The Issue of Nationalism and American Identity

America is a state that has been founded on the principles of religious tolerance, democracy, and an infallible sense of justice, or, rather, it would be if we could stop making the mistake of attempting to form a true national identity that is based on specific racial, ethnic, or religious precepts. In our times, the desire for nationally identity is becoming, as Zinn said, a great scourge for our country. Broadly speaking, within the last decade, a surge of nationalism has taken over great swaths of America: the couple who sits on their back deck, shotguns in hand “defending” our southern border from would-be immigrants; the thirteen year old boy shouting “Go home!” to his hijab wearing classmate; the stares young black men receive walking down the street in areas they are deemed too risque to be; all this stems from the gnawing, ugly face of white, evangelical suburbanites and their desire for a single, hegemonic national identity.

Like many things, the politic is where this cancer derives itself from. A brief reflection on any of the past campaign promises within the last half century can prove this. Trickle down economics, stronger borders, more funding for our military, isolationism and protectionism as a centerpiece for most right wing policy agendas – which isn’t to say the left does not engage in the same egregious behavior, simply that they mask it much better. Simply put, however, continuing this struggle for a singular identity, in a country that can be anything but, will ultimately lead down a path of self-destruction.

I find it important to, at this moment, posit a distinction between nationalism and patriotism. Patriotism is a sense of pride in one’s country that encourages constant devotion to better one’s home state. Patriotism is why we pay such respect to the many soldier who gave their lives defending our freedoms and liberties, to appreciate the basic freedoms we are provided, and acknowledge how lucky we are to have them, considering how many other states do not enshrine or place such importance on free speech, religious tolerance, and other democratic values. Patriotism is birthed not from the nation, but from the state and the exchanges the citizenry participate in on a daily basis: workers in the body politic living their lives, using craft and companionship to mold a more free, more egalitarian society. Nationalism, conversely, is born from the decisive wedge that is ethno-national identity. This identity becomes volatile when it takes on a very real “us vs them” narrative. Take, for instance, the persecution and violence that has marred the relations between the Kurdish and most states in the Middle East. Ascribing certain traits to either places an albatross on peaceful dialogue. A bomb goes off in Ankara and the attacker was from a Kurdish region, so clearly the Kurds hate Turkey. The Turkish then retaliate by bombing a Kurdish village, and so clearly the Turkish hate the Kurds. These tit-for-tat exchanges are built upon national identities feeling it necessary to become the most “dominant”.

Thus, one should be wary of any populist using national identity to capitalize on an election year. When phrases like “America First” and “Make America Great Again” start to get tossed around, or more so, become paradigms in one’s culture, it should be a warning sign of what’s to come. Nationalism is, and has been, a divisive tool for any person attempting to take power on a wave of hatred. It is not uniquely American or German. Herzl’s Jewish State was a powerful statement on the necessity of providing the Jews with a true home, and like Athena from Zeus, Jerusalem sprung from the battle scarred head of the Jewish people, who had been pushed by the winds of war far from their home.

Yet American nationalism, the sentiment that has given rise to chants of “build that wall” and sparked a flurry of antisemitism and Islamophobia across the states since November 9, 2016, is especially toxic, as it ignores the inherently pluralistic nature of America. A country that was founded by those seeking religious freedom, incorporated by those seeking democracy and representation, and advanced by the many statesmen, artists and authors, and inventors that sought to build a truly great state, and cannot self-implode in constructing for itself a singular national identity based on a specific race, religion, or ethnicity. America has progressed to far to take such a massive step backwards. The Great Melting pot has seen the many other national identities which have entered this great nation already congeal and blend into the beautiful state we live in now. If we stop this process, from where shall our culture blossom?

It’s time we stopped erasing history and culture, stop demanding a single identity for our country, stopped claiming Lady Liberty holds her choice for one chosen people. America is a land of many, a bastion of nationalities, ethnicities, religions, and identities that are both singular in expression, yet plural in combination. A paradox that can work if we disarm the hate behind nationalistic identity.
To avoid the downfall of our society, we must come together, as one American people.

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A Broken Promise

On a plaque at the feet of the Statue of Liberty is a message scrawled in bronze, it reads “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”. These words come from New Colossus, a poem written by Emma Lazarus as a fundraising effort for the statue. These words carry the ethos of America, a home for those who have yet to have one, a house for the refugees and wide eyed migrants who come tumbling upon our shores in search of freedom, prosperity, safety, and genuine happiness.

But what of that promise now? Who does Lady Liberty keep her light shining for? It’s been discussed for almost a month now, Donald Trump’s banning of immigration from 7 Muslim majority countries, his ending of the Syrian refugee program, and the continued mass deportation of undocumented aliens across the Southwest, all of which have continued to galvanize activists across the globe to take a stand against this injustice.

Yet even with his executive orders being stopped by federal judges in multiple states, Trump looks primed to sign a modified executive order, one that is likely to escape the arms of checks and balances. And while many are standing behind our president, those who do so fail to understand the importance of immigration, not just for America, but for the world at large.

