He must be removed from office, now
“ It is as foolish for Americans to believe that their generals will save them from Trump as it was for liberal Germans to believe the military would protect the nation from Hitler’s excesses.” – 94-year-old
The principle that when one finds oneself at the bottom of a deep, dark hole one really ought to stop digging, has not occurred to the Golden Glow as he sinks ever lower in the mire of public opprobrium.
The Pumpkin has argued (below) that Trump’s crass attempts at ‘jury-out’ neutrality in the furious debate over neo-Nazis being confronted by radical protesters, in which he said some incredibly stupid things prompting defections from his advisory councils and excoriation from formerly supportive members of his Republican Congress, even from his friends at Fox News, were at least understandable, until they weren’t.
The basis for a wholesale historical revision and the removal of all evidential symbols of the losing Confederacy in the 1861 Civil War is profoundly flawed, as that war was NOT about racial division, except inasmuch as slavery underpinned the economic foundations of the southern states. The Jim Crow laws followed emancipation, they did not precede it.
Nevertheless the President’s refusal to condemn specifically the racist and anti-Semitic slogan-chanting white supremacists and neo-Nazis who marched provocatively and with, in some instances, extreme violence through Charlottesville and the campus of the University of West Virginia last Friday and Saturday has been widely held as evidence of his racist sympathies.
It has been explained charitably in some quarters as being just ‘grandad racism’ – the idea that the senior generation was brought up with a disparaging view of the coloured minorities and therefore can’t help themselves. If that is the case, the President should have kept it within the family. Even his family have rounded on him.
Into this morass, egged on by Mr David Duke, Mr Richard Spencer and other not0rious racialists, in the wake of the latest Islamist terrorist outrage in Spain the idiot President has waded yet again, advocating the shooting of Muslims with bullets dipped in pig’s blood as a salutary corrective.
Is he insane?
I don’t think the horrific implications of his latest deranged tweet have yet sunk in. The mainstream media is still obsessed with reaction to his pro-Nazi statements and are not focussing on the even more damaging later reference to a supposedly punitive action by General Pershing during the war the Americans prosecuted against the Spanish in the Philippines in 1899, a mass execution featuring a religious desecration that ended Islamist terrorism ‘for 35 years’.
There was no such incident. It never happened.
The media has not yet understood that even though Mr Trump only raised the Pershing myth (again – he referred to it during the campaign primaries) at this juncture as some kind of – what? What can we charitably offer, some kind of useful precedent? – he was clearly amplifying a vilely racist agenda replete with historical falsehood and Islamophobic memes.
Not only that, but for a US President to, effectively, recommend the punitive executions of Muslims as a deterrent to further acts of terrorism on the streets of European cities is just astonishing. Does he not understand that the blather he tweets as the senior representative of US domestic and foreign policy has official status, with global repercussions?
Does he not understand that he is exhorting racists to ethnic violence in his own country?
Does he not know from history that such violence only leads to more acts of terror?
Does he not realize that the ‘pig libel’ has the same resonance for Muslims as the ‘blood libel’ for Jews?
He is a complete imbecile.
Even if – especially if – he is instead calculating that perpetuating this nonsense will deflect attention from the investigations into his and his son-in-law’s illegal money-laundering operations complicit with international organized crime, HE MUST BE REMOVED FROM OFFICE, NOW.
How many more times does it have to be said?
“George Washington was a slave owner. Was George Washington a slaveowner? So will George Washington now lose his statues? Are we going to take down statues to George Washington? How about Thomas Jefferson, you like him? … Because he was a major slaveowner … you’re changing history.” – the Wit and Wisdom of Donald J Trump.
Is there sense in Trump’s nonsense?
There are no words with which one can excuse the President of the United States for having a knowledge of American history that would disgrace a third-grader.
However, it is a fact that both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were slave owners.
Nor did the rest of his New York press conference on Tuesday make as much sense. He is clearly not right in the head, not ‘mentally ill’ or a man with ‘learning difficulties’ but a man with serious cognitive impairment, developed quite recently – he is 71 – and a profound ignorance of matters beyond his private obsessions, who cannot marshal facts and figures or add two and two to come up with four. He lives in his own reality, and that makes him unfit to be President with the nuclear codes constantly at his side.
He has perhaps rightly come under attack from all sides, the media, his own party, even his own daughter, for failing to rise with sufficient urgency to the occasion and outrightly condemning white racist violence and Nazi posturing on the streets of Charlottesville, West Virginia. Instead, he seemed to be protecting a part of his support base by condemning violence ‘on all sides’, thus outraging the anti-racist left and the triumphalist liberal media, who have branded him a ‘racist’ for not saying the right words. Unfair.
