Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Apologies to President Obama

Dear H,

Trump Derangement Syndrome is real, but we on the Republican side have yet to develop an immunity to Obama.  Nothing the man said, in office, would please us.  And how could it?  We could sniff his hijinks out for miles.  He was throwing us under the bus on the first day.  Going on apology tours and bowing to enemies.  Talking about how he was going to personally roll back the oceans, about Americans clinging to our guns and our religion, about how the future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.  He said Obamacare would be debated publicly and then rammed it through behind closed doors. 
Even the things he didn't technically do were against him -- his pastor of 20 years saying God damn America, for instance, and the videos of people in the ghetto, jumping in ecstasy, thanking him for their free "Obama phones."  We weren't angry at the things he did after a while so much as we were mad at him.  He said he would have thrown Abraham in jail for getting ready to sacrifice Isaac.  We would have done the same thing, but we pretended we were on the same page as Abraham -- as if anyone was ever on the same page as Abraham.  It was the whole point of the story.  Abraham was nuts for God, and God pushed him so far off the edge that today the Jews are still known, to even the people they tried to kill off, as the Chosen People.  Obama stood for law and order and we stood for what today would be mistaken for Charles Manson, or Jim Jones, or Bohemian Grove.  

But this was because we thought he was talking about policing us -- the Christians.  And in truth I think he was.  The last days of his term he was sending the IRS after right-wingers and putting grown men into little girls' locker rooms and such; and the religious among us knew every step was one foot closer to them being on top.  The chipped-shoulder blacks, the sodomites after our kids, the Muslims looking for dhimmis, the illegals looking for easy welfare and vulnerable women.  We knew that the end of Obama's game was a bait-and-switch: a giving up of America to people who not only didn't build it, but to people who, in the end, didn't understand it, couldn't maintain it, didn't love it, and were most times outright against it.  His wife went on record, in a widely broadcast speech, saying his election was the first time she was ever proud of her country.  We figured he married her, so he agreed.  Nobody on this planet is dumb enough to marry a black woman and disagree with her on fundamentals.

So we were deranged.  He deported more people in his first few years than Trump did in his.  Never got a thank-you card.  He had a deficit far smaller than Trump's and we excoriated him for it.  Set up a whole movement.  The TEA Party -- Taxed Enough Already.  Like he was taking our kids' future and throwing it away to the ghetto, spreading the wealth around.  And he was.  But it's worse now and we love the man who's doing it, because at the bottom of our hearts we think Trump actually likes us.  I believe Trump does and Obama really doesn't, but that isn't the point.  The point is that we put up with things from Trump, and if they came from Obama we would have burned down whole cities.  If Obama had a policy of, say, going out and grabbing 'em by the pussy, he would have never made it past the primaries. I wonder if he would ever have made it into them, or out of jail. 

And here begins my apology.  I'm not saying I was wrong in everything, but that I was wrong in something.  A few things actually, which in retrospect make me a little (I repeat: only a little) softer on the deranged.  And one of them is this.  That when you're sitting on a chair in the sunshine on Memorial Day, thinking about the heroes who died for us -- brave boys and even some ladies, who suffered internment camps, and were lit on fire like martyrs, or shot to pieces in a showdown, or went insane seeing their best friends blown up; or even the less visibly heroic: say, the man who risked his career for what's right, or the lady who wouldn't sit at the back of the bus, or the man who told everyone what they needed to hear when they didn't want to hear it and lost his wife -- when I think of all the no-namers, lost forever in the black depths of non-history, who battled with the police over an eight-hour workday or weekends, who told an oppressive tax-man or governor where he could stick it, who came to blows with both Puritans and libertines, anarchists and communists, governments and corporations -- when I think of these men, and I'm sitting on a chair on a nice deck, sipping a good beer, looking at a freshly mowed lawn and listening to my children play, I think of how lucky I am to be here, right now, on Memorial Day, and how in the end I admit that I didn't build that.  

Obama said it and at the time I reflexively kicked him for it.  I even wrote an essay in protest.  But in hindsight one of the things that makes you a man isn't being big, but recognizing your incredible smallness, or at the very least your interconnectedness -- and being so grateful that you feel you don't deserve it.  And beyond this being willing, like your forefathers, to fight and kill and maybe die so your grandchildren can do the same thing you're doing, and maybe do better.  

I just wanted to admit that here, and if that makes some of my Republican friends mad, I'll make it up to them later by crucifying some other well-deserving pinko.  But I'm not an atom floating in the vacuum expanse of the universe.  I am one small part of a whole: blood, spirit, law, culture, soil -- not my own, but passed down to me, spit-shined and polished with elbow-grease, barricaded against the Hun, eyes honed sharply on traitors and heretics, and happy to have inherited such a great and inexpressible, unquantifiable heritage.  To be an American, right here, right now, despite our problems, is a great gift -- and I have everyone to thank but myself.  And the best I can hope is that someday somebody will be able to look back and thank me.

