Monday, October 9, 2017


Environmentalism and White Privilege



This past weekend I was fortunate enough to attend an especially beautiful wedding. The experience was extraordinary for many reasons. But one of them was that during the ceremony, as well as in the toasts afterwards, no one only spoke about the couple and their future life together. Instead the two of them were always thought of as working together to preserve and enhance their environment. They were gardening, taking care of a stand of trees, raising chickens. Their future will be a future trying to protect and promote the well-being of their natural environment. The relationship we celebrated was not just the connection of two individuals but of two individuals whose future life together will be committed to enhancing the world in which they live.
These two young people did not think of themselves merely as two individuals striving for happiness together. They thought of themselves as responsible for their world and its protection and improvement. It made me think about patriotism – so much in the news lately. For many people patriotism consists of honoring our soldiers in many foreign wars – even in wars, like the wars in Vietnam and Iraq, which are generally considered terrible mistakes. Perhaps we should think of patriotism instead as actively caring for the part of the world in which we live rather than of honoring those who have destroyed large parts of the world belonging to total strangers – the people of Vietnam, Iraq and of Afghanistan.
Another thought that wedding brought up is the connection between this different kind of patriotism, of love of the land and of our obligation as its caretakers, and the racial differences that divide us. White people tend to assume that obligations to care for our natural environment are incumbent on all of us. All Americans who profess to love their country are to express that love in caring for our land. But white people rarely understand that for the last 150 years, ever since the end of Reconstruction in 1870 or so, we have used many different subterfuges to take land away from African-Americans, to make sure that they would be deprived of whatever land they were working hard to own, to prevent them from owning property and homes in most suburbs.
At the end of the Civil War, African Americans in the southern states flourished. They ran for elected office and won. They governed well. The South recovered from the ravages of the Civil War. Then, 10 years after the end of the war, federal troops were removed from the South and the whites instituted a regime of terror with beatings and lynchings. Black elected officials surrendered their offices. Black voters were intimidated and stayed away from the ballot box. Black farmers were deprived of their land. The local government would claim that they owed large amounts of taxes. The black farmers, often unable to read and write, without the assistance of an attorney were deprived of their land and turned into sharecroppers. When it came time to assess how much the sharecropper had produced, more chicanery kept the farmer in debt. They lost their land to unscrupulous whites. Stealing from blacks was an accepted practice.
When African Americans moved north, they encountered the same opposition to their acquiring a piece of land and a home of their own. As early as the period before World War I a silent campaigns of arson and vandalism kept African Americans out of "white" suburbs. Banks and real estate groups developed the practice of "redlining." Maps clearly indicated areas where black people could own homes and live. Realtors would not sell property to African-Americans outside those areas and banks refused mortgages.
Suburbs invented zoning ordinances which prevented black owners of building lots from building their houses. Needless to say, the ordinances applied scrupulously to African-Americans were not enforced against white homeowners. The federal government contributed to this concerted effort against blacks owning land and property. At the end of World War II Congress passed generous legislation that empowered the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) to give low cost mortgages to veterans for buying homes in the new suburbs springing up around the major cities. But these mortgages were for whites only. African Americans did not need to apply. If they did they were turned down. The fact that black Americans had fought as bravely as whites in World War II counted for nothing.
As a result black families today, even if they earn good wages, own a lot less property, have smaller savings and retirement funds than whites. The extended campaign to deprive African-Americans of the possibility of owning land and homes has been terribly successful. It has not only perpetuated a major injustice against black Americans. It has also contributed to the divisions among us. Even today few white Americans have black neighbors; few black Americans live next to whites.
One result of this geographic division of different parts of our nation is that whites know very little about the history of violence against Blacks, of the systematic theft of black property, and exploitation of black labor. When athletes protest this long and brutal history, whites do not understand because they have not seen it with their own eyes. Had they lived next door to each other, there would be fewer whites who are entirely clueless when it comes to the life of black Americans in our country.
When young white couples marry, they can promise each other not only to cherish the other person but also to be good stewards of their land and the animals that live on it. But all of us whites should promise each other and the black members of our nation to do whatever they can to repair the injuries done to them by previous and present generations of whites.


