Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Hollow Rattle of Trumps Tinfoil Saber

By Bob Ferris

I missed this excellent piece (click here) written about Donald Trump in August because I was dealing with some personal issues.  But it bears sharing and re-sharing as Mr. Trump rattles his saber (1,2, 3) and waves red flags on immigration (1,2 ,3), welfare (1,2,3), and race (1,2,3).

When we read the above referenced article by Gwenda Blair we see that Grandpa Trump was essentially what we would call a “draft dodger” today as he left Germany before he was old enough for his compulsory service and only returned roughly two decades later after the threat had passed. The German government saw this too and asked him to leave the country of his birth.  We also see that Grandpa Trump’s son Fredrick Jr. (Fred) was of draft-able age when the Selective Service was established in 1940, but did not serve in World War II electing instead to profit off loopholes in federal housing funding.
I was captain of the baseball team,” Trump explained. “I was supposed to be a professional baseball player. Fortunately, I decided to go into real estate instead. I played first base and I also played catcher. I was a good hitter. I just had a good time.MTV Interview 2010 
And three-sport high school athlete Donald sought 2-S, 1-Y and then ultimately a 4-F exemption from the Viet Nam era draft because of "bone spurs" which I am sure is looked on with great sympathy by my former brother-in-law who went to Viet Nam after having radical knee surgery in high school or my older brother who went too with his childhood asthma.  For those of us who are paying attention, served in these avoided conflicts or have family who did so this multi-generational pattern of responsibility ducking makes Trump’s saber rattling and war mongering a little hard to take.

A section of the listing of Draftees in Alaska during the World War I including my grandfather Robert Jackson Settles.
Now I suspect there are a passel of excuses for all of this avoidance by the Trump family when it comes to the military or serving ones country in a time of need such as: A young lad running away from home makes poor choices, thirty-five is too old to fight in a war, or the skills you need to be a soldier are fundamentally different than those of a professional baseball player.  I do think about these possibilities, but at the same time I talked with my mother recently and she told me about my grandfather who ran away from home at age 15 eventually ending up working for the US Forest Service in Seward, Alaska.  He was precluded from entering World War I because he was needed for the Alaska Home Guard, but the minute they released him he took his 36-year old body and hopped on a troop ship bound for Europe.  So some people let impediments stop them from standing up when needed and others obviously overcome these hurdles and do the right thing.

The Donald’s immigration rhetoric seems sour too.  Trump is the son and grandson of immigrants with his father’s history being relevant in the so-called Anchor Baby debate, because he was actually conceived in Germany just before his grandparents were deported for his grandfather’s convenient absence during his window for mandatory military service.  Trump also famously married two immigrants and profited mightily off illegal Polish immigrants that were paid below-market wages and had sleep in his under-construction hotel (1,2,3).
 "For single men the Arctic has excellent accommodations as well as the best restaurant in Bennett, but I would not advise respectable women to go there to sleep as they are liable to hear that which would be repugnant to their feelings – and uttered, too, by the depraved of their own sex." Frederick Trump writing about his hotel the Arctic in the Yukon Sun from Gwenda Blair piece.
Trump’s call for welfare reform has the same flat ring as his war mongering and immigration stance. For when you look at where the family money originated—beyond the thinly disguised brothels of his Grandpa Trump's Poodle Dog and the The Arctic House (above)—it came in large part from his father’s gaming of federal housing subsidies first for servicemen during World War II (while portraying himself as Swedish rather than German), then for returning servicemen coming home to rebuild their lives, and eventually because of the nation’s need for affordable housing.  And when we talk about welfare, what are legal business debts forgiven through the process of bankruptcy (Trump has had four in 18 years) but another form of welfare?  Now on this last point Trump will argue that these were his corporations, but not him which begs the follow-up question:  What are corporations but artificial mechanisms for shielding entities from paying rightful taxes because it is felt that this is in the public’s interest (i.e., another form of welfare)?

