Some years ago I got my name on an electronic mailing list from an organization that calls itself “Public Advocate of the United States.” Despite its official-sounding name and logo,
it has nothing to do with the U.S. government but is in fact a rabidly right wing hate group whose primary obsession is promoting an anti-gay agenda. For instance, here’s the beginning of an email they sent me yesterday:
The radical Homosexual Lobby’s champion — President Barrack Obama — is counting down his final days in office.
That’s why they’re wasting no time on a plan to ambush Congress during the lame duck session.
You see, the Homosexual Lobby is using everything in their arsenal to ram their radical Gay Bill of Special Right’s (H.R. 3185) through Congress and onto Obama’s desk.
Why would I want to receive such nonsense? To be honest, because it makes me giggle! Public Advocate’s “president” is a chap named Eugene Delgaudio, a longtime conservative Republican activist, who has actually been elected to local office in his home town of Sterling, Virginia, a part of Loudoun County that, oddly enough, voted for Hillary Clinton over Trump by a sizable majority. I enjoy replying to Eugene’s emails, which come about once every two weeks, and my replies don’t bounce back. Generally, I’ll write something amusingly provocative—at least, I think my replies are funny. Possibly Eugene–if he reads them—doesn’t. He’s never bothered to write me back, to my regret.
So far-out is Degaudio that on Public Advocate’s website two of his highest-visibilty links are called “Ask Congress To Impeach Hillary Clinton” and “Paul Ryan Silent About Horse-Man Marriage Too.” This latter statement is reminiscent, of course, of Rick Santorum’s infamous 2003 comment comparing gay sex to “man on dog,” proving once again that these right wingers have some weird fixation on bestiality that—so far as I know, and this is pretty familiar territory to me—is non-existent in the gay community. In fact, when we think of bestiality, we have images of rural Appalachian farmers, the kind who probably voted for Trump if they bothered to vote at all, doing things with their cows and sheep.
So what is this HR 3185 Eugene is getting so frothy about? Dubbed by its sponsor “The Equality Act,” it was introduced into the 114th Congress last year by a Democratic congressman from Rhode Island, David Cicillne, and would extend the 1964 Civil Rights Act “to include sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity among the prohibited categories of discrimination or segregation in places of public accommodation.” While almost the entire House Democratic Caucus co-sponsored it, it was snuffed out by Paul Ryan’s Republican majority, and while it’s still technically alive, PredictGov.com, which provides real-time predictions of pending Congressional bills, gives it a “1% chance of being enacted.”
Delgaudio’s homophobia has expressed itself through some real howlers. When the Transportation Security Administration proposed full-body airport scans, Delgaudio declared it part of the “homosexual agenda,” adding, “It’s the federal employee’s version of the Gay Bill of Special Rights… That means the next TSA official that gives you an ‘enhanced pat down’ could be a practicing homosexual secretly getting pleasure from your submission.” Lord knows, these TSA queens are everywhere. I hate when they touch my junk.
Then, a few years ago, Eugene attacked a “pirate festival” held annually for the last century in Tampa, Florida, which he accused of being infiltrated by “radical homosexuals” seeking to exploit unsuspecting college students. “When the young men are sufficiently intoxicated, homosexuals dressed as pirates whisk them away to God knows where to take advantage of them sexually.” I confess to having done that myself. Arggh! Me keester got meself a right fine collidge boy down attha festival, me heartie! Ass rye!
What is it about gay rights that makes people like Eugene crazy, anyway? And I do mean crazy, as in “as a loon.” And guess what? Anti-LGBT nutbags now have their toes into the White House. “Every one of Donald Trump’s Cabinet Picks So Far Opposes Gay Rights,” New York Magazine reports.
That’s scary, but the fact that The Donald’s hunky eldest son, Donald, Jr., has a long history in New York’s drag community, where he used to be known as Lady Tramp, may give us some reassurance.
