Middle-aged and older white Christian men are angry big time. They think they're losing status to people they've been accustomed to looking down on.
They sit in front of the TV for hours and watch FOX. The owner of FOX, Rupert Murdoch, a Jewish immigrant from Australia, serves up a steady diet of slop for those who need their hate Obama fix. They simply cannot miss a day without marinating in the muck that has made Murdoch a billionaire a dozen times over.
I heard a guy being interviewed at a Trump rally say he “was really angry”. When asked why, his reply was “Look what's on TV … Look what's going on in the world”. The interviewer asked him what he was going to do about his anger. His response, “Watch more TV”. Seriously.
A sure-fire applause generator to open a Republican rally nowadays goes something like this: “I don't know about you, but I'm mad as hell. (Huge applause). And I'm about to tell you why … but first, if there are any of those deeply sensitive, politically correct souls here, I suggest you excuse yourself, because I'm going to tell it like it is, and you're not gonna like it. Go home and water your plants.” (They're going wild now).
Whatever is said after that is immaterial. What's important is that you show that you're mad and you're willing to throw your weight around and bully anyone who doesn't agree with you. That's leadership!
Talk like that and Murdoch will give you all the airtime you'll ever need.
While white middle-aged Christian men may register high on the anger meter, they're not alone. Let me explore the response to angering events with two individuals and one group: a Pakistani-born taxi driver in New York City; the American Jewish community; and my own experience.
The Pakistani-Born Taxi Driver
About a month ago, in New York City, I had occasion to spend about forty-five minutes in a taxi with a driver who was born in Pakistan. As is my custom, I engaged him in conversation about his country and world events.
He was a Muslim. He'd been in the United States for twenty years. And he was a US Citizen.
He spoke English well. From his dress and demeanor, I got the impression that he was religious and conservative within the context of his own community.
I asked him about Malala, the young girl from Pakistan who received the Nobel Prize for her work advocating for increased educational opportunities for Muslim girls. Malala had been shot in the face by the Taliban as retribution for her work.
My Pakistani driver was very reluctant to voice an opinion about her. I found that strange. I thought Malala would be a source of great pride for a Muslim from that part of the world.
As we talked, it became clear that he was not against young Muslim girls getting an education, but he simply could not comprehend a young girl standing up to the power structure of her community. Without using the specific words, his attitude was sort of, “Who does she think she is?” A variation on the theme of not knowing “her place”.
My driver volunteered that he was upset with the way Muslims were portrayed by the press in the United States, but he didn't have the foggiest notion about how one might go about telling a more positive story. He was completely in the dark about subjects like public relations, lobbying, think tanks, and interest groups.
His attitude was that public officials should do what was right and that was about it. Organized advocacy was a foreign concept. It simply didn't occur to him that he had as much of a right as anybody to shape the policies of his country, the USA.
I can't speak for my Pakistani driver, but for me, it was a very educational encounter.
The Jewish Community In The United States
The shelves of libraries in our country are groaning under the weight of books about the Jewish Diaspora in general and the role of American Jews in making American foreign policy in particular. I have a couple of paragraphs to add here, which I'm willing to admit will probably not constitute the last word on either of these subjects.
I have no studies to cite. I am relying only on my own personal experiences and observations.
Woody Allen (or maybe it was Moses) hit the nail on the head when he said, “Jews are just like everybody else, just more so.”
American Jews, like everyone, are angry or threatened about one thing or another. What sets them apart is how they deal with real or perceived threats to their interests or their community.
Unlike my Pakistani taxi driver friend, they are fully informed on the instruments of policy-making. Unlike the middle-aged white males who people the Trump rallies, they don't spend their days drooling on themselves watching FOX.
If our Jewish brothers and sisters have a problem, they solve it. If buying a newspaper (Sheldon Adelson) or a TV station (Rupert Murdoch) or starting a think tank (Haim Saban) will help … do it. Why not? Do you want to solve your problem, or don't you?
