Friday, November 4, 2016

Correspondence: Trying to understand the US Presidential election

Edited by Moristotle

Is evil really the human default? And good a hard, civilized choice? “Why Trump Is Different—and Must Be Repelled” [Adam Gopnik, New Yorker, November 3]. Excerpt:
It has become almost an essential piety even among [Trump’s] opponents that a special pathos clings to his supporters, who know not what they do, but are themselves victims of forces larger than they...his supporters are not really the “racists” they are thought to be....
    The trouble with this view is that, while Trump has his share of disaffected white working-class voters, the correlation between Trumpism and economic discontent is a false one, as has been demonstrated many times...the notion that belonging to the largely fluid category “the white working class” puts one in special possession of The white working class built unions and raised children and fought wars—and lynched black people and supported Joe McCarthy....
    The biggest single error, and the most tragic, that “progressive” or liberal thinkers made in the twentieth century was to imagine that ethnic grievances could be reduced to economic grievances, and that if the aggrieved could be made to see their “true” class position the grievance would go away, the nationalism, or racism, would vanish. It never has. Trump’s supporters demand our attention and deserve our empathy—but that doesn’t make the ideology they so feverishly share any less toxic or dangerous....
    What can be causing Trumpism? We ask, and seek for an earthquake, or at least a historical oddity or a series of highly specific causal events. The more tragic truth is that the Trumpian view of the world is the default view of mankind. Bigotry, fanaticism, xenophobia are the norms of human life—the question is not what causes them but what uncauses them, what happens in the rare extended moments that allow them to be put aside, when secular values of toleration and pluralism replace them.
    ...Human groups, particularly those fueled by religious fanaticism or the twentieth-century equivalent, blind nationalism, always tend toward exclusion. To eliminate the tribal instinct may be impossible, but to raise the accidental practice of pluralism to a principle is what enlightened societies struggle to accomplish....
    [Trump] is one of those phenomena that rise regularly in history to confound us with the possibility—and black comedy—of potent evil: conscienceless, cruel and pathologically dishonest. That evil magnetizes followers of all kinds is another permanent truth. [read more]
There r areas of this country that have spawned little but hatred & cruelty & backward thinking for centuries.
    Where was most slavery? Where is worst racism today? If not genetic/culturally ingrained, what is it?
    Having been traveling through NC for 50 years, I do question how much is cultural hand-me-down & how much is genetic predisposition toward mental & physical laziness & dislike of anyone & anything progressive
    The main difference between native Southerners today vs 50 years ago is now they at least look around b4 dropping t n-word. But mindset has not changed.
    Ironic that the area of country most against immigration was built by unwilling immigrants (slaves) & much of the work is still done by modern slaves (illegal immigrants). Most of the native whites have never done their own work or come up with any good ideas.
    Do u travel rural roads enough to notice the drastic increase in rebel flags the past 8 years? They were all over this region in the 60s, just about gone by 2000, and have made a huge comeback since Obama was elected. Coincidence? I think not.

Could it be as simple as this – why people “trust” Donald Trump? “How Can Americans Trust Trump?” [Elizabeth Kolbert, New Yoker, November 3]. Excerpt:
It’s hard to say, at this point, which is more astonishing: the volume of Trump’s trumped-up statements or their scale....
    Nevertheless, according to the poll, forty-six per cent of voters believe Trump is the more “honest and trustworthy” of the two major-party candidates, while only thirty-eight per cent give the edge to Clinton....
    Donald Trump is the kind of jerk who authentically, genuinely, unabashedly inhabits his own jerkiness. The indifference to reality he’s displayed on the campaign trail is the same indifference he displayed as a businessman, a husband, a boss, and a taxpayer. His narcissism, petulance, and whatever other character flaw you care to choose aren’t under wraps; they’re on view for all to see and hear. In this sense, he truly is the real thing.
    Clinton, meanwhile, is constantly role-playing. On the campaign trail, she displays an interest in people that, one can only assume, she doesn’t always feel. In her speeches, she invokes lofty ideals, when doubtless she’s often motivated by expedience. The high-minded, Presidential persona she’s committed to is constraining in many ways. It prevents her from lashing out, or publicly belittling blocs of voters she may, in private, consider “deplorable,” or expressing the frustration that she certainly must be experiencing right now. In this sense, she is not the real thing....
    Trump’s disregard for propriety, for principles, and for anyone else’s view of the world is heartfelt. As a consequence, his lies have the emotional resonance of truth. And this is precisely what makes him so dangerous. [read more]
[The following story is almost surely not true. Nevertheless, I agree with the man who sent it to me that it’s an interesting example of a “teaching tale”]:
In ancient times, a king had a boulder placed on a roadway and then hid himself and watched to see whether anyone would remove the huge rock.
    Some of the king’s wealthiest merchants and courtiers came by and simply walked around it. Many loudly blamed the King for not keeping the roads clear, but none did anything about getting the stone out of the way.
    Then a peasant came along carrying a load of vegetables. Upon approaching the boulder, the peasant laid down his burden and tried to move the stone to the side of the road. After much pushing and straining, he finally succeeded.
    Only after picking up his load of vegetables, did he notice that a purse was lying in the road where the boulder had been. He put down his load again and picked up the purse. It contained many gold coins and a note signed by the King indicating that the gold was for the person who removed the boulder from the roadway.     The peasant had just learned what many never understand: Every obstacle presents an opportunity to improve our condition.

English is the world’s international language. It is often used to explain things to tourists coming in from other countries. But while English is well known, it’s not always well written, resulting in some truly, although unintentional, comic signs. Here are some of my all-time favorite broken English signs:
In a hotel in Athens. Visitors are expected to complain at the office between the hours of 9 and 11 a.m. daily.

In a Yugoslavian hotel. The flattening of underwear with pleasure is the job of the chambermaid.

In a Japanese hotel. You are invited to take advantage of the chambermaid.

In the lobby of a Moscow hotel across from a Russian Orthodox monastery. You are welcome to visit the cemetery where famous Russian and Soviet composers, artists, and writers are buried daily except Thursday.

Grateful for correspondence, Moristotle