The Picture of Justin Trudeau

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There was something in his face that made one trust him at once. All the candor of youth was there, as well as all youth’s passionate purity. One felt that he had kept himself unspotted from the world….He was made to be worshipped.

One year ago, we had our made-in-Canada Hope and Change moment. A dark decade of brutish and nasty rule had been replaced overnight. Even hardened cynics like myself dared to feel the warmth of sunlight streaming through the windows the next morning.

It was a famous victory. Friends had deserted monumentally decent and hard-working NDP stalwarts like Paul Dewar out of blind panic that the Dark Lord would somehow contrive to pull the One Ring out of the Crack of Doom just in time and rule us forever. “Strategic voting,” they called it. They didn’t stop to consider that the NDP, unlike the Liberals, would be unlikely in any new Parliament to join forces with the Conservatives in the event of a Liberal minority. And so the Liberals swept the field.

Four out of six Canadians got what they wanted, although this time it was a different four. The NDP had cratered, leaving the field to the Liberals and their leader, Justin Trudeau, who was obviously what dreams in impressionable minds are made of. Judging by the polls, he still is.

And wow, he started off with a bang. Longform census: back. (Liberals do like their facts and data. Conservatives prefer to get along without them.) Plainly unconstitutional anti-union legislation nipped in the bud or repealed. Veterans’ services offices reopened. Ditto the Kitsilano Coast Guard station. An inquiry into murdered and missing indigenous women launched. Grotesque and expensive Stalinoid monuments nixed. A step towards electoral reform, which is actually pretty big—but Trudeau is already walking that one back.

One can’t ignore these initial good moves, although they didn’t cost much for the most part. Fighting to preserve the anti-labour legislation would have been a plain waste of taxpayers’ money, with the legal outcome assured. Re-opening an office here or a Coast Guard station there is welcome, but not particularly expensive. There was much to be gained and very little to be lost by starting up the MMIW inquiry.

In a larger context, this set a tone, heralded a new style of governing, without much risk or a lot of money spent. Like the selfies and the shirtlessness, image matters in contemporary politics, and a new one was accordingly crafted. Sunny ways vs. Darth Vader.

Ok. Step back. Focus. What do we see, a scant one year later? The Conservative agenda, writ somewhat larger:

  • Canadian citizenship ended by fiat. Despite Liberal protestations against the unilateral revocation of citizenship without appeal introduced by the former government, the Trudeau Liberals have used this power to revoke citizenship at an unprecedented rate. This includes children who weren’t in a position to provide information, false or otherwise, to immigration officials when they arrived. The Liberals are, however, generously making one exception.

  • Anti-labour moves. For all its alleged support for organized labour, which has apparently sucked in one major private-sector union and blown it out in bubbles, the Liberals remain true-to-form as a fundamentally anti-labour, big business party. Last month they used their Parliamentary majority to crush an anti-scab Bill before it could even be studied by committee—a knee-jerk reaction by a party that has always owed its allegiance to Bay Street, not to ordinary folks. One might point also to the current round of bargaining with Canada’s largest federal public service union: nothing has changed, it seems, since the previous government put its massive takeaways on the table.

  • War-mongering. By putting our troops on the border of Russia, Justin has signaled that he wants to run with the big dogs. He’s playing with fire. Imagine if Russia were to mass its troops at our own border (assuming it were geographically possible). Might we view this as a threat? Might we react as though it were? How many troops is Trudeau prepared to sacrifice to make himself look macho?

  • Climate change inaction. That one was easy. Trudeau simply adopted the previous government’s Paris targets.

  • Leaving Canadians in poverty. The successful made-in-Canada “mincome” experiment so spooked the big-business Liberals that even the study of a guaranteed minimum income was too much for them. A Liberal MP delivered a passionate statement supporting the idea—and then, called to heel, voted against it. Trudeau himself, a trust-fund kid, is even opposed to a $15/hour minimum wage for workers in federally-regulated industries.

  • Organ donation. For reasons unknown to ordinary Canadians, the Liberals think an efficient system to match organ donors with recipients is a bad idea, and voted down a proposal to establish a national organ registry. This is irrational, rather than (to use their cant phrase) “evidence-based,” and defies any reasonable explanation.