Sunday, October 1, 2017


How to recognize racism when you see it

 After they got into a tiff with the president about demonstrations while the national anthem was being sung, the three large sports clubs in Boston got together to plan a series of actions against racism. There are plans for a some advertisements and other actions. So far the plans are pretty vague and that is an important part of my story today.
Interestingly enough, as they announced these plans with some fanfare they had an opportunity to act very concretely against racism.
Within the same fortnight Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico unbelievably. Communications are down; there is no power. Many roads are destroyed. People have no water and little food. Medicines are scare; the healthcare system not really functioning. The US government, the President, the military, FEMA, and other government agencies did not pay a whole lot of attention to the immense suffering of people on the island for about a week. It took them that long to send a general there to see what sort of military assistance would be needed.
When hurricanes had hit Texas and Florida help was on the way immediately. We might say that hurricane Maria was the third hurricane in a very short period and people were simply tired. But when Mexico City was hit by two major earthquakes we did not seem to show any interest. (Perhaps the President is still miffed by the Mexicans refusal to pay for the border wall.) It is hard to believe that if a catastrophic natural disaster hit Toronto or Montréal we would simply ignore that. Surely military planes and trucks and machinery would be on the way in no time at all.
But the people on the island of Puerto Rico are not Canadians. They are not white. Neither are Mexicans. The neglect of the tremendous suffering of Puerto Rico is not a result of battle fatigue; it is a clear manifestation of racism.
Here was a splendid opportunity for the athletes in Boston to show their opposition to racism by getting on the phone and calling the White House – President Trump is a personal friend of some of them – to urge immediate action. But nobody noticed the crisis.
There is a lot to be learned from this story. Puerto Rico was not neglected and left to suffer without help because the government “hates” Puerto Ricans. The Boston athletes did not overlook what was happening – or rather not happening-- in Puerto Rico because they hate Puerto Ricans. But white people don't pay as much attention to people of color as they do to their own kind (Unless they rape or murder). We take ourselves terribly seriously. We think we are terribly important and do not see people of color as quite as important. So what happened in Puerto Rico did not ring any loud alarm bells, it did not get the ambulances and fire trucks out, bells ringing and sirens blaring. Everybody deplored the suffering and then paid attention to something else – most likely something concerning white people.
You don't have to beat up on people of color to be a racist. You just need to not take them quite as seriously as we take ourselves.
But there is a second lesson. Racism is not a general thing which we can combat – well-meaning white folks that we are – any day in any way by showing videos and going to sensitivity workshops. Racism is like a chronic disease that flares up here and it flares up there perhaps with different symptoms. One way of being racist is not to notice what is happening. A more serious way of being racist is not noticing what you are doing.
If some persons of color in your nation are suffering grievously and you are not moved to action, if only to call your friend the president of the United States and tell him to go and do his job now, today, then you are being racist because you are not noticing what is happening and, if truth be told, you don't care.
The third lesson is this: what you can do to fight racism may not be the same thing that I can do. Each of us, as white people, are involved in the perpetuation of racism in different ways. Each of us has to find the places where he or she are contributing to maintaining present racist abuses and must then work hard to withdraw their complicity. There is no general prescription of what you can do. Advertising against racism has been tried for 50 years with little effect. Holding dialogues about race between city officials and leaders of the community is not only a waste of time but it does positive damage because it persuades white people that they are doing all they can to fight racism while, in fact, they're doing zilch.
Racism has little to do with hate. It has to do with not paying attention, with not being able to be bothered, with not taking seriously the misery of others just because their skin is darker than ours. Racism is systematic. White people work to maintain that system most often without explicitly meaning to. But not paying attention to how the system works (and doesn't), and what you and I do to promote it, is itself being racist however good your intentions might be.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017


What we can learn from the adventures of Chelsea Manning

 