On Sunday, he read a prepared speech off an autocue making that grudging condemnation they were all demanding, averring that Nazis and racists had no place in American life; then on Tuesday in front of the assembled press, whom he had supposedly come to talk to about infrastructure, he seemed to row back in an improvised, incoherent riff on whatever he had said 48 hours earlier.
Among the scrambled ingredients of his word-salad, one could objectively pick out the following:
Both sides were to blame. The jury was out. He had not wanted to inflame the situation further by blaming one side or the other. The leftists had armed themselves provocatively with sticks. The rightists had a permit to march, the leftists didn’t. The killing of Heather Heyer was a terrible thing. She was a lovely girl. There were good people among the Nazis. The driver of the car must be punished.
Does that not sound like a reasonable, indeed Presidential, position? Even when you take in the breathtaking nonsense about Heyer’s mother praising his wonderful words, and the torrent of mind-bendingly awful rodomontade, there is a grain of truth in that Mrs Bro also called for an end to the violence and no recriminations, although she has said nothing to him.
The problem with Trump’s perceived attitude to the so-called alt-right starts way back. For this is far from the first time Trump has failed to condemn racist violence, white terrorism and expressions of anti-Semitism – despite his own son-in-law being an Orthodox Jew and his favourite daughter a convert – in the same bald terms with which he has condemned Islamist terrorism.
He just doesn’t seem to get the message that the President is EXPECTED to say the right things in response to any of the normal range of outrages and disasters that befall all countries from time to time, whatever his personal opinions are. It goes with the job.
Just as Trump was culpably never able to separate his personal finances from those of his businesses and his tax-exempt ‘charity’ foundation, so he has been unable to separate the role and office of President from the forty-five year-long performance that has been Donald J Trump Inc. He is bungling and bluffing and bullying and prevaricating his way through, as usual, and that’s not good enough for a President.
But now, look.
The wave of historical revisionism that is sweeping the south is, in the view of The Pumpkin, a Bad Thing.
It’s bad because it’s providing a casus belli for the millions of white Southerners for whom the defeat in 1865 remains a raw wound. If you think that sounds silly, try living in Wales, as the Pumpkin does, where 800 years of history has never really wiped away the memory of conquest and the centuries of cultural oppression that followed.
In pursuit of their victory, the Union committed many atrocities, including the burning of Atlanta. Under Sherman they operated a scorched-earth policy to starve the South into submission. The victory was characterized by savage reprisals, rapes, repression and the ‘carpetbagging’ of the Southern agrarian economy by Northern businessmen; the utter humiliation of the South.
The removal and demolition of the tokens to their dead and the symbols of their identity looks today like nothing less than the North seeking to take further revenge for the act of sedition by the 11 states of the Confederacy; a deeper desecration of their culture and values. There are worse behaviours than racism.
The Civil War was NOT fought over the question of racial divisions. Black soldiers fought on both sides. It is more complex: the slavery issue was only one part of what were perceived as cultural and economic differences between the Confederate states and the industrializing North, and their foreign alliances. Slavery was a symbol of the conservatism of the South, but the agricultural productivity it made possible benefited the Old World too. It increasingly became a rallying point for the Union only as the war progressed.
There is a difference between racism and racialism. Racism is the negative perception of, and sometimes a willingness to act upon, perceived physiognomical or cultural differences as determined by place of origin. It is a form of tribalism. Racialism is the discredited C19th pseudo-scientific theory that there is a hierarchy of human intelligences and capabilities categorizing the ‘races’, in which white Europeans sit at the top and the black man at the bottom.
Southern racialism can be traced to the ‘Manifest Destiny’ programme of the Democrats, but it was the emancipation following the war that brought about the Jim Crow laws and racial segregation in the south as poor white and freed black farmers competed for land and subsidies, both with one another and with Northern land-grabbers consolidating their spoils.
In other words, Civil War mementoes are only tangentially symbols of racism, but they are an important focus for Southern resentments and, yes, nationalist pride.
Now. In every country where these things are done, there are statues and plaques and other symbolic reminders of great and heroic deeds in the past. There is always moral ambiguity attached to them. My country, Britain, is bristling with statues to victorious Victorian politicians and valorous generals who won asymmetrical battles with overwhelming firepower against colonial subjects; as well as landed estates and grand country houses built on the proceeds of slavery.