To begin, the free movement of people across borders is a fundamental necessity for the modern world. No matter how much we hate it, the jobs of Cold War America are now long dead. The miners, factory workers, and day laborers who brought this country to its current level have found their vocation taken over by automation or simply found that the market has shifted away from their product. But hey, thank god we overturned a rule to prevent dumping mining extracts into streams, getting rid of those “pesky” regulations sure did a lot for those whopping 70 jobs it created in Pennsylvania. But I digress.

Migrant and undocumented workers now assume the occupations that may American’s either have no interest in working or cannot access these jobs. Across a broad swath of this nation, many agricultural, sanitation, and housekeeping jobs are assumed by workers not originally from here. And there is absolutely no shame in this; honest work deserves honest pay. Well, except if you work for Trump’s pick for Budget chief, Mick Mulvaney, who failed to pay $15,000 in taxes for his housekeeper.

The rhetoric the Trump campaign took on to make America great again centered around a number of populist arguments, most of which centered around a  South Park-esque approach to immigration. Aside from the shouts of “they took our jobs!”, the inherently xenophobic, racist outlook on immigration is set to put America back some hundred odd years. What more, this sentiment, largely perpetuated by people who were once themselves historically shit listed simply because of where they were from, fail to see the irony in okaying this backwards approach to immigration. Remember no Irish need apply? Oh, I member.

Jokes aside, the stories that surround this current crises provide far more poignant takes on a very real, very human issue. Take, for instance, Juhel Miah, a math teacher from the UK who, on a recent trip to the US with some of his pupils, was removed from their plane in Iceland before it began its final leg of the trip. Not only did Miah have proper documentation for his entry, but Trump’s initial order is still suspended following a decision by the Federal Appeals court on February 9th. Yet still, Miah was stopped, detained, and forced to leave his students, held in a hotel with “holes in the room” and a tattered bed. Similar standards we once relegated debtors too in poor houses. All this because of where Miah was originally from. Apparently flying out on a UK passport won’t protect you from an overbearing, overreaching immigration plan.

And it continues, with mothers and fathers being ripped from their children and sent hundred of miles away, like Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos, who was recently deported to Mexico following an ICE round up last week. de Rayos had previously been arrested in 2009 for using a social security id number that didn’t belong to her to get a job at a waterpark in the Phoenix area. She pleaded guilty and received two years of probation. All was fine until she walked into a routine ICE check in and was hit with the news. This anecdote in particular raises concern for who is being targeted by these raids, because what threat does a mother of two pose if her only crime was trying to put food on the table for her children? Furthermore it highlights the importance of these immigrants to our economy, which, according to a 2013 Social Security Administration report, played out to the tune of nearly $13 billion dollars. And of that money paid? Only about one billion dollars was given out in benefits to those same workers according to the report. Perhaps fiscal conservatives should ask our President to leave the country, considering a man who bragged about not paying taxes for 20 years provides less to this country than those he has spent a year vilifying.

But it’s not just the economic cost, or the growing consortium of stories that mirror the same plotline of parents being ripped from their children and teacher being profiled; it’s the fact that America has always been a place for a new beginning, a place to escape the horrors of an old house and find oneself a new home. America was built by refugees fleeing religious persecution from its conception, and then became a superpower only once it took on the title as a Great Melting pot. Take a look at New York City, San Francisco, Boston, Miami, Chicago, an endless list of great American metropoles that had their legacy forged by migrant hands.

The only recourse we can take to these actions is to stop, and think for a moment, about the last few times we turned away people who so desperately needed a new home. I think no better story captures the anxiety and fear that comes with situations like these than that of FDR turning away a ships full of Jewish refugees because they feared some among them may have been Nazi spies.

It’s easy to fear those we do not know, to shift and place blame on people who may not share our religion or norms, but it’s not something that will do America well. If we continue down this path of isolationism, of xenophobia, we will only further create a divide among ourselves, and more so, unravel the very nature of what America stands for.

Since she first landed on Liberty Island, that beautiful green woman has been a beacon, an unflinching light that promises safety and sanctuary for anyone who wants it. Yet tonight, as the sun sets across our nation, as Trump’s executive order is refitted, when I look out my window,
I don’t see that light. I just see darkness.

What We Never Saw Coming: The Rise of American Fascism

The voice of the people echoed loudly again this weekend, as yet another Nation wide protest erupted following Trump’s executive order to stop allowing the entry of people from seven Muslim majority countries, whether they have a visa or are residents. Unannounced, un-American, and downright unconstitutional, this ban is clearly aimed at the Muslim community, despite what White House Press secretary Sean Spicer has been saying. What’s more scary about this ban is that despite several federal judges blocking the ban, Customs and Border Protection agents were still detaining those coming from the seven nations listed on the ban, even with mounds of protesters- including lawyers and House Representatives -shouting for their release and demanding they be given legal counsel.