Last year Chelsea Manning was in prison serving a 35 year sentence for releasing a lot of classified information to WikiLeaks. She had entered prison seven years before as Bradley Manning a male soldier. While in prison she transitioned to Chelsea Manning, a woman soldier.
Then Pres. Obama commuted her sentence. Not too long afterward Harvard University invited her to be a visitor at its Kennedy School where future diplomats and bureaucrats train to work in the US government. Every year the Kennedy School invites a number of notables to be available to talk to the schools students. The invitees this year included Manning. It also included Sean Spicer, until recently spokesperson for President Trump and a notorious liar. A third questionable appointment was Cory Lewandowski, one time campaign manager for President Trump, known for his disrespectful treatment of women journalists.
No one cared much about Spicer and Lewandowski. But the appointment of Manning created an uproar. The current head of the CIA protested loudly. One of the other appointees as visitors to the Kennedy school, Michael Morell, a former CIA manager resigned his appointment to the School.
Harvard folded and uninvited Chelsea Manning. The Dean who had first invited her professed that he was not aware that her appointment would be controversial. Where has he been all these years?
(Manning has since been invited to a prestigious book discussion on Nantucket. Having been uninvited by Harvard has made her a desirable person to invite to fancy events.)
There are some interesting lessons to be learned from this whole misadventure besides that you can be a dean at Harvard and be incompetent or untruthful.
Pompeo, the current head of the CIA, and the other former CIA manager protested against Manning's appointment on the grounds that Manning was "a traitor" and that releasing the information she did possibly endangered many lives. Present and past managers on the CIA stood up in protest against persons endangering human lives.
Impressive, isn't it?
Two days earlier in the newspaper carried a story that the CIA, which was currently waging drone warfare in the Mideast and elsewhere but was barred from using drone killings in Afghanistan, was urging the President to allow them to employ drone weapons also in the war zone. This story reminds us that the CIA is regulalrly killing people with drones. The targets of the drone attacks are presumably terrorists. Some drone attacks have been misdirected and killed large wedding parties. Others may have succeeded in killing a terrorist but only at the cost of also killing women and children at some festive event or another.
The protest of present and past CIA operatives against Manning for possibly endangering human lives is massively hypocritical.
The really interesting aspect of this entire story is that no one I have heard of has called the CIA operatives on their hypocrisy. No one has reminded them of what is part of their job day in day out – killing people who have not been arrested, charged or tried – and often killing people who are innocent of any political involvement.
Harvard acceded to the demands of the CIA managers. Their story that Manning had endangered lives was generally accepted. Manning was uninvited.
What this tells us is that one of the important perks of political power is that you can shape the dominant narratives. The way you tell the story is most likely to be believed by everyone even if you story is transparently false or incomplete or misleading or just a plain lie. The general public does not have to be forced to believe this story spread by the powerful. No threats of arrest by the secret police or of torture persuaded the general public that Manning was not a suitable fellow at the Kennedy school while former CIA managers complicit in the drone killing of civilians were acceptable.
In our present situation, powerful persons do not lie. On the whole, most of us are naive enough to swallow that. This the lesson to be learned from Chelsea Manning’s misadventure at Harvard.