  • Animal cruelty. Lining up with the Conservatives (and folks better get used to this de facto coalition), a Bill against cruelty to animals was quashed by the Trudeau Liberals. As with organ donation, no reason was given, but it’s likely that wealthy lobbyists invested in raising and slaughtering livestock, as well as well-heeled hunters and trappers’ associations, played their role behind the scenes. For Liberals, victims (human or animal) are just the price of doing business.

  • CRA audits of progressive charities ramped up. Despite language in Ministerial mandate letters, the Liberals are not only pursuing Harper’s vendetta against selected charities, but widening the net to go after new ones. The sordid political witch-hunt continues, then, and, signalling the true intentions of the government, the CRA Witchfinder General has been promoted.

  • Betrayal of First Nations. It’s now a Liberal go-ahead for flooding ancestral land. And likely for pipelines as well, despite First Nations opposition. Trudeau’s promises to reconcile with First Nations proved to be so much hot air.

  • Afghan detainee issue under-rugged. In opposition, the Liberals fulminated about a scandal involving Canadian authorities transferring Afghan detainees to local authorities to be tortured. They demanded a full inquiry. The Liberals are now in power. There will be no inquiry.

  • Arming the Saudis. Through his spineless Minster of Foreign Affairs, Trudeau approved a $15 billion-dollar deal with one of the ugliest, most misogynist regimes on the planet, to deliver light military vehicles for use against civilians at home and elsewhere. For the Liberals, feminism and human rights can never tip the scales against hard cash.

  • More anti-Canadian trade deals. CETA, which will drive up the cost of pharmaceuticals, is a Trudeau priority. All that stands in the way is gallant little Belgium. Well, part of Belgium. Don’t imagine that the Walloons will hold out for long, though. Then there’s the TPP, slated to cost tens of thousands of Canadian jobs. Full steam ahead.

  • Ill-treatment of wounded veterans. Begun under the Conservative government, a legal case to restore justice to our injured vets will continue to be fought in court by the Liberals. To paraphrase Donald Trump, neither the Liberals nor the Conservatives like veterans who get wounded. Re-opening few service offices pales into insignificance when compared to the benefit rip-off that our vets are presently having to fight in court.

  • C-51 remains intact. In fairness, the Liberals consistently supported this police-state Bill while in opposition. “Consultation” with Canadians has been promised. Do not expect much.

So it’s quite a list, and I may have missed a few items, but it’s growing fast. The previous prime minister took much longer to implement the same agenda. He dispensed with subtlety, and his minions and buddies had no sense of it. They were oafish and brutal and bigoted, and they gloried in it. Liberals, on the other hand, have always been masters of facade. They can deliver the same results to the Bay Street boys as the Conservatives, but with a healthy dose of rhetorical valium, and they can do it at breakneck speed. The Conservatives must be rubbing their eyes.

One year later, Justin Trudeau is as popular as ever. And he never seems to age.

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He went in quietly, locking the door behind him, as was his custom, and dragged the purple hanging from the portrait. A cry of pain and indignation broke from him. He could see no change, unless that in the eyes there was a look of cunning, and in the mouth the curved wrinkle of the hypocrite. The thing was still loathsome,—more loathsome, if possible, than before,—and the scarlet dew that spotted the hand seemed brighter, and more like blood newly spilt.

[Photocredit: Alison@Creekside]

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An inspired choice. It opens up so many discussions about the nature of poetry and song and myth. Over to you, dear readers.

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I’d would love to believe that this new confirmation of Trump’s appalling vulgarity and misogyny means the end of his candidacy. But really: how is this latest macho locker-room leering and slobbering any worse than his revolting, sexist comments on Alicia Machado, Megyn Kelly, Arianna Huffington, Rosie O’Donnell, and the legions of other women he’s insulted and degraded over the years? If an American voter hasn’t already figured out that Trump is a loutish, amoral swine with the emotional maturity of drunken frat boy, why would this actually convince them?