It’s been cold in Oakland lately—cold by our standards, anyway, if not by those of the upper midwest. I heard an interview today on NPR with Thomas Friedman, who referred to his fellow Minnesotans as the “frozen chosen,” an apt description, I suppose, when the temperature is fourteen degrees below zero, as it will be in Friedman’s home town of Minneapolis next week. (All hail our modern day Oracle of Delphi, Google, which informeth us of all things!) Clearly it won’t be below zero anytime soon here in Oakland, where the all-time coldest temperature ever recorded (thank Google again) was 24 degrees, balmy by Minnesota standards, in 1949, although I lived here during the infamous “Hundred Year Freeze” in December, 1990, when I swear I recall the temperature falling to 17 degrees, and many of the flowering trees in my neighborhood were killed overnight. I can find no record of that through Friend Google, though, another blow to the Accuracy of Memory we like to think we possess but which is, apparently and increasingly, as fragile as a spider’s web, a simile I use because I have just discovered that my cleaning ladies destroyed Charlotte’s home, on my balcony, where that lovely spider had encamped for the better part of four months, hanging her silken web between a cactus plant and some sort of succulent, a volunteer, that landed in a flowerpot two years ago and now has grown to three feet in height. I had asked the cleaning ladies to please spare Charlotte and her web—their English isn’t so good, but my Spanish is worse, and so possibly they thought I was directing them to get rid of the damned bug. At any case, the vagaries of Babel aside, Charlotte’s web is, alas, no more, and I confess to a bit of sadness about that. Where has she gone? Was she wounded during the roust? More importantly, will she return? She seemed so happy. It amazed me how she could adjust her web in all sorts of ways, depending on the weather. When it was warm and sunny, in October and much of November, the web rode high, where it caught the sunshine, glinting silvery-gold in the light, and bobbed easily in the pleasant breeze. When the first of the season’s storms hit, Charlotte moved her web further downward, the way a snowbird might drive his RV to Florida. Clever little spider, I thought over the months, as I watched and got to know this Arachnid. I learn—Google again!—there are more than 100 species of that family, but I couldn’t tell you which one Charlotte claimed as her tribe. She was big, perhaps half an inch in circumference, and interestingly colored; depending on the light, I saw red, splotchy brown, black. I don’t think she was a Black Widow, but I wouldn’t have stuck a finger in her face. At any rate, Charlotte also seemed a very abstemious spider when it came to food. I never saw any insect entombed within her web, and wondered constantly what she lived on. Perhaps spiders need little in the way of sustenance, unlike me, for example, who needs to eat every two hours, or my body chemistry goes awry.
But back to Thomas Friedman. He used the phrase “sugar high” repeatedly, a little too much—it’s a powerful metaphor whose use ought to be sparing lest it sound calculated—but I knew what he meant when, by it, he referred to Trump’s recent cavorting into economic matters: the implicit threats to China, the explicit threat to Boeing, the Carrier deal in Indiana. By “sugar rush” Friedman meant that these things feel good—very good—to Trump’s ardent fans, who believe he will apply his businessman’s negotiating skills to saving and restoring millions of manufacturing jobs to America. But Friedman’s argument was that, while these activities may feel good in the short term, they are very bad, economically, in the long term. I can’t remember exactly why, although I know he explained it; just that “bad in the long term” is his take on Trump. I agree, as my readers know by now, or ought to; but I also know—this is the former wine critic speaking—that predictions are fraught with peril, including those about the ageability of wine, especially when said predictions are Parkeresque in duration (“drink between 2028-2045,” he might have written, of a 2005 Bordeaux, in 2008). Parker will be dead by 2045; so will most of his current readers; and such as remain of our own species, so Arachnoid in many respects, who are even aware that one Robert Parker predicted in 2005 that a wine would be “peaking” thirty years later will have no one to complain to, much less sue, if the prediction turns out to be rubbish. So Friedman is entitled to be dubious about Trump, even as Trump is entitled to be boastful about himself. I still think he (Trump) is a demagogue, a narcissist, a sociopath, a fraud, a liar, and a terrible danger. Someday, when I have joined my forbears in that place in the sky (or, as some believe, in the opposite direction) where wine critics go when they die, somebody can Google my quotes and dig that one up. (“Heimoff said in 2016 Trump was a demagogue,” etc., “but historians now rank him among the greatest Presidents ever, just after Millard Fillmore.”)
