Out running with my wife before the election, we passed some of the “We Believe” signs posted in yards in our town.
The signs, with some variations, run so:
In This House, We Believe:
- Black Lives Matter
- Women’s Rights Are Human Rights
- No Human Is Illegal
- Science Is Real
- Love Is Love
- Kindness Is Everything
Half-jokingly (and, yes, somewhat snarkily) I wondered aloud what the signs of Trump supporters might say, were they to address the same themes in their yards.
Now, being a social liberal/progressive, and having been raised a Christian with the original Jesus (the vastly better eye-of-the-needle one), I happen to agree with all those things on the sign. (And, so, I really don’t wish to be unkind.)
Oh, the ones that also include “Water Is Life” just make me thirsty.
Yard signs of Trump supporters tend to say things like America First/Keep America Great/Trump: No More Bullshit!/Support the Police/We’re Pro-Life, and so on. But I’m interested in what the explicit counter — the anti-text — to the signs’ addressing basic affirmations of women and science and love and kindness would be. Can it be that our tribes even disagree on what love and kindness mean?
Well, yes, clearly we do; that’s why the sign exists.
So, what would the counter signs say? Let us imagine, fairly:
In This House, We Believe:
- All Lives Matter (We Support Our Police!)
- Women’s Rights Are Not Originalist
- No Human From a Northern European Country Is Illegal
- Science Is a Plot (and a Hoax)
- Love Is What We Say It Is
- Kindness to Us Is Everything (No Matter How Badly We Behave)
Too harsh? Unfair? The slogans involve more words, which is never a good sign (yes, sorry, intended) when it comes to truth and beauty.
Am I wrong? Let’s take a look at the words, policies, and actions of Republican politicians and judges and tens of millions of voters to check accuracy on these assertions of belief I’m ascribing to others.
All Lives Matter (We Support Our Police!)
It took the corrective “All Lives Can’t Matter Until Black Lives Matter” to mostly shut down the “All Lives Matter” willful bit of misunderstanding/trolling from the right. I’ve coupled it with a parenthetic assertion of “We Support Our Police!” because one does regularly see those yard signs (or “Back the Blue” or “The Blue Thin Line”), and while not a lot of thought likely goes into planting one out in the front yard, what it clearly implies is that “We Support Our Police — No Matter What.” I say that because everyone supports the work that the police are hired and trained to do. Everyone. It is a difficult job — long periods of routine work and observation that may suddenly turn to confrontation and great personal danger, a job in which you are asked to perform in ways (marriage counselor, mental health expert) you are simply not trained, or paid enough, to do. Everyone knows that. Again, everyone supports the police.
And, yes, the left’s “Defund the Police” is one of the worst phrases ever conceived to convey a concept that actually supports police by limiting what we ask them to do for society.
It is worth remarking here that the president who broke all norms about honesty and dignity in office and was impeached and had the most members of his administration in history to be charged with crimes, with many being found guilty, ran on the “law-and-order ticket.” By definition, authoritarians like standing (in this case “bigly” and “strongly”) for their perverse fantasies of “law and order,” which means militarized police cracking heads and indiscriminately shooting rubber bullets and lobbing tear gas canisters in the streets. As for the rule of law that a democracy depends upon? Not so much — in fact, we now know a grifting authoritarian sociopath will do everything in his power to undermine and subvert the rule of law.
Women’s Rights Are Not Originalist
At the founding of the United States, women had few rights — and they knew it. Many people know something of the “Remember the Ladies” letter Abigail Adams wrote her husband in the spring of 1776, while he was at the Continental Convention, in which she pleaded with him to consider the rights of women in any laws created for the new country. In his reply, John Adams scoffed at the idea, writing: Depend upon it, We know better than to repeal our Masculine systems.
Heck, women didn’t even get the vote until 1920. The Equal Rights Amendment still languishes.
Amy Coney Barrett, the well-connected under-qualified Supreme Court judge rushed into a lifetime appointment by Trump and Mitch McConnell, is a strict constitutional originalist in the way she views the law. She herself belongs to a secretive charismatic religious group, People of Praise, that puts men at the head of the family. Since she has been “a leader” (a “handmaiden”) in this strongly paternalistic group (the teachings of which she says she will ignore in her rulings), and she is looking back to John Adams and the other founders for guidance, her presence on the court obviously does not bode well for any women’s rights issues that come before the court.
What is the likelihood that the founders, most highly educated men, if transported through time to our society would, after about a day, still hold to their original views?
And let’s not forget that the man who nominated her, Donald John Trump, has been accused at least 25 times of sexual assault (including rape), sexual harassment, and sexual misconduct since the 1970s. Once he leaves office, Trump faces two defamation lawsuits because he called accusers E. Jean Carroll and Summer Zervos liars. When it comes to being a misogynistic pig, one could say that Trump is himself truly an originalist. Many of his supporters love him for it, and millions of other voters — in fact, exit polls suggest possibly more white women than in 2016 — again found it not to be disqualifying behavior.
