Wednesday, March 23, 2016

What to Say to Someone With a Trump Bumper Sticker

Suppose that you win the lottery and now have enough money to buy some land in a place you’ve always loved, and to have your dream house built on it. You contact several architects. At your meetings with them, all but one bring drawings and fairly detailed rundowns of what the house will cost. One, though, arrives empty-handed, but loud-voiced. In his loud voice, he tells you, “I’m really, really smart, so I’m the one you should hire.” You mention a potential problem to which a couple of the other architects have alerted you, and ask how he would solve it. “Don’t worry about that!” he shouts in annoyance, “by the time we begin construction, I’ll have read up on that, and will know twice as much as any of these other guys — and maybe everything there is to know.”

Would you, in a million years, hire Mr. Loudvoice over one of those who seem actually to know what they’re talking about? Of course you would not! 

And you probably, deep down, don’t want to continue to support Donald J. Trump as a presidential candidate. You like him because he isn’t a mealy-mouthed politician whose every pronouncement has been spun and vetted and sugar-coated by a team of advisors, and because, as a non-politician, he’s one of us. Well, we can agree about his not being mealy-mouthed.

He is not One of Us. While you, or an uncle or dad, put yourself in mortal jeopardy (for no good reason!) in Vietnam, Mr. Trump was invoking bone spurs to avoid military service. You, your uncle, or dad would probably have been issued a uniform and assured that an army podiatrist would treat your condition with exercise, custom-made orthotics, anti-inflammatory medication, and cortisone injections. Mr. Trump, who'd learned all there is to know about miitarism at military school, got deferred. But of course, he has since claimed to be remorseful for not having…served, in the manner of so many leading Republicans. Does that claim entitle him, in your view, to brag pre-emptively about how he intends to make the American military so mighty that Mexico, for instance, will gladly erect a wall across our shared border rather than “go[ing] to war” with it?

Is that the country you really want ours to be, one that wins by intimidation? Let’s say that you live on a street on which you and 19 other home owners want speed bumps installed to keep idiots from driving too fast, endangering your kids. One fellow homeowner, who’s very big and strong, and is constantly telling you about his large collection of firearms, doesn’t want the speed bumps, though, and has made known that he will…fix any of the 20 of his neighbors who doesn’t withdraw his request for them. Do you like the idea of America being the national equivalent of that bullying neighbor?

He is not One of Us. He is almost inconceivably richer than you or I, and inconceivably more arrogant. What leads you to imagine that he cares in the slightest about the average American, who exchanges 40 hours of his life each week for less money than he himself might leave as tip in a restaurant in which he was served by a hot waitress he hoped to impress? Is it his being what his Website used to describe as “an ardent philanthropist”? Well, over the past five years, he’s donated $102 million worth of cash and land to philanthropic and conservation organizations. That’s kind of like you or I having given the Red Cross 92 cents.

Now of course it’s possible that he’s anonymously funded medical research, let’s say.

Trump. Anonymously. Think about that for a moment.

All politicians lie, so it would be unfair to denigrate Donald J. Trump for failing to tell the whole truth all the time. On a local level, you might occasionally encounter one who tells only the occasional little white lie. But the rest need to “spin” the truth just as inexorably as mechanics need to get their hands dirty. The politician spends his or her career cutting deals — making concessions so that his or her counterpart will make reciprocal concessions — and then pretending to abhor the mere thought of compromise. There are those rare ones who hoodwink their constituents because they genuinely believe they can, if they retain their jobs, benefit their constituencies. Far more commonly, their desperate need for external affirmation compels them to seek ever-higher (and thus less local) office, lying through their teeth at every turn.

As Donald J. Trump does, either because he hasn’t troubled himself to know what he’s talking about, or because he so enjoys the attention he gets when he just makes something up out of thin air. Consider his thousands of Muslims dancing exultantly in the streets of New Jersey after the collapse of the Twin Towers. That happened to exactly the same extent you found Jesus Christ hiding in one of the hard-boiled, dyed Easter eggs one of your friends at work shared with you the first workday after Easter last year. Consider his recently having bragged about Trump International Hotel and Tower in Chicago having been named The Best Hotel in America.  You need only go to TripAdvisor to see that it isn’t even the top-rated hotel in Chicago, but the 11th!

Do you really feel good supporting a candidate who lies so brazenly and so often to your face, assuming you’re either too stupid or gullible or lazy to verify his claims?

You get a call from your child’s school advising that he or she has been bullying other children, bragging implacably, and even stealing others’ lunches. Are you proud, or appalled? My guess is the latter. And yet you want someone who indulges in exactly such behavior on a much larger scale to be the person others around the world will see as embodying your country’s values?

While we’re here, let’s try this exercise. Make a list of the personal attributes you most hope to become characteristic of your child. I suspect you would hope for your child to be seen by others as kind, generous, reliable, hard-working, honorable, and gracious, among other things. How many of those words can reasonably be applied to Donald J. Trump? (I count two at the most. He may be hard-working, for all I know, and is extremely reliable in his obnoxiousness, but is that the kind of reliable you had in mind?)

