Donald Trump’s campaign inspired a rowdy, rock-throwing, freeway halting, cop-car-window-smashing protest against his message of division and hatred he was delivering in Orange County. Some of the hundreds of protesters carried Mexican and American flags, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Trump threatens Los Angeles and the Southwest by presenting a vision of the nation state which is one ruled by white men. He said as much in his foreign policy speech earlier this week, where he declared the United States must defend Western Values over Universal Values. By that, he means the Universal Values that get in his way, like laws against torture or mass deportation or “bombing the crap out of them,” whoever they might be.
With his talk of surveilling mosques, building walls and putting “America First” Trump promises to make the United States a lot more like Israel. In doing so, it shows how he thinks America is a “nation-state,” when it’s really a state full of fifty little quasi-nations. And, frankly, if this keeps up, I don’t see how we’re not going to see some really serious civil violence in the next five years. And that’s even if Clinton does win.
What Trump understands is what Hitler did, the fundamental flimsiness of democracy, and the legalized corruption behind it that he himself says he’s participated in.
“We have only to kick in the door and the whole rotten structure will come crashing down,” Hitler said.
That explains that dull pounding sound.
Trump gave money to Clinton, so she came to his wedding, he boasted months and months ago. So what’s confusing is how he lauds Western Values when clearly they’re so corrupted. Democracy itself is a sham, but the nation-state, now that’s a different story.
“The nation-state remains the true foundation for happiness and harmony,” Trump continued. That was kind of the scariest thing he said, and also the most indicative of his white, christian-ness trumping the constitution, a document designed in a secular spirit to defuse the deep religious rivalries between Europeans in the New World. It specifically prohibits religious tests, but one of Trump’s main platforms is the banning of Muslims from entering the country. Trump embraces Western values, but they’re the kind that put Westerners first and everyone else second.
Trump also said Thursday night in Orange County that Texas Sen. Ted Cruz was “weak” for being squeamish about torturing people, something which the Constitution forbids and which America’s first president, George Washington, punished when he found out his soldiers had done it.
“He’s actually a very weak person, so he didn’t like it,” said Trump of his rival Cruz, whom the day before former House Speaker Republican John Boehner had called “Lucifer in the flesh.”
“I’d go many steps further than waterboarding,” Trump said to applause, the L.A. Times reports “— many, many steps further.”
Trump’s statement also shows a deep misunderstanding of the United States and, as Ishaan Tharoor in the Washington Post pointed out, a startling similarity with both European right wingers who fear and despise immigrants, and China and Russia, which laud the supreme sovereignty of the nation state and bristle at U.S.-led attempts to expose their abysmal records on human rights. Trump doesn’t understand that the United States is not a nation-state. It would be, if it were a state bound to an ethnic or linguistic identity. Of course, that’s what Trump supporters think. When loud cheers from thousands of people came up at a Trump rally in Bethpage, Long Island after someone said English is our national language (it isn’t because we don’t have one) that was a bad vibe I’d never felt before in my own country. But that’s a face of Western Values, the instinct to purge people who don’t speak English. That’s what brought hundreds of protesters out to Orange County last night, many Latinos in their early 20s and teens to protest people who want to exclude them from American life.
I walked around the event in D.C., which was on klonopin compared to what happened last night in Los Angeles, and I found one of the D.C. Trump delegates standing outside the Mayflower hotel. She was born in D.C., but she refused to give her name. I got a picture. A white woman, she wore a black jacket with a Trump pin and a red baseball hat with big sunglasses, like a caricature of what a Washingtonian Republican looks like. She refused to give her name.
“I’m a D.C. Trump delegate,” she said. “These liberals are trying to degrade and destroy our country.”
She was born in D.C., and so was I. We gave each other a genteel smile.
“I’m a red brain, not a blue brain,” she added, whatever that means.
There was a crowd of gawkers from the National Funeral Director’s Association outside the Mayflower with their cell phones out, trying to get a glimpse of Trump. I asked one: “So are funeral directors bullish on Trump?”
The big guy just laughed and said “Haha, he’s disrupting our event.”
They were there for an advocacy meeting, swapping ideas about how to advocate for funerals in their communities. I’m not kidding.
