Trumptation Blues

“South Carolina is too small for a republic and too large for an insane asylum.” – James L. Petigru, former South Carolina Attorney General, 1860

As the 2016 presidential campaigns got going and professional loudmouth Donald Trump achieved “frontrunner status” among the field of GOP candidates, I had visions of the “anyone but Romney” jockeying that went down in 2012 quickly unseating Trump from the top of the field.

Oh, would that I’d been right.  Donald Trump has won the New Hampshire and South Carolina primaries walking away, after suggesting all Mexicans are rapists, Muslims should be shot with bullets dipped in pigs’ blood, and that the pope doesn’t know shit about being a Christian.

I thought at first that, well, this is what the GOP gets. They’ve spent the last eight years preying on fear, passing racist voter ID laws and stooping to the lowest possible rhetorical level to make Obama seem like an America-hating villain, all while making it easier for rich, white men to take everything of value this country has to offer.  Trump is the Frankenstein’s monster the GOP created by convincing gullible Americans that the black guy running the country was every kind of evil there was, and we needed the exact opposite sitting in the Oval Office starting in January of 2017.

But then I realized, it’s a two-headed monster the GOP created, and the Bernie Sanders candidacy is the other head. I like Bernie the independent senator. He was one of the first five people I ever followed on Twitter. I don’t know if he would make a great president, but he represents, essentially, all of the things that the GOP accused Obama of being (except, of course, a Kenyan). Where they accused Obama of being an un-Christian socialist, Bernie really is one. And an unapologetic one. The comparisons go beyond that, but the point is that the hard right has built a bunker behind the anti-Obama, and the hard left has built one behind the ultra-Obama.

Look, all I know is that Trump’s ascendancy doesn’t say bad things about Donald Trump. He’s a cartoon. But it says terrible things about Americans. That almost 35% of South Carolinians think this dickhead represents what America needs is a slap in the face to every single person who has ever taken even the smallest action in favor of living up to the promise of America as set forth in the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…”

I get it. We’ve done a bad job from the start at living that truth. But we’ve made progress. And Donald Trump represents regression away from that ideal in every possible sense.

On election night in 2012, by an accident of the calendar, I was playing a solo set in Hollywood. I’ve never shared this video before, but on that night I closed my set with “This Land is Your Land.” Incidentally, Woody Guthrie hated Donald Trump’s father. I’ll leave that here…

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Here’s to the State of South Carolina

I have too many thoughts about the white supremacist terror attack at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, to get them down in any coherent way, and besides, Jon Stewart said it right, anyway. He also said that he knows the country well enough to know it’s not going to actually do anything about this. That is probably correct.

There are two things that should and must be done, though, two steps that must be taken, and not because of a shooting at a church, but because their persistence is an embarrassment to the country and a slap in the face to the nation’s stated founding principle that all men are created equal. And because their persistence overtly endorses things like this shooting at a church. Those steps are to get rid of the South Carolina Confederate flag flying over its statehouse, and to change the Mississippi state flag, which is the only one that still bears the “stars and bars” of the Confederacy.

Faulkner wrote “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” That is a simple and profound recognition that our past — individual and collective — continues to shape us.

And yet we are works in progress, and one hopes that however dark our past may be, we would continually strive to move forward, to improve. That while our past may inform us, it does not define us.

This progress is fundamentally impossible, though, if we institutionalize the most shameful period and practice in the history of our nation, and officially celebrate our great shame as a point of pride. Our nation and our citizens have committed many atrocities, but no one seeks to enshrine any others as a state symbol in the name of “history,” or “heritage,” or “tradition.” The California statehouse does not feature a proud symbol of Japanese internment camps alongside the Bear Republic flag. The city of Chicago does not fly a flag emblazoned with a Tommy gun outside of city hall.

It’s time for South Carolina to put their statehouse battle flag in a museum. And it’s time for Mississippi to change their flag, like the other longstanding holdout Georgia finally did over a decade ago.

The state flag of Mississippi is an embarassment

The state flag of Mississippi must be changed