Forgetting the fact that none of the countries included in the ban have had their citizens take an American life on US soil since 1975, yet the other three (Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE), in total, have taken close to 3,000 during the same time, with a majority coming from 9/11. Interestingly, Trump has business ties to the three left alone, so any fears we had about him using his position to continue benefiting his business have been pleasantly realized by just about everyone who’s informed enough to tell yet that appointing a neo-nazi to the Joint Chief of Staff and the National Security Council might not be such a good idea. So what does this all mean?

Well, to be blunt, it means we’re bearing witness to the rise of American Fascism, and its part of a resurgent fascist movement that is beginning to sweep the world. Before you scoff at this statement, let me direct you to Umar Haque’s essay, and remind you that everyone thought Hitler was just an angry little emo dude who read too much Nietzsche until he invaded Poland, and by then it was too far gone.

Fascism is rising in this country because we have a large populous that is wholly ignorant to the demagoguery of the Trump administration, and can’t look past the nationalist idiocy that is a southern border wall and a Muslim ban, and see the disparagingly bleak future that these types of policies promise us. Fascism is rising because of the rift in American politics, this near complete collapse of centrism has created forms of uncompromising extremism on both sides of the spectrum, which will, on its current path, ultimately lead to the destruction of civilized society in America. Yet still, what does this rise mean?

To me, this ban is the beginning of an extremely turbulent era in American society. As the son of an immigrant, I understand what it means to believe in the promise of America, to truly see how great this country is, while not being blinded when it comes to how much farther we must go. My father come to America from Ireland, leaving his friends, family, and his home to escape what was, at the time, a crippled Irish economy that had little to promise his generation in term of work. When he first arrived, he worked tirelessly to provide a future for my siblings and I. If you don’t mind, I’d like to take a second to tell my father how proud I am of him, because where and what I am today is only a testament to the incredible parenting that both he and my mother have provided, and for that I am eternally thankful.

But as the son of an immigrant, I can see this ban from a perspective uniquely my own, and think about the situations that have historically oppressed my people and do so similarly for those in other situations where I know they stood in solidarity with us.

This ban is nothing short than a draconian measure to begin scapegoating the problems of America on minorities. But it’s not just the ban. It’s the Wall, the increasingly violent nature of his rhetoric, the suppression of Federal Agents and entities, and the abomination to free speech and press that is the idea of Trumpian “Alternative Facts”. Add this to the fact that everything he’s been doing has come via Executive Order, which, granted, so did most of Obama’s in his first week; however, Obama signed orders that made the government more transparent, eased certain criminal justice policies, and began a more liberal approach to the environment (you can read about that here). Trump is flexing his presidential muscles in such an unprecedented manner that it’s hard not to see the comparison between him and other fascists.

But, if you can’t see the similarities, let me try and help you out. In 1927, at the Nuremburg Rally, Adolf Hitler gave one of his first speeches as a member of the National Socialist party (Na-Si) to a large crowd. He discussed the state of Germany, how it was a notion that had lost it understanding  how the purity of blood and race create a strong nation, how the jobs of the German Worker were being snatched away from worthy hands by the clenched fists of foreigners, and how Germany was a nation of 62 million people, but noted that had 20 million too many. A quick glance at Trump’s own policies quickly outline his plan: putting American workers first, the “extreme vetting” of immigrants, a southern border wall, and, perhaps the most disturbing, the mass deportation of some 3 million people back to their country of origin.

Perhaps this juxtaposition is too far. Perhaps we’ve crossed a threshold in our collective global history where we would never see another leader so hell bent on the consolidation of power. Perhaps Trump is acting on his campaign promises at such an expedited rated so as to make good on all that was sworn to his base during his election.

Fat fucking chance.

The analogousness of Trump and the rise of Hitler and Benito Mussolini is a stark comparison, in the last week alone the Trump administration has been testing the waters of American democracy to see what they can and cannot get away with. As I’ve mentioned, while we were all out in the streets demanding  entry to our brothers and sisters from the Middle East, Trump appointed Steven Bannon to the National Security Council. No, you didn’t read that wrong. A man whose website was- and still very much so is -a launching pad for the seething hatred of women, the LGBTQA+ community, immigrants, Muslims, and Jews that has propelled the so called “Alt-Right” movement right into the Oval Office, and now this man is in control of the very council that makes decisions on who will be secretly assassinations for being America’s enemies of the state. Oh and Did I mention that this role is typically reserved for high ranking generals? You know…people with actual strategic and military experience.

What more, the recent sacking of Sally Yates for refusing to enforce a ban that she, as acting Attorney General for the Department of Justice, saw as unconstitutional and didn’t believe could be defended in a court of law, shows an administration demanding total loyalty from those serving it… or else risk your livelihood. Nevermind the fact that the Department of Homeland Security brazenly defied several Federal Circuit Judges ordering them to stop the ban, can we just please start looking at how this administration is, by the book, testing the limits of American checks and balances to see how far they can go.

It’s all beginning to add up. What we once believed was a thing of the past is now slowly becoming realized by many as an egomaniac fighting for complete dominance over this country. The consolidation of power, the purging of senior officials who do have the backbone to fight for the constitution, the division and further subdivision of minority populations, and the increasingly isolationist and protectionist policies that this administration is hell bent on passing, regardless of the obvious backlash that is coming from all across this great nation…. For Christ’s sake Kentucky was protesting this ban! You know something’s not right when KENTUCKY says banning immigrants is bad!