Friday, September 15, 2017


Our moral bankruptcy



The news from home is not good.
Drug deaths, especially in older white men, have increased significantly in recent years. Drug overdoses are more frequent every year.
"Suicide in the United States has surged to the highest level in nearly 30 years." [https://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/22/health/us-suicide-rate-surges-to-a-30-year-high.html] The suicide rate is particularly high among veterans and not, as one would think, among combat veterans but among soldiers who spent their tour of duty on military reservations back home. [http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-veteran-suicide-20150115-story.html]
The number of women who give birth and then succumb to postpartum depression has increased in recent years. [https://www.sciencedaily.com/ releases/2013/10 /131002131400.htm]
And on a slightly different note, there is a steady increase of students who miss classes in middle and in high school for more than 10% of school days.
The news is better with respect to the divorce rate, the frequency of domestic violence, and the rate of physical and sexual abuse of children. The incidence of all three has gone down but all of them, of course, remain serious problems.
All of these statistics are controversial. There are always real and so-called experts who have different numbers. But these statistics are regarded as reliable by people who understand statistics and who know where these particular ones come from.
I came across these data at the same time that newspapers reported an apparently good piece of news, namely that household income has been rising. On closer consideration, however, this good news is very qualified. It turns out that individual income of people who work for wages has remained stagnant. Household income has risen because people work more, work longer hours, work full time where they worked part-time before.
Individual income of wage earners remains unchanged at a time when corporations report rising income. Corporations earn more money because they manage to keep costs down and one significant kind of cost are labor costs. Workers earning the same as what they took home a long time ago is one of the reasons for the rosy earnings reports of corporations. Workers are being exploited to benefit corporate bottom lines.
The failure of workers' wages to rise in a time when the well-to-do, the recipients of dividends, the CEOs of enterprises, lawyers and doctors, see their income go up and their standard of living improving steadily is often blamed for the the reports about depression and suicide and other negative statistics.
But that explanation leaves out an important component of the malaise that has our country in its grip. There are a large number of people who feel insulted, whose sense of their own worth is under attack.
The rise of neo-Nazis, of white supremacists is a clear symptom of this offended sense of self. Significant numbers of Americans rest what little self-esteem they have on their skin color – a characteristic for which they cannot take credit. We are born with different skin colors. They are not earned. They are not an accomplishment. If the best I can say about myself is that I'm white, I admit that I have not done anything that I can take pride in.
The white supremacist will reply: 'I am proud of being white because whites are superior to persons of color.' But consider this analogy. Jimmy is a member of an illustrious family: among his relatives are a US President, a Supreme Court Justice and several super-rich entrepreneurs. For himself, Jimmy has not done so well. Married several times but now divorced, Jimmy has had many jobs but is always living pay-check to pay-check. His life has been a series of failures. But he is proud of his distinguished family. This is pride by association, a poor source of self-esteem for those whose own life is beset with failures.
If your self-affirmation rests on sharing the skin color of persons who are famous for their accomplishments--ignoring for the moment whether those accomplishments are mythical or real--you are acknowledging that your own life is lacking in accomplishments and legitimate sources of pride.
Why are so many Americans unable to achieve a solid self-esteem? Why is the color of their skin the most remarkable about them?
Success, in America rests on being upwardly mobile. As the years pass, one needs to increase one's earnings and in order to accomplish that one needs, most of the time, to increase one's power to extract wealth from other people. The working people whose salaries remain the same year in, year out are the victims of this extraction of value. Because their income is flat, their employer's prosper. The employer has the power to keep them working for low wages. Their income does not substantially rise; their power remains minimal.
By prevailing standards of success in America these working people are not successful. They have not accomplished anything.
This version of success is reprehensible. This idea of what makes a life worth living is utterly immoral. The good life according to this American doctrine rests on the ability to harm others, to extract value from them and their work. The successful people are those who can injure others. Life is not worth living for those who are unable to harm others.
Perhaps this ethic is behind the American love affair with guns and the high murder rate in some of our cities. If you cannot enrich yourself at the expense of others, at least you can threaten them with your guns or shoot them.
The much discussed "opioid crisis," the rate of suicide and of depression and other negative statistics such as the rate of poverty in this, one of the richest countries in the world, is a symptom of our moral failure. The big people, the people in the news, are all rich and they have become rich at the expense of others. In the prevailing morality that is acceptable. Devastated lives, misery, is the result.
Only a moral reformation would make America great again.

