WHY I'M WORRIED SICK. EVEN ON MEMORIAL DAY
Trump is succeeding.
Maybe that’s not quite accurate, because that makes it sound like he has a plan, and that his plan is succeeding.
But we know that’s not possible – because Trump really doesn’t make plans. It’s more that he has a bunch of lower brainstem impulses, all of them savage, and those are what drive him.
The core Trump brainstem impulse is to get noticed, to become the center of attention, or to use his wife’s turn of phrase, to “Be Best” at being the biggest elephant in the room. Once he gets everyone’s attention, he gets them to go along.
So, on Memorial Day weekend, I’m trying to explain this to Cat. And you know what he says?
“It’s a holiday,” Cat says. “So chill.”
Which makes Cat part of the problem, which I’ll go into more in a minute.
Here’s the latest indication that Trump’s basic instincts are working.
The National Football League last week fell into line after months of badgering by Trump to do something about players who’ve been kneeling during the pre-game singing of the Star Spangled Banner – kneeling to protest the treatment of black people, especially those who’ve been shot by police.
To turn up the volume, the brainstem went to the Patriotic Ploy, a lie that by kneeling, the players meant to disrespect soldiers. Making phony appeals to patriotism, and stirring the ever-smoldering racial embers, Trump instinctively sensed there are always a couple of receptive audiences.
First, there are football fans, who don’t care to see players caring about black people. Maybe these include the same fans who don’t care that football players risk destroying their brains every time they play for our entertainment.
Another audience, of course, are the team owners and the NFL organization, who care about TV ratings, a subject to which the Trump brainstem is closely attuned, ratings that probably are drooping because some fans are offended by players’ quiet, brief pre-game protests.
The NFL last week came up with new “rules” saying that come fall, players either stand during the anthem or wait in the locker room until the music is over.
There’s so many things wrong with the NFL position that even a relatively bright dog can tell you why – and let’s not try to define what constitutes smart in a dog, compared to what’s smart in a human.
For starters, in the United States, you don’t order football players or anyone else how to observe the National Anthem. Also, let’s not get bogged down by whether the First Amendment, freedom-of-speech thing applies to football, because it’s a private business, not a government activity where the First Amendment legally applies. Free speech is an American principle as well as a Constitutional one.
And explain to me why the National Anthem is played at football games, in the first place? Fans say they’re there for the game, not the side show – why make the fans wait for the kickoff? And there’s the obvious fact that the players aren’t disrespecting the flag or the anthem, and certainly not our “fighting men and women,” by kneeling; they are showing concern about the ideals and principles that make our country unique.
Trump didn’t wait long to take a victory lap, as his brainstem pumped out a new wrinkle aimed straight at racists:
“You have to stand proudly for the national anthem or you shouldn’t be playing, you shouldn’t be there. Maybe you shouldn’t be in the country.”
That would be the President of the United States of America telling black people and their supporters to do as they’re told or head for another country, I'm thinking maybe somewhere in Africa.
What scares me the most is the fact that the National Football League, the team owners – and probably lots of football fans – are going along with Trump.
It’s not Trump himself who is so scary, but the people who make it possible for Trump to turn his bad instincts into public policy. It doesn’t take a descendant of wolves to recognize the pack mentality in action.
I TRIED to explain all of this to Cat.
But Cat, I’m afraid, is morphing into a vapid David Brooks kind of journalist. Brooks is the New York Times columnist who drives almost everyone crazy at our house when he's on the "PBS NewsHour” program, in which he often is infuriatingly blasé about the Trump crisis.
For instance, take the other night, when much of the country was tearing its hair out in terror that Trump might actually succeed in in destroying the Mueller investigation into Russian interference with American politics, with his constant attacks, Tweets and insults, plus the aid and comfort of his Republican collaborators in Congress.
Our smug Mister Brooks was having none of it. Rather than show the least bit of emotion that the world’s oldest democracy is on the verge of collapse, Brooks shrugged off the concern about Trump's antics with this line:
“Personally, I’m sick of all the daily stories about it. I think we overplay it, frankly.”
Overplay what, Mister Brooks?
Overplay alarm bells that the very no-collusion thug who’s being investigated is attacking the investigation into the no-collusion thug? Overplaying the possibility that if Trump succeeds that there will be one person in the United States who is above the law, and that would be: Donald I-Pledge-Allegiance-to-Vladimir-Putin Trump?
That’s why I’m worried, worried sick.
Too many people are going along with Trump, or, almost as bad, they’ve stopped taking him seriously.
Republicans in Congress are doing whatever he says; so much for that branch of government. World leaders are meeting with him. Rocketman is begging for a sit-down. Corporate captains salute. Columnists are complacent. Our nation is locking up immigrants and tearing apart their families. We're embarking on trade wars, flirting with nuclear war, breaking environmental agreements, enriching the rich, ordering the poor to work for food, cozying up to dictators, alienating our allies, deregulating hatred, all because Trump senses how to get our attention and then how to help him get his way.
Trump tells us when to stand.
And where to go if we don’t.