I have just heard, on the television, a Trump surrogate defend Trump’s environmental vision. “Two of his sons, Eric and Donald, Jr., are avid hunters, so they understand the environment.” I give up. Wherever Charlotte is in hiding, I just may join her.
The Dakota Access oil pipeline is another of those issues I haven’t taken a solid stand on, until now, due to my philosophy: I’m not going to have a position on a complicated topic I haven’t studied and don’t understand. It seems to me that too many people on both sides, red and blue, make up their minds based on kneejerk reactions. I don’t want to join that parade.
My problem with deciding about the pipeline was the same old one my Gemini mind often has, an “on the one hand, on the other” choice wherein I can see the issue—as Joni Mitchell once sang–from both sides. I understand we need oil in this country. I own a car; I need to drive; it would be very inconvenient for me not to have gas, or to have to pay two or three times what I pay now. That’s an argument for the pipeline.
On the other hand, I also understand the need to get away from fossil fuels. We’re not going to do that overnight, but this drill, baby, drill mindset doesn’t seem to be getting us any closer to a future of renewable energy. And I also understand the sensitivities of our Native American people, with whom we (America) have broken so many treaties. So those are arguments against the pipeline. And, I have to add, the fact that the most rightwing elements in this country are always in favor of more oil and against alternative energy also makes me suspicious of the pipeline. The right isn’t always wrong, but they usually are.
So I’ve avoided taking a firm position—until now. This is my coming-out party: I’m against it.
My decision takes place against the backdrop of the Army Corps of Engineer’s decision the other day to deny a permit to the pipeline’s builder, Energy Transfer Partners, which is being portrayed in the media as a huge victory for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, who initiated the protests against the pipeline’s planned route near their water supply. As the Sioux were supported by thousands and thousands of others, including U.S. veterans, my sympathies began to shift towards them, but it wasn’t until yesterday, when I read an editorial in the Wall Street Journal, that I decided to come down on the no-pipeline side. Here’s why, and it has to do with what I said above—that the far right seems to favor the pipeline in a way that’s rigidly ideological and short-sighted, as the right so often is.
To begin with, the editorial’s headline was “Obama’s Last Stand.” That should tell you something: this isn’t objective reporting, it’s another hit piece on the President from a newspaper owned by Rupert Murdoch, a rightwing billionaire who’s been trying to bring Obama down for years. The editorial is filled with snarky phrases: “the environmental left” is one (why is being for the environment a left or right issue? It’s a human issue). The Corps is engaging in “political obstruction.” How does the Journal know? Have they done their due diligence and studied every aspect of this issue, the way the Army Corps of Engineers has? Besides, who’s the Wall Street Journal to talk about political obstruction? The Journal—no stranger to smears, any less than Murdoch’s rancid Fox News—alleges the Corps has “jeopardized its integrity.” Really? According to whom, the Wall Street Journal? I suspect that tens of millions of Americans believe the Corps’ integrity has been enhanced. Finally, the Journal insults everyone who was against the pipeline by calling them “no-fossil-fuel greens who have turned the [pipeline] into a Battle of the Alamo.” You know, the right hates it when people caricature them as wingnuts. But apparently the Wall Street Journal can disparage their political enemies at will.
Trump has insisted he’s in favor of the pipeline, even as reports circulate that he owns part of it. And that’s what has brought me to my better-late-than-never opposition to it. This is about more than a mere pipeline. Much more. It’s about more than the Sioux, or their water rights, or the price of gas. The rising up of the Standing Rock Sioux will, I believe, eventually be seen to be the beginning of a determined opposition to Republicans, to Trumpism, and to the narrow, parochial interests of the tea party. Americans who have been opposed to Trump and everything he stands for have been looking for something to rally around since the election. Now we’re found it. I really, really hope Trump, after he’s sworn in, decides to reverse the Corps of Engineers and re-approve the pipeline, because if he does, we’re going to have a showdown up there in North Dakota, and throughout the U.S. for that matter. People will flock to the streets, and we will be on the winning side.