The country has a profoundly ambiguous attitude to its imperial past, that is viewed with growing unease in our multicultural society. But should we tear the symbols of the past down, pretend it never happened? Or should we understand how important it is that we do see them in their proper context and try to learn from them? You cannot manage a country on the degree of offence incomers take at its history.
Many people here still have immense pride in what they perceive as the outstanding achievement of our small island nation in creating and defending the largest empire the world has ever seen. They are happy to remain in ignorance of how it was done, or they argue that, well, that’s just how you do these things. You cannot separate empire from conquest, all victories are glorious.
Others are ashamed of it, the way it was done – proceeding through first adventurous, then rapacious and increasingly repressive commercialism to outright military occupation and bloody reprisals against dissenters, in response to the growing commercial pressures of the home population, the demand for goods and commodities from the aspiring consumerist middle-class.
In this, the week of the 70th anniversary of the partition of India, we are reminded of the horrendous aftermath, the bloodbath that ensued. More than a million people died in a mass slaughter between neighbours as the Islamic and Hindu and Sikh populations were forced to give up their lands and homes and migrate to new territories delineated on religious lines by Congress at the behest of the British authorities. We recall the subsequent three wars between the new nations, the festering dispute that continues even now between the two nuclear-armed powers over Kashmir.
Looking at this history, who can possibly argue that colonialism and the racial and religious divisions it perpetuates has ever benefited anyone, other than capitalists and commodity brokers? Just as the business owners’ needs are met by ensuring the cheapest profitable supply of labour, so the capitalists supply the need of the greater population for cheaper goods. To those mutually beneficial ends, there are reckoned to be 37 million people labouring under conditions of actual and virtual slavery in the world today.
What ended transatlantic slavery was the argument, at first in Britain, where the trade in slaves was outlawed as early as 1808, that workers had both their own interests and essential humanity in common, regardless of colour, and were worthy of dignity in labour. The nascent British Trade Unions campaigned for an end to slavery itself. Ironically it was Socialism, more than Christianity, that brought the vile practice to an end.
So there is a case for saying, tear down the symbols of colonialism, the vainglorious statues to historical men (and a few women) of action, whose attitudes and times were so very different from our own. But were they?
If you are going to censor the tributes to slaver Confederate generals like Lee and Jackson, should you not also tear down the statues of the Union victors, Grant and Sherman, as a mark of distaste for their undoubted war crimes? Because the name and likeness of anyone connected with the prosecution of the Civil War is going to remind us that racism was (and still is) the only crime endemic to the USA? Are you saying racism was (and still is) not also a Northern phenomenon?
And is it wrong that commemorations to the dead of all wars should remind us of the horror and futility, the sacrifice of the ordinary soldier? Those farm boys on both sides who were dragged into the conflict to die horrible deaths and undergo mutilation and mental disintegration as the war increasingly industrialized and the slaughter took on the now-familiar tropes of machine-guns, mines and massed artillery were not politicians and pundits. They were the victims.
Are we to disfigure their memory too, merely to combat expediently a racism that is probably ineradicable from the human condition?
I’m going to go even further out on a limb. Slavery was and is not about racism, or even racialism. There’s no connection.
It’s about power relations and the management of economies.
Not a single successful, progressive economy flourished between the time of the Egyptians and Babylonians until the Industrial Revolution and the machine age without one form of bonded or indentured labour and another.
Greece, Rome, the Vikings, the Maya and the Aztec, the Mongols, Arabia and the Benin empire of West Africa were all slave-raiding, owning and trading civilizations. The expansion of their empires was driven by the need for captive slaves to provide the service infrastructure to grow their economies. India and China, Russia and medieval Europe incorporated slavery instead into rigid hereditary caste and ‘feudal’ systems that condemned generations of men and women to serfdom, donating their labour compulsorily to their social superiors in exchange for ‘protection’.
It had nothing to do with race; merely with whomever you could most easily force into bondage.
In 1805 and 1812, the American navy pursued interventions against the Berber sailors of North Africa, Muslim slavers known as Barbary Pirates, who had attacked shipping, kidnapped and sold into slavery perhaps one and a half million Europeans. The global slave trade was not confined to the Atlantic run, or to Africans.
The Atlantic slave trade was perhaps the first – certainly the best-organized – purely commercial, transactional venture of its kind, aimed at supplying millions of agricultural workers and household servants transhipped from slave-raids in West and Central Africa to the commodity-based plantations established by British, French, Spanish and Portuguese colonists in the Americas, both north and south, and the Caribbean colonies.