These continued measures will continue, and likely become more volatile in their nature. Legislation like the First Amendment Defense Act being pushed in the newest congressional session, a bill that will dismantle all of the success the LGBTQA+ community has made within these last few years, the masses of America will continue to be in the streets. And this is important, we cannot tire in the fight for our democratic values, we cannot sit out  protest on the issues we are not totally invested in. We must continue to be a unified group, a band of citizens acting in solidarity with one another to ensure our continued freedom.

I think the words of Martin Niemöller ring loudest today:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Remember to keep fighting, comrades.

For the Girls

Like many of the other hundreds of thousands of people who took to the streets all across the world on Saturday, I was at a Women’s March on Washington. It was an inspiring day, filled with women (and men) of all creed and color marching in solidarity together, aiming to show our new president that the call for equality of the sexes cannot be quelled by hateful and misogynistic language, the tools that we can undoubtedly assert were Trump’s go-to throughout his campaign. What more, these protests were peaceful, and considering they’re being called America’s largest show of solidarity ever, this factoid is important given the contentious nature of public assembly in recent years- especially when examined through the eyes of the Right.

But I, like the other hundreds of thousands of people who stood tall on Saturday, found that the Women’s March was so much more than a revived urgency for equality of the sexes. Signs called for promoting LGBTQA+ rights, an end to police brutality and police terrorism, stopping the abhorrent treatment of immigrants and Muslims, among other things. It was a brilliant display of intersectionality, an understanding that the suffering of specific groups cannot be solved until we deal with the systemic issues of American racism, sexism, and homophobia that are so ingrained into our national psyche, despite what we may think. It’s like what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. penned from his cell in Birmingham, “injustice somewhere is a threat to justice everywhere”.

The march, however, is over. And now the real work must begin. At this very moment, an emboldened Republican party is launching a national 360 degree campaign to delete over fifty years of social progress this country has made. One need only look to Ohio, where former presidential candidate John Kasich is still governor, and they would see an early act of war during the Trump administration against female reproductive rights. Aside from the obvious paradox that is men writing legislation that has anything to do with the female body, it’s important to understand that the little battles, such as the one in Ohio, where pieces of law are repealed or ratcheted back bit by bit, are the most volatile. Often, they go unnoticed, rushed through the floor so as to avoid the eyes of watchdog groups or the media. Other times, there’s a distraction keeping the average citizen from seeing what’s happening, like the recent farce that was the size of the crowd at the inauguration, and how the media spent more time on that than they did DeVos and Mnuchin’s nomination hearings, or the simple fact that Trump has made no real effort to divest from his own company- which is in massive violation of the constitution, particularly the part that says the president isn’t supposed to take money from foreign governments. And sometimes, we just simply don’t care enough to look at what our state and local governments are doing. I mean, zoning law is some of the most banal course material, any 1L can tell you that. 

It’s important to remember, however, that public action is only a piece of the game that is social change. The Occupy Movement failed because it did not make substantive efforts to put people who were sympathetic to their cause into power. Though we may hate the game, we must play it if we are to have any lasting impact. Policy, thus, must go in hand with the collective action we take together. This requires further engagement with the Trump administration, and the Republican controlled congress; it means we need to stop shouting “Not my president” and start shouting “that’s my senator/state congressperson, and what the hell do they think they’re doing endorsing that bill?!”. The most important part of the American political system is the local and state levels of it. Change will have to happen from the bottom up if we want to have an impact on national legislation and policy trends. And this means the road ahead is going to be challenging, but Americans have never backed down in the face of adversity.

Many of the more typical conservative states are beginning efforts to attack organizations like Planned Parenthood, and there’s an Indiana state legislature bill is up for vote that would allow police to shut down protests, by “any means necessary”. The former is nothing new, the GOP has been looking for ways to shut down Planned Parenthood federal funding for some time now, basing most of their reasoning behind the false idea that Planned Parenthood is a glorified abortion clinic chain (hint: it’s not). The latter should be expected from Indiana, where its former governor, turned current vice-president, Mike Pence, wanted to create a state run propaganda outlet, disguised as state media; however, while this may seem hypocritical given both Trump and Pence’s hatred of the media, it should also be extremely alarming, given the fascist tint these bills paint, first government control of media and then a shutdown of public assembly- it’s like something out of an AP European History book section about the rise of Nazi Germany. 

With this in mind, I encourage anyone worried about what these next four years, and what they will mean for themselves, their families, and their people, to continue to act and show support. Volunteer your time at any number of worthy causes, places like the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), organizations that are acting on behalf of some of the most at risk communities and doing so with grace, bravery, and candor.

Give new meaning to “P*ssy grabs back”. Empowered women empower women, and this seemingly trite saying will have to take on a new meaning if we are to take a definitive stand against a White House that is controlled by misogynists and sexists.

