Why We Can’t Elect Donald Trump (or any of the Bully Boys)

Donald J
Trump could become the leader of America, but if he is elected and if he does
the things he says he will do, America will be a substantially different nation
than it has always been. We can kiss our forefathers good-bye, and the high
ideals they wished us to strive for as a nation. By the time we build that
wall, send all undocumented immigrants back to their countries of origin, build
up a huge military presence and bully China, I’m not sure what America will be
left with, but I think we will finally understand the word Fascism.
Americans shudder at the thought of a Socialist taking over our Democracy but
tend to have little or no reaction when someone exhibiting signs of Fascism
(Donald Trump) begins to climb in the election polls. Fascism is far more at
odds with Democracy than Socialism is but we just don’t have enough
understanding of what the term means for it to call forth the intensely
negative visceral reaction that it should. I have written warnings about this
twice before, but this time I have help from a very famous writer, Umberto Eco.
Writing from
Paris, Christopher Dickey begins his article in the Daily Beast with this statement, “Here in Europe, people
know a thing or two about fascism.” He is remembering an article he read twenty years ago by the deeply
philosophical Italian author Umberto Eco, who died last week.

No, here in Europe, by various names—as Fascism, Nazism, Stalinism—it was
the living, vibrant, vicious force that led directly to the most horrific
global war in history. More recently, it took root and lingered as an active
ideology in Latin America, providing a crude foundation for the repressive
revolutions and dirty wars that raged from the ’60s through the ’80s.

Indeed, the fundamentals of fascism are with us today, in the killing fields
of ISIS-land, in the madness of North Korea, and also, sadly, in battered
democracies from newly militaristic Japan to xenophobic, isolationist parties
in Europe. And, yes, in somewhat more subtle forms fascism can be found on the
campaign trail in the U.S. of A.

Umberto Eco, in his article
(title not given) gives a list of the attributes of a Fascist:

Makes a cult of tradition

Rejects modernism

Takes action for action’s sake   (“thinking is a form of emasculation”)

Distrust of the intellectual

Disagreement is treason

Racist by definition   (“seeks for consensus by exploiting and
exacerbating the natural fear of difference”)

The appeal to a frustrated middle
class   (“a class suffering from an
economic crisis or feelings of political humiliation, and frightened by the
pressure of lower social groups”)

Obsession with a plot

Followers must feel humiliated   (“by the ostentatious wealth and force of
their enemies”)

elitism   (“Every citizen belongs to the
best people of the world, the members of the party are among the best citizens,
every citizen can or ought to become a member of the party.”) (“[T]he leader
knows that his force is based upon the weakness of the masses; they are so weak
as to need and deserve a ruler”)
Life is
permanent warfare   (“pacifism is
trafficking with the enemy”)
heroism   (“martyrdom”)
Machismo   (“implies both disdain for women and
intolerance and condemnation of nonstandard sexual habits, from chastity to
populism   (“citizens do not act, they are
only called on to play the role of the People”)
“Newspeak”   (from 1984, George Orwell)   (“All the Nazi or Fascist schoolbooks made
use of an impoverished vocabulary and an elementary syntax, in order to limit
the instruments for complex and critical reasoning.”)
Umberto Eco
sounds like he is speaking about the Republican Party candidates and members of
Congress, and especially of Donald Trump, as we know them right now, but he wrote this 20 years ago.
Here’s the
I think that
all of the Republican candidates are unelectable and everyone is feeling this
even if they will not admit it. I am guessing that people are thinking that
Donald Trump is the least dogmatic. He is not toeing the party line. He is his
own man. And for some reason people cannot see the dangers in turning over our
governance to this man. They want the 50’s back and Donald promises the 50’s.
But they will return under his terms. He humiliates anyone who questions his
leadership and people back down, even scary people like Ted Cruz. If we give
him carte blanche to “make America great again”, it will be his vision of
America, not ours and he may have a hard time ever leaving office. He may make
himself President-for-life. We cannot control this man. He brooks no
disagreement. In the scary GOP line-up of future Presidents perhaps the man who
seems most benign is the biggest nightmare of all, but we may not know it until
it is too late.
At the end
of his article Dickey draws parallels between Europe then and America now.