The alt-right bloggers and media are being uncharacteristically quiet on this one. I suspect that’s because they’re waiting for tonight’s debate in order to figure out what the party line will be. There are a few options, all bad. Some of the responses to anticipate:

a)“Well, what about BILL CLINTON’s philandering?” Uh, yeah…what about it? That was a bad thing, for sure. And if Bill Clinton were running for President today, he’d get his butt kicked. However, for those not actually reading the news - Bill’s not running. But hey - if you want to change the rules of debate and introduce past spousal behaviour as a criterion, let’s talk about Melania Trump’s resumé, academic record, soft porn photos…no? You’d rather not go there after all? Ah. Well, that’s probably wise.

b)“C’mon, guys: who among us hasn’t snuck a sidelong glance at a woman and indulged in a little fantasy?” Wrong question. The right question is: who among us hasn’t bragged publicly about assaulting woman because we’re “stars”? Show of hands? Thanks.

c) “This is a non-issue, a distraction created by the Clinton camp to shift the focus away from the issues.” Oh I DO hope someone tries to claim this. Because Trump’s whole campaign has been a nearly total dismissal of the “issues”. It’s been a non-stop rummage through the Clinton laundry hamper, and a ceaseless parade of smears and innuendo, with a strong undertone of near-delusional paranoia beginning with Trump’s espousal of the lunatic birther movement to vague insinuations that the Clintons have been running a secret program of assassination to cover their evil deeds. When Trump does descent to earth to address an “issue”, his position is usually that of a late night drunk at closing time, slurring: “Hey, ya know what we oughta do about them Mexicans/Muslims/Chinese/Koreans? We oughta juss…”

d) “Hillary’s the real sexist here. She attacked the women who accused Bill.” Hmmm. I guess we’ll see whether women everywhere feel more dissed by Trump’s assertion of star-based fondling rights than by Clinton’s defense of her husband.

Just a few hours, and then we’ll know which of those lines of defense Team Trump will roll out. Now taking bets, with “All of the Above” currently in the lead.

I suspect there’s one other reason that some conservative pundits have not leaped in to defend the indefensible. I think many watched Trump’s ascent with exactly the same feelings as his opponents. Initial incredulity when he announced his candidacy; amusement during the early days; unease as momentum built; and sick horror as it became clear that this ill-informed, unprepared, immature, spoiled, vulgar egomaniac might actually win. Progressives had the luxury of expressing that horror right from the outset; intelligent conservatives have had to grit their teeth and either remain silent, praise Trump with faint damns, or, in an astonishing acrobatic feat of moral contortionism, argue that Clinton’s real weaknesses were somehow the equivalent of Trump’s utter and disastrous incapacity.

It’s that group that’s now at the tipping point. Trump’s core supporters - the ones who truly believe that Obama is a Kenyan-born Muslim and that Hillary personally orchestrated the Benghazi attacks - wouldn’t care if Trump buggered a Thanksgiving Turkey live on air tonight. But are there actually any conservatives with a shred of decency and a sliver of sanity who can still pretend that this man could be President?


It seems I missed an alternative approach. Our friend Jay Currie, after dismissing the folks who are offended by Trump’s vileness as either “nice girls”” or Republicans “clutching their pearls” , then proposes:

“The chance Trump has tomorrow is to demonstrate that he really is the tough SOB he has projected himself as. Does he have the capacity to knock Hilly down and then, while she is metaphorically lying on the ground, put the boots in so she simply cannot get back up?”

What a perfect choice of metaphor! Oh, Jay, you’re just SO MANLY! Perhaps you could have added something along the lines of “…and leave her bleeding from her whatever” to really do justice to the masculine power and eloquence of Your Master’s Voice, but that’s just a stylistic quibble.

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Dawg asked his co-bloggers to keep an eye on things out there in the world while he’s swanning about Italy, and I’ve tried. But you know, SO much of it is just the same old same old. Trump, police killings, Trudeau, Corbyn, Brangelina - nothing remarkable.

And then this; the tragic destruction of the Belleville Hawkins Cheezie Warehouse in an “unexplained” fire.