The trade helped to make up the numbers of the aboriginal populations decimated by non-resistance to European diseases. As those European nations began to grow their own African domains, so the trade was able to cut out the local middlemen, African despots and Arab traders, to become more profitable.
Racialism gained traction, mainly as a moral response to the African slave trade. Its manifest unfairness and systematised brutalities could only be justified and maintained by the acceptance of a scientific, post-Enlightenment principle that black people were inferior to and less evolved than whites. Africans were not being enslaved because they were black, but because being black placed them in a permanently subservient condition fit for slavery.
The slave trade created racialism, it was not created by it.
The racism of the American South was created, at the very least encouraged, and eventually perpetuated, by the Civil War and its aftermath, that kept both Southern whites and blacks in an increasingly divisive condition of poverty and despair, that led to mutual rivalry, suspicion, antipathy and a culture of violence based on racist tropes – the hypersexualised negro being one – that was almost entirely one-sided. Why?
For the Democrats and the pork-barrel politicians of the South, the lack of political sophistication and democratic heritage of the former slaves put the emancipated blacks at an immediate disadvantage, licensing a continuation of the brutalities inflicted on them by many, though not all, of their former ‘owners’. As the famous ‘Frost Report’ TV sketch observed, everyone needs someone they can look up to, and someone they can look down on. Racialism – like Trumpism – gave the poor white majority a cause to imagine their cultural superiority and to forget that their grinding economic disadvantage is required of them by the prevailing elites.
There’s a parallel in the treatment of women in Britain and Ireland, where rural ‘bride fairs’, the buying and selling of women for breeding and household management, went on right into the 1920s, despite increasing social and political equality in the metropolitan areas, and women’s suffrage being granted in the UK in 1918 (but not fully until 1926. In the USA there were various early attempts by states, a vote in Congress in 1920 – but full suffrage was not achieved until 1965!)
The assimilation of cultural ideas takes time, sometimes several generations, and if the worst excesses of poverty and inequality are politically licensed by local power structures in out-of-the-way places, unfairness and brutality will persist long after they have been suppressed or even eradicated elsewhere.
Granny Weatherwax, update 11-16 Aug, 2017
Poland: Severe thunderstorms near Gdansk kill six, including two teenage campers, injure 36. Storm carves a wide swathe of Tunguska-like fallen trees across the Bialowieza forest, a Unesco world heritage site. 2,500 hectares flattened.
Greece: major wildfires burning north of Athens, and on the island of Zakynthos.
Corsica: Wildfires again raging over large areas in the north.
Portugal: major wildfires burning around Vila de Rej, Castelo Branco and in Leiria province. 2000 people are trapped by fire in the village of Macão, partly destroyed by a fire in July. Forecast: hotter.
India: Death toll in floods in northern India, Nepal and Bangladesh tops 175. Vast areas of Assam underwater again, flash floods in Nepal kill 75. 5 dead in Tipura. Millions affected.
China: More flooding again affecting Guanxi city, much damage to property; Hunan province; Jiangxi. Five killed and 50 injured when a tornado swept through Chifeng in Northern China/Mongolia..
Iran: 11 dead, two missing in severe flash floods in northeast Azerbaijan provinces..
Iraq: Temperatures in the heatwave affecting Baghdad reach 50C, 122F.
Kuwait: “Between 2010 and 2035, Kuwait’s annual average temperature will increase by 1.6% to 28.7C , according to the country’s Environmental Public Authority.” Noonday temperatures now regularly exceed 50C, 117F.
Canada: Half a million acres of British Columbia still ablaze.
Mexico: Powerful storm damages properties in Mazatlan. Extensive city flooding.
Wales UK: It has been bucketing down outside the house for the past several hours. Effect as yet unknown.
Avocadogate: Following an unusually poor summer in all the main producing countries – S Africa, Peru, Mexico – and a 50% hike in wholesale prices – Tesco supermarkets are to market a ‘new range’ of undersized fruits. You get six in an eggbox.
Climate and Extreme Weather News, #54, 55/ BBC News/ The Guardian/ Al Jazeera.
Mr What did you say your name was?
I’ve been struck lately by how, on our rapidly globalizing globe, people’s names appear to be getting weirder, the stuff of science fiction; given that my own set of names and those of most people in my family and my minute circle of friends and acquaintances are pretty standard for Britain, are familiar, in some cases Biblical, and have been in use for centuries.