Because this is an easy issue to wrap your head around. Even the vets, who supposedly favored Trump, get it. Bismarck, North Dakota’s capital city, somehow managed to get the pipeline routed away from itself and onto Indian lands.
Why? How did that happen? Even if we’ll never know the real story, it’s unfair on the face of it. Put a white city at risk? No way, man. Let’s dump it on the Indians. But then, that’s the Republican Party for you. As I pointed out in my post yesterday, this is a party that has declared war on empathy, on fairness, on even trying to understand the feelings and thoughts of people who aren’t white, Christian conservatives. Theirs is a political philosophy (if you can call it that) that is odious to me. We all have to stand against allowing such a nasty attitude get any farther than it already has. And that’s what the pipeline represents to me: a symbol. “This far, and no farther. Over our dead bodies.”
So, Trump, you can’t win this one. Swallow this defeat gracefully and move on, although that’ll entail pissing off your people—or show your usual vengeance and try to ram the pipeline through and stir up a hornet’s nest coast to coast. Either way, you lose.
Three days in the life of the developing necrosis of this incoming administration hardly leave one knowing where to start in writing about the Almanack de Gotha of horrors daily emanating from Trump Tower, or should I say, from the man himself, who to be precise occasionally ventures beyond the escalator of his gleaming tower in midtown Manhattan to friendlier climes in the Rust Belt, to whose sad, angry white people he made promises he will never keep, nor intended to, since he knew they didn’t really expect him to anyway.
However, three days it has been since I last posted about politics: the weekend has come and gone, and yesterday’s brief interlude into wine reviewing extended the sabbatical. So where to pick up the narrative? One might begin with Trump’s Taiwan-China fiasco, or the bizarre soap opera over who will be Secretary of State (imagine Mitt Romney’s embarrassment over the use of his posterior for Trump’s public pleasure), or perhaps the recent nomination of Dr. Ben Carson as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development—the same good doctor who said “I do believe in the six-day creation” and noted that Darwin’s theory of evolution was “encouraged” by Satan. Nothing like evangelical fundamentalism at the helm of the Free World’s rudder! Or perhaps I could start with the President-elect’s failure—deliberate?–to offer condolences to the City of Oakland—my city–for the recent fire, the deadliest in the history of California. Then again, knowing that he is about as popular in Oakland as psoriasis, possibly Drumpf’s attitude is, To hell with those crispy hippies, they didn’t vote for me anyway.
So, as I say, three days offers lots of choices of stuff to write about. But I choose to devote this post to a column in yesterday’s—where else?—Wall Street Journal, called “The Empathy Trap,” by a Yale professor of psychology by the name of Paul Bloom, who was therein flacking his new book, called, appropriately, Against Empathy.
Did you ever begin to read something that, by the second paragraph, made you feel so dirty that you wanted to take a hot shower? “The Empathy Trap” did that for me. Normally, I would move on, but something—curiosity? masochism? rubbernecking a particularly grisly roadside accident?—made me continue to read. Dr. Bloom takes aim at empathy, and particularly “what [we] psychologists call emotional empathy,” of the sort—this is me, Steve, offering this example—I and my fellow Oaklanders are feeling now for the victims of the Oakland Fire and their friends and families. Now, you might think that feeling empathy for our fellow humans devastated by catastrophe is a good, natural, even religious thing, but you’d be wrong. At least, from the point of view of Dr. Bloom, who calls feeling empathy “a shame…a moral train wreck. It makes the world worse.” Prescriptively, for those seeking a solution to their better angels, he offers this: “When we have the good sense to set [empathy] aside, we are better people and make better policy.”