Now, there may still be Canadians who have never experienced the splendor of an authentic Hawkins Cheezie: never beheld their luminous golden glow; never fondled these rough, asymmetrical fingerlings of purest Ontario cornmeal; never savoured their unmistakable crunchy blend of Canadian cheddar, salt and deep-fried fat. If you are one of those, you will not understand that this is the Snack Food World’s equivalent of a blaze in the Sistine Chapel, or the burning of a Hendrix guitar. [Ed: Didn’t Hendrix burn his own guitars?] [Balb: Bad analogy. Never mind.] You have my sympathy for the wasted years behind you; but I envy you the experience that lies ahead like a glorious, Hawkins-hued sunrise.

But the quality of our Cheezies is not in question. There is a deeper and darker issue at stake here - the troubling failure of Canadian “media” and the “security” “establishment” to even acknowledge the possibility of links between this attack on one of our most cherished icons and the tide of Islamist terror that may someday eventually kind of threaten to start sort of engulfing our country.

How long can they maintain the pretense that there is no link between the flood of “Syrian” “refugees” to the Belleville area and a sudden, terrifying spike in the number of unexplained incidents of what might very well be arson directed against dairy-based iconic junk food? I don’t even know how calculate the percentage increase from zero to one, but it’s GOT to be a very big number.

Are we supposed to believe it was simply a coincidence that the warehouse was located on CHURCH Street? And that CHURCH St. intersects Moira Street - just a kilometer from the site of Belleville’s MOSQUE?

Do they believe we’ve forgotten that September 19th marked the anniversary of the capture of Damascus by Rashidun Arabs under Khalid ibn al-Walid from the Byzantine Empire? AND of the bombing of UTA Flight 772 in Niger? AND of the Guelb El-Kebir massacre in Algeria where 53 people were killed? AND of Paul Simon’s concert in Central Park, where he performed his song “Silent Eyes”, about Jerusalem?

Are we supposed to ignore the fact that the attack occurred only eight days after the anniversary of 9/11, and that there are almost eight letters in “Hawkins”?

Enough. The truth will out. Hawkins IS proudly Canadian (that’s a ZED in the middle, not a zee), and good old Canadian values include resilience, courage, and an indomitable belief in dairy based snacking, from St. Albert curds to poutine. We KNOW Hawkins will rebuild. We KNOW they will soar like a Fromage Phoenix to even greater heights. We remain unbowed. Let us proclaim as one:

Ye Pow’rs, wha mak mankind your care,

And dish us out our bill of fare,

Our country wants no lesser stuff,

No Mozza Sticks or Cheezie Puff;

But if you wish our grateful prayer,

Gie us our Hawkins!

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Off to still-sunny Italy for what I have the effrontery to believe is a well-deserved vacation. I shall post dispatches.

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Saints. Preserve us.

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If anything sums up everything that is wrong with the Roman Catholic Church, it is the canonization of a monstrously vicious, sadistic, racist/colonial control freak born Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu and known to the world as Mother Teresa—now St. Teresa of Calcutta. Oh, Calcutta!

Bad enough that a particularly obnoxious Pope of recent memory wanted to have a Nazi war criminal canonized (I do keep wanting to add an extra “n” to that word). The present Pope, Francis, may have stopped that one in its foetid tracks. If so, good for him. But in the dreadful Ms. Bojaxhiu resided everything that is wrong with institutionalized belief, and indicates just how easily the abstract notion of “goodness” can flip to its opposite. Thanks to the good Pope Francis, she is now a saint, pickled in immortal aspic for generations of blind worshippers yet to come.

Bojaxhiu’s well-catalogued sins are far better documented than her alleged good deeds. In her, the cardinal sin of pride found its apogee. She was almost a walking definition of humble-bragging. This story, from someone who did come later to have some admiration for her, is instructive:

Later, when I had children, my mother insisted we took them to the her chapel to be blessed. She did. My mother told Mother Teresa, ‘My daughters volunteered at Shishu Bhavan when they were young.” “Oh,” she responded to me with unconcealed hauteur. “When you were a child. But now? You do nothing useful for the poor now, I suppose?”

