

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    1. I wonder if he will tell US what we want to hear, if we let him. Because I don't think he believes anything any longer than it takes him to spit it out.

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  3. Good points and an interesting way of looking at the problem. Trump has already walked back most of his worst campaign promises, even though some of his cabinet choices are either horrifying or baffling. He seems to be open to influence and definitely doesn't really know what he's doing -- I mean, not realizing Bannon is in the alt-right?

    Agreed on the Sanders and Obamacare-to-single-payer examples. Helping and protecting people is more important than scoring political points.

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    1. Right--the window of opportunity may be closing, given his cabinet choices, because you know that's who's going to be Trump's brain. I hope Obama stays in one corner of that head. I heard just yesterday they had a 45 minute phone call.

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  4. I don't know. I realize the clicker method usually works, but he is surrounding himself with a cabinet that will be clicking other actions and words than we would. Single payer with Tom Price in charge? Not likely. He's from Georgia and we know him.

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    1. Yeah--the problem is someone else is holding the clicker now. I think it's interesting that now Medicare is on the table. Do you figure Ryan wants to do away with it because it's so well-run and economical that it might threaten the insurance companies?

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    2. Or because it's so well run and economical that it proves government *can* work, which doesn't fit well with Ryan's libertarian narrative.

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  5. Brava! I appreciate your thoughts. I'm living in a Trump state but have to say I never saw or heard lots of celebrating after the election. Lots of wait and see going on in this part of the state. . Kim in northwest PA

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    1. Now that's interesting. I wonder how much regret is out there? Report back as noted.

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    2. There doesn't seem to be regret. It's just "let's see how this goes." There was just that much opposition to Hillary from what I can tell.

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    1. Thank you. But don't assume I'm not going to be out there marching still!

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  7. Excellent post. I liked your example of the fist. Thanks for writing this piece.

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    1. That fist demonstration was an eye-opener to me when I saw it, oh, twenty years ago.

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  8. I am not at all sure extending the olive branch or hand vs fist is going to give us the gradual improvement or the least damage.

    The comparison of Trump to Hitler is not new, both demagogues, both rising from a democracy that seemed fragile, both in countries with rising racial tensions.

    I know it's not a perfect, or really a good comparision, but......

    We don’t know whether the election of Trump is an American echo of the winter of 1932-33 in Germany, when a fragile democracy collapsed into tyranny and an infamous demagogue rose to power on a promise of economic renewal and restored national pride, with an unmistakable racial subtext. It’s an inflated comparison in many ways: Trump is too lazy and stupid to be a good Führer and lacks any semblance of a consistent ideology; his true believers are nowhere near a majority and are unlikely to participate in any form of mass mobilization that involves leaving the sofa. Kristallnacht is more likely to come back as a hashtag than a physical event. But if you’re anything like me, the parallels seem far-fetched first thing in the morning and way too plausible in the middle of the night.

    My oldest is 41, the youngest 29. The three of them two female and one male are all actively looking at living abroad, and not on a temporary basis. They don't feel the mood of the country, set free by Trump, reflect the kind of country they want to live in. I don't blame them.

    I wish I shared your optimism, but I don't.

    Thanks for the thoughtful piece of writing.

    Mike

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    1. Oh, also: extending the olive branch was tried with Hitler, Czech, Austria were the results. He did, famously, give Germany great freeways and trains that ran on time. And, if you were white and christian, a comfortable life. For a while.

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    2. "Trump is too lazy and stupid to be a good Führer and lacks any semblance of a consistent ideology; his true believers are nowhere near a majority and are unlikely to participate in any form of mass mobilization that involves leaving the sofa. Kristallnacht is more likely to come back as a hashtag than a physical event. But if you’re anything like me, the parallels seem far-fetched first thing in the morning and way too plausible in the middle of the night." Excellent little slab of writing, there, and I'm repeating it in case anyone skimmed over. By the way, I wrote this two weeks ago, and it represented the tiniest wafer of optimism, and I'm losing that fast.

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  9. Would you stop being all sensible already? I had my outrage all wound up and ready to go. Now I actually have to set that aside and think. And that's hard, dang it.

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  10. I agree with yourself, even if you don't. We may never be able to communicate with Trump but maybe with some of his supporters.

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    1. I've long since given up arguing with trolls on the internet, but I have occasionally been successful speaking kindly with an "oh, I dunno, shucks" sort of addendum introducing what might be a new concept. And, of course, my preference is to first disarm with humor and then sneak in a truth package.

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    2. ^^This^^ - yes, "me too"...I now think VERY carefully about with whom and when to argue, online.
      Thank you for the great thought and writing (once again).
      And it just occurred to me: I can easily imagine Obama using EXACTLY the angle you describe in your reply here, when meeting with Trump - right?

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    3. Possibly the coolest person on the globe.

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    4. Is there some way this blog could get to Obama?

