The unconscionable, at times criminal behavior of bullies is often more about power and greed than hatred.
When I was about 8 years old, my family home in Alabama was invaded by the KKK. As we slept, hooded goons burned a huge cross in my dad’s treasured lawn, pouring gasoline into a grotesque cross. After torching the gas, they smashed the downstairs windows, climbed the balcony and began terrorizing our family’s sleeping quarters.
They were there because my mom, a high school history teacher, had been discussing the recently adopted Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts in class. Some parents objected and came over — offspring in tow — to assert that school curriculum should be subject to their approval: bullies expressing themselves through violence.
As the mob raged, Dad, a WWII carrier pilot, wondered where the police were. Said Mom, herself a WWII Women’s Army Corps veteran: “They are the police.” Recognizing their voices, she knew them all, calling out each coward by name, causing them to flee.
The next day, after a police officer took an obligatory report that resulted in nothing, Mom asked Dad to leave the burnt cross in the yard until the grass grew back. She wanted everyone to know “good and long” our family wasn’t afraid, that she would teach whatever she wanted in her class, that bullies win only if they succeed in exerting their power to intimidate.
I’ve written of this event before, provoking the wrath of anonymous internet trolls who clearly hate my politics, using the Trumpian method of dismissing “fake news” as lies. From their offensive personal attacks, I surmise they hate me as well.
I’ve come to understand their bullying as actually trying to overpower ideas that don’t comport with their worldview – the way they wish it to be – by using verbal violence to try asserting power.
Through this lens, when the president calls a female African American former aide a “dog” and a “crazed, crying lowlife,” I view it less as the obvious sexism and racism it is than Trump exerting power: she threatens his corrupt regime.
As detailed by the Washington Post – a venerated institution that brought down another criminal president – Donald Trump is indeed corrupt, having spent a career lying in public, engineering scam after scam, exploiting and cheating the gullible from their money, be it Trump University, his habit of refusing to pay contractors, the exploitation of foreign fashion models, his scam foundation, or his eagerness for Russians to use his properties for money laundering.
It’s no surprise the corrupt are drawn to Trump, simpatico with his flexible approach to rules, norms and laws.
To date, Trump’s former campaign chairman has been convicted of felonies, his former personal attorney has pleaded guilty to felonies, including some directly implicating Trump in a criminal scheme. His former national security adviser, deputy campaign manager and foreign policy adviser have all pleaded guilty to felonies and all face prison sentences.
The first two members of Congress to endorse him, Rep. Chris Collins, R-NY, and Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-San Diego, have both been indicted on federal corruption charges — of course. Hunter’s indictment came on the day Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen were convicted or pleaded guilty to eight federal crimes each.
This criminal enterprise, this gang of fraudsters and bullies, is operating an ongoing financial shakedown of the world. While the KKK’s criminality is cloaked in racial hatred, this is straightforward avarice and greed in the White House, enabled by a minority of American voters.
The slice of voters who support Trump seem perfectly OK with his methods and the criminal enterprise he’s running out of the White House. Can we imagine this will change?
German film director/actor Werner Herzog got into trouble last year on Twitter for this hyperbolic tweet: “Dear America: You are waking up, as Germany once did, to the awareness that 1/3 of your people would kill another 1/3, while 1/3 watches.”
To Herzog’s point, we have to ask: What will it take for Trump supporters to turn, to at last recognize they’ve put a gangster in the White House, surrounded by criminals, ne’er-do-wells and sociopaths, none of whom believe they’re bound by the same laws as the rest of us?
We can only hope moral outrage is building, especially among heretofore feckless Republicans.
It’s comforting to know Trump lost San Luis Obispo County by 8 points in 2016 – to know most of us here recognize a bully when we see one.
It’s long past time to clean house.
Liberal columnist Tom Fulks serves on the San Luis Obispo County Democratic Central Committee. His column runs every other Sunday, in rotation with conservative columnist Andrea Seastrand.