The poor, noble saint-to-be reveled in the suffering of the relatively few people actually “rescued” by her Missionaries of Charity. “I think it is very beautiful for the poor to accept their lot, to share it with the passion of Christ. I think the world is being much helped by the suffering of the poor people.” In fact she had a ghoulish fascination with agony—so long as she herself wasn’t subjected to it.

The “rescued” suffered grievously under her malign, obsessive gaze. They were denied analgesics, adequate food and even basic medical care, despite the hundreds of millions of dollars that poured into the coffers of Bojaxhiu’s Missionaries of Charity. Unsterilized needles were re-used. Then, adding insult to grievous injury, the dying, mostly Hindus, were baptized in stealth. But Bojaxhiu herself received care in the best American hospitals when she needed it.

“One day I met a lady who was dying of cancer in a most terrible condition,” said Bojaxhiu. “And I told her, I say, ‘You know, this terrible pain is only the kiss of Jesus — a sign that you have come so close to Jesus on the cross that he can kiss you.’” This sort of thing can no doubt be explained by experts in the pathology of sadism.

Nor should we ignore the settler/colonialist ideology that caused this appalling woman to end up a saint. In the words of Vijay Prashad:

Mother Teresa is the quintessential image of the white woman in the colonies, working to save the dark bodies from their own temptations and failures. […] The Euro-American-dominated international media continue to harbor the colonial notion that white peoples are somehow especially endowed with the capacity to create social change. When nonwhite people labor in this direction, the media typically search for white benefactors or teachers, or else, for white people who stand in the wings to direct the nonwhite actors. Dark bodies cannot act of their own volition to stretch their own capacity, for they must wait, the media seem to imply, for some colonial administrator, some technocrat from IBM or the IMF to tell them how to do things. When it comes to saving the poor, the dark bodies are again invisible, for the media seem to celebrate only the worn out platitudes of such as Mother Teresa and ignore the struggles of those bodies for their own liberation. To open the life of someone like Mother Teresa to scrutiny, therefore, is always difficult. […] Mother Teresa’s work was part of a global enterprise for the alleviation of bourgeois guilt, rather than a genuine challenge to those forces that produce and maintain poverty.

But the basic question that arises from this travesty needs to be pondered—the one I already raised above. How is it that goodness flips so easily to its opposite, evil? How is it that the two are so apparently imbricated that few seem to notice when it happens? Dare I raise Stalinism and the true believers of Communist parties worldwide who saw and heard nothing amiss during his anthropophagous reign until Khrushchev, himself deeply collaborative in the deaths of millions, told them it was OK to see Stalin as he had been?

All of us progressives like to cling to the possibility that our dreams and visions might be realized—that, in more obscurantist words, the eschaton might be immanentized. But why does that grasping for the ideal inevitably seem to entail profoundly contrary moves? Let me put forth a suggestion for discussion: the institutionalizing of radically decent impulses is at the same time the institutionalizing of their opposite. I don’t mean this in the dialectical sense at all, contending opposites and so on. I mean that the two are one.

There is something about the formalizing, the structuring, the codifying of ideals that creates a space akin to the one occupied by Schrödinger’s famous cat, simultaneously both dead and alive until observed. In the moral quantum universe we inhabit, if I can put it that way, acts are neither bad nor good until “observed,” either. Of what does that analogical observation consist? Radical critique—initial awareness, stepping back, assessing, analyzing, proposing. But it is impossible to do any of that effectively—we merely confound the problem—by trying to do it solely from inside the institution, on the institution’s terms. How then can we be both engaged and disengaged at the same time? That’s the nub. Over to you, dear readers.

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Christo-Saudi Brazil

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If you’re going to be impeached for corruption, you should at least have gotten rich doing it or be granted some other pleasure in life. No such luck for now ex-President Dilma Rousseff, booted from office by a pack of leering oligarchs and sobbing hypocrites who couldn’t look her in the face as they took orders from some of the most odious people in South America. No leader in a representative governmental system leaves office in a state of purity, at least not ideological, but Ms. Rousseff’s tormentors (warning: graphic torture descriptions) have hardly made an effort to hide their delight that they might now escape any consequences for their own visible, plain corruption.