Our Jewish brothers and sisters are quintessentially practical. By comparison, most of the rest of the country is staring off into space.
My Own Experience
In my own life, I know I've been happiest when intensely involved in some sort of struggle.
As a practicing lawyer, I was lucky enough to be retained by a small Midwestern bank that was being jerked around by the Federal Reserve Board and wanted to sue. Fantastic.
I saw the arrogance and stupidity of one of the most powerful instruments of the Federal Government up close and personal. They made me angry. They got my Irish up and I beat their sorry asses and got paid for the privilege … best damn cure for anger ever.
As a grassroots lobbyist for a small corner of the trucking industry that was being strangled by government regulation, we opposed the combined force of the Teamster's Union and 95% of the trucking industry in a multi-year legislative battle.
With the help of a gutsy lawyer-turned-trucker from Nebraska and a well-connected gentleman from Cleveland, we beat their sorry asses and got paid for the privilege … best damn cure for anger ever.
Plus, you can even cure your anger without getting paid … seriously.
I remember when Nixon was running for President in 1972, I did a little work in the campaign of his opponent, George McGovern. Nixon won big, but after he won, the Watergate story started to catch on.
I was getting really incensed. The SOB was a stone-cold liar and he was getting away with it. Essentially, Nixon was saying to the country, “Of course I'm a liar and a crook. But I'm a damn sight smarter and tougher than you bleeding-heart liberals, so I'm gonna get away with it because you can't stop me.”
I felt like he had laid down a challenge to me personally. It took me three martinis to get through the evening news. Nixon was winning. He was right. I wasn't smart enough or tough enough to stop him.
Luckily, I benefited from two interventions. Nixon made a serious tactical error, and Bob Beckel called me.
Huh? Yeah, the Bob Beckel that was on FOX and now is on CNN. I had met Bob in a political campaign in Connecticut. Beckel was all worked up about Nixon, and had met some people at Lafayette Park across from the White House. They wanted to form a Committee to Impeach the President and incorporate the Committee. Could I handle it?
I met with his group of about eight folks. I was the only one who owned a necktie, so they made me the Chairman of the Committee to Impeach the President.
All of the sudden, we're doing stuff. Someone gets a permit for a rally on the Ellipse behind the White House. We get I.F. (Izzy) Stone to be our featured speaker. I get to give the warm-up speech. Beckel is marching up the street with no shirt on and a bullhorn saying, “These are the people talking, Mr. Nixon.”
We rent a theater to show a movie on Nixon, and when we screw up the publicity, we go door to door to sell the tickets. When I was 18, I had traveled around the country selling magazines, so going door to door to raise money to impeach Nixon was a piece of cake.
In other words, we're having a blast. I don't need martinis to get through the news anymore. And on top of that, Nixon resigns ten months after we start our efforts.
Best damn cure for anger ever.
Whenever I speak to someone from another country or someone totally unfamiliar with how policy is made in the USA, I use the following analogy / metaphor.
Imagine the United States and its policies as an enormous mountain of clay. Around the clay the population of the country is gathered … roughly 320 million people. (I'm aware of all the implausibilities, but stay with me.)
Everyone (excluding the very young, the very old, and the very infirm) has, has had, or will have a chance to push his or her way forward and by virtue of their energy, persistence, and intelligence, get their hands on the clay and do their part to shape it and shape the policies of the country.
Does everyone have an equal chance? Of course not. As John Kennedy said, “Life is not fair.” But most people have a far greater chance to shape events than they're willing to admit.
If one is not willing to fight for their place around the clay, I can guarantee you that someone else who is energetic, persistent, and intelligent will take that person's place in addition to their own.
When that happens, one can get hurt feelings and go home and tidy up their sock drawer, or one can up their game, hike up their pants, and get their hands on some clay.
I will post again on Wednesday February 3, 2016 or before if the news flow dictates.
Comments are welcome at tomc[at]wednesdayswars[dot]com. Comments will be addressed in subsequent posts.