Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Hillary the Savior

I sometimes struggle with an overestimation of my own powers.  I used to fear going to the bathroom in an airplane might cause the plane to crash.  And I've noticed that more often than not the political candidate I vote for does not get elected.  It makes me wonder sometimes if lesbians can really cause hurricanes.

That happened again yesterday.  I cast a ballot in the California primary for Bernie Sanders and this morning I see that Hillary beat Sanders by five percentage points and is now the clear presumptive winner.  Love that notion, that we have somebody we can clearly presume.

Fine.  Didn’t want the status quo, but I understand in politics you often have to settle, and I’m not going to sulk.  If this is what America wants, I’m not going to take my marbles and move to Spain.  I’m going to vote for Hillary in November and urge everybody I know to do likewise, if for no other reason than to keep Donald Trump from getting us out of the frying pan and into the fire.

I am not a flag-waver.  I don’t think the United States is the best place in the world.  If it were not for the cold weather, I think I might move to Berlin or to Vancouver.  I had a short visit to Stockholm a couple years ago and saw it immediately as a city I’d like to live in.  There are lots of places where the politics of the place is closer to my own.  My husband, despite having taken American citizenship, feels pretty much the same way about these places as I do, and he is less snow-resistant, so we could easily pack our canine daughters into their snowsuits and make a new home in one of these other northern cities and start over.

These are fantasy notions.  I don’t really want to move elsewhere.  I am in the San Francisco Bay Area, where I started my adult life, where I came out, where I went to graduate school, where most of my friends are.  I would miss the convenience of being able to speak to everybody in English, and I would miss the laid-back nature of the life I know in America, if I were ever to leave again.  I did it more than once – several years in Germany, a year in Saudi Arabia, three months in Buenos Aires, more than a dozen summers in Canada, twenty-four years in Japan.  I know what it is to live elsewhere.  And I'm familiar with the aching sense of loss one gets when one becomes a refugee. One does not pick up and leave one’s home except in extreme circumstances.

So it strikes me as really dumb, all this talk I hear around me of people wanting to pull up stakes and move elsewhere if this country goes into the fire.

I know, I know.  There is so much about this country that is seriously off-putting.  The denial of its wretched history, for starters.  The fact that we teach our kids that the Pilgrims came to America to be able to have freedom of religion, but we don’t teach them that once they got here they became just another brand of religious bigots.  And we don’t face up to the fact that what happened to the locals once they got here fits the definition of genocide to a T.  We still don’t recognize that movements like Black Lives Matter are clear signs that slavery and segregation left a lot to deal with even today.  We don’t see the connection between our removal of Mossadegh, the democratically elected leader in Iran, and the hostage situation at the American Embassy years later.  And we then went on to repeat the folly in replacing Allende with Pinochet, who liked to throw kids out of helicopters into the sea tied to railroad ties, a man that our great leader Jean Kirkpatrick once pronounced as "muy amable." Guatemala.  Nicaragua.  America has been very dirty at times.  

Investigative journalism is on the rocks in America, so most Americans, unless they know how to dig for news on the internet and can read in languages other than English, miss a great deal in perspective.  They don’t hear things like the standard narrative in lots of countries that ties Al Qaeda and ISIS directly to the Bush/Cheney invasion of Iraq.  Of course, truth often leaks through.  If you know how to look for slant, you can find things that make you double think – support for Hillary over Sanders in the “newspaper of record,” for example.  It's not a lack of objectivity that bothers me so much, although I got really angry at how slanted The New York Times was for Hillary and against Bernie. Bias in the press is hardly the worst thing in the world, and you can offset one slant with another without much effort.  

People running for election always like to tell you how bad things are before they tell you how they can fix things.  It's not surprising that one of the three running wants only to tinker with the status quo and the other two want a more radical approach.  The Republicans, terrified of change and looking for an authoritative Leader to bring us back to a history that never was, lost control of their party, as they did earlier when the Tea Party got so strong.  It is now in the hands of a dangerous demagogue, a thin-skinned self-serving Pied Piper.  A second group, equally disgusted with the status quo, went for this rare bird Bernie, an apparently honest politician from a small remote state with a small population.  If he were a European politician, he would be in one of the mainstream social democrat parties.  Until yesterday, when California and New Jersey sent Hillary over the top, one hoped he might actually pull it off.

And then there is the space in the Middle.  Most people don’t want the guy on the far right with the ability to make an amazing number of people into lemmings.  Most people don’t want the guy on the far left, not because he’s a socialist (he’s not!) but because they want an outsider who can do all the things only an insider can do.  That leaves only the status quo.  More of the same.  More big money control, banks too big to fail.  More jingoism and faith in military solutions.  More deliberation that goes nowhere.

It’s all over but the mud-slinging now.  Just as soon as Bernie gets his last stand over with. He's holding out for the primary in Washington, D.C.  Many fault him for not being realistic and throwing his weight, early and hard, behind the only person who can save us from Trump.  I tip my hat to him for keeping his resolve to fight to the bitter end.  There will be time, still, to rally behind Hillary, and I can’t imagine he would do anything else.  The stakes are just too high.