A reactionary Christo-Saudi oligarchy is restoring what of their power may have eroded in Brazil due to the PT. I will not go into great detail as to how Brazil got here, and where they’re going seems pretty clear: good old Shock Doctrine, ASAP. Instead, I will point out that Rousseff’s ill political fortune seems tied to Brazil’s oil dependence, which years of PT governance were not able to end (it does take a very long time and a lot of work for a developing country); so when the oil prices fell, Rousseff’s ability to stave off the enemies that surrounded her fell too.

The moral of the story is, if you want to keep your economy stable and out of the hands of sheiks and propertarian ideologues of whatever religion, you should limit your economic dependence on finite natural resource extraction as much as possible. I would go so far as to say that you should only extract the “starter budget” of natural resources insofar as you are using as much of it as you can to wean yourself from it. If you’re not prepared to do that, leave it where it is. Oil-igarchy is a condition that many countries find it hard to escape, so when you have the opportunity, do so.

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Harper has left the building

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I could do this the long way—reviewing Harper’s miserable ten-year caudillist reign over the majority of Canadians who didn’t want him. Item by item.

But why? We all know.

So, then, the short way. Buzz off, little man, from Parliament and from our memories. Missed by morons, mourned by nutbars, revered by know-nothings, “you have sat too long for any good you have been doing lately. Depart, I say; and let us have done with you.”

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Trump: an emotional voyage

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While France enjoys its burkini summer, you may have noticed the USA is having a little bit of an election thingy. Anyway, I just wanted to pass on this wonderful Mother Jones article giving a humanised look at the core Trump vote. I am no fan of Trump, but there’s a tendency by some left-liberal-inclined people to Other the Trump voter and view them as some sort of lumpen orc-people rather than people whose motivations are explainable in terms of the world they see and experience. Sure the article is mostly anecdote, but there’s a place for this sort of “cross-sectional” analysis. And while the observations made are not new, I rarely see them put forward both so concisely and in such a personal, empathetic way.

The author identifies the “core narrative” of the white working-class Trump supporter/Tea-Partier/whatever, thus:

You are patiently standing in the middle of a long line stretching toward the horizon, where the American Dream awaits. But as you wait, you see people cutting in line ahead of you. Many of these line-cutters are black—beneficiaries of affirmative action or welfare. Some are career-driven women pushing into jobs they never had before. Then you see immigrants, Mexicans, Somalis, the Syrian refugees yet to come. As you wait in this unmoving line, you’re being asked to feel sorry for them all. You have a good heart. But who is deciding who you should feel compassion for? Then you see President Barack Hussein Obama waving the line-cutters forward. He’s on their side. In fact, isn’t he a line-cutter too? How did this fatherless black guy pay for Harvard? As you wait your turn, Obama is using the money in your pocket to help the line-cutters. He and his liberal backers have removed the shame from taking. The government has become an instrument for redistributing your money to the undeserving. It’s not your government anymore; it’s theirs.

This sort of ressentiment won’t be new to any of the regulars here, and it’s been identified before, but the article places it not as an abstraction but rather in the context of a very real lived experience — but also a psychological and cultural experience, because, after all, why don’t these people take the “line-cutting” opportunities that are even sometimes offered to them?

If you could work, even for pennies, receiving government benefits was a source of shame. It was okay if you were one of the few who really needed it, but not otherwise. Indignation at the overuse of welfare spread, in the minds of tea party supporters I got to know, to the federal government itself, and to state and local agencies. A retired assistant fire chief in Lake Charles told me, “I got told we don’t need an assistant fire chief. A lot of people around here don’t like any public employees, apart from the police.” His wife said, “We were making such low pay that we could have been on food stamps every month and other welfare stuff. And [an official] told our departments that if we went and got food stamps or welfare it would look bad for Lake Charles so that he would fire us.” A public school teacher complained, “I’ve had people tell me, ‘It’s the teachers who need to pass the kids’ tests.’ They have no idea what I know.” A social worker who worked with drug addicts said, “I’ve been told the church should take care of addicts, not the government.” Both receivers and givers of public services were tainted—in the eyes of nearly all I came to know—by the very touch of government.