Saturday, September 2, 2017


Violence in politics today



President Trump is by no means the only person who tries to equate violence on the right to violence on the left. Many newspaper columns tell us that the neo-Nazis, white supremacists, anti-Semites, anti-Muslims, KKK and other splinter groups on the far right are not significantly different from splinter groups on the far left. Both, we are told, use of violence as a political tactic.
This equivalence is deceptive and is meant to deceive. Violence on the right is different from violence on the left. Neo-Nazi and neofascist ideologies openly profess to admire German Nazis who murdered mentally ill citizens, citizens with limited abilities, homosexuals, Romas also known as "Gypsies", Jews, labor unionists, Communists and others. The Nazi ideology that neo-Nazis profess to admire does not hesitate to kill human beings. Theirs is a murderous violence as illustrated most recently in Charlottesville, only the most recent murder committed by right-wing neo-Nazis. It does not respect human life. It does not respect people of different persuasions but is willing to assassinate those who disagree.
Some left-wing groups--they often call themselves "anti-fascist" or also "anarchist,"--are willing to engage in violence. But this is a very limited kind of violence. Quite explicitly it excludes harming human beings and is limited to destruction of property, to disrupting traffic, to engaging in fist fights with police and so-called "alt right" groups.
Claiming that far left and far right groups are really the same because both employ violent tactics confuses different kinds of violence, it erases the difference between at most throwing a punch, on one hand, and driving a truck into a crowd of people to kill random pedestrians, on the other.
Confusing these very different kinds of violence legitimates right-wing militias, some of whom showed up in Charlottesville armed to the teeth, and at the same time delegitimizes left-wing groups who appreciate the grave danger these right-wing militias and admirers of German Nazism constitute and are willing to oppose them with their fists.
In addition, the equivalence between the left and right violence serves also to delegitmate Anarchists who are an important component of the far left. Anarchism is a long established political movement that aims all its efforts to struggle against the many different forms of coercion in our societies. The anarchist ideal is a society where coercion is at an absolute minimum. What each person wants for his or her life, anarchists assert, should be the main determining factor of what happens in that life. In pursuing this ideal, anarchists point out to the very many situations where citizens in our society are forced to live their lives in ways they have not chosen.
The groups that are most powerful in our society have always tried to make the anarchists look as dangerous, unreasonable persons. In the interest of maintaining their own coercive power and making it look as if it were a version of a free society, distorting the message of anarchism has been an important tactic.
But the anarchist message needs to be taken seriously. In the last two or three years many white people have begun to understand how persons of color live day to day in a state of siege. In their communities they are stopped and frisked. The police that is supposed to protect them more often murders them. Excessive numbers of people of color end up in prison and once discharged from prison are often unable to find work.
White women as much as black are forced to work for lower pay than men. More often than not they are not only breadwinners, as are the men and their family, but they also are mothers and housekeepers – projects their husbands or boyfriends often participate in only minimally. A very large media apparatus forces on them bizarre standards of beauty as well as the obligation to make themselves attractive to men even when they themselves are not interested in that.
For anyone in this society whether a person of color or white, female or male, the laws supposedly made at the behest of citizens are enforced by heavily armed police. The power of the government is backed by the power to injure and kill.
Nor is that the end. Employers have tremendous power over their employees, even at times of full employment. Landlords have power over their tenants. Schools impose their rules and lessons by force and under the threat of punishment and even expulsion. The poor receive some public support and pay for that by constant supervision from the courts and social workers.
Wherever you turn in the society there is someone telling you what to do and forcing you to pay attention.
Is that "the land of the free"? The anarchists say "no." Instead of listening to the calumnies of those who compare them to white supremacists and neo-Nazis, we need to listen carefully to what anarchists say and enter the struggle to defend what little freedoms we have left in a world of constant coercion.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Myth of Unity



