The Big Scam

The big question is how far can they go?

Say a pair of robbers intend to grab your wallet from your back pocket. The street is crowded. It is not unusual for one person to bump into another in a crowd. The person who bumps you is very apologetic, even brushes you down while his partner removes your wallet. Take another example of intended distraction. A gang wants to break into your house and rob you. Rather than relying on the hoped-for event, one that no one will notice, they start a fire at another house in your neighborhood. Pretty soon there are police cars and fire trucks and noise and smoke and crowds. The damage done by the fire may be small or large but the gang doesn’t care. What matters is that no one notices as they break in and root around until they find what they are looking for and then escape with the swag.

The same thing is happening to us now. The newly elected Trump government is seeing how far they can go in breaking down formal, legal requirements and restrictions and get away with it. They ban the Muslims from getting into the US the first time, also from returning home from business or family trips. The Muslim outrage is their fire down the block. Everyone is up in arms. Huge crowds with posters are screaming “let them in” at airports though out the country. The ACLU is involved.

Trump fires his acting Attorney General Sally Yates, a longtime Government employee who ordered the Justice Department not to follow Trump’s immigration order. She rejected Trump’s anti-constitutional stance of condemning a people of a certain religion. The Trump White House said she had “betrayed the Department of Justice” and wasn’t “protecting the citizens of the United States.” The issue of protection is frequently used to shut out objecting voices. Eventually, Sally Yates will be replaced by Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) Do you notice enough people demanding that her firing be undone? The Department of Home Security felt it could ignore a Federal order and no one is taking it seriously enough. It is an important step in the wrong direction.

Then there is the issue of names. Remember how Nazi Germany asked for the name of Jews who had committed crimes. Giving these names to the public created an enemy’s list of people best removed. It made people ready to believe that Jews caused the you-fall-for-it Reichstag fire.  Now Trump spoke of getting names of law-breaking Muslims, one assumes to eventually do the same

Then there are other lists. The Trump transition team asked for a list of all Department of Energy employees or contractors who have attended ”climate change meetings.” The Climate Change group is treated as clouded with Obama’s image, Trump’s rival and reportedly ” a bad president.”

Asked the names of people are looking at the consequences of increased carbon. In the coming 10 percent downsizing, it is clear who will be chosen to leave and who let stay. The person chosen to head the EPA, Attorney General Scott Pruitt, is a climate skeptic who has sued the EPA fourteen times.

Four members of the State Department, have quit. Trump in his utter disregard for the truth said he fired them. People want to regard this as a normal change in government but it isn’t. It is more a dismemberment of what works. The EPA has been ordered not to put out information. Many have used Twitter to break the environmental news with unknown names attached. There are cracks in the takeover but the game has not ended.

The new budget has enormous cuts to commerce and energy, to education which does not know how it will survive. The Committee of Public Broadcasting will be entirely privatized. There will be no money to the Natural endowment for the arts, similarly the National Committee for the Humanities. There is not a peep of a thought of taxing the rich, the billionaires and millionaires who make up this ruling body. It is a “let them eat cake” philosophy.

With the Sally Gates being fired affair, the main issue is that Trump ignored a Federal order. People standing in a protest line against Muslim exclusion, while a serious issue, is falsely cathartic in the larger sense. The Executive Order against Muslims was done outside the normal process. It had no legal reviews. The system of checks and balances the US has in place are not working.

People are forced to accept DeVos as Education Secretary, who made her money in non-public school education and as such has conflicting interests. DeVos is inappropriate for this job since she has repeatedly shown herself to be against Public schools and wants Christianity to be taught there. Most of the Trump “chosen” have their hands in the till of the thing they are there to supervise and are ill-equipped for the job.

Significant is Trump’s acceptance of Steve Bannon as his chief strategist. This alt-right, misogynistic, anti-Muslim, anti-Semite is kept on despite a public outcry. This shows Trump and his cabinet’s intent to throw aside much of what the US claims to stand for.  Part of this is inevitable since they are so ill-prepared for the job. One hopes that the Trump government will gain wisdom and accept the guidance of experienced people who understand democratic values and how to make things work. But don’t count on it. Journalists, photographers at rallies are arrested as law-breakers. These people are the documenters of reality. We need them.

How far can they go?

The big scam is underway.

Please consider reading my book Unloved Again. Email me directly a elangolomb@gmail.com in order to get your signed copy. Paperback ($16 Squareup.com/store/elangolomb.

