Shadowboxing: How Trump’s war on Muslims threatens us all

If there’s a particular portion of President Trump’s inaugural speech that has stuck with me, it’s this line in particular:

And unite the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the earth.

And so back once more to the Bush-era “War on Terror.” Which leaves Trump confronting the very same problem that bedeviled Republicans then:

How exactly does one go about eradicating an idea?

Oh, sure, you can destroy ISIS – which probably won’t be easy, because ten to one Putin already secretly shoring them up somehow as a bright shiny bauble to keep Trump distracted (that’s certainly what I’d be doing in his shoes) – but then what? ISIS is just the latest in a series of like-minded organizations, remember. So perhaps after that, he’ll move onto Al-Qaeda once more, then perhaps the entire Syrian rebellion as a whole, presuming he follows Putin and Assad’s lead in declaring them all terrorists and enemies. But inevitably, some other new group will rise up, and the whole cycle will start all over again, leading to the same old endless game of military whack-a-mole[1].

But – again – then what? Ideas are bulletproof. Violence and collateral damage inevitably motivates more terrorists. So where does it end?

For years, Obama’s strategy emphasized tolerance and freedom of religion. His argument went that it’s those ideals that are America’s greatest strength, and what religious zealots like bin Laden and al-Awlaki really found threatening about us – the idea that it’s possible for people to simply live their lives without fighting over theology or differing points of view. Obama’s hope was that, by stressing that there’s a place for Muslims in a multicultural world, sooner or later the radicals would calm down and just stick to screaming at people in Internet forums, the way most of us do[2]. Even Bush paid homage to this idea, hollow as it tended to ring after the invasion of Iraq, because he knew that his wars could only be won with the support of Muslim individuals and countries.

But Trump and his supporters categorically reject this notion. Notice the word choice of ‘Islamic terrorism,’ which Rudy Giuliani spent years making a big deal over. What’s the point of that, aside from general-level rudeness and being all ‘politically incorrect’? It’s of course to emphasize the innate connection between Islam and terrorism – the idea that violence is intrinsic to Islam, and that peace is thus ultimately impossible. Most Trump supporters online tend to buy in big to the entire so-called ‘Clash of Civilizations,’ usually as a way of emphasizing what they see as Christianity’s innate superiority as a religion. (In them, one can see that strain of Puritan zealotry that’s been a part of America from the very beginning – Christianity’s own jihad memes coming active after years of relative dormancy[3].) They see a modern-day crusade as being both inevitable and advantageous, something that will allow them to finally put the heathens in their place and assure American energy independence via “taking their oil,” as our President so eloquently put it.

So… doesn’t that put them on a (possibly unnecessary, highly destructive) collision course with the more than one billion Muslims living the world today? What do they intend to do about all the people who refuse to follow their way of life?

In my experience, that question usually marks the point where Trump supporters start talking about nuclear weapons. It makes sense from their point of view. Whether they care to admit it or not, genocide is the logical conclusion of their belief set. The only way to truly eradicate an idea, after all, is to kill everyone who has it (or might have it, or might someday come up with it) inside their heads.

Does Trump believe as they do? My guess is that it varies from day to day. As I’ve said before, I don’t see him as someone who’s necessarily opposed to diversity – he’s had no trouble renting properties to Saudi royalty in the past, if memory serves – and he’s certainly no Christian. (Worship of God distracts from worship of himself, I suspect.) But he certainly hasn’t been shy about using Islamophobia to his advantage, and – as we have been seeing in recent days – there’s really no way to predict where and how he’s going to lash out when he’s under stress. Or how far he’s willing to go.

Zealots feed off of one another. I doubt would-be Christian jihadists are aware of how similar they are to their foes[4]. They need Muslims to be the great Satanic horde at their doorstep in order for their worldview to make sense, just as ISIS needs to brag on Twitter about sacking Rome and fighting the Crusaders at Dabiq. As a whole, they tend not to be too cognizant of history, riddled as it is with would-be prophets and soldiers of destiny, left befuddled when reality ultimately failed to follow the script they expected. If there is a God and He does have a plan for us, I tend to doubt it’s anything so easily transparent or predictable to our tiny minds. Maybe all the prophecies will come true someday, but in the present, there’s little sense or reason in killing for them.