The march is over, the real fight begins now, and will continue for as long as it has too. Until every woman has complete control over her body, devoid of any legislation saying otherwise; until girls aren’t taught to believe they don’t have a place in engineering classes; until young women have the ability to walk home at night free of fear from being  sexually assaulted; until we stop saying “man up”; until we close the gender pay gap; until we stop slut shaming; until we stop letting rapists off with three month sentences; until we stop saying “trans woman” and simply recognize they are women already; until gender ceases to be a barrier from you relieving yourself; until we end all of this, the fight will continue.

You have fists to thrust in the air, voices that demand to be heard, the solidarity of millions at home and across the globe, and the impassioned hearts of those whose livelihoods are up for debate.

To blatantly rip off Marx: Women of the world, unite!

The Inauguration Drinking Game

I had initially planned an article about what the next four years might look like under Trump, but considering that this week is his Inauguration as our 45th president, I figured maybe I should try and be a little more comical…given how real this is all getting. So, considering the big day is on a Friday, why not start your weekend pregames off with a little Inauguration Drinking game? And, while 12 in the afternoon seems a little aggressive, wasn’t this whole election cycle aggressive?

ALSO, don’t forget to register for any number of rallies happening this weekend. The Boston Women’s March for America registration can be found here.

This is definitely a beer game, you savages.

Take one (1)  drink every time…

The camera pans to Ivanka or Melania

Trump says any variation of MAGA

Trump’s Toupee blows in the wind

The camera pans to a Protester

A “Build that wall chant” starts

Trump says “China”

Your liberal friends turn red with rage

Take two (2) drinks every time…

Someone on stage looks awkward (like Jeb Bush “Please clap” awkward)

One of the Rockettes doesn’t smile because she was forced to perform

Bill Clinton frowns/camera pans to Hillary

When Pence begins the oath

One of Trump’s cabinet nominations looks too content at the destruction soon to unfold

Someone mentions “repeal and replace”

Someone mentions “hacking”

Every time a correspondent mentions the Democrats boycotting

Steven Bannon looks off at his Neo-Nazi friends with a twinkle in his eye

Finish your drink every time…

When the Inauguration begins

The camera cuts to Hillary Clinton and she’s smiling

When Trump begins the oath

Someone your with cries (happy or sad, no judgement today. Just drinking.)

Someone your with imitates a Trump “Yuge”

A political debate with your friends starts over something really trivial

When the Inauguration ends

 

Anyway, back to more quality shit post next week, hope you have fun with this.

SIDENOTE: This game is intended for people 21 and over. This game does not, nor do I,  condone underage drinking. Please drink RESPONSIBLY. Furthermore, I assume no responsibility for the actions taken when playing this game, and stipulate that any and all party’s that engage in playing this game cannot hold me legally responsible for any type of debauchery/savagery that may come through playing this game.

 

 

Siphoning the Swamp, Not Draining It

Donald Trump seems to be shaking on his campaign promise to drain the swamp…who would’ve guessed that the double-speaking, hot headed corporate businessman wouldn’t hold up his end of the bargain? The “swamp”, as Washington, D.C. is referred to as by Trump, is where corporate interests meets for-sale politicians and the lobbyists who grease their perspective palms. Trump sees our nation’s capital as a bastion of bureaucratic oversight, mixed with big money, and perhaps he has this view given that he was a participant in this problem, having donated over $100,000 to the Clinton Foundation, a charitable organization he claimed was a “pay-to-play” scheme. Thus, in his typical egomaniacal fashion, Trump views himself as the only person who can drain this swamp, and likely do it the best, as he knows stuff that other people don’t know about the nature of swamps and their cleanups.

But, while I doubt The Don knows much about the effects of eutrophication on aquatic and amphibious life, or the actual importance of swamp in the ecological health of our environment, the time has come for his presumptive cabinet to be vetted, to testify in front of their respective committee, and to ultimately have their nominations be approved or declined. As I write now, Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) is testifying in front of the Judiciary Committee for the role of the Attorney General for the United States of America, the highest legal position in all the lands. What’s most concerning about Sessions, aside from being racist, showing a strong record of anti-voting rights legislation, and a foe to a vast array of civil rights and liberties groups, is that he’s just another Senate vet who tossed his hat in Trumps corner early getting a payout. The same type of tit-for-tat cabinet nominations we’ve seen for the last century.

Sessions, however, ranks high for his racism and backwardness, but relatively low on the corporate interest scale, especially in comparison with some of Trumps other cabinet selections. Let’s take a look at them, shall we?