But where does Eco’s Eternal Fascism fit in American politics? Can it be
that many of the figures parading before us in this presidential campaign year
appeal to the worst instincts of “the People”? Do they play on atavistic fears
and resentments, frustrations and humiliations? Are they marked by their
irrationalism and anti-intellectualism, their hatred of things foreign, their
desire to be seen as heroes and their gun-toting machismo?

Oh, hell yeah. But I don’t need to point the finger. Umberto Eco is doing it
from the grave. As he wrote more than 20 year ago:

“Franklin Roosevelt’s words of November 4, 1938, are worth recalling: ‘If
American democracy ceases to move forward as a living force, seeking day and
night by peaceful means to better the lot of our citizens, fascism will grow in
strength in our land.’

“Freedom and liberation,” Eco wrote, “are an unending task.”

How do we
get angry Americans who think any of these guys are the answer to “setting
America on the right path” to understand that they will do just the opposite?
How do we get Donald Trump to leave the Republican race now that all of the
non-scary candidates have been chased away? Getting rid of Donald is not
enough. We must elect a Democrat in 2016 or American Democracy will not
survive. I have no idea how we convince what I call “the pod people”,
brainwashed by right wing media, that they must vote against the positions they
have been taught to believe in.
By Nancy

“Cowboy Capitalists” and the American Dream

Our forefathers, educated in the classics and the writings of
their contemporaries in the fields of economics, philosophy, science, farming,
and trade, created a government for our nascent America that surprised the
world. It wasn’t that it was unprecedented. It borrowed from ideologies as
antique as those of Greece and Rome. But just consider how amazing our
Democracy is since it was created in an age of monarchs, of nobles, of serfs.
Do you think those kings and queens, who claimed “divine right”
to rule, wanted anyone to spread the credo that “all men are created equal and
are endowed with certain inalienable rights” – the very rights we hold dear –
life – liberty – the pursuit of happiness. 
Our forefathers started a trend. Their modern anachronism
went, as we would say these days, “viral”. Western Europe became mad for
Democracy. They went to war for it, they demoted their kings and queens for it.
This trend, as we know, did not catch on so much on other key
continents. And so we inherited today’s situation where countries with
differing ideas about governance have to coexist. We haven’t had to respect
theocracies for some time. They existed but they kept the rest of the world
As with every culture we have come to value our form of
government so highly that we often have been guilty of acting almost like
missionaries, wanting to spread our Democracy (and, still, for some, our
Christianity) everywhere. Even now I hold the belief that someday people
everywhere on our planet will enjoy Democracy in one form or another. Except,
not everyone is so gung ho to have their traditions replaced. And we have come
to understand that respect for others means letting them chose their own
government (but not letting them choose ours). As for religion, I believe that
our forefathers, many fleeing religious persecution, were quite adamant in their
belief that people should be free to worship as they please and that the only
way to insure this was to keep religion separate from government.
Today many argue that our forefathers were only thinking about
freedom to pursue different forms of Christianity and they might have hedged
their bets if they knew we might have citizens who worship in so many different
ways or do not worship at all. This is the cusp of our current dilemma. Do we
reinterpret the things our forefathers said? Do we simply revise our documents
to fit some people’s ideas of what they think our forefather’s meant?
Are we perhaps in shock that our Democracy does not seem to be
trending the way it once did? Historically, change takes time. If we can wait
we might find the ideas of liberty and equality gaining popularity once again.
They are looking a bit tarnished as our economics has sort of usurped our
governance. Capitalism can be a bit aggressive and overbearing. We have just
been letting it get out of hand a bit. If we can tamp down those rampaging
Capitalists who have been so busy buying up everything in sight (including our
government) and cornering all the world’s wealth then our freedom might shine
forth once again.
So we need more economic regulation, not less. We need more
taxes on the rich, not less. And I’m thinking that if a Progressive wins and
starts to rein in Capitalists-gone-wild – our new economic “cowboys” – then we
the people will probably have to put up with a bit of punishment before things
level out a bit.
Donald Trump, one of those “cowboy” capitalists, doesn’t seem
to mind putting American ideals aside to win against radical “Islamistic”
The “all men are created equal” part of Democracy never has sat
well with Capitalists. They sort of adapt it to say that we may be created
equal but we don’t all turn out equal. Those who turn out on top of the heap,
they imply, are there because they are actually better than others (not
luckier, not born with silver spoons). The fact is that these folks interpret
being better as having more money even if they stole it by manipulating laws.
If we let these “Capitalist Cowboys” sidestep our Declaration of Independence
and our U.S. Constitution won’t that be the end of the real America Dream? That
dream is really not at base a materialistic dream at all, but one of freedom of
the mind and of the person (within reason) and of governance “of the people, by
the people, and for the people.”
We can’t exclude all Muslims without forever debasing what
America has stood for around the world and what it is still struggling to stand
for. Our previous lapses may have been grandfathered in, but this time we are
fully aware of the harm from tarring an entire group with the same brush. We
cannot even use religion as an excuse to overturn laws that respect the beliefs
of any segment of our population. 
If we do these things, and it is entirely
possible that we might (fear being very powerful) they can we ever put the best
parts of the American Dream back together again? If we want to show the world
the way a Democratic society brings out a person’s best self then we must be
our best selves. Or we can do what Donald J Trump (did you notice he started
using his middle initial) suggests, but will we still be America afterwards?
By Nancy Brisson