But here they go, rushing off to war anyway – while all the rest of us, the ones who believe in a multicultural world, in living and let live and allowing people to be who they are, who honestly believe in the Founding Fathers’ vision – those of us who have seen it work and lived it and know that peace is possible, that peace needs to happen for humanity to move forward – we just get tossed aside into the dust. Left behind to deal with the consequences of their madness, as the world just keeps on stubbornly refusing to end.

Independent counts of Iraqi civilian casualties killed after the invasion put the number at just over one hundred thousand deaths. I see that as blood on my own hands – on the hands of all Americans, really. That’s how collective responsibility works. I might not have voted for Bush… but I didn’t do anything to stop him either.

That’s not a mistake I would like to make twice.

  1. Which, to be fair, we probably would have wound up playing under Hillary, too, albeit perhaps in a much more measured and less visibly brutal way. And probably without all the Big Macho verbs that right wingers thrive on, like “annihilate” and “exterminate.” ↩︎

  2. Which isn’t to say that Obama didn’t keep the pressure up on Al-Qaeda and company through drone strikes and the like, because he’s not an idiot. Republicans love to criticize his actions in Libya, Syria, and during the Arab Spring, but they’ve been surprisingly quiet on what exactly they would’ve done differently – aside, of course, from those who would’ve Killed All The Bad Guys and Taken Their Oil. Needless to say, I find the wisdom of their plans questionable. ↩︎

  3. I expect that this is part of the motive behind the American right’s current love affair with Putin. They see him as a fellow Christian, in origin if not in action; a Great White Hope that knows how to properly slaughter the infidels, as he’s done in Syria and Chechnya. It doesn’t seem to occur to them that Putin might not see the world the way they do. If Putin’s leading a crusade against anything, it’s American influence in one form or another. One wonders if Trump realizes – or cares – that he’s just another pawn in that game. ↩︎

  4. Or perhaps they are, and they fear the bin Ladens of the world precisely because they think alike. To put it another way, maybe Christian and Jewish fundamentalists hostile to Islam believe on some level that if they had been raised Muslim, they would be jihadists. It’s a sort of psychological projection, a way of externalizing their own destructive impulses. Perhaps the minds of Muslim crusaders work the same way, and the entire conflict is just about zealots shadowboxing with each other. Wouldn’t that just figure. ↩︎


Finding the Best Spot for the Knife

So if Trump doesn’t care about his family, what does he care about? His brand, of course. It’s the basis of his entire fortune, with his own estimates of his net worth rising and declining with his subjective sense of its value. Find a way to damage it, and one might just very well cut to the heart of him.

(Understand when I say this that I’m not talking about literally damaging the Trump Organization and/or its properties. At this juncture, there’s little point. All of their holdings are no doubt extensively insured. Now, if there was some way to figure out which companies are providing them insurance and bringing some sort of pressure to bear on them, it might be a different story…)

One item that caught my eye as I researched the President’s properties was the fact that the Trump International Hotel and Tower on Columbus Circle isn’t actually owned by the Trump Organization. While they at least appear to run the hotel, going by their website, the building belongs to the General Electric Pension Trust.

I wonder… could they be convinced to remove Trump’s name from the building?

A quick Google search produces two addresses for the General Electric Pension Trust, one in Austin, another in Connecticut. However, I also found a deed in NYC’s ACRIS system, dated 2008, that appears to transfer the site to one Kairy Partners, LLC for $3.5 million. (In case I’m unable to share the image below, the document ID number is 2008122301291001; the building appears to be listed under Block 1113, Lot 1242, Unit 1700, Manhattan Borough.) I’m unable to dig up any additional information or resources about Kairy at this time, aside from a California address from later that year.

ACRIS Document ID # 2008122301291001

All in all, here are three possible points of contact for the Trump International Hotel’s owners, past or present:

GE Pension Trust (address 1)
3003 Summer Street
Stamford, CT 06905
Phone: (203) 326-2300

GE Pension Trust (address 2)
5005 Plaza on the Lake
Suite 100
Austin, TX 78746

Kairy Partners, LLC
22431 Antonio Parkway 
Suite B-160 
Rancho Santa Margarita, CA 92688

Somewhere out in his vast labyrinth of corporate holdings, Trump is vulnerable. And if the President refuses to properly divest himself of his private interests for the benefit of the nation… well. Perhaps it’s time that we did so for him.


The Tweeter in Chief

Say what you will about Trump, but one must give him this much: he has managed to mobilize social media (and Twitter in particular) in a way that not even Obama managed. I’ve always figured that humanity has slowly been evolving into a hive mind through technology, out of collective loneliness if nothing else. Perhaps Trump’s unfiltered ramblings is just another step in that direction. The first Hive Queen.