Secretary of Labor- Andy Pudzer, hell of a guy and CEO of Carls Jr. and Hardy’s parent company, CKE Resaurants, especially if you like sandwiches restaurants(if you can even call them that) whose best review is “the vagrants stay outside”. Not so much for employees of his restaurants, and all low-income workers across the nation. Estimated at a modest $45 million, he is only the second person from a corporate management background to move into the position(a bad precedent to break), and Pudzer is a vehement opponent of the minimum wage, seeing automation as the future to fast food transactions. Besides the blatant irony of a labor secretary not believing in labor, Pudzer contributed to Mitt Romney’s “Believe in America”, a book (or was it legitimate policy ideas? You be the judge.) which was just more of the same when it comes to conservative literature on economics: taxes are too high and complex, and for some reason – despite close to 40 years of proof that it doesn’t work – still proposes another form of trickle down economics. If Pudzer’s work on Believe in America is any indication of how he may form labor policy, it’s likely to have Corporate America water at the mouth, and hard working American’s suffer more than they already do. Oh, and there’s the added fact that nearly 60% of his restaurants show at least one violation of Federal Labor Standards Act.

Then there’s Betsy DeVos, Secretary of Education, whose estimated worth is $1.25 billion, sprung from the work of her husband, Richard DeVos, Jr. whose father was Richard DeVos, founder of Amway. Besides being one of Trump’s largest campaign donors, she’s also one of the greatest threats to the American public education system, believing money would be better spent on school vouchers and charter schools… also she’s one of those people who don’t see an issue bringing church into public schools, so much for the Constitution and what not. DeVos is the epitome of the swampthings Trump claimed to be fighting, her family has donated almost $200 million to “The New Right”. But the proverbial buck doesn’t stop there. DeVos and her husband “championed” anti-LGBTQA+ legislation in Michigan, and just to add to the whackjob factor, ol’ Betsy gal is an Elder at the Mars Hill Bible Church out in Grand Rapids. These facts are little without taking time to understand the grasp of what her appointment could mean: school vouchers and charter schools are a broken system, look at their efficacy throughout the country. Furthermore, we should be finding ways to put more money into our public schools, not taking it out. The real kicker in all of this is that Betsy, her husband, and all of her family never attended a public school. Who do you think you are taking more money away from public schools? You ever ate chicken patties for four years straight?

Next on the block is Rex Tillerson, CEO of ExxonMobil and close friend to Vladdy P(utin). Compared to DeVos, Tillerson is worth just a measly $300 million, but that’s without the $235 million he’s set to gain between his retirement package and selling his stock shares, provided he is selected as Secretary of State. Forget, for a moment, that this man has made a fortune of destroying the environment and is a vocal climate change denier, can we just laugh at how the man who may control our foreign relations got The Order of Friendship award from the Kremlin last year? But, again, pause for a moment. Tillerson didn’t win this because he’s dapping up Vladdy P. at the Kendrick concert, he won it because of his part in Exxon’s $650 million drilling campaign in the northern Arctic, where after making a find the company agreed to check out Siberia for some Black Gold. While the conflict of interests are abound, I find it most interesting that Trump’s cabinet is full of the exact people he railed against all throughout his campaign. Crooked Hillary jokes and ill-timed tweets aside, let’s look at the historical relevance of Trump’s cabinet picks.

While these choices to most might seem unprecedented, throughout America’s history there have been out of the box choices. John Ashcroft, for instance, under George W. Bush, was the Attorney General during the early years of post-9/11 America. Well known for his pro-life views and fear of forced busing to promote desegregation, Ashcroft was voted in by a 58-42 margin, with almost all democrats voting against him because of his social views. There was also Raymond Donovan, Reagan’s Labor secretary who came into office with no political experience and an investigation by the FBI for payoffs to organized crime syndicates to help get Unions on board for the projects his construction company handled. Ultimately, the charges couldn’t be corroborated and Donovan was voted in 80-17, and with the added bonus of likely being the only appointment to have “murderous slime” tossed during their hearing. He worked from 1981-1985, doing little work that substantively helped the common man, and resigning before his tenure was up because he was under investigation for robbery and larceny.

But of all the presidents Trump’s cabinet choices may mirror, Ike Eisenhower is perhaps the most fitting. Like Trump, Eisenhower was considered a political outsider: a hard nosed general who had commanded America’s fighting forces through some of their bloodiest and most contentious battles it has ever seen. Also like Trump, Ike’s choices were based not off political clout or experience, but of those whom he held in high regard, or considered successful.His cabinet was described as “8 millionaires and a plumber”, as his  secretary of labor was the head of the plumbers union. His cabinet was made of bankers, corporate lawyers, and farmers. And, interestingly enough, his secretary of defense was Charles E. Wilson, the CEO of GM at the time.

Ike picked these men (and a woman) because he felt their knowledge and success in their fields would bring the same to the positions they had been appointed to. They did, for the most part. Most notably Ezra Taft, who expanded New Deal subsidies across the board, which worked well with Ike’s American-centric view of his economic policies. And, Charles E. Wilson is, arguably, the man to be credited for putting American in such a dominant position in military terms.

Trump picked these men and women because they provided substantial donations to his campaign, and most, if not all, will personally gain from their positions. An examination of who is where leads to the why. Pudzer at labor puts the common worker on the chopping block, and it’s likely we’ll see an expansion of corporate rights over protections that should be guaranteed to some of our most at risk communities who take up the jobs the department of labor was created to serve. Tillerson at state shows an interest in big money desires, internationally. Having a businessman who has profited (exponentially) off of the global usurpation of natural resources, who has defied scientific evidence about the damage he is causing, and can levy his potential connections on behalf of his 1% friends is not only a blatant conflict of interest, but blindly irrational in the context of modern geopolitical relations. Building on that, DeVos could cause unparalleled damage to an already bleeding American education system, through charter schools and school vouchers, whose students rank at the lower ends of global tests.