No Human From a Northern European Country Is Illegal
Trump kicked off his 2016 campaign for president by calling Mexican immigrants rapists and criminals and promised a “big, beautiful” wall along the southern border. But he had no problem with other kinds of immigrants, say, from Northern European countries, like Norway. Just not Muslims or brown and Black people from countries he called a term I won’t use here. He specifically mentioned Norway, but one thinks he likely was thinking of Sweden, as in Swedish models. In any case, he was definitely saying “white” and “wealthy.”
Led by uber-creepy Stephen Miller, Trump’s revolving-door administration kept its focus on racist and xenophobic anti-immigration measures as much as with anything it did. Perhaps not equal to how members of the administration worked, as if by daily checklist, to obfuscate the truth, deride the press, promote conspiracy theories, destroy documents, push unqualified conservative judges to federal benches, and obstruct justice — but, really, there is no denying that they put their backs into this one.
In an illuminating interview in Salon by Chauncy Devega with author Jean Guerrero, who has written the book Hatemonger: Stephen Miller, Donald Trump, and the White Nationalist Agenda about how Miller became the person he is, she notes that Miller tightened the focus of the Department of Homeland Security to immigration issues:
“Stephen Miller wanted DHS narrowly focused on immigration issues because that was where the country’s demographics could be re-engineered. This allowed him to shape policy to attack refugees and asylum-seekers. Miller would eliminate people from their positions if they disagreed with him.…The Department of Homeland Security is supposed to be protecting the American people from things like a public health crisis, but is so narrowly focused on Miller’s racist obsessions that it has failed to protect the American people from much greater and real threats.”
Trump and Miller pushed to keep naturalized immigrants from ever having the chance to become citizens if they had ever taken any form of public assistance, including making use of the Affordable Care Act. They carried on a terror campaign by repeatedly threatening to use Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to conduct raids in cities and deport immigrants. And they purposely separated children from their parents, and put them in cages, to teach everyone a lesson. Under their “zero tolerance” policy that began in 2017, and an earlier pilot program, the Trump administration reportedly separated some 5,500 migrant children from their parents — and then deported their parents. Because records were spotty at best, more than 545 children still have not been reunited with their parents — and many may never be.
None of this kept some 74 million from carefully inking in the Trump-Pence tick-box on their ballot.
Science Is a Plot (and a Hoax)
The endless anti-science rhetoric we hear from Trump, and Republican politicians in general, is an essential tool in the kit of the authoritarian, who must constantly re-define reality to maintain control.
Trump is anti-science, unless he can somehow claim credit. This is the man who proclaimed, “Throughout my life, my two greatest assets have been mental stability and being, like, really smart.”
You know, Donald Trump, who was called “the dumbest goddamn student I ever had” by one of his professors at Wharton. (Perhaps Trump should have paid his alleged SAT taker to also attend his classes.)
Trump may be, as Fran Lebowitz noted, “a poor man’s idea of a rich man” but, as my wife pointed out, he is also the anti-intellectual’s idea of a smart guy. (Except she didn’t put it so politely.)
But that, apparently, is the idea. Many people seem to want leaders who are around their own mental ability. Folks felt so comfortable with George W. Bush’s plain talk they imagined he would enjoy having a beer with them. (A light beer, no doubt. Trump reportedly speaks at a fourth-grade level and doesn’t drink alcoholic beverages, so maybe you dream of having a Bosco with him?)
Okay, no one likes an intellectual bully, but nowadays just having a basic grip on reality and being somewhat curious about the world renders you an egghead. Maybe even a dangerous leftist radical.
Trump ceaselessly proves he knows nothing about the value of science, that he will not listen to scientists or allow experts of any kind to inform the nation without hovering over them. He either ignores the pandemic now or actively misinforms his followers about the coronavirus. Both he and Pence do an odd dance of downplaying the seriousness of the pandemic while trying to take credit for the crucial vaccines.
As recently reported, nurses and other health care workers have to deal with patients arguing with them (and worse) about the reality of COVID-19, as they are being treated for it — and even dying of it.
You want us to treat you with respect and compassion? Wear a mask. Not everything is a test of your loyalty. Be loyal to your own life and to the lives of those around you, not to a two-bit pretend mob boss who, by the way, actually despises you.
Love Is Mostly What We Say It Is
I suppose that is unfair; maybe it would be more accurate as Love Is What Our Religious Belief Allows. But if your “religious freedom” includes not baking a wedding cake for a gay couple even though you are clearly a baker with a business in town, maybe you need to be a baker for hire. (Maybe a baker/masseuse to maximize the time at people’s houses?) Maybe we need private bakers. (Wasn’t “Private Baker” a minor hit in the ‘80s?)
Recently, Supreme Court Associate Justice Samuel Alito gave a keynote address at the conservative Federalist Society — that group that seems to manufacture conservative judges like widgets — in which he complained that if he were to say that marriage was strictly something between a man and a woman he might be thought a bigot:
Alito also criticized the Supreme Court’s decision to recognize the right of Americans to same sex marriages in Obergefell v. Hodges because, according to Alito, “you can’t say that marriage is the union between one man and one woman” because it might be labelled “bigotry.”