Last week the workers at a Mississippi Nissan auto plant voted against unionizing. In the country as a whole union membership is at an all-time low. At the same time the pay of working people is more or less what it has been for the last 50 years while the pay of plant managers, bank managers, and managers in all sorts of other branches of business has skyrocketed.
There are many reasons for this disproportionate enrichment of the upper-class and the stagnant wages of the people who produce things, or who do the paperwork necessary to keep this economy going. But surely one of them is the belief on the part of many working people that management is on their side and that unions are not.
This is just one example of what is striking about the American political landscape. Large numbers of voters do not seem to see where their interests lie. Donald Trump, a multimillionaire, who wants to cut the taxes on the rich and reduce assistance to the poor, the unemployed, the sick and the elderly, has the support of millions of Americans who work hard for a scanty living. They expect their lot to be alleviated by the representative of a class that is responsible for their deprivations in the first place.
Donald Trump is a member of the class of employers. Both in real life and in Reality TV he takes great pleasure in firing employees. Like other employers he is interested in depressing wages. Any person of limited income who supports Donald Trump is voting against his or her pressing interests.
People voting against their interest is a common phenomenon in our political system. There has been vocal support for abolishing Obama care among people who had health insurance for the first time thanks to this law. There is opposition to Social Security and other social safety net features among its beneficiaries. A lot of voters don't seem to know when they are relatively well-off.
These many different instances of voters being unaware of where their interests lie are a consequence of a grand deception that many Americans have bought into. Americans think of themselves as one people, "united under God." Politicians constantly talk about what "the American people will not stand for" or what "the American people demand." We have one flag and that flag is very important to many people. We have one national anthem (which few people can sing all the way through.) We have one government.
This mythology about being one nation, one people, might be fairly innocuous. People believe all sorts of weird stuff and that does not really matter. You may believe that there should not be fluoride in the drinking water. But there are other ways in which you can protect your children's teeth. You may think that your children will grow up more peaceful if they don't play with guns. (But when they are grown, those same children may still sign up to serve in the military.)
The mythology of national unity becomes destructive and dangerous when it obscures the divisions of our nation which makes some groups the enemies of others. In many situations the people who manage a workplace have interests diametrically opposed to the people who work for them. They do not belong to the same nation in any important sense.
Nissan built its auto plants in Mississippi where many people are very poor and good jobs are hard to get. That allowed them to recruit a docile workforce – people who thought that Nissan management cared for them, when in fact it only wanted people willing to work for low wages.
Donald Trump wanted to get elected and to be loved. The people who voted for him thought that they belong to the same nation and shared the same interest. They did not understand that it was reasonable for them to be cautious before trusting a millionaire real estate operator to be their best champion.
As long as the myth of one America is powerful among us, voters will ignore the fact that while we have one government, that government has very different relationships to different groups. Our government is largely run and concerned about the interests of large businesses. The interests of the little people, the interests of the people supporting Donald Trump are very far down on the government's list of interests.
The government's interests are in the first place those of white males. If you are a black male, the government is less often and less fervently on your side. Most of the time it doesn't pay attention to you.
In a way everyone knows this. Black Americans know this when the government's police becomes a mortal danger to them. Women know it when the government drags its feet making sure that equal wages for equal work for women becomes a reality. Native Americans, long the victims of broken promises by the US government, know this. Working class men, proudly wearing their Marine Corps t-shirts, nevertheless know that they do no have to live paycheck to paycheck.
But then they turn their back on these facts when they reaffirm a mythical unity on Presidents Day or the Fourth of July. They start thinking again about America as a unified nation. That is a more comfortable thought. Living in a world of constant struggle where suspicions are often justified and there are few people you can trust without careful examination is much harder than living in a world where we are all together and all unified and we can be sure that the other Americans care as much about us as we care about them.
It is difficult for the many young men and women, and for their families, in our Armed forces, many of them in acute danger, to think that they are fighting, not for a united America but for a ruling class using them for its own purposes.
But the united America is a myth. It is important to see the truth that America consists of many nations whose interests are at cross purposes. Some are more powerful and they get most of what they want. Most of us are not powerful and we get very little.
Wake up , America!

Friday, August 4, 2017


Buying a pig in a poke.