Admittedly, not all of Trump’s choices are worth scorn in my eyes. Former General James “Mad Dog” Mattis, while not being outside of the required seven year cool off period is a solid choice for Secretary of Defense. Yes, I understand all reservations about a military that is not under civilian control, but Mattis is a brilliant tactician and works with a “take no sh*t” attitude that I can appreciate and he keeps cool under pressure, something he might be able to teach Donny about.

It’s hard to say how the odds will turn out when the respective committees decide the fate of his nominees. Most of Trump’s choices are against everything their departments stand for (Price for Health and Human Services, Perry for Energy), but with a Congress controlled by a Republican majority, it’s likely these nominees will just slide into place.

Those rallying cries to “Drain the Swamp” were booming as Trump declared victory, and it’s likely something of a similar manner will happen at his inauguration. But when you look at his cabinet choices, you have to ask yourself: is a siphon the most effective way to drain this swamp?

 

 

Don’t Call Me a Liberal

Kant once wrote that liberalism leads to a more “pacific union” of states, as liberals believe in and work towards the creation of republics that are cosmopolitan in nature. Kant, however, is long dead. And while his works were foundational to modern ethics, his view of liberalism is perhaps, well… wrong. One need only examine the nature of the modern liberal state, which places emphasis on the importance of human rights, social justice, and unbridled free trade, all seemingly commendable features of a state, but look a little deeper, past the facade of presidents and prime ministers shaking hands and signing trade deals, and you see that what is a seemingly egalitarian political ideology is, in reality, just another vehicle for the desires of corporate interest and the hegemony of a specific class of people.

America, in all its wonder, is a prime example of the inherent flaws within liberalism. This is not an indictment of this country, far from it. America is a country I’m proud to be a citizen of and provided my family opportunities we wouldn’t have had somewhere else – here’s to you, pre-Celtic Tiger Ireland! And we shouldn’t forget that liberalism, and liberals in general, have accomplished a number of incredible things. These include the United Nations (sort of an accomplishment, more on this later), an abundance of friends globally that work with and for the US, and of course, my favorite, Noam Chomsky. Yet for every accomplishment, there is a laundry list of blunders and mishaps that have had lasting effects on people – at home and abroad. NAFTA and CAFTA, Vietnam (the war, not the state), the bizarrity that is the One China “policy/principle”, the 2008 global recession, the TPP, the list goes on and on, a veritable rap sheet of all the times liberal ideologies lead politicians astray. Perhaps, then, it might be better to understand how this seemingly perfect, “completely” pacific ideal has caused so much harm.

To start, let’s talk about this weird obsession liberal states have for the use of free trade as another tool in their belt. Free trade, to me, means one thing: capitalism. And while I know no one wants to hear another rant by a privileged college student, I promise to keep it short. Free trade and capitalism, a real dynamic duo, are, by their nature, exploitative of workers and require mass levels of consumption to sustain themselves. Like some intense, super literal reading of de Tocqueville, the dynamic duo believe that destruction gives way to life. Much to my own dismay, and many other people whose political views tend to be more red, they have done just that. But they have done so by contradicting themselves. The behemoth that is the American market has risen to such a height through the exploitation of workers across the world and the destruction of the Earth (aka, where we all live). Trade deals like the ones mentioned above work to benefit a specific class of people, that being the wealthy business exacts and politicians who craft and push forward these policies on the unsuspecting droves of hardworking industrialists; the farmer who wakes up early to sow his crop, the assembly line workers welding and bolting American cars, all types of people who relied on these jobs to put food on their table and a roofs over their head, put second to the profit of faceless corporations and LLCs.

The death of the American working class, as it seems, came at the hands of globalization – a feature of liberal economics that stresses the importance of moving production and trade around the world to develop a nation; however, like many other features of liberalism, it exists for the benefit of the ruling class. What’s most interesting is where the methods of production ship off to, places like China, Vietnam, Slovenia, and Mexico, a list of Donald Trump’s favorite places to complain about stealing our jobs…and also where most of his products come from. But it’s interesting because these states have very relaxed workers rights, like Slovenia’s monthly minimum wage of 790 (~$832 at the time of writing), and who could forget China’s prison work camps. That iPhone’s not so incredible when you find out it was built by a political prisoner making little to no money. The trade deals we cut hurt our fellow citizens the most, look at the Rustbelt states that voted with such fervor for Donny, look at places like Michigan, which used to be alive with workers on the assembly line. Now, instead of cars, Detroit gives us Eminem. Also, I’m pretty sure that city has been on fire for the last twenty years and I don’t think it’s from the Marshal Mathers LP. Pretty sure it’s just real fire now.