See what I mean about feeling dirty? What are we to make of this—I don’t even know what to call it—casting away of everything we were taught constitutes decency and human-kindness? Probably it’s only to be expected in the Age of Trump, a narcissist and sociopath who does not appear to be able to feel empathy, or much of anything at all except resentment, for anyone else. One is reminded, of course, of that Saint Joan of the neocons, Ayn Rand, and her books, whose heroes, John Galt and Howard Roark, rejected feelings of empathy or compassion as the products of weak, non-productive and inferior beings (think Elsworth Toohey). After all, Rand approvingly said of Howard Roark (with whom she was, bizarrely, in love, despite his fictitious existence), “He was born without the ability to consider others.”
Bloom cannot completely flush empathy down the toilet. To do so would make him appear to be a monster. He allows it some relevance—“distant compassion” is his phrase, something one may see from far off but shouldn’t get too close to, lest one become infected. But Bloom’s real love, the idée fixe for which he saves his highest admiration, is “careful reasoning,” a sort of emotionless analysis of facts (one thinks of Mentats in Frank Herbert’s book, Dune, and perhaps of Dr. Spock, although Spock, despite his cool analytical powers, certainly had the stirrings of a warm heart). There is, in other words, in the red-clawed world according to Bloom, a competition between empathy and “careful reasoning” that makes for a zero-sum game: you can have one, but not the other. “Careful reasoning…makes the world a better place.” Empathy—well, as I quoted, “makes the world worse.”
Most people, I think, would reject this Manichaean dualism. Most of us understand that you can feel empathy for the poor, the sick, the downtrodden, the displaced, the victims of fires, the suffering, and at the same time make wise policy decisions. In fact I would guess that most of us feel you can’t make good policy decisions without feeling empathy—the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. One way in which the Trump phenomenon is so aberrant, from the point of view of America’s historical legacy, is that it really does assault feelings of empathy for the many groups it perceives as its enemies: people of color, the GLBT community, immigrants, Muslims, intellectuals, coastal dwellers, liberals, environmentalists, scientists, women, indigenous peoples, non-Christians—have I forgotten anyone? Surely if you add up the total of all these in the general population you would arrive at a number greater than the number of people who voted for Donald Trump. But, wait a minute, that reminds me, Hillary at the last count had more than 2.5 million votes more than the man with the orange hair.
But I digress. Bloom is not alone among his tea party brethren (and cistern?) in his disdain of empathy. Gary Bauer—yes, that one—noted that “It is not government’s role to be the primary dispenser of empathy.” (Hatred and discrimination, yes. Compassion, verboten!) And no less than “The Architect” himself, Karl Rove, calls empathy “the latest code word for liberal activism, for treating the Constitution as malleable clay to be kneaded…”. In addition to their so very many wars on so very many fronts, Republicans also have launched a war on empathy, and Dr. Paul Bloom, of Yale University, is their latest Reichsmarschall.
I’ve followed Benziger’s fortunes for decades, and one thing I can say, they’re always striving to boost quality. The Benziger family began with the hugely successful Glen Ellen Winery, which pioneered “fighting varietals,” before launching their boutique Benziger brand, which they sold to The Wine Group in 2015. These five wines are the first I’ve tasted since the sale—although all five of them were made prior to it. We’ll have to see if the winery continues on a quality trajectory under the new ownership. The Cabernets are from the estate vineyard, in Glen Ellen, the heart of Sonoma Valley, on slopes of Sonoma Mountain. The Pinot Noirs hail from the estate de Coelo Vineyard, way out on the coast between Freestone and Bodega Bay. I first visited it years ago when it was being developed. My sneakers sank inches into the deep, seabed-derived Goldridge soil, as fine as moon dust. One of the best soils for Pinot Noir in the world, Goldridge drains readily, and lends the wine an expressive elegance.
Here are the wines, in the order I tasted them.
