Terry H. Schwadron
Sept. 13, 2018
In the daily sifting through social media, there’s been an upsurge of “you can’t make this stuff up” comments about the world about us.
Often times, the comment concerns style or cultural choices rather than substantial policy, but just a scratch away is a sign of our times.
Whether reacting to New York gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon’s choice of bagelor President Trump’s unempathetic, inappropriate double fist greetingto local officials en route to the solemn 9/11 memorial in Pennsylvania, vox populi is using the dismissive wave of light ridicule to explain that we feel uncomfortable, squirmy even, with the choices of our so-called leaders.
So the missteps in remarks by our public figures or the coincidental nature of a phrase against the background of the times in which it was uttered often is stuff that would be funny — if only it were not so sad.
Yesterday, news emerged at the moment we are evacuating by the millions from the Carolina coasts that $10 million from FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, had been redirected by the president to bolster ICE immigration enforcement and increased child detention centers to house children taken from their migrant parents.
Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-OR, released a documentshowing the transfer of funds, as he criticized the Trump administration of starving hurricane relief just as Hurricane Florence is aimed at the East Coast.
The Department of Homeland Security acknowledged that the money went to immigration enforcement, but briefly tried to say it had come from accounts other than hurricane aid before reporters looked at the documents to confirm that it had.
What? It’s so strange that it turns out to be both true and ill-timed. You can’t make this stuff up.
Meanwhile it is the president himself who seemed to be winning the snort-of-the-day awardin social media for calling federal efforts in Puerto Rico following last year’s big hurricanes a success. In advising residents in the Southeastern United States to evacuate, if asked by local officials, and to be alert about the building arrival of Hurricane Florence, he apparently could not help but try to praise himself and his administration for the response to Puerto Rico, where nearly 3,000 died as a result of the storm and its months’ of poor response.
“I actually think it is one of the best jobs that’s ever been done with respect to what this is all about,” Trump said of the federal government’s response.
Flustered reporters went on the air moments later basically scratching their heads at the presidential comment. If Puerto Rico is the standard for federal response, what do we expect for after-storm response by FEMA? Is this funny or sad or both. You can’t make this stuff up.
Day after day, the pronouncements of this government, which we ought to be taking seriously as U.S. policy, are being subjected to plain old ridicule. Surprisingly, the late night comics continue to serve as among the most useful beacons of lasting significance for some of these announced policies. That daily announcements of actions break with precedent or tradition, that they defy public logic, that they simply toss public good out the window to serve a perceived corporate ally all make us blink several times before responding in a serious manner. It is much easier to say, “Are you kidding me?”
So, on a day of national soberness to remember the attacks on New York on Sept. 11, 2001 and a hurricane looms, the president was tweeting about the failures of his own Justice Department to attack his political foes and to protect his political allies.
In the same week, we were hearing that the White House believes that we should offer advertising space on the sides of space-bound rockets rather than properly budgeting for NASA flights.
We were learning that Trump was considering moves against China for singling out Muslims for punishment up to incancerations — the same president who thinks Muslims should be barred from entering this country. We were hearing repeatedly that Trump believes the author of a critical anonymous op-ed in the New York Times is guilty of “treason,” and wants the Justice Department to find the writer, despite the fact that the White House cannot name a law that has been broken.
We were learning that as the White House continues to talk about a peace plan for the Middle East, the Trump administration was closing the official Palestinian outpost in Washington and cutting off yet more humanitarian aid — all because Palestinians are not falling into line to support Trump’s clear lean to support Israel’s most right-wing politics.
We were understanding that, upon hearing reports of rising prices and foregone job creation because of his tariffs policies, Trump is moving to widen the tariffs war or to make more demands on Canada to accept the updated Mexican trade agreement as appropriate to replace NAFTA.
In a world in which Trump makes legal anthem protests by kneeling NFL players one of the top five or ten issues facing the country, it seems difficult to recognize that the president sees the same world we do.
You can’t make this stuff up.