Though many were shocked by Mr. Trump’s non-response to an anti-Muslim question from one of his supporters and the assertions that his father was arrested at a Ku Klux Klan rally in 1927, they probably should not have been (note: see proper response to anti-Muslim outburst above by Aaron Rodgers).  Mr. Trump has a long history of making inopportune comments about people of color and was even sued along with his father by the Department of Justice in the 1970’s when he was president of his father’s company for discrimination against African-Americans (1,2).  Trump and his father counter-sued and lost ultimately signing a settlement agreement that required changes in the way the Trumps did business.  It is interesting to look at Mr. Trumps denials of wrong doing at the time of the suit and also to the charges that his father was arrested in 1927 as they are eerily similar—a pattern, if you will.

John McCain and Donald Trump had very different experiences during the Viet Nam War.  Trump's sin was not taking  deferments because many people did nor was it taking a deferment that was specious, but it was taking both those actions and then feeling entitled to besmirch the record of one who suffered mightily because he did not take these easier paths.  
As an ecologist I tend in most things to look for patterns—patterns in behavior or systems.  For Mr. Trump there seem to be two main patterns and they seem to be multi-generational.   The first is to avoid or ignore responsibilities or threats.  Grandpa Trump left Germany when compulsory service loomed and them left British Columbia when he felt officials we about to crack down on prostitution and other gold field excesses.  And both Frederick and Donald figured out ways to skip serving during wartime when many volunteered.  Now in terms of disclosure I too had a high draft number (344) but I did not file for a deferment nor have I ever publicly questioned or criticized Senator McCain’s war record (1,2).

The second pattern seems to be to one of creative reinvention.  When you are a German in a country at war with Germany tell everyone you are a Swede.  When the source of your wealth is inherited and you want everyone to drool over your competence and business acumen portray yourself as a self-made man.  And when people call you a bigot with the justification of ample and repeated evidence, tell everyone that you have many friends in the black community.

I have said many times that Donald Trump’s campaign is about finding the lowest common denominator and then adopting that position (the above graphic tells this story but was perhaps too subtle and mathematical for some).  If you find that most folks hate or fear Muslims, bang that drum until the skin breaks.  If most folks have been educated to think that immigrants are taking their jobs rather than their own ignorance and gullibility, wear that message on your forehead too.  If most folks think that the relative sliver of welfare payments in the federal expenditure pie is sinking this country’s economy, then sing this beloved, but false hymn as well in spite of your own history in this arena.   And if others are jumping off the high and dangerous bridge of religion, jump up and form your own public prayer event and invent a history of "churchliness" that no one seems able to corroborate (1,2,3).
"Thus, for example, when building apartments financed through the Federal Housing Authority after World War II, he exploited regulations that paid him by the room rather than by the unit, turning out a high proportion of small one-bedrooms and studios rather than the roomy three and four bedroom apartments families needed and FHA architects had intended." Quote about Fred Trump in Gwenda Blair's piece.  
The problem with this least common denominator approach is that it is like a lot of what the Trumps have produced over the years:  It is successful for them but not what the customers or country needs (see above and Trump University 1,2,3).   What we need now is leadership that will bust us out of a political system far too compromised by the moneyed elite.  We need a leader who will be honest and forthright about climate change and help determine solutions rather than denying the existence of an issue that becomes more apparent with each devastating drought and storm.  We need a leader who understands the horror of war and wants to avoid further conflicts rather than one who thinks that military school has any concrete equivalency to military service.  We need a leader who will work to reestablish the middle class, deal with our aging infrastructure and get us moving again on education. And we need a leader who wreaks of character rather than one who is simply “a character.”

For all this and more Americans need to take a deep breath, see beyond the media machine and remember that the Presidency is about continuing and advancing the American Revolution (as differentiated from the War for Independence) and not being dragged back to past provincialism, prejudices and prurience.  Donald Trump in this context reminds me of the tales some have told about Napoleon's bejeweled and gold-encrusted sword having a cheap and not battle-worthy blade.  Donald Trump is a lot like that fabled sword in that he is showy and loud to the point of garishness but his blade is made of tinfoil with all that oft maligned metal implies.   We can make America great again but that pathway requires a leader not one who panders to the base instincts of the worse that our country has to offer.

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