In our democracy it is quite acceptable for candidates to misrepresent themselves. No one is terribly outraged if, once elected, politicians act in ways contrary to their promises during their campaign. Obama got elected on slogans like "Change." He gave the impression of being concerned about the middle class – people who work hard but barely earn enough to get by. As soon as he got elected he chose his advisers from Wall Street, from Goldman Sachs, where concern about the middle class is not high on the agenda. This change did not arouse a great deal of protest. We have allowed our politicians to misrepresent themselves for a long time. We accept that kind of deception.
It is not terribly surprising that, once inaugurated as president, Donald Trump’s primary allegiance is to millionaires instead of to the working people to whom he appealed during his campaign.
Nor is it surprising that he proves inept in his relationships with Congress or the Republican Party of which he is now the nominal head. His experience as a real estate tycoon did not give him the opportunity to acquire political skills. We have always known that. We should not be surprised that the candidate elected because he is not a politician will then lack some of the skills politicians acquire in the course of their careers.
Trump in office has been notorious for his misrepresentations of facts. He does not hesitate to distort reality. He is willing to claim polling numbers, or approval by the public, or phone calls from leaders all of which are completely false. Anyone who followed him on the campaign trail is not going to be very surprised by that although the extent of his untruthfulness is startling.
And anyway, politicians have low regard for the truth. Remember – as one notorious example of government lying – the weapons of mass destruction that the Bush administration had pictures of to justify the invasion of Iraq? It turned out there were no such weapons.
But Donald Trump in the White House shows himself to be incapacitated in ways that we did not have reasons to expect.
Many voters thought that managing a multi-million dollar real estate empire would prepare him for managing the US government. But it turns out that he is completely incapable of doing that. Managing a large enterprise requires planning. A view of goals, of accepted management practices, of constructing a staff to execute the leader's commands – that and more is needed for running a complex set of institutions. During the campaign Trump promised all sorts of actions in order to create jobs, in order to preserve jobs, in order to ease conflicts in foreign affairs. There were suggestions of action plans.
But those turn out to be nonexistent. Trump is flailing around following momentary impulses. He has not managed so far to construct an administration that is unified around a set of plans. In order to understand the trajectory of this new administration one must study chaos theory. What is happening is incomprehensible. What will happen is unpredictable.
Not only does the Trump administration not seem to have any clear plans about how to run the country, it appears that the president is unable to stick to one thought while he's talking. Even his pronouncements lack focus. The beginning of the paragraph often addresses government policy and before you know it, Trump is talking about his popularity and how much everybody loves him.
Here is one example of how the president talks
: "Asked about his tax policy, Trump said, “I want to achieve growth. We’re the highest-taxed nation in the world, essentially, you know, of the size. But we’re the highest taxed nation in the world. We have - nobody knows what the number is. I mean, it used to be, when we talked during the debate, $2.5 trillion, right, when the most elegant person - right? I call him Mr. Elegant. I mean, that was a great debate. We did such a great job...”" (Dianne Williamson in the Worcester Telegram and Gazette, 8/3/2017)
This kind of incoherence is not only alarming because it is not limited only to the president's speech but pervades his career as a president so far. It appears that this man is unable to focus.
I do not think that that was obvious during the campaign. There are important aspects of the person of Donald Trump that the ordinary voter was unable to see.
That raises worries that go far beyond the person and career of the current president. His trajectory suggests that the way we go about selecting candidates allows them to conceal effectively shortcomings which would definitely disqualify them from the job for which they are running. If it had been clear during the campaign that this man is unable to focus on any particular thought for more than 30 seconds, some people would have voted differently for fear that this inability to stick to a topic would disqualify him from being at the head of our government. But I don't think many people knew that.
The presupposition of our democracy is that voters are informed about their choices before they cast their ballot. Uninformed voting does not make a democracy. Political campaigns are supposed to allow the voters to inform themselves about the candidates.
But now it seems that the kind of campaigns we run leave the voters ill informed. It seems that our kind of campaigns have just allowed us to elect a president who lacks elementary requirements for the presidency – the ability to hone in on a subject and to remain attentive to it for more than 30 seconds.
The election of Donald Trump as president shows that serious handicaps of the candidates may remain hidden from the voting public. It demonstrates a major weakness in our political processes. It is quite unclear at the moment how to change those in order to avoid further elections of people unqualified for the office.