Benziger 2014 de Coelo “Terra Neuma” Pinot Noir (Sonoma Coast): $75. Alc. 14.0%, 230 cases produced. This is from a higher-elevation block of de Coelo. The color is pale and translucent, hinting at delicacy. As in previous vintages, the alcohol is lowish, giving the wine a light, silky mouthfeel. Dusty tannins give it plenty of grip. The fruit suggests persimmons, with tarter cranberries, highlighted by mouthwatering acidity. There are more exotic notes of green tea, white pepper, Chinese 5 spice, and wild mushroom. The finish is severely dry, which is a compliment. Yet, toasted oak barrel aging lends it a vanilla sweetness. Complex and elegant, and so easy to love, this beauty will age for at least eight years. Score: 94 points.
Benziger 2014 de Coelo “Quintus” Pinot Noir (Sonoma Coast): $75. Alc. 13.5%, 625 cases produced. The family resemblance with the other wines from de Coelo is marked in this block-derived wine, which is lower in alcohol than Terra Neuma. It’s slightly tarter and more delicate, but the same persimmon, raspberry, cranberry, tea, orange peel, mushroom and white pepper notes carry through, as do the silky tannins and magnificent acidity. This is exactly what we look for in Goldridge-derived Pinots: enormous complexity, delicacy undergirded with power, extreme drinkability. If there is ever going to be a Freestone appellation—and there ought to be—this wine could stand as its exemplar. I cannot imagine a better companion for lamb or steak. Score: 94 points.
Benziger 2014 de Coelo “Arbore Sacra” Pinot Noir (Sonoma Coast): $75. Alc. 13.5%, 641 cases produced. Another block bottling from the estate vineyard. Aromatically it’s a little shier than the other two, showing more mineral and earth notes, like tree bark, brittle, dried leaves, cloves and dust. But the fruit is there: raspberry tea, pomegranate, orange peel, tart cranberry. There’s also a crispness that lends vitality to the mouthfeel, but the tannins are as light as air: they give a hint of astringency. The mouthfeel is as silky and delicate as an old tapestry, yet the depth is very great, with complex impressions extending out through a long, spicy finish. Of the three wines, I’d have to say this is my favorite. It is ultra-refined and elegant, a wine that would have been unthinkable in California not that long ago. Score: 95 points.
Benziger 2013 “Signaterra” Obsidian Point Cabernet Sauvignon (Sonoma Valley): $65. Alc. 14.4%, 486 cases produced. This is a very proper Cabernet, by which I mean it is classic, balanced and delicious. It’s one of those wines that you take a sip of and think, Wow, is this going to be easy to like. Bone dry, with thick but fragile tannins and just-in-time acidity, it’s rich in black currants, anise, unsweetened cocoa powder, sweet toasted oak and just a hint of herbaceousness: sweet green olive especially. The grapes are from Benziger’s estate vineyard, in the heart of Sonoma Valley on the slopes of Sonoma Mountain, and were biodynamically-grown. I have not been an ardent supporter of biodynamique, but there is a purity to this wine that is notable. Interestingly, the wine is already throwing some tannins. Drink now-2020. Score: 93 points.
Benziger 2013 “Signaterra” Sunny Slope Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon (Sonoma Valley): $59. Alc. 14.5%, 562 cases produced. The wine is just a little bit less concentrated than Obsidian Point, but it’s also six bucks less. It’s quite lovely, with classic black currant, cassis, cocoa and green olive flavors, enriched by 20 months of aging in French oak. It has an inherent elegance due mainly to the splendid acid-tannin structure. It’s not clear to me that it would be worth aging this wine for any length of time, but it is an enjoyable, complex sipper. Score: 90 points.
OAKLAND FIRE VICTIMS
A Mr. Jack Hamilton, from Silverdale, Washington, wrote a letter to The Wall Street Journal the other day that is so miasmic, so lacking in self-understanding, that I just have to reply.
Hamilton’s letter is about a column by the redoubtable Peggy Noonan—a sarcastic right winger who worked for Reagan and the first Bush—who now writes for the Journal. Noonan’s piece, entitled “What to Tell Your Children About Trump,” blamed “mainstream, legacy media” for the disharmony between red and blue voters following the Nov. 8 election. In short, she accuses the media of inexcusable hostility to Trump. (Of course, Noonan would never include the W.S.J., her employer, as part of that “mainstream, legacy media.”)
