It’s All About The Fear

It’s time for everyone to “take 5”, “have a cup of Joe”, “chill” – whatever you want to call it. Because this country is feeling like a CNN news crew at a Trump rally. 

The US we know today was started by white European Christians. And that’s been the dominant culture ever since.

In recent decades, millions of Hispanics have crossed the border from Mexico illegally. Being big-hearted and optimistic, Reagan gave 3 million of them amnesty, convinced Congress would stop the flow with stricter laws. Today, there are over 11 million. The two branches didn’t cooperate very well then, either. 

In some ways white Americans really like low-skilled – illegal – immigrants. They do the jobs we won’t do, like working in the fields or slaughter houses, washing dishes or cleaning toilets. And we don’t even have to pay them decent wages. 

On the other hand, now we have bilingual everything, from restroom signs to recorded messages. Not to mention a heavy dose of Hispanic culture. We’re not as happy about that. No me gusta.

Our culture has always valued immigrants, but the white, European kind, n’est pas? 

Today diversity in the US, once theoretical, is becoming reality.  So, with the influx of more non-white, non-European immigrants, a lot of white Americans are fearful of our culture being diluted and dominance weakened. 

That’s the fear Trump has been fanning for 4 years by focusing on criminal elements and terrorism. 

You see the fear in rural, homogeneous areas, more than urban areas. There’s a simple reason: cities, especially big ones, are melting pots with lots of diverse people crammed together. In these places, your culture or heritage matters less than your ability to get a job done. People rub shoulders and eventually get to know the person behind the ethnicity. As they do, fear is replaced by respect, even friendship.

Is the fear of immigrants justified? Not according to most national statistics. Two examples: in 2001, the crime rate in El Paso was higher than the national average but by 2017, as immigration increased, the city’s crime rate steadily decreased to below the national average;  according to the FBI, crime in the 10 cities with the most refugees also decreased between 2006 and 2015. 

Is Trump a racist, a xenophobe? His quotes imply both, for sure. But he also clearly stops short of direct racism. Is he anti-Semitic? He certainly stereotypes Jews, but he doesn’t denigrate them; he hires them.

So, I don’t know if he is racist, per se. That’s too narrow. I think he’s a “Poorist”.

He grew up with a silver spoon in his mouth, the son of a wealthy white European developer who cared only about winning and wealth. I think he dislikes and looks down upon poor people, those on the bottom rung, most of whom are black and brown. And he always has.

So he denigrates them. He highlights the poverty of Baltimore and talks about “sh**hole” poor countries that send rapists and killers into the US. 

But he’s very afraid of poverty and all its accouterments, from roach infestations to disease to crime. People’s skin color and ethnicity are tangential to their poverty. To him, wealth and privilege are protections from the great unwashed. 

The additional fears he promotes are extensions of that primary fear. Geo-politics is bad. Nationalism is good. Welfare is bad. Oligarchy is good. 

Let the poor eat whatever they can; the cake is for us. 

The biggest mistake for those who oppose Trump (Republicans or Democrats) is to counter his fear mongering by promoting their own fear: of unregulated capitalism, of authoritarianism, of climate change, of economic disparity, of abuse of power, etc…

Why? Because fear – especially his fear – begets anger, which is already tearing the country apart, not to mention killing people in Dayton, El Paso, etc…

What the country needs today is less fear, less anger. We need Franklin Roosevelt’s “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” after which he calmly led us to victory and the world to safety.

I have good friends who share traditional American values: integrity, love of family, hard work, patriotism, and the like. The major difference between them (beyond accents from New England to Texas) is the politics of fear. 

If those who oppose Trump meet fear with fear and fight anger with anger, the country will continue to turn against itself. If they meet fear and anger with inspiration and rectitude, with ideas and ideals, we will all win.

(If you like this, pass it on. If you don't, pass it on anyway. Why should you suffer alone?)