Sharon especially admired Albert, a middle-aged sheet metal worker who could have used help but was too proud to ask for it. “He’s had open-heart surgery. He’s had stomach surgery. He’s had like eight surgeries. He’s still working, though. He wants to work. He’s got a daughter in jail—her third DUI, so he’s raising her son—and this and that. But he doesn’t want anything from the government. He’s such a neat guy.” There was no mention of the need for a good alcoholism rehab program for his daughter or after-school programs for his grandson. Until a few days before his death Albert continued working, head high, shame-free.

Sharon was a giving person, but she wanted to roll back government help. It was hard supporting her kids and being a good mom too. Managing the trailer park had called on her grit, determination, even hardness—which she regretted. She mused, “Having to cope, run the trailer court, even threaten to shoot a dog”—her tenant’s pet had endangered children—“it’s hardened me, made me act like a man. I hate that. It’s not really me.” There was a price for doing the right and necessary thing, invisible, she felt, to many liberals.

But the author still eventually reveals her own distance from the subject she is writing about:
To try to understand the tea party supporters I came to know—I interviewed 60 people in all—over the next five years I did a lot of “visiting,” as they call it.

I found the scare quotes around the concept of visiting rather odd, myself, isn’t it a conventional use? But even among Trump voters, there’s a subtle class divide:
Trump, the King of Shame, has covertly come to the rescue. He has shamed virtually every line-cutting group in the Deep Story—women, people of color, the disabled, immigrants, refugees. But he’s hardly uttered a single bad word about unemployment insurance, food stamps, or Medicaid, or what the tea party calls “big government handouts,” for anyone—including blue-collar white men.

In this feint, Trump solves a white male problem of pride. Benefits? If you need them, okay. He masculinizes it. You can be “high energy” macho—and yet may need to apply for a government benefit. As one auto mechanic told me, “Why not? Trump’s for that. If you use food stamps because you’re working a low-wage job, you don’t want someone looking down their nose at you.” A lady at an after-church lunch said, “If you have a young dad who’s working full time but can’t make it, if you’re an American-born worker, can’t make it, and not having a slew of kids, okay. For any conservative, that is fine.”

But to me the most unique, if not important take-away from the article is that Trump is telling a story that much of the white American mainstream has felt they either couldn’t utter or wasn’t heard, and this is a deep portion of his emotional appeal. Oh, there’s lots of left-wing people with probably-correct technical analyses of class interest and so on and so forth, free trade and what have you. But to many people, it must sound like someone else imposing another narrative upon their lived experience. Their lived experience includes the personal connection that Sharon has, as a sort of economically precarious “manor lady”/slumlord, to her “peasants” in the trailer park she once owned, which may not necessarily entirely fit the caricature most people imagine. It includes their sense of having waited in line, of proudly dying in their jobs — who can talk to them about minority suffering and white privilege after that? Sure there are the occasional Republican society ladies angry about being given the side eye for having the luxury to be a stay-at-home mother, and that’s doubtless privilege incarnate.

I’m not making an argument here. I’m not arguing for people to agree with their self-image of having waited patiently in line while the undeserving took priority. But I am saying that their demand that you still try to see the world through their eyes is not one you can easily ignore, even if you feel that their demand is presumptuous, which, yes, if you’re a black kid terrified of the policemen who are drawn from these very classes of people, would be quite true —- it is presumptuous in that way. But nevertheless, it’s a weight on the political scale, and pretending that there’s nothing to empathize with is simply not realistic.

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Today's France

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There was, of course, a sub-text to the Paris murders of Charlie Hebdo staff and Jewish shoppers in a kosher supermarket all along. Vile crimes by any standard, these were the work of ISIS-supporting Islamists, and so the murders immediately became iconic. The Other had struck again.