Hamilton chose to differ from Noonan’s analysis. Here’s his letter in full:
Peggy Noonan asks a good question but identifies the wrong villain. If a five- or six-year old is fearful and crying over a Trump presidency, look to the parents and teachers who told him or her the stories about the “evil person.” Last time I checked, little children weren’t reading newspapers or watching CNN or MSNBC to keep current with world events. Those who stand so firmly on safe space and microaggression avoidance apparently didn’t consider the unintended consequences of spreading the lies to their children. Perhaps the progressive “village” raising the kids didn’t so such a good job. Let those who created the problem take the first steps to fix it.
Before I proceed to demolish this allegation, let me first point out Hamilton’s bitchy, misogynistic reference to Hillary Clinton’s book, “It Takes a Village.” Let no occasion pass in which Hillary shall not be insulted, seems to be the right’s motto. Anyhow, onward with our semiotics!
That “five- and six-year olds” are fearful of Trump has been widely and accurately reported. Hamilton is probably correct when he blames their “parents and teachers” for this phenomenon, although not for the reasons he thinks. After all, we expect parents and teachers to instruct little children in the ways of the world. Why Hamilton should suddenly have a problem with adult guidance of children is curious. But in his muddled way, he then forgets “parents and teachers” and goes on to attack “CNN and MSNBC” !! Who is it Hamilton has a problem with, anyhow? Democratic parents and teachers, or CNN and MSNBC? Apparently he has problems with everyone and everything except Trump, Fox News and Rush Limbaugh.
But you, smart reader, have by now probably discerned Hamilton’s biggest, most egregious falsehood, and it does indeed have to do with precisely those media outlets—Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and the rest of the tea party cabal—from which Hamilton appears to get all his information.
Hamilton, you blame CNN, MSNBC and unnamed “parents and teachers” for frightening little kids by telling them about things Trump has actually said and threatened to do. And yet you seem unconscious of the fears, lies, resentments and murderous impulses your rightwing media has stoked against Democrats for decades, among credulous white people like you.
These rightwing media decided in the early 1990s to destroy the Clintons. Upon the rise of Barack Obama they conspired to destroy him, too. They have characterized liberals as terrorists, as fools, as unpatriotic, as elitist, as dismissive of the working class, as a hate group, as atheists, as everything hateful. These lies, as well as those of Trump himself—endlessly repeated in Republican households where little children heard and believed them—have been attested to countless times, for instance here, in my blog, where I list dozens of Trump’s falsehoods. (And here’s another link, to the New York Times, listing others.)
Little children—the same five- and six-year olds you claim to be so concerned about, Hamilton—have heard their parents, their teachers and, yes, their preachers say Hillary Clinton is evil, a cheater, “crooked,” a bitch, the incarnation of evil, not a true Christian, who should be thrown in jail and possibly killed. They have heard that Barack Obama is a secret Muslim, that he is not an American, that he “pals around with terrorists,” that he wants to let Muslim killers into our neighborhoods, that he loves letting “Mexican rapists and criminals” swarm into America, that he has sold out America to Iran, that he is the worst President ever. I could go on and on and on, but surely, Hamilton, somewhere down inside you, buried beneath all your resentments, there lies the knowledge that your side—the right—is at least as propagandistic as you accuse the left of being.
Which is why I say your letter is so lacking in self-understanding. The thing that Democrats really resent about this election isn’t that Trump won, it’s how he won: through the dirtiest, most mendacious campaign in the history of the United States. It was based on his complete disregard of the truth—knowing full well that people like you, Hamilton, don’t care about truth, only about getting somebody as angry and boorish as you into the White House. So when you talk about “spreading the lies to children,” take out the beam from thine own eye, Hamilton, and tell me if you ever repeated any of these falsehoods to your own children or grandchildren (assuming you have any). Did you tell them “thousands of Muslims cheered in New Jersey following the Sept. 11 attacks”? Did you tell them “thousands of Americans have been killed by illegal immigrants”? Did you tell them that Trump never sexually harassed women and that allegations that he did are lies spread by Democrats? Did you tell them that Hillary Clinton arranged to have Vince Foster killed? Did you tell them that “millions” of people who voted in the recent election were illegals? In short, did you ever inject that venom into your kids’ mental bloodstream? If you did, then you’ve done exactly the very thing you’re accusing “liberals” of doing.