I wish I could wax more enthusiastic about Hillary.  I’m really glad to see a woman candidate.  It should have happened a long time ago, but at least it’s here now, this sign that we do actually progress toward greater universal equality when we want to.

I wouldn’t go so far as to call her a savior, as a columnist in Munich’s Süddeutsche Zeitung did this morning.

But we won’t quibble over words.  Voting for her will help us retain the hard-fought rights of women and LGBT people and people of color.  It will save us from a man who not only proclaims a person of Mexican heritage cannot be a fair judge, but defends that racist stance when called out for it.  Who tells his audience to punch out protestors and offers to pay their legal bills if arrested.  It will save us from a man who has poked fun of the movements of a reporter with physical handicaps, created conspiracy theories, urged not less torture of prisoners but more. And favored killing the families of terrorists, not just the terrorists themselves.

OK, maybe savior (small s – OK?) is the word.  Just remember, we've pinned our hopes on others before.  Let's hope we can help her play her role with a bit more success this time.

Here’s my translation of the article in the German paper this morning.  Original is available here

Errors are all mine: 

June 8, 2016, 2:58 p.m.  
Hillary Clinton must save America

For a long time now people have been asking themselves why Hillary Clinton wanted to become president.  Now everything makes sense: she has to save the country from Donald Trump

Commentary by Nicolas Richter

Thank God the primaries in America are over.  They were an endless round of lies, humiliations and references to genitals.  Now it’s the opportunistic Republican against the woman democrat, Hillary Clinton.  Both embody white privilege, which always manages to come out on top.  On the one hand, that’s sobering.  But the primaries also had their good side.  The country looked into a mirror, more closely than usual, and with more honesty about itself.  In so doing, America saw uglier things than it had seen before.  At least it looked.

One result of this self-examination was the recognition that many of its citizens are disgusted with unrestrained capitalism, that system America has always boasted about with such confidence.  The USA has always been for free trade and the unfettered market.  Now more and more Americans are recognizing that America can be among the losers of globalization.  This discomfort has grabbed both parties.  The young fans of the socialist Bernie Sanders are asking themselves why corporations are able to move from one cheap labor country to another while they are children who cannot afford to move out of their parents’ homes.  Meantime, angry older voters listen enthralled to Trump as he spits out the word “China” in disgust. 

Suddenly Clinton’s candidacy has taken on greater significance

It’s sobering also to take a look at the people involved in politics.  Hillary Clinton, if the predictions are correct, is the first female candidate of a major party for the White House.  She has fought for this success against sexist resistance.  But few take Clinton for the shining light Barack Obama once was.  She is stiff and secretive and her affinity for big donors brings to mind the corruption of money and power without which America’s political system cannot function.  No, Clinton does not embody any new awakening.  On the other hand, she is the most experienced person who ever sought this office.  She ties idealism with the knowledge of what is doable.  And she drives policy with an earnest love of detail that is unfortunately rare in the USA.

In shocking contrast to this is what Trump reveals about America.  He has succeeded in dragging in the most negative characteristics of each decade, combining the greed and ruthlessness of the 80s with the permanent self-promotion in social media platforms of the 2000s and the increasing acceptability of xenophobia in the 2010s.  Lately he has claimed a U.S. judge of Mexican heritage is biased simply because he has Mexican roots.
A year ago nobody would have thought it possible that one would see open racism in a leading politician in this tolerant land of immigrants, which still manages to be the driving force behind globalization.

But the look in the mirror has revealed something more.  The once so proud Republican Party is characterized through and through by resentments.  Against illegals, against Muslims, against alleged freeloaders.  Older white voters fear a loss of control.  They fear they are getting too little while the others, the outsiders, are getting too much.  The party itself has had little to offer its voters since the 80s other than lower taxes and more money for armaments, which just doesn’t work out mathematically.  Now the party of “conservative principles” has tossed out both principles and what is conservative and given itself over to Trump.  All that is left for Republicans is to hope for  a destructive defeat for Trump in the polls in the fall followed by a new beginning.

Only Hillary Clinton can save America from Trump

The only person who can prepare this defeat for Trump is Hillary Clinton.  Only she can save America from this dangerous machismo.  That gives her candidacy a deeper meaning that was not evident at first.  Clinton must make it clear to her fellow Americans the earnestness of the situation.  Trump would be an authoritarian president.  He would take every criticism personally, would not be confident in victory, would disrespect state institutions and foreign allies.  Secondly, Clinton must dedicate herself to fight against those evils which the look in the mirror revealed: growing inequality, the influence of big money, non-transparent trade agreements, entire stretches of the country in misery and a broken system of justice for foreigners.  America looked into the mirror and saw resentment over a loss of control.  The image is unflattering, but Hillary still has time to help the country raise its consciousness.  It would be the biggest and most important victory of her life.

photo credit: great blog for photoshopped leader faces: 

Oh, and those previous saviors?  There's Obama, of course:

and McCain:

Hope is not just a town in Arkansas.

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