The Twitter hashtag #JeSuisCharlie became a trend overnight. The streets filled up with proud defenders of freedom of expression. Marching with the locals were the representatives of many nations—including such freedom-lovers as the Saudi Arabian Ambassador to France Mohammed Ismail Al-Sheikh, the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, the Bahraini Foreign Minister Shaikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, the Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukry, and the Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu.

Freedom of expression? You can’t even wear a T-shirt saying “Boycott Israel” in France without being heavily fined. It goes without saying that national outrage over the murders was entirely understandable, but the outpouring of anger had little to do with the right to draw insulting cartoons. (The attack on the supermarket by the same crowd, wherein four more people were murdered, doesn’t seem to have drawn nearly the same amount of attention. There were no #JeSuisYohan marches.)

More recently, a Tunisian deliveryman drove a truck into crowds in Nice who had gathered to celebrate Bastille Day. The carnage was considerable: 85 people killed, 308 injured. One-third of his victims were Muslim. The driver was reported to have liked to drink, showed no interest in religion, and hooked up regularly with men and women through dating sites. But it made no difference: the terrorist narrative took over.

Certain elements in France, including municipal officials and police, now had just the excuse they needed to lash out at the Other. They made women their targets, not a new thing in France, although the ritual humiliation of women is hardly unknown elsewhere. In any case, brutal misogyny and racism masked by hypocritical righteousness soon became become the order of the day.

The beach in summer is always a pleasant place to relax. But in France beaches are now locations of fear and loathing for Muslim women, as the photograph above amply demonstrates. A number of small-town mayors with Islamophobic axes to grind have criminalized the wearing of Islamic swimsuits, miscalled “burkinis” (they do not cover the face; in fact they look rather like wetsuits). Enforcement by armed police soon followed. In the above photo, a squad of burly cops forced a Muslim woman to strip off her outer garments in public. For good measure they threatened to pepper-spray another woman with a hijab who wasn’t even wearing a “burkini,” as onlookers jeered at her.

Some will wonder how the land of liberté, égalité, fraternité could come to this. But in fact that motto, arising out of the French Revolution, needs to be looked at a little more closely. Remember that the much-applauded Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, proclaimed in 1789, applied in full just to a small minority of so-called “citoyens actifs”—male property-owners 25 years of age or older. Nothing much has changed, it seems: in France, some citizens are still more equal than others; fraternité, of course, applies only to men.

Women’s bodies are always a site of struggle in the culture wars. Women are such tempting targets, after all. The new attacks on Muslim women have nothing to do with laïcité, a concept of secularity that applies to state institutions, not beaches. Recall the burqa ban of 2011: it singled out an estimated 2,000 women out of a total population of 66 million, including 5 million Muslims. They would no longer be allowed to roam in public spaces. It wasn’t that ordinary French citizens couldn’t see their faces; the law made sure that those citizens wouldn’t see them at all.

In solidarity, it seems, some French non-Muslims are now hurrying to buy “burkinis” for themselves. While the fellow-feeling is admirable, it piles on the difficulties: when nuns are murdered, there isn’t a run on habits and veils. This gesture, however well-intentioned, simply reaffirms the Otherness of the original targets.

The excessive (to Western eyes) emphasis on Islamic female modesty is, not to put too fine a point upon it, oppressive. We have all seen Muslim women cloaked head-to-toe in black cloth in the full heat of summer, accompanied by Muslim men in shorts and T-shirts. But before we hasten to jump to conclusions, consider string bikinis, which were once outlawed on beaches for not being modest enough. In both cases, women are peremptorily told what they can and can’t wear. Their personal spaces are invaded by differing patriarchal norms of “too much” and “too little.” If burqas and “burkinis” are the clothing of submission, the women in the photograph might be forgiven for not welcoming their liberation virtually at gunpoint. There are no free choices for women, only arbitrary diktats (and more subtle cultural pressures) that determine their mode of dress, in France as elsewhere.

The Republic has been scarred by violence in the past few years, but that continuing trauma is creating more victims. Demanding integration, the state is deepening alienation and division instead, giving official sanction to racism and misogyny. Again, it seems, the terrorists have won.

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