It’s been said that Washington D.C. is Hollywood for ugly people, but it’s more than that. It’s Hollywood for morally ugly people, people who are ugly on the inside, like Trump. But whenever the president comes by, there’s a crowd of people with their cell phone cameras out. It’s disturbing to imagine what a Trump presidency could do to Washington D.C. Will Trump make an annual Cyber Monday trip to Politics & Prose — as Obama has? Will he sign copies of The Art of The Deal: White House Edition? Will he stop by Cactus Cantina for a Margarita afterwards, as Bill Clinton did? Will his biker gang follow him all over the city, alongside the Secret Service motorcade? Will they beat away protesters with big threatening chains or airhorns?
There were some orthodox kids milling about the Mayflower with one asking bystanders if Trump had come by yet. He had, at that point, flashing into the Mayflower as a protester, a blonde woman screamed, shaking with rage: “FUCK YOU TRUMP, YOU PIECE OF SHIT. YOU FUCKING ASSHOLE.”
The little boy, about ten, with what appeared to be his two sisters, scampered off after finding out they’d missed the celebrity candidate who counts among his most ardent supporters actual neo-Nazis and white supremacists.
Rabbi Jason Kimelman-Block, Director of Bend The Arc, a domestic policy Jewish lobbying and advocacy group (“we work on voting rights, we work on anti-racism”), was there holding a sign saying “Rabbis Against Trump” on one side and “Trump is Treyfl” (non-Kosher). He said that he was worried the initial shock of Trump’s racism had worn off, and that people were treating this election as business as usual. It’s not, he says.
“I think what he’s been saying is some of the most disturbing, outrageous racist and dangerous rhetoric we’ve seen, certainly in my lifetime,” the 43-year-old said. “He’s changing the terms of the conversation in the U.S. that is very dangerous. Six months ago, not a single Republican was talking about not allowing Muslims into the country. Now we see exit polls where 60 percent of Republican voters in certain states support this idea. So he’s moving the goal post…” he said
“So rapidly nobody realizes it?” I offered.
“Exactly,” Kimelman-Block said.
“This is fundamentally different. Not only is he, I think a demagogue, he’s anti-democratic and he has a lack of respect for basic institutions of democracy. He’s attacking institutions, like the press, that are fundamental to our country and society,” he said.
Exactly. Trump represents Western Values, but all the worst ones.
Then I met Sean Rafftery, 23, who made me remember why I don’t live in Washington D.C. Rafferty, an Irish-American, was there to offer his resume to Trump. He and other onlookers were kept away about 200 feet. Bad luck for Rafferty.
“I don’t really want to work for Trump, I’m just trying to pick a winner,” Rafftery, a tall, skinny pale bespectacled young man, he spoke in a soft, kind voice but said some of the most disturbing things I’ve ever heard someone say.
Kimelman-Block had said that he also worried about how some people are taking an a la carte, pick-and-choose approach to Trump. They don’t agree with everything, but they agree with some things.
“But what about his principles or policies?” I asked, training my camera lens on Trump and directing my tape recorder at the gingery opportunist.
“The scariest thing is he’s not wrong about everything,” Rafftery said. “You know he’s been talking about trade for decades. And I think the wall is a bit hyperbole, but immigration does need a stern looking at.”
Rafftery is from Connecticut, but went to a major Catholic university in D.C.
“Why is that?” I asked.
“Because there are 11 million people who are in the country illegally and is the answer to look the other way or to try to take action against that?” he said.
“What purpose would that serve?” I asked.
He ventured: “Well, isn’t law enforcement a good unto itself?”
Now we’re getting somewhere.
“I think the jury is kind of out. If law enforcement says everybody needs to wear duck pants on Saturdays or they get their heads chopped off, then maybe it’s debateable,” I said.
He replied: “Well..obviously that’s a ridiculous example.”
“There’s all kinds of ridiculous examples,” I said, “like people going to jail for unpaid parking tickets.”
Rafftery said he knew someone who was coming from Cuba who had waited “for years” for a visitation visa, and that undocumented people “are jumping ahead of that line.”
As for people brought to the U.S. as children, Dreamers, as they’re called, he had this to say:
“That’s tricky, I do think they are American citizens. It’s not ripping parents apart. Bill Clinton sent that kid back [Elian Gonzalez, who came from Cuba]. And they can come back when they’re 18. They are U.S. Citizens. That’s what the 14th Amendment is about,” Rafftery said, not understanding the problem. No, children born abroad and then brought to the U.S. as kids aren’t citizens, that’s the problem. This guy, however, didn’t get the basic premise.