And the Supreme Court just ruled that churches could not be told to limit attendance during the pandemic, somehow comparing church gatherings, with the speaking and the singing in an enclosed space (for what always felt to me a tad too much time), with going into and out of stores.
Religious freedom is, of course, about observing your own religious faith and not being hampered or thwarted by the government. It is not about laying your beliefs on the rest of us by discriminating against certain customers in your business or by putting other citizens more at risk during a pandemic.
For God’s sake, bake the cake. Does it hamper you in your beliefs (or somehow degrade your own marriage) if people legally pledge themselves to whomever they love or temporarily pray at home or in groups outdoors during a pandemic? No one is persecuting you; they are asking you to not discriminate against certain customers if you own a business and and to be a responsible citizen during a health crisis.
The Trump years have been an outright assault on LGBTQ+ rights. And since the Republicans have stacked the federal courts with more than 200 conservative judges, the effect will likely be long lasting.
It might be noted that Trump and his main man Rudy Guiliani understand the value of love and marriage — each has been married three times and each has been unfaithful to the institution. (Rudy’s last imploded dramatically in the fall of 2019.)
Kindness To People Like Us Is Everything
There has always been a great deal of psychological projection from the right, and the old “snowflake” as a withering putdown of people on the left is one of them. What do we hear every day from much of the right?
So. Much. Whining.
Over a number of decades, the GOP went from the official party of the intellectually lazy, but ambitious, frat boy to the party of the toddler who didn’t get all the attention and presents he felt he deserved on his birthday. Trump is the logical nadir of the GOP’s vertiginous descent from the semi-serious political party of William F. Buckley, Jr., and his National Review to Ronald Reagan’s open appeals to racism to Newt Gingrich’s “no civility” approach to the Democrats to this Trumpist cult ready to dispense with democracy right now, after losing an election.
Meanwhile, as noted by Heather Digby Parton in an op-ed piece in Salon, some Republicans are already pivoting to talking of maintaining norms and being the “adults in the room”:
We are seeing a return to the smarmy, sanctimonious, “adults in the room” pretense of Republicans who will wring their hands over Democrats’ alleged incivility and partisanship — toward Donald Trump, the crudest, most insulting brute in American politics since Joseph McCarthy. Hypocrisy doesn’t even come close to describing this. It is shamelessness on a level that is downright psychopathic.
Immediately after the election during which a bunch of yahoos in Texas trapped a Biden-Harris campaign bus and the president praised them and claimed he couldn’t lose unless there was cheating, Democrats were told that they should be nicer and not celebrate the Democrats’ victory.
We should be kind, yes, if at all possible. But he and a shocking number of his enablers are trying to steal an election right now. Give it a moment, okay?
Not many people would advertise such a belief system out on their front lawn.
Am I being too harsh, too combative? We all know that it is not possible to change people’s minds if you shame them. Then again, some people are too far gone to be reached. And some people clearly are incapable of feeling shame.
It’s just that I simply cannot connect the words kindness or love or faith or intelligence (in both senses) or patriotism (okay, I sneaked that one in) with the name Trump. He has destroyed the norms of government, hollowing it out from the inside, has fomented violence in the streets by his white-supremacist neo-Nazi followers, and has belittled our allies while providing comfort to our enemies — really expensive comforters, and love letters, and private conversations.
The Republican idea — really, their only idea since Reagan — has been to starve the government of funds to ensure that money never goes to the people who need it. Cut taxes on the wealthy, increase spending on the military, and raise deficit spending so you can justify cuts to social programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.
FDR got this country back on its feet during the Depression, and they hate him for that, for proving the value of smart governance to the common citizen. Nothing can be spent on infrastructure — physical or human — because that would feel like socialism. So we must live with highways and bridges and water systems and airports and schools created during our grandparents’ and great grandparents’ eras. The richest nation on earth cannot pay teachers or child care workers anything near what they are worth to us. The Republicans in Congress will obstruct all bills that might help the common man or woman; they’ll even shut the government down.
Democracy is all about compromise — so let’s all do that. I’ll read some Republican writers who still exist in the real world — say the happy gang at The Bulwark — and you turn from Fox to CNN or BBC or Newsy or, say, Shepard Smith on CNBC and get a dose of what is actually happening without the endless punditry. Just a little at first, like in movies when they tell a parched person who is drinking water for the first time, “Easy, now, fella.” (Am I thinking movies about horses? Maybe I’ve still got that “Water Is Life” thing on my mind.)
A less remarked upon section from Abigail Adams’s letter to her husband seems pertinent here, and given that her husband laughed at her plea to “Remember the Ladies,” let’s give this far-thinking woman the last word:
I have sometimes been ready to think that the passion for Liberty cannot be Eaquelly Strong in the Breasts of those who have been accustomed to deprive their fellow Creatures of theirs. Of this I am certain that it is not founded upon that generous and christian principal of doing to others as we would that others should do unto us.