 

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Instead of Psychic Numbing

Saturday night, about 15 years ago, there was a concert at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine to raise money for the homeless of New York. It was a most tender and wonderful evening. Many of the performers, dated back to the social minded sixties There they were, still alive and giving of themselves. It gladdened the heart to see again those endless links of minds and hearts that once were so evident; to know that nothing was lost but had been going on underground.

There was Ginsburg, the Beat poet, Ram Das the psychologist turned acid head turned guru turned humanitarian, also Paul Simon, Crosby and Nash and others. Graham Nash was fat. They sang new songs as well as old favorites with the audience joining in, 7,000 strong. Paul Simon’s new song was about the broken dreams and illusions, not only his but almost everyone he knew. He sang sadly but that’s o.k., meaning he would hang in there and mend what he could.

They say that artists are the antennae of the race. These antennae are pretty scorched these days. There is too much pain around to simply get on with with business. Artists are probably not the healthiest of people since they are less able to summon up the rose-colored glasses that allow you to flourish in the midst of a debacle. Rose-colored glasses permit the illusion of invulnerability, permit you to think I and my family will survive because bad things only happen to “them,” to those other people so different from myself. Rose-colored glasses allow an exaggeratedly high self-opinion without external substantiation. They create a positive bias towards reality, which can whitewash the seriousness of the issues with which we are confronted.
To be sure a modicum of whitewashing, or rose-coloring is necessary. It keeps the person functioning. Too accurate a seeing can lead to pessimism and debilitating depression. But reading your own and other people’s suffering as meaningless and random does not help you to cope and move on. One needs to find meaning i life’s events, including its suffering, in order to summon up one’s best energies.
At the concert, Alan Ginsberg read a manic and deeply touching poem about a man seeking a home. He walks out of the pristine glass and steel of midtown Manhattan into Harlem where he is surprisingly confronted by relatives he thought long dead, but sill alive, existing in culturally steeped poverty. He finds his grandmother speaking Yiddish, eating borscht and blintzes in her bed; he encounters a tough and bitter elderly bag lady living in the alley between two buildings. She has set up a platform to sleep on surrounded by her bundles and packages. She even has a stove. She is out there in all kinds of weather.

She complains about her lot, showing him teeth worn out, ground down like the tusks of an ancient horse. He wonders how she can continue to eat and survive. He admires her hardiness although she bothers him as well. Little by little he recognizes her. It is his mother, Naomi, also thought to be dead. He thinks that he will live with her again in that alley. He can use the steps down to the basement as an office. His grandmother won’t be far away and perhaps those two ancient enemies mother-in-law and daughter-in-law shall be reunited. He’ll fix his mother’s teeth! Then he awakens in his comfortable Colorado home, and weeps.

The poem was so good and true. The bag lady along with all the disenfranchised and homeless people of the world is our mother. The elders are our immigrant grandmothers. They are ourselves. It is fate alone that puts a roof over our heads and not theirs.

The child within the “advantaged” person, inflates his worth and says he is a fairy prince or princess unlike the other who must suffer for their birth rite. The child within says “Everything without a doubt, will turn out alright,” without having to make the last adjustment.

Childish optimism and denial says that things outside our narrow world are o.k. when they so obviously are not. It allows us to override the messages fro the planet ultimately threatened by our greed and waste and to avoid the eyes of the homeless in the streets. The streets are full of the homeless not due to their own poor efforts but put there by administrative fiat, by destructive housing policies that make coops out of S.R.Os (single room occupancy), and warehouse empty buildings until they can be renovated for sizable profit. Rather than being lazy and worthless, many homeless people , at least 25 percent, work full or part time but can’t afford the inflationary rent.

The lesson of those people on stage and of the cathedral filled with humanity, is that we want and need to help. It is possible to be both realistic and emotionally intact at the same time, but only if we join seeing to acting. Instead of psychic numbing, we can acknowledge the suffering of others, can speak out against destructive environmental programs for people, plants and animals since all are one. We must continue to feel our sadness, anger and fear, our helplessness. We must act.

The only possible illusion we can afford is that our individual actions can make a difference in a global situation which is very serious. Of course they do, at the very least to ourselves. By acting in accord with our conscience and our ideals, we are fulfilling out potential as human beings.
Written as the Mind’s Eye column for the Warwick Advertiser in 1991.