He Came in like a Wrecking Ball, by Emer Martin

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Isn’t it grand watching the Republican Party implode? Like Miley Cyrus, Trump has stuck his tongue out and swung in like a wrecking ball. He is an unabashed megalomaniac who wants the Whitehouse as his own reality show. The Republicans are panicking. He is not their creation, but he is their truth. And what he is saying is merely what the U.S. political establishment has been practicing for years.

The neoconservatives published a letter that denounced Donald Trump. The letter condemned him for his “isolationism” and bigotry.

“His vision of American influence and power in the world is wildly inconsistent and unmoored in principle. He swings from isolationism to military adventurism within the space of one sentence.…

His embrace of the expansive use of torture is inexcusable.

His hateful, anti-Muslim rhetoric undercuts the seriousness of combatting Islamic radicalism by alienating partners in the Islamic world making significant contributions to the effort….

[H]is insistence that Mexico will fund a wall on the southern border inflames unhelpful passions.”

For real? They are shocked that Trump is making blatantly racist statements and approves of torture. Really? Shocked? Their hypocrisy is laughable; the powerful elite in the United States may not say those things publicly, but they have been doing all in their power since World War II to perpetuate a racist, hawkish, violent system that has enriched an elite few at the expense of everyone else.

We flip out when Trump casually condones torture, but torture has been accepted in American society under both Democratic and Republican presidencies, at least since the “War on Terror” began. In 2009, General Barry McCaffrey admitted, “We tortured people unmercifully. We probably murdered dozens of them during the course of that, both the armed forces and the C.I.A.”

In his presidential announcement speech on June 16, 2015, Trump stated: “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best…. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with [sic] us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”

Latinos now outnumber European Americans in California. Despite the fact that European Americans are no longer the majority ethnic group in California, Latinos are treated unequally. Many are brought in to fill low-paying menial jobs that cannot be filled otherwise. They work for extremely low wages, they are exposed to unhealthy amounts of pesticides, and their children are begrudgingly given a substandard education. This is institutional racism at play.

By the end of his term in office, Obama will have overseen more than 2 million deportations of Latinos, far more than any previous president. We have thousands of families fleeing violence in their own countries who are seeking asylum in the United States and who are currently incarcerated in detention centers awaiting deportation, yet most Americans are unaware that the gangs that are destroying many Central American societies actually originated in the United States.

In the 1980s, the anti-communist United States government provided 4 billion dollars in military aid to a conservative Salvadorian government that was fighting a leftist opposition. This money fueled a war that involved death squads, massacres of government opponents, and unmarked mass graves. According to the Center for Justice and Accountability, more than 75,000 people died in El Salvador alone in those years. As a result, many civilians fled to the United States, where they were treated with contempt and marginalized. At first, they formed gangs to protect themselves. President Clinton wanted to look tough on crime and in 1996 signed a law that deported Latino immigrants with criminal records; even legal immigrants were deported for petty theft and drunk driving. Of course, this was immensely popular in some quarters.

“An individual gang member is not just poor,” Salvadorian-American journalist Roberto Lovato told The WorldPost. “He’s also a walking, talking trauma that’s unresolved.” These people, who had grown up in Los Angeles, found themselves deported to a strange country, with no resources and no jobs; many of them did not even speak Spanish. Courtesy of Clinton’s political swagger, the gang culture grew and flourished until suddenly the borders of the United States were heaving with refugees fleeing for their lives. Trump is merely voicing the fears of many people in the United States; they act horrified and surprised when these refugees claim asylum. They conveniently ignore the institutionalized racism against Latinos that led to this problem.

“Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on,” a Trump campaign press release said. Trump has called for surveillance of mosques and has said he is open to establishing a database for all Muslims living in the United States. We might feign horror, but in reality, he is not out of step with public opinion. In a recent poll, Republicans led the charge against Muslims, with 76 percent saying Islam’s values were “at odds” with America’s values and way of life. White evangelicals (73 percent) and white working-class Americans (67 percent) were other groups that showed high animosity toward Muslims.