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  11. My grandmother always told me you could catch a lot more flies with honey than vinegar. She was generally right about most things.

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    1. It's really true though. We have seen where the opposite approach gets us.

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  12. Trump's totally a tool of the Neo-Nazis. He's being controlled by people who know just how to get what they want from him. Steve Bannon first and foremost... I don't know that our *clicking the clicker* when he does something we sort of like, or at least don't totally hate, will be much use given the posse of terrifying advisors he's gathering around him. And that I find myself wishing he nominates Romney to be his Sec'y of State indicates to me that I am grasping at the tiniest wisps of glimmers of hope.

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    1. That is the problem, right there. I believe the Republicans for the most part were horrified by Trump, but now they recognize him as the perfect President: utterly biddable, and a reliable source of distraction.

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  13. "Tell him he's a moron, and he's not going to respond well." Tell ANYBODY they're a moron and they stop listening. We can all learn from each other, and we'd better do our part. Although the ones Trump is choosing to surround himself with do worry me, more so than Trump.

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  14. It's certainly something to think about, but I reserve the right to choose my battles. I will try and stay open minded, but there are some things I will absolutely not tolerate, many of which Trump mentioned regularly in his reality show campaign. We'll see.

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    1. Make no mistake, I'm right there with you, bro.

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  15. The man still scares the shit out of me!!

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    1. He's kind of a clown, but very evil people will find him immensely useful.

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  16. Bad and crazy as things are here in The Benighted Kingdom, what with the preposterous "vote" to leave the EU (a referendum with no binding obligation on the government - and won by 37% of the franchised: don't get me started...) I have never, until Agent Orange became your President-Elect, had a reason to think that my life would not have been more blessed if I had been born an American citizen.
    In other words, out here in the rest of the world, we are still looking on, jaws on the floor, at the corner you've painted your marvellous country into.
    We look to you to survive this baffling mess: buyer's remorse will hopefully bring some of the Trumpeteers to see that much wool has been pulled over their eyes...

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    1. It's like dealing with an addict though. How much has to be destroyed before the afflicted hit bottom?

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  17. Most of this makes so much sense I want to stick it on my fridge and study it, but you lost me in the last sentence. Isn't Obamacare a good thing? Nation wide affordable health care, like our Medicare system where getting medical care doesn't hinge on whether or not you have insurance?

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    1. Single-payer is what's like our Medicare system, and that's what Obama really wanted, but he couldn't get it accomplished. So I believe even Obama would be tickled to replace Obamacare with single-payer. Early on he tried to work in a public option; that would have been the cheapest way to go, and he reasoned so many people would jump on board that he'd be able to sneak single-payer in through the back door. Unfortunately, his opponents also saw that possibility and stopped it in its tracks.

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  18. I am not interested in the Trump voters; we're all in for the same ride now. I am interested in the signs of dictatorship aborning. All the chief psychological components are apparent. All the necessary and sufficient sociological components are in place. We're ripe-to-rotten and thereby vulnerable. The international situation will allow for it. I won't shut up. I won't give that a chance. Would-be dictators all start out as heroes.

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    1. Oh count on it, I'm not going to shut up either.

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    1. Obamacare is better than what we had before but not as good as getting insurance out of healthcare altogether.

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    2. But the ignorance re: Obamacare is astounding. My daughter in TX overheard a discussion between two 20-somethings this week. One was so happy that Obamacare would be gone; it's such a disaster, said she. The other one agreed, and then added that she was glad for the "law" that allowed people with pre-existing conditions to be insured because her husband wouldn't be insurable otherwise. Just one example.
      Stupid should hurt.

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  20. we analyse in terms of individuals, with conceptions of honor, decency. But in the aggregate, like the broken treaties made on the frontiers with native tribes, honor and decency do not prevail. Dollar interests are the driving force.

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    1. There's not much honor and decency inherent in capitalism.

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  21. Thank you for your careful wisdom, Murre. I can't listen to the news any more, and reading the paper depresses me beyond its being worth doing. I'm still in denial that we put a reckless, cruel, loose cannon in Mr. Obama's office. I need to stay positive, got a lot of things to do. I don't know if I can keep the bubble membrane intact for four years, keep serving up the good stuff I find. I admire you more than you know for even discussing this.

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    1. Tell you what--if push comes to shove, let's move closer together so we can admire each other more conveniently? (And actually clink glasses of medicine.)

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    2. Any way we can shrink the Pacific?

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    3. I believe the Pacific is shrinking, and the Atlantic is widening.

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  22. Trump leans liberal but is neither conservative nor liberal and operates on the stroke me/reward me system. So, if he becomes a puppet than the gatekeepers are the ones the worry me.

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    1. Who was the writer who said he was not a standard liar--he was a grade-A, top of the line bullshit artist? I doubt he has a principle he can call his own.

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