But enough on the horrors of free trade, let’s look at the really scary stuff: peace. Liberals constantly pat themselves on the back for their work in peacebuilding and social justice. Just look at how far they’ve come: they created, and then destroyed, East Berlin,  saved everyone from the evils of Communism in Vietnam, and applause are of course due for their work in the Middle East. Liberals rely heavily on the democratic peace theory, which postulates that liberal states will always be peaceful in interactions with one another but no so much with everyone else. And these past few decades can attest to that. For all the glory the American liberal believes they have earned, it falls short when we examine Rwanda, Bosnia, and more recently Syria. Liberals have a grand tradition of putting their own interests over the safety of others, and nothing shows this more than the UN operations within Rwanda or Bosnia, where soldiers were unable to act justly in the face of grievous humanitarian crises because of regulations put in place to “respect the autonomy” of the state (Sad!).

Human rights are an important part of the liberal ideology, which perceives itself to be cosmopolitan in nature with its relations to foreign policy. But, at least in my lifetime, American statecraft under liberals has faltered. One need only examine the Obama years, where promises of active dialogue between Israel and Palestine were put on the back-burner and left there to simmer. And like most things left on back-burners to simmer, they burnt. America’s abstinence from the most recent vote by the Security Council on Resolution 2334 is a fine display of a liberals tendency to overcompensate when they realize they’ve failed on keeping their promise. This isn’t to say I don’t support this move, and while this piece isn’t about Israel(another liberal state) and Palestine, the settlements in Palestine are one of the greatest threats to a peaceful two-state solution.

Getting back on track, when the US refused to follow its historical policy and not veto in defense of Israeli actions into Palestine, it put an excess of strain on an already tensing relationship that America and Israel are crafting under the Netanyahu and Obama administrations. The list, however, continues. Guantanamo Bay, literally everything the CIA did in South America during the 1970s and 80s, and, most strikingly, the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts that managed to make an already unstable part of the world even more unstable.What’s perhaps more alarming is how candidly these operations were disguised as intervention for the promotion of democracy, when in reality it was just more American imperialism abroad. Y’all know Dick Cheney and Halliburton/KBR made close to $38.9 billion during the Iraq war, right?  For all its glory, the Democratic Peace theory works one way, and only on the terms and for the benefit of liberal states dictate.

And now, if I may, could I please direct your attention to the poster child of liberal ineptitude: the United Nations. For what it’s worth, the UN has provided a forum for dialogue that has likely resolved many conflicts peacefully, but aside from a few regional discrepancies, what more? At its core, the UN lacks any true power to enforce its non-binding resolutions, and more so, the ones that may have a meaningful impact on a specific issue (look at Syria). This could perhaps be remedied by removing the veto power of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, you know, China, Russia, France, England, and the US, but the last time someone floated that idea, they all threatened to withdraw funding. Not to mention that these five made their permanent residency on the Security Council a stipulation for them even considering joining back in 1945.

Furthermore, the UN’s Security Council is a vestige of a time when diplomats had guts and gusto, when clever policy and closed door meetings were done to accomplish something other than increasing profit margins for those involved. In essence, unless we all come together and submit to a supranational government or the Security Force is given power to substantively intervene into conflicts, the UN is likely to keep puttering on at its same slow space, putting out policy that has no real benefit. I mean, Mauritania officially outlawed slavery in 1981, but their government is arresting anti-slavery protesters and denying they have some 10-20% of their population still in shackles, hows that for a kick in the gonads, Mr. Ban Ki Moon?

But all this is in vain if I don’t explain this rant. I understand that national liberalism is different from its international cousin, but I am so sick of being called a liberal because I don’t care what bathroom someone uses and I think it’s a pretty fucked up some old white guys in D.C. can tell women what they can and can’t do with their bodies. Sharing a similar progressive agenda doesn’t mean someone endorses or agrees, tacitly or not, to the many different aspects of liberalism that have – if this essay has done even the slightest in proving – caused tremendous amounts of chaos and conflict.

The modern American liberal is, categorically, white, middle class to upper class, and likely voted for Clinton in the primary. There is a certain smugness of self-proclaimed liberals, often toting how godless they are and the infallibility of their near scientific method when it comes to their rhetorical skills, i.e. complain and do nothing. But please don’t let this post make you think I support conservatism, or Republicans for that matter. I  don’t want people thinking I support conservatism because 1.) I experience empathy for other human beings and 2.) my parents raised me right. And I definitely am not a republican. Definitely. Not.

…Anyway, as we venture down these next four years, with Donny and his gang of swamp drainers – I think they’re using a syphon because they’re collectively worth $4.5 billion, and that’s without his two final picks – can we please stop lumping everyone who didn’t vote for an orange Cheeto in with liberals and democrats? Maybe you guys could take a look at the Green Party, American Socialist Party, and, hell, maybe even the Libertarians if they can get rid of Gary Johnson.

Honestly, I don’t really care who you voted for, it’s your right and duty to vote. Just please, please, next time we’re talking politics and I say “The Don is a racist, egomaniac who has no sense of how politics works”, could you not call me a Liberal?