Your father,
-J

PS: My editor (God bless him) rejected this essay because, he says, I mischaracterized both Trump and Obama's statements.  In one aspect he's right.  When Obama said you didn't build that he wasn't talking about it in exactly my sense.  He meant that everything you could possibly do today was made possible by millions of Americans pulling together, oftentimes through government, to make modern society possible.

I take it in a bigger sense.  You built a house?  Well, who made the lumber?  The spackle?  The wiring?  The concrete and the porcelain toilet? The light switches and the furnace? the nails and the roofing?  The light bulbs and piping and carpet and dryer and the front door, etc?  Truth is, when it comes to economics you're even smaller than you are in politics, and it takes a whole host of men, working independently and selfishly and, without even knowing you, providing a whole host of ideas, services, products, and capital.  You, in the world of economics, are an ant living in a skyscraper.  And you had better be respectful of everyone who put you there, and they had better be respectful of you. 

This of course isn't quite what Obama meant.  He was talking more about teachers, and firefighters, and roads, and G.I. Bills, and moonwalking.  Government things, which are (mostly) essential and took us far together, but pale in comparison to the miracles worked by businessmen.  I admit that in many cases they made the businesses possible.  But you can take his you didn't build that in so many more ways than government.  And unless you're a jackass, you will.    

The Apostle Paul, speaking in a spiritual sense, says What do you have that you didn't receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you didn't receive it?  Would we be wrong to take him in a material sense?  Speaking of God, he says Rejoice always, [...] give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.  Would we be wrong to say it about men?  In the last days Paul adds ungrateful to a list of characteristics of the damned; and if you won't count your blessings and give thanks for them, then I say it's you who've damned yourself.  You will never be happy, and you deserve it.

Regarding my "mischaracterization" of Trump, I plead not guilty.  I can take Obama's words in a universal sense, but "I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything.  Grab them by the pussy"?  It is what it is.  I'm not even judging the man, since I wasn't there for the grabbing, and almost all healthy sex lives begin without asking questions.  But if any man doesn't feel a slight revulsion at a rich old cad, especially one seeking federal power, making moves on young married women, I wonder what kind of a man he is.  At the very best, revulsion means he fears -- for the women he loves.  At the very least, it means he wants the women for himself.  Either way he lacks love or lust, and if he doesn't have either of these something is probably wrong with him. 

But what can we say about the man who doesn't understand the cad?  Who completely disavows the sin, the confession, the outright danger?  I believe he's protecting him.  

This might look, at first glance, like a weird time to say I'm a fan of Nora Ephron (Yes, the lady who wrote the shitty movie Sleepless in Seattle).  But in her collection of essays on feminism, titled nothing less silly than Crazy Salad, she writes, 
I am a writer and I am a feminist, and the two seem to be constantly in conflict. The problem, I’m afraid, is that as a writer my commitment is to something that, God help me, I think of as The Truth, and as a feminist my commitment is to the women’s movement. And ever since I became loosely involved with it, it has seemed to me one of the recurring ironies of this movement that there is no way to tell the truth about it without, in some small way, seeming to hurt it.
This, in a collection of essays ostensibly about feminism, but which almost constantly points out the failures, the vices, and the imbecility of feminists.  She was too honest to fit in.  Loved women too much to let them slide.  Saw too far ahead to let little errors grow into big heresies.  Almost like a parent disciplining a child -- knowing all the time that the hatred she'd get now, from the immature, would be balanced by love later from the mature.  In politics the stakes are higher.  Feminism can ruin marriages.  It can make girls stupid, or ugly, or keep them obese.  Sometimes all three.  It can lead you to throw away your dignity, or to get chlamydia and go sterile, or to put yourself in situations where you're likely to get murdered.  But if politics goes bad all our families are in danger.  And I admit that Trump -- a president I love, by the way -- is a much safer choice than Hillary was.  But when he was running for president this issue was a big one.  We knew what he did outside of political power.  What would he do in it? 

I took his statement as it stood back then and I take it that way now.  I believe you can still love someone and analyze them, criticize them, discipline them.  Only a wise man knows what hangs in the balance.  He knows when the time's right to abandon a man because of a fault, or to downplay it, or to ignore it.  In our case we ignored it.  We lucked out, and he isn't a rapist as President.  I doubt we'll be so lucky with Presidents in the future.

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