Thursday, February 23, 2017

A (Very) Short Drama, Maybe a True one

Donald Trump: "I present to you, the American people, the dangerous other, the source of all our troubles. It is the Muslim and the Latin American immigrant! Let us together drive them out, or keep them out. Let us crush them and all will be well with America. It will be great again!"

Trumpeters: "Yes! Let us strike down this evil among us. Let us destroy this threat to all that is good and right, so that America will be great again!"

(Efforts to enact the plan ensue, until the resistance interrupts.)

The Resistance: "This is intolerable! It is an effort to oversimplify our nation's problems by identifying those problems with some scapegoat, with people who are different or 'other.' This will lead only to greater hatred and escalating cycles of violence. It must be stopped!"

(Struggle commences as Trumpeters and the Resistance face off. As the Resistance grows in numbers, some leaders emerge, who speak out a unifying message.)

Leaders of the Resistance: "We present to you, the American people, the dangerous other, the source of all our troubles. It is Donald Trump! Let us together drive him out!"

I'll stop there, since you know how it ends--or, more properly, doesn't end. I guess this isn't a (very) short drama after all. But the telling is short, unless we decide to throw away the script.

Addendum: Because of some responses I've had to this post both on social media and in the comments, I worry that my effort to deliver a warning in a clever way has ended up implying a false equivalence where I didn't intend to--and, furthermore, that I ended up glossing over some very important realities. Hence, I have created a follow-up post that addresses these things.


  1. You sound like virtually every educated straight white man I have talked to since the election: high-minded but clueless as ever. Not all "Others" are equal. When Trump "present" Muslims and Latin American immigrants as "the dangerous other," all available empirical evidence plainly contradicts his presentation. The data simply does not support it. But when "Leaders of the Resistance" present Trump as "the dangerous other," you need only look at what he's done in his first month in office. That you have failed to fully grasp the gravity -- the anomaly, the Other -- that is Trump speaks all too tragically to your unassailable privilege in American society. I am a gay Muslim immigrant. As Galadriel describes it, "The world is changed. I feel it in the water. I feel it in the earth. I smell it in the air." It's 2017, Eric. Know better already.

    1. Let me be clear about a couple of things. First, I think Trump's administration is dangerous. And I agree that this is not merely an ideological stance disconnected from facts. Second, I agree there needs to be a resistance that stands against these dangers. Third, I think the ideal solution would be for Trump and his team to be replaced, after impeachment or resignation, by a more sane administration that cares about truth and democracy and the Constitution and is not contoured by ideological in-group/out-group thinking. My Parable (or whatever we should call it) was a warning against scapegoating. That is, it was a warning against adopting the script of us/them ideology as a defining feature of the resistance to the serious threats that the Trump administration poses. To identify the threats with Trump and to see the elimination of Trump as the solution to our problems oversimplifies the issues in a way that will only fuel patterns of scapegoating and us/them thinking. The initial voice of the resistance in the parable has the right focus:on the scapegoating, on the ideology of division. Trump is an expression of this, a symptom. And as we fight the problem, we need to keep that in mind or our efforts will fail.

    2. I do not doubt that the problem is deeper than just Trump, or, for that matter, that it existed long before Trump. But it used to be that when I walked down the streets with my mother -- a Muslim woman who wears the hijab -- we would sometimes just get the typical stares or side glances. Today, we consider those the good old days. That is to say, the problem might not have started with him but its prominence indisputably is. Gone were the days of casual racism and subtle microaggressions that used to pervade our daily lives before. It's ostentatious hatred that we have to deal with now. It's the audible "Go back to where you came from" with visible hand gestures that we have to deal with today. Your mistake -- and the mistake of your well-meaning kind -- is that Trump is but a symptom. He really isn't, though. Bannon is a symptom. Miller is a symptom. Sessions is a symptom. Trump is a catalyst. You can underestimate symptoms and live to tell about it another day. But catalysts are cataclysmic. They only ever lead to cataclysms. And that, Eric, is what will really doom our efforts: the failure to see things for what they are.

    3. I hear you. It is a terrible thing that this hate is seething up the way it is, impacting you and your loved ones and do many others. The distinction you make between symptom and catalyst is a good one, and the significance of that difference is one I need to reflect on more deeply.