The cost of comfort in the time of Trump

The economy is humming. The stock market is doing fine. Near zero functional unemployment. Few Americans are at risk of war worldwide. Crime is down throughout the U.S.A. We are enjoying sports, entertainment, and travel is easier than ever… The affluent is doing just fine, thank you. And doing better.

Yet there is a lurking dark side to this lifestyle that is conveniently not discussed, excused away, or simply dispelled as guilt trips. Much of this darkness has been with us a long time – if only we are willing to admit it. But this administration under the leadership of Donald J. Trump has exasperated things, for sure.

We the affluent are certainly reaping the benefits of past exploitations, historical societal sins, and a financial system that is structured to perpetually enrich the rich. Some of us choose to accommodate the guilt caused by this knowing by engaging in charity and jumping through philosophical calisthenics that justify our actions. And we muddle through the shackles of success.

After all, we came from nothing, we tell ourselves. We were children refugees who came to America and struggled for years to fulfill the American Dream. We got an education. We had the ranch house and the yard. Been there, done that, bought the t-shirt… We have navigated the established American culture with a passion. We have succeeded.

All along we remained politically engaged, trusting a system that generally works, but whose militarism and excessive consumerism never felt quite right. We learned about great men (and a few women) whose caricature in the history books we found easy to embrace: Our Founding Father, Honest Abe, FDR, MLK, and many others. We bought into globalization, diversity, and equality. We were lulled into the mindset that the price of freedom is massive military strength and the inherent excess and imbalance of the free market. We thought we had moved beyond the racial ugliness of past centuries when we elected our first Black President. We accepted his capitulation to the international monetary powers when they were bailed out rather than brought to justice after the Great Recession… It is all for the greater good, so we seemed to say to ourselves. At least – we would further tell ourselves – there is a semblance (if imaginary) of process, governance, prudence, and decency at the top leadership.

And then Trump happened.

Hell bent on dismantling the established post WWII world order and turning back the historical clock on evolving cultural norms, he unleashed an anger and vile hate in those that felt they had been done wrong over the last decades. He coupled this with an unholy alliance with the most powerful and a commitment to deregulate and redo the tax system to facilitate their exponential wealth creation.

And as if that was not bad enough, he did this by spewing lewd, insulting, intimidating, hurtful, self-centered, self-congratulatory comments through Tweets and other means. He did this while displaying a personality more akin to authoritarian dictatorial strong man than that of a democratically elected president.

Trump is riding the wave of the inevitable success of post Great Recession economic improvements, the winding down of military conflicts throughout the world, and the relative internal calm in the U.S., claiming it all as his success. Instead of riding this wave of success and building on it, he is taking draconian and short-sided policies that may very well lead to meteoric wealth growth for some – including himself and his family empire – but cause immediate real damage to many, the environment, and international stability.

Both on policy and personality this man is tearing America apart, devolving it to a mean-spirited state of affairs, pinning neighbors against neighbors, and instituting lying, crassness, and crudeness as a successful leadership style.

I want no part of this man’s America.

Yet my 401k is not doing too bad. The Braves are competing in the NL East again. Hollywood continues churning out awesome movies. And I am off to travel again.

Thus, here I am. Reconciling living a life of affluence in a Country led by a leadership that I totally disagree with… Maybe I can’t have my cake and eat it too. Maybe the perfect nation-state does not exist and we just gotta put up with this lunacy, and turn our focus to personal and family wellbeing, enjoy the moment, and look the other way.

Except I can’t.

We have what could be our last chance to stem the tide of Trumpism in America this November. We can reclaim sanity in our governance. We can bring back a balanced dialogue where people actually engage and disagree civically, and reach consensus for the greater good.

Keep it simply: Vote Democrat. Don’t overthink it. This man and his cronies gotta go.

And if in doing so my 401K is damaged a bit, the uber-rich has to pay more taxes, and industries are regulated to protect the environment, that’s ok too. That is a small price to pay for reclaiming decency and sanity in our world.