Replicating that success from the other side of the aisle won’t be easy. Unfortunately, a number of concepts common to liberal thinkers tend to be much more complex than 140 characters might allow. To succeed, we may require a new kind of language. New terminology that’s somehow easily accessible to outsiders. Not an easy thing to accomplish, though we have seen terms like “gaslighting” recently hit the mainstream. Just something to keep in mind as we move forward, I suppose.


Why Going After Trump’s Family Isn’t Worth It

Thus far, we’ve seen Trump’s daughter lectured by someone on an airplane, rumors being spread about his youngest son being autistic, and (if it wasn’t faked), some idiot holding a “Rape Melania” sign at a protest back in November. I understand that people are upset. I understand that, after years of static being thrown at President Obama’s family, some see this as an opportunity to respond in kind.

To all those considering attacking the President-elect’s family (verbally or physically), I have one simple, practical question:

What makes you so sure Trump actually cares about his family?

I suspect that Trump is a clinical narcissist. If that’s the case and the pattern holds, he doesn’t actually love or value his family the way that most of us do. To him, they’re merely an extension of himself – carefully-crafted props he uses to maintain the image he wishes to show the world. In the case of Melania, I expect he sees her less as a partner and more as a sort of expensive trophy. His children are useful employees at best – extensions of his will to whom he might delegate grunt work as necessary. I suspect that, to this day, he keeps a tight reign on their activities and appearance. Any deviance or attempt to establish a separate identity for themselves is quickly punished. Their worth to him is based entirely on how well they serve him and how much he judges them to resemble himself. Take one of them away, and you’ve merely denied him a useful tool or toy. That’s it.

(Not that this will stop him from playing the angry or bereaved spouse/father role for all that it’s worth, of course. That said, I doubt the loss would slow him down much.)

And there you have it. As far as I’m concerned, going after the family in any way, shape or form is a complete waste of effort. Better to spend your energy on the man himself. It’s not like there’s any shortage of material there. And for anyone out there intent on avenging themselves on any available target, consider this: every single one of the children has had to grow up with Donald Trump as a father. After that, I suspect anything that one might do to them will seem like a mercy by comparison.


Yes, Trump Is A Racist

This recent op-ed on crystallizes a number of thoughts I’ve had about the election, though it may not go quite far enough. To make things absolutely clear to Mr. Matt Vespa and other Trump apologists: yes, Mr. Trump is in fact a racist. Just ask the Central Park Five. To insist otherwise is to require people to forget that the President-elect first came to prominence at the head of the Birther movement – a perfect example of coded racism if there ever was one – and his comments about Judge Gonzalo Curiel’s Latino heritage, just for starters.

(Well, okay, let’s get specific here – at the heart of things, I suspect that Trump is racist against all humans who aren’t Donald Trump. That said, that’s never stopped him from taking advantage of race, gender and creed to bully others or to raise his own profile. Indeed, it seems to me that’s the exact attribute that raised him to both the candidacy and the Presidency. In any case, the point is that I call him a racist for his actions, not his beliefs, or at least whatever he believes his beliefs are at the moment.)

At the heart of all of this, I suspect that it all comes down to a matter of power. Conservatives seem to believe that they can define what is and isn’t racist at their convenience, and that they can force the country’s minorities to accept their self-serving definitions as a matter of course. To them, I would ask: has it ever honestly occurred to you that such decisions aren’t up to you? That even if you decide not to read your actions in that fashion, that America’s minorities very well might? Indeed, sharing that power as to what is and isn’t acceptable is the entire point of racism as a concept. It’s part of the never-ending negotiation process that allows the nation to continue to function without us murdering one another. To deny the other side a voice in such an exchange strikes me as… unwise.

(And no, Ben Carson alone most certainly does not qualify as enough representation. So please don’t start.)

So where does that leave Trump’s voters? Whatever their reasons might have been at the time, they still made the decision to vote for him. As far as I’m concerned, they voted against the very concept of America that I grew up with – the idea of a multicultural nation, where such things as race and religion and national origin simply don’t matter with regards to an individual’s rights and freedoms. They may not be running around waving Confederate flags, but they knowingly enabled those who are. (They certainly don’t seem to be stopping them.) They can deny it as much as they want, but like it or not, everything that comes after this point is on their hands. Don’t want that to be the case? Best get to work tearing that false idol you raised down.