Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Trump: Alternative Facts Are Not A Thing

Boy, it has been some week so far, hasn’t it?  Or first few days?  I seem to be aging in dog years mentally.  The last few days have almost seemed like months.  The Will Ferrell-as-Bush sketch where he thinks he’s been President for a few years and it’s only been a few months comes to mind.  The sketch was accurate, but directed at the wrong person.  The “Miss Me Yet?” billboard remains as relevant as ever, for indeed now we’re looking back fondly at the idyllic days of the Bush administration, where he went out of his way to point out that a war on terror was not a war on religion, and that American ideals were ones that included tolerance and respect for others.  Oh, how things change.

Despite the horror of what the phrase itself means as a thing, it is helpful that the first weekend of Trump provided us with the one simple shorthand for what is to come, and that can now summed up by two simple words: “alternative facts.”  Trump himself, and many of his supporters (but not all of them, to be fair, more on that later) live in a world of alternative facts.  This is how statements like “3 to 5 million people voted illegally” that are made without a microbial shred of proof can even survive as a thing for more than a few moments without being immediately discredited as the “pulled it straight from the bowels of his asshole” bald-headed lie that it is.  But this sets the stage: in the Trump era, anyone on his side of the table treats truth as a malleable thing dependent on the whims of the Dear Leader.  Evidence and objective fact need not apply.

Repeat after me: facts and objective truth are not subject to political disagreement.  Say it again: facts and objective truth are not subject to political disagreement.  One more time: facts and objective truth are not subject to political disagreement.  Also, repeat after me: there are no such things as “alternative facts,” these are known as falsehoods.  One more time: there are no such things as “alternative facts,” these are known as falsehoods.  We will not, and cannot, concede such a thing as simple as object, evidence-based truth to the realms of “agree to disagree.”  If we do this we collapse, not merely as a country but as a culture.  The very bedrock foundation on which this whole insane American experiment has been built will have been ripped out from under everything else.  This sort of thing collapses empires, and anyone interested in a country that continues to exist and function even on the most rudimentary level needs to understand and promote this idea.

Let us focus on the facts: Trump’s purpose in office, or at least the seeming purpose of his administration, is to stop completely all of the arms of the federal government that stand in any way in the path of profit at the expense of American safety or environmental concern.  After only a few days, the Department of the Interior, the USDA, the NIH, the EPA and various others have been admonished to stay out of the press, cease appearing in public, and cancel any public-facing events or publications under a general gag order.  Leaks have indicated that the EPA itself has simply ground to a complete halt, a distressing but completely predictable event seeing as how the guy who dismantled Oklahoma’s environmental protection department will soon be in charge.  Looks like the seeming paranoia of data dumping federal climate research data and other health-related data to private servers was spot on, right?  

Those with an anti-government or libertarian bent look at this and say “Good, we could stand to use a bit less government” but the fact is this is an unprecedented act.  The EPA, for one, was created by a Republican, and no one who has served as President since completely stopped it from doing its basic business since then.  We as Americans are about to see what folks in the late 1800s did: the ability of corporations to function in a manner completely unencumbered by government oversight.  I’m not sure the people that currently think this will be a good thing will like what they see.  It’s not been done for generations.  The fact that agencies charged with ensuring our food is safe, that our medicines are safe, that do research into diseases and the effects of pesticides on our food and ensuring our drinking water is safe can no longer do their work is distressing.  Do these agencies have problems?  Yes.  But the lesson from an incident like Flint is not less oversight, and more importantly I’m curious is a majority of registered and likely voters would agree with this.  My hunch is their goal is not less oversight, and I wonder how this will reflect in the approval polls and the elections in 2018 and 2020. 

Without a doubt, Trump is the most immature, thin skinned man to ever be elected to high office.  On top of that, he has assembled a cabinet that is self-interested, tied in deep with corporate interest, and as loose with the facts as he is.  This is a cadre of corrupt capitalists supervised by the hands-down most childish man to ever occupy the White House.  We officially have a president that gets his information from the same fact-free sources (television news), as his supporters, not his own classified briefings.  We have a president that is still more concerned with how many people voted for him or saw his inauguration than his critics are, and it is already getting in the way of the business of running the country.  I need to ask sincere Trump supporters the following: is this what you voted for?  This question is not meant to criticize, but to understand.  There are people in my immediate inner circle that voted for him, and with some reservation, so I’m not trying to trade barbs or score cheap points.  I didn’t vote for Hillary.  But I really need to know: is he, one week in, the President you hoped you cast a vote for?  Or does the shattering of the idea that he’d have some sudden cathartic change upon taking the oath of office give you serious concern about his ability to even do the job on a day to day basis?  

I, for one, am not merely concerned politically.  I am concerned as a citizen who wants my country to function.  And right now is a relatively calm time, the heated rhetoric being traded back and forth in the media aside.  The Gallup poll of important issues according to Americans released on inauguration day show no clear mandated “crisis” issue for the new president to handle first.  Instead of large majorities saying jobs or the economy were big issues like they were at the start of previous administrations (Obama’s in 2009 was dominated by such issues), the polls show a scattershot of issues including race issues, terrorism, jobs, economy, immigration and the like.  Most poll in single digits.  All are below 15%.  The simple fact, also, is Trump was not elected (by headcount) by a majority of human beings in this country, so his aim should be to win us over with his agenda.  He beat Democrats at their own game by appealing to blue collar voters.  What is he doing to further that win, to build on it and enact policies appealing to them?  These are the questions his inner circle should be asking to set the agenda.  Instead we’re still re-hashing the election and debating crowd size.  It’s pathetic, and the greater media and culture at large needs to stop engaging in such pointless battles and focus instead on the mass opposition and dissatisfaction displayed in the marches over the weekend.  Do not feed into the ridiculous lies that will flow from the new press secretary Sean Spicer.  Simply report the facts: that a thing was said, and that the thing in question is not based on any verifiable evidence.  Then move on.

The Indivisible Guide, which encourages folks to confront their own elected officials directly at their offices, is a good start.  For too long our representatives in Washington have disregarded our voice as citizens and enriched themselves.  While Trump correctly points this out, his aim is not to change anything, but merely to become part of the elite political class that is enriched by the taxpayers, and bringing his already-enriched business criminal friends along for the ride.  The only defense the citizens have against this is doing what the Indivisible Guide encourages: learn from the Tea Party, work locally, be loud, visible and constant, call and send letters, focus on your own elected representatives, and nullify federal corruption and overreach any way you can.  Stay informed.  This now is an era unforgiving to those not in the loop, and complacency right now is not an option.  Simply jamming the gears of government to keep Trump’s damage to a minimum is our only play, and we need to be relentless.  Keep your eye on the ball, and never normalize what we all know is unacceptable: the presidency ought to go to those worthy of the office.  It should not be for sale, and it should always be accountable to we the American people.  Insist on this, and do not stop doing so.  Casting a light into darkness is the only way to reveal what might be going on there.

And don’t believe anything  Donald Trump tweets.


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