Me Donald – Me Hulk – Me Save America

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Thank you You Tube
Donald Trump promises to set things right in America (double
meaning intended). About half of America wants a President who can turn into
the Hulk. They want to be taken care of in that way. “Me Hulk – me mad – me
smash all meanies – China, ISIS, Iran – (with American soldiers doing the actual
smashing). Me rich, me brilliant business man – me make America rich again –
get jobs again. Me white – me make America majority European again – me run
foreigners out of country.”

One problem with this (among so many) is all those “me-s”.
America is not supposed to wait for one person, even if s/he is our leader, to
solve our problems.  We live in a
Democracy – a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.

What I don’t see, if Donald Trump becomes President, is where
we the people fit in. Do we just passively wait while Donald Trump rains down
largesse on our heads? Do we kick back and enjoy the fruits of his power moves
while hoping to fare well in the deals he makes? What is the people’s role in a
Donald Trump Presidency? What about the 50% of people who don’t agree with his
projected policies? Will he sell the American soldier and the American worker
down the river if necessary to insure the overall prosperity of our nation?
Will we share that prosperity or will we be the coal shoveled into the furnace,
used, spent, discarded? Donald Trump eats people he perceives as inferior for
lunch. “Hulk angry – stay away from Hulk.”

That old mojo we used to have is not gone, even though half of
the nation seems to have lost so much faith in America that they will turn to a
bipolar superhero to recapture an old snapshot of a transcendent America. Life
is not a snapshot. A snapshot is the past. However nostalgic we might be to
recreate that old snapshot we know we can’t. Life moves on. Life is a movie;
it’s a video, on fast forward sometimes.

America is not dying. America is in transition. Either the
world will coalesce as a global entity consisting of the world’s nations, but
more open because economics will know no boundaries, or the nations, including
us, will turn inward and wall themselves off into individual entities, and
society will assume a more feudal structure with nations constantly sparring
with each other (that sounds sort of like now, doesn’t it).

We will not be wise to elect a “savior”. What we need is a
leader who straddles the past and the future and helps America legislate and
build its way into having two feet solidly planted in a new future with common
goals. There will still be things to fight about, there always are, but if we
let World War III happen there may not be a recognizable world left. No one
really could possibly think that starting World War III is a great idea. But
mankind has gone to war often for some incredibly stupid reasons (and to settle
some unavoidable battles, although rarely). If we try to rewrite the old King
Arthur rule that “might makes right” and try turning it around so that “the
mighty strive to do what is right” perhaps we can stop looking to the Hulk to
save us and collectively govern wisely, more like the Federation from Star
By Nancy Brisson

What is Real and What is Fantasy?

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People want to get back the things that we seem to
have lost such as: security in the form of jobs that last a lifetime, pensions
that don’t disappear (pouf) (thank you, Rachel), social security we don’t have
to feel guilty about, medical care that we can afford from cradle to grave,
ascendancy on the world stage, no environmental ax hanging over our heads, and
no illegal immigrants taking our jobs and using our tax dollars.

Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders both promise that
they can deliver these things although, I assume, using totally different
methodologies. Donald Trump’s alleged ‘plain-speaking’ hints at an agenda that
will keep America mostly white and speaking English. If will be an America that
employs all citizens who can work and an America that is feared and therefore
respected around the world. He believes that building an enormous military
force armed to the teeth with the very best weapons willing to fight anytime and
anywhere will insure that our nation remains a ‘safe space’ for American

But Donald Trump is a true patriarch and, as a CEO,
he is used to being large and in charge. His governance sounds much more like a
dictatorship than an exercise in the checks and balances as set forth by our
forefathers in our Constitution. Donald Trump sounds like the candidate you
might want if you need to answer the question “who’s your Daddy”. How much
freedom do we give up as citizens if we let Donald Trump set things right for
us? Will our losses equal our gains? He tells us what we think we want to hear,
but can he deliver? Does just having a big mouth and a flamboyant, overly
confident personality win the day around the globe? Will our enemies be shaking
in their boots or will they resent us returning to our interfering and often
mistaken ways.

Bernie Sanders offers us many fine things, rights
that working people in other advanced nations have already won, rights that
support people who work, especially women (although increasing numbers of men
find themselves in need of at least the parental rights); things like universal
pre-K, family leave, sick leave, closing the disparity between male and female
pay, between rich and poor. Bernie Sanders seems to favor turning illegal
immigrants into an innovation advantage through education and programs that
ferret out people with special talents or abilities or high levels of
intelligence. Bernie Sanders is mostly focused on America’s economy which is
certainly where we would like to have power focus right now so that the middle
class does not continue to lose ground. What is Mr. Sanders foreign policy? At
least Bernie will fight to keep our planet healthy. Will he be overcome by the
socialist label which he does not seem to mind, but which most Americans fear
(or have been taught to fear)?

Electing Bernie Sanders would be like electing the
best union organizer of all time. We have never had a union organizer as a
President.  It sounds like Bernie Sanders
is a very democratic socialist and will not take us to places we do not want to
go. However, we have to ask ourselves if the state of our current finances and
the extreme opposition to left wing reforms that benefit workers who don’t seem
to have jobs, is practical and doable and a road that will lead us to
prosperity, or if this too is just what the media is calling “magical thinking”
and Bernie’s agenda is really just a fine example of promises that cannot be
fulfilled. Boy, I hate to think that that is true. Perhaps instead of giving up
on these kinds of middle class rights we need to choose someone who will take
baby steps until the economy and our rights reach a peak at the same moment. It
is really hard not to want it right now, but we have some other people in
America who need a leader who will also fight for their rights. Can Bernie
fight on all the fronts we need to fight on right now?

Donald Trump’s focus seems to be on forces outside
of America and Bernie Sander’s focus seems to be on forces inside America. I
like some of what each has to say, although, of course, I lean more towards
Bernie Sanders. I like that Trump says he will make America great again, but,
in truth, I do not agree with any of the ways he will go about it. Each of
these candidates suggests the possibility of instant answers and that I cannot
believe in. It appears to me that our culture and our economy is in a
transitional age, which is why Americans cannot decide whether to be cautious
or bold, inclusive or isolationist? We will, most likely, wend a careful path
through some kind of middle way if we can ever get our nutty relatives on the
right to make sense again.

We need training; we need education. If we are going
to be a nation with fewer public jobs and fewer corporate jobs, we need to
raise a generation of entrepreneurs schooled by people who already know the
ropes. One reality show called The
is not nearly enough to get us an America full of thriving small
businesses that succeed and grow into big businesses.

I am a proponent of a classic curriculum, of what
used to be called the liberal arts (before liberal became a ‘suspect’ word and
before ‘political correctness’ limited free speech and thought). I am, however,
open to the argument that perhaps a liberal arts education is a ‘frill’ right
now for those who need to go right out into the world to work. This means we
need all sorts of educational environments from schools to one-on-ones and we
need all kinds of programs from skill training to college degrees to
apprenticeships. As far as I know the world will need people who can fix things
for many, many years to come and we will need even more of them than the number
of geniuses that we will require (although can a culture ever have too many
geniuses). I tend to believe that education and small business and public
programs are the ways out of our current impasse.
By Nancy Brisson