California Forum

What political discourse has come to in the Central Valley, and rural America

President Donald Trump, shown here Jan. 8, 2018, was said to have disparaged African nations as “shitholes” in a meeting with lawmakers about immigration. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)
President Donald Trump, shown here Jan. 8, 2018, was said to have disparaged African nations as “shitholes” in a meeting with lawmakers about immigration. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File) AP

The map sent by an acquaintance shows in outline Central and South America. Replacing the name of each nation is the word “shithole.”

The sender is no dummy; he’s a professional man, the graduate of a major university. I can only assume the dumbing down of political discourse is at a new low.

Such childishness hints at a new isolationism apparently based on illusions such as “racial” priority. “We were fine until coloreds got to vote,” asserts a white nationalist on network TV. Many white voters grew up just as the civil rights movement matured, and to them equality feels like lost entitlement. Non-whites look at the same period as justice still delayed or denied.

In rural Oregon, a man says he’s joining a commune in Montana where “Real Americanism” is practiced. When asked what that means, he says, “No welfare for bums! Christianity! No taxes! No coloreds!”

Another gent, who believes President Donald Trump is at last beginning to solve the nation’s problems, tells me granting the vote to women was “the beginning of the end.” He says “Hillary and Michelle” really ran the country downhill while their husbands were in office. When I ask for proof, he says “it’s common knowledge” and dismisses me.

And, of course, the United Nations still comes in for a beating in some circles, apparently because it won’t do our bidding. Such thinking not only misrepresents history, but suggests we can somehow stand alone in an interconnected world.

But the other side doesn’t help by demanding impeachment. Trump’s environmental policies, his boasting, his baiting of the press (and the press’ baiting of him) all may seem potentially disastrous, but are not formally illegal and, so far, no crime has been proven. We don’t impeach based solely on disagreement, no matter how passionate. Democrats should build an effective challenge for 2020, not spin their wheels.

Political polarization seems worse than I can remember. Pals who used to easily accept one another’s positions seem not to be speaking. Yet Democracy depends upon the exchange of ideas and a willingness to compromise for the common good.

Now compromise seems an alien concept, tantamount to concession. The political cordiality that once underpinned us grows shaky indeed.

Central Valley author Gerald Haslam wrote“In Thought and Action: The Enigmatic Life of S.I. Hayakawa,” and the prizewinning novel “Grace Period.” Reach him at ghaslam@sonic.net.

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