“Rafftery, is that an Irish name?” I asked.
“It is a very Irish name,” he said.
“Do you think there are any parallels between anti-Irish sentiment and anti-undocumented sentiment?”
He replied: “I definitely see the parallels. It’s also not a one-to-one comparison because there’s a river between the two countries instead of an ocean.”
Astute, this one.
“Yeah, but there are still 30 million Irish people here and they didn’t necessarily all have papers when they came. In fact, the idea of passports and visas didn’t exist back then,” during the desperate, Parliament-induced famine that killed millions and sent millions more fleeing the island.
“But it was also a different economy back then,” he said.
“Yeah, it was an economy where people showed up and signs said ‘Irish Need Not Apply,’” I said.
A Hispanic man standing near us actually stifled laughter when I said that.
“But the country was industrializing. You need people to sweat it out in factories,” Rafftery said.
But I just said they couldn’t get jobs because they were Catholic foreigners. Also, Rafftery had a simplistic college student understanding of the course of history. The people “sweating it out in factories,” the Irish immigrants who, in addition to sweating, got blown to bits in coal mines or crushed by trains or burned by molten steel weren’t working for the end goal of “industrializing” the country. Nor were their bosses. They were participating, employers and employees, in a market for cheap, expendable labor. There was no grand design to it.
That conversation with Rafftery left me depressed, so I went to the National Zoo, a D.C. treasure. It was my first time in about 20 years. That’s where I saw a cheetah in a pen right next to a delicious zebra. It was in an exhibit called “Predators and Prey,” which abuts the cheetah exhibit with several other prey animals, like the scimitar horned oryx.
Whenever you wonder why politics is so full of fear, remember that humans spent most of their time evolving as prey for other bigger animals. Staying with the in-crowd was the only way to survive. Being cast away from the communal hearth, which keeps predators at bay, meant actual death. That helps answer the question for foolish loyalties.
Some high school kids came by and one said: “I wonder what would happen if that cheetah got that zebra? It’d be done in three seconds!”
There’s also that human urge to just let the cheetah lose on the defenseless Zebra, which can only run about 300 feet in any direction. Lucky for the Zebra and the Zoo’s human visitors, a strong and/or electrified fence and small moat discourage the lightening fast cat from escape attempts.
Immediately after discussing the potential for carnage, the teens turned to whether someone’s invite to a prom had been a joke or not. This person was apparently quite lame and/or dorky, so it could only have been a joke.
Then I stopped by the Giant Panda exhibit, where the Chinese visitor was only available on closed circuit surveillance feed.
Then I saw the elephants. A gaggle of Orthodox Jewish children speaking sprinted up and were extremely fascinated by these incredible creatures. I asked the Mom chaperoning them if they were from Brooklyn. She smiled.
“Is it that obvious?” she asked.
I said I live in Brooklyn now, but am from D.C. I told her to enjoy the zoo. It is a truly great zoo. And it helped me forget the sad reality of people like Rafftery. Luckily, Rafftery had just moved to Arlington, he told me. That’s in Virginia.
Finally, making my way down the hill into Rock Creek Park, minutes before the Zoo was due to close, I made it to the Great Ape house. I hadn’t been there since I was a kid. There are orangutans and gorillas to see.
The gorillas were just lying around, staring off into the distance, but the orangutans were putting on a show for the visitors by chewing up straw into a green paste and then depositing it in perfect circles on the glass window. The humans watching gasp and giggle. If I were an orangutan, I’d do the same thing.
Luckily, something the orangutan happened to help wipe the crude memory of Trump’s visit to D.C.
There was a severely disabled young woman in a wheelchair in the Great Ape House, being pushed in a wheelchair by a caregiver. She looked unable to speak or move except for her hand. Her caregiver rolled her up to an orangutan, an older-looking female, maybe Lucy. The orangutan looked the disabled young woman in the eye as the woman smiled wide and looked back. Both held each others’ left hands up to the glass to say hi.
It was a reminder that primates aren’t all hate-and-fear-filled beasts, but that sometimes we can make real, memorable connections with one another. This orangutan, with his lips pursed, looked genuinely concerned for this particular human, who appeared different [sitting rather than standing] from most who visit her, but similar to others in wheelchairs. These National Zoo orangutans are highly educated, spending time in a “Think Tank” (hilarious inside-the-beltway joke) where they fuss about with computers and brain teasers. The two parted having left an impression on each other.