But it’s not just the resentful white underclass that shows animosity toward Muslims. U.S. policy has been waging a war against predominantly Muslim countries for decades. Wars that Hilary Clinton voted for, wars that Obama continued. The Nobel Peace Prize–winning doctors’ group Physicians for Social Responsibility (PRS) released a landmark study concluding that the death toll from 10 years of the “War on Terror” since the 9/11 attacks is at least 1.3 million and could be as high as 2 million. Most of the victims are Muslims, and most of the U.S. population doesn’t care. This is institutionalized racism as foreign policy.

Trump is tapping into a callous baseness in this society that is evident across the board. In November 2015, a Black Lives Matter protestor was beaten and choked at a Trump rally. On Fox News, Trump said, “Maybe he should have been roughed up, because it was absolutely disgusting what he was doing.” Last week, when protestors were removed from another of his rallies, Trump said, “I love the old days. You know what they used to do to guys like that when they were in a place like this? They’d be carried out on a stretcher, folks.”

We balk at this obviously fascistic statement that protestors should be carried off on stretchers, but last year we saw a heavily armed, militaristic police force, which looked more like an army than protectors of the people, brutalize unarmed African-American protestors in Ferguson and around the country. We routinely accept the persecution and harassment of black people by white police. We accept that black communities are underserved. There has long been a practice of gross inequality that is reflected in disparities regarding the justice system, the educational system, housing, health care, and access to political power. This is institutional racism, and neither party is addressing it because the American people are not demanding change.

The Democrats are, of course, enjoying the Republicans’ discomfort. Dan Pfeiffer, a former senior Obama adviser, said, “None of this should be surprising to them. For seven years, the Republican Party tried to court working voters with a policy agenda designed to appease the Kochs. They tolerated intolerant voices in their party, and they tried to benefit from racist birther conspiracies. Trump is the personification of all the intolerance and ugliness they tolerated.”

But we would do well to remember that Democrats too have presided over and furthered systems of institutionalized racism. It was Bill Clinton who dismantled Welfare, thus deeply hurting the most vulnerable of American citizens, many of whom are disproportionately people of color.

It’s hard for a befuddled, undereducated, disappointed, fearful people not to be drawn like moths to Trump’s light. His bluster and lack of tolerance for the odious gang of Republican candidates are highly entertaining. Watching him beat up and spit out the super creeps on stage every debate is almost refreshing; when he calls them liars and declares that Bush was a terrible president, that he himself gave Hillary money to gain influence, that the Iraq war was the single biggest mistake the United States has made, he’s almost likable. It’s that chilling, mesmerizing moment as the big monster gobbles up all the little monsters and then turns his sights on you. Then you better run.

But are we only running from ourselves?

If we were to examine our society, then we would see that our tolerance of the brutality of American foreign policy and domestic institutionalized racism is actually no different, in effect, than Trump’s most outrageous racist statements. If we want to parade around, feeling superior to the bigoted buffoonery of Trump, we can no longer overlook how our own society is structured. Isn’t it disingenuous to shake our heads at Mr. Trump? Trump’s racism is explicit, while our tolerance of an institutionalized racist system is implicit. If we are to combat racism and fascism in this country, then we have to stop turning a blind eye to our successive governments’ treatment of the poor and people of color and start demanding a dismantling of institutional racism now.

 

Emer Martin is the American Affairs Correspondent for The Bog Cannon. She is a writer and an artist. Her first novel, Breakfast in Babylon, won Book of the Year 1996 in her native Ireland at the prestigious Listowel Writers’ Week. Houghton Mifflin released Breakfast in Babylon in the United States in 1997. More Bread or I’ll Appear, her second novel, was published internationally in 1999. Emer studied painting in New York and has had two sell-out solo shows of her paintings at the Origin Gallery in Harcourt Street, Dublin. Her third novel, Baby Zero, was published in the UK and Ireland in March 2007 and released in the United States in 2014. She has completed her third short film, Unaccompanied, and produced Irvine Welsh’s directorial debut, NUTS, in 2007. Emer founded the publishing cooperative Rawmeash in 2014. She was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2000.

 

email: martin_emer@hotmail.com

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