I’ve just read an article based on a radio report by a paralympian athlete about the problems of finding working toilets for disabled people. Her name is Anna Wafula-Strike. The Wafula part comes, I’d guess, from her African ancestry; the oddness of the name-sound resonating from the monosyllabic, Germanic name ‘Strike’, or ‘Streich’, hyphenated-on perhaps by marriage.
But there are many odd-sounding combinations of first and surnames to be found everywhere nowadays as the habit of insisting on one’s patrimonial name combined with that of a husband or wife, plus any tributes to possible foreign relatives and ancestors, is resulting in many odd-sounding combinations. A favourite is the British heptathlete, Katerina Johnson-Thompson, a doubly Anglo-Saxon/Greek combination. But there are many more examples.
It’s getting like those innocent days of gentle comedy, perhaps in the 1930s, when characters in humorous novels and movies would be given mildly crazy names, often with obscure middle initials. Groucho Marx went in various films under the names of Rufus T Firefly, Otis B Driftwood and Wolf J Flywheel, among others. (Yes, you really can Google: ‘Characters played by Groucho Marx’ and land on a website dedicated to little else. Oh, Brave New World!)
The comedic middle-initial allusion was possibly in tribute to President Franklin D (for Delano) Roosevelt, but there were plenty of authors inserting their middle initials: Francis X Bushnell, Pearl S Buck, Ethel M Dell, Poppy Z Brite, Thomas M Disch, Philip K Dick (the habit seems particularly popular with Sci Fi writers) – Hunter S Thompson. Others initialized their first name and used their full second name: like the father of Scientology, the eccentric L Ron Hubbard; disaster movie maker M Night Shyamalan and, of course, F Scott Fitzgerald.
Hundreds too used and still use only initials rather than their given forename, often to disguise the fact that they were, are women writers believing they stand a better chance of having their work read by misogynist publishers who think women can only write Mills and Boon novels; otherwise, perhaps, to sound faintly distinguished. Richest among them all, of course, is JK Rowling – the K being added as an unregistered tribute to her grandmother Kathleen.
Then of course there is ‘Donald J Trump’….
I sign my own name with a middle initial, D, although I have not had the courage to adopt the full form in print. I’ve always found the name Desmond embarrassing, I don’t know why. According to Wikipedia it derives from the Gaelic name for the ancient Irish kingdom of South Munster, “Deas-Mhumhna”. That’s a pretty obscure derivation, but perhaps enough to gain me Irish citizenship so I can remain in the EU?
Famous Desmonds include the much-satirised family entertainer Des O’Connor – Archbishop Tutu – and the reggae artist, Desmond Dekker. Fathered by the randy Prime Minister David Lloyd George, Desmond Donnelly was a British politician, author and journalist who was a member of four different political parties during the course of his career, and switched parties on five occasions. You see why I have a problem with my flip-floppy middle name! I wish my parents had been a little more original, but it was better than being aborted.
Afro-Caribbean and Afro-American – ‘people of colour’, black people seem to be particularly creative when it comes to thinking of christian, or forenames for their children. Their surnames are often descended from slavery days, when they would be branded with the names of the European, mostly British plantation owners. So you’ll find plenty of Grants and Johnsons and Smiths and Williams, coupled with outlandish new spellings of their first names, or completely new names never before heard on earth.
Allyson Felix. Shaunae Miller-Uibo. Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake. Shericka Jackson. Zharnel Hughes. Jazmin Saunders. Kendra Harrison. Sani Brown. Ristananna Tracey. Taryn Suttie. Jereem Richards. Shamier Little. Kori Carter. Semoy Hackett. Shanieka Ricketts. Jodean Williams. Kurtis Marschall. Wayde van Niekerk… To pluck a random selection just from among the 600 international athletes competing at the 2017 London World Championships.
It’s not as if the names are common even in their English-speaking countries of origin, mainly the West Indies, the UK and the southern US. (I have avoided obviously non-Anglophone competitors for the very reason that I have no idea whether their first names are native or pure inventions.) They are to all intents and purposes, until adopted by new parents eager for some magic-dust to brush off on their own unhappy offspring, unique.
Sadly, Glory Nathaniel managed to come only fourth in her event, while Sparkle McKnight finished last; showing that the adoption principle known as ‘nominative determinism’ doesn’t always work out.
For an amusing romp through a modern dictionary of babies’ names, visit nameberry.com.