You see, Hamilton, your letter is so feloniously dishonest that you must be either disingenuous or deliberately lying. Giving you the benefit of the doubt, I will assume the former: that you are simply incapable of being objectively fair even when the truth is smacking you in the face.
[The following is based on a true story]
[Flashback: Winter 1963. The Wilshire Apartments, Queens New York. The apartment building’s owner, Fred Trump, is meeting with his rental agent, Stanley Leibowitz. Accompanying them is Fred’s 17-year old son, Donald.]
FT: So how are we doing on rentals, Stan?
SL: Pretty good, Mr. Trump. We’re up to 87 percent. We just had another application this morning.
FT: Oh, really? From who?
SL: A nice lady. A Miss Brown.
SL: Yes, sir. That’s her name.
FT: Is she a colored?
SL: Yes, she is, Mr. Trump. But very well-behaved. Good credit, pays her bills, has a good job as a secretary.
FT: Stan, I want you to take that application, put it in your desk drawer, and forget you ever saw it.
SL: You sure, Mr. Trump?
FT: Look, Stan, I can’t be having these coloreds in my buildings. You know what happens? Property values go down. Whites look elsewhere. Stan, I’m trying to get this Coney Island deal approved—23 stories, Trump Village—and if people hear that Trump properties are turning into slums, it’ll be a huuuge problem. So lose that application, Stan.
[Later, Fred is with Donald having lunch in a Queens deli.]
DT: Pops, what was up with that application—you know, the one you told Stan to lose?
FT: Listen up, son. If you’re gonna learn the ropes in this real estate business, you gotta know shit from shinola. It ain’t a racial thing, Donny, it’s just common sense.
DT: How’s that, pops?
FT: Look, when these blacks move into a neighborhood, things start to go downhill. Look at Harlem! Remember what I was telling you when we drove up to 125th Street that time?
DT: To look at that row of apartments?
FT: Yeah. You saw the filth, the garbage, the junkies, the whores, the pickaninnies running around like little animals. You want that in the Wilshire Apartments?
DT: No, pops.
FT: You want that in Trump Village?
DT: No, pops.
FT: Of course you don’t. You wouldn’t be my son if you did! So you gotta be tough, Donny. Can’t let ‘em in. Have to draw the line. Only thing is, you gotta be—how can I say it?—discrete. You don’t want one of these colored papers, like the Amsterdam News, saying you discriminate. Then some son-of-a-bitch Negro congressman like Adam Clayton Powell comes down on your ass and complains to the Justice Department that you’re a bigot.
DT: How do you avoid that, pops?
FT: I’ll tell ya, son. Listen up. You deny, deny, deny, you lie, lie, lie, and you insult your accusers. And if worse comes to worst, you sue. They got their lawyers; we got ours. It’s a pissing match, Donny, and we can piss longer and harder than the government can.
DT: Gee, dad, that’s smart.
DT: I mean, really smart.
FT: Did you learn something today, son?
DT: I sure did, pops. I learned that the blacks are bad for business. I learned how to keep them out of our buildings.
FT: What else, son?
DT: [thinks] And I learned how to win.
FT: You sure did, son! And don’t you forget it!
[Fast forward to today. Donald Trump is in Trump Tower with his own sons, Eric and Donald, Jr.]
DT: And that was the first real estate lesson your Grandpa Fred ever taught me, boys. And I’m passing it along to you.
ET and DTJr., together: Gee, dad. Wish Grandpa hadn’t died so young. He sounds like he was a hella smart guy.
DT: [wistfully] He was, boys. He was. Taught me everything I know.