You have a new colleague at work. Every time he sees you in the break room, he comes over and shows you photos of either his new muscle car or his sexy young wife, and tells you that he has these things because he is fantastically smart. He shares the point of view that those who don’t have these things are losers. Would you make a point of inviting such a person out to lunch? Do you suppose others like him more than you do? Probably not, right?

Why, knowing that he’s likely to have approximately the same effect on everyone with whom he deals, would you want such a person to be president? Do you suppose your life will be enhanced in any way by his offending every other country on earth?

Your removing that bumper sticker tells the world that you’re not stupid and gullible and lazy, as Donald J. Trump is counting on you to be. Do it, fellow American. Do it for both of us.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

We Return to Morocco

We chose Agadir, in Morocco, as our first 2016 holiday destination because the price and predicted temperature were right, and the deal was ill-inclusive, meaning that we could stuff ourselves obscenely and drink free cocktails until barely coherent.  I do love stuffing myself obscenely, at least in theory. In practice, it can get physically uncomfortable, and I am of coursed haunted by the prospect of ceasing to weight only five pounds more than I did in my days as the most torrid rock stud in Hollywood.

Agadir was destroyed by an earthquake in the early 1960s, and lacks an old town. There aren’t a lot of interesting places to which one can walk from the Riu Tikida Dunas hotel, and walking anywhere at all in the afternoon, when the wind off the sea becomes ferocious, is ill-advised for wearers of hard contact lenses, one of whom I am. Such is the wind’s ferocity that one can’t even lounge for long out by one of the lagoon-sized swimming pools.

One goes down to breakfast and enjoys, for instance, a cheese omelette in a crepe, scrambled eggs and fried potatoes in another crepe, and a great deal of fruit. (Nutritionists believe five daily portions of fruits and vegetable necessary for good health. In these all-inclusive situations, I commonly have around 25 portions per day.) Then one returns to his room and catches up on the news on CNN or RT (sort of the Russian equivalent of Al Jazeera), or watches an Arab cooking show, in which the contestants wear hijabs. There’s also a great deal of middlebrow German-language lite entertainment on offer, and Arab highbrow (I think, based on the extensive string sections) music. The latter makes me feel like a benighted parent in the mid-1950s, as it all sounds exactly the same to me.

Thus entertained, one tries to pretend he’s hungry and heads down to lunch, there to stuff himself anew. He lounges out by one of the pools for as long as the wind allows, and then returns to his room for more CNN, and to get tarted up for dinner, which is of course preceded by 45 minutes on Facebook and multiple (free, or at least pre-paid) cocktails at one of the hotel’s many bars. One wonders if Sex on the Beach being listed as Love on the Beach is a function of the host culture’s modesty.

Once having stuffed himself obscenely for the third time, one waddles at nine down to the big hotel theatre, in which the hotel’s perky young Animation (that is, entertainment) team presents a nightly show featuring lots of spirited dancing. Which isn’t to neglect to mention that on the night of our arrival, the entertainment consisted of a talent contest in which I and three other shanghaied male guests were required to dance like Michael Jackson, sing, unaccompanied, like whomever we wanted (in my case, Andy Williams, as on his hit version of “Moon River”), and lip-synch, in drag, to an iconic disco hit (in my case, “I Will Survive”). I was adjudged the most talented of the four contestants, even though I’d ever tried to dance like Michael Jackson even in seclusion, and won a bottle of champagne. It might have been the proudest moment of my life.

We went on an excursion, to what we were told was a pint-sized version of Marrakech —  Taroudant — en route to which we observed goats in trees and an appalling amount of plastic litter strewn over the dusty, forlorn countryside. At Taroudant’s souk (marketplace), I was snarled at by the depicted carpenter (whose tools might have been right at home in the Bronze Age) for not offering him money to snap his picture. There is much brightly colored plastic crap on offer. 

Naturally, our tour included a visit to a place at which argan oil, produced from the kernels of the a tree, Argania spinosa L., endemic to Morocco, is produced as it would have been produced in the Bronze Age, at first by a woman smashing said kernels with a rock. We were of course offered the opportunity to buy some of the oil for either cosmetic or culinary use, and of course declined. I advised my bride that I might reconsider my resistance if we were to discover some Jesus-branded oil. We found none, as, since visiting Cyprus in 2003, we have not found a refrigerator magnet with a tiny thermometer in The Messiah’s belly. One must strike while the iron’s hot.

In spite of my bride’s fervent reluctance, we also visited the actual Agadir souk, where I nearly bought a toothbrush. The merchant told me that to which I’d taken a fancy cost dirhams, but I believed myself to be compelled to haggle (hadn’t my new pal Soufiane, who’d greeted our flight at the airport, advised exactly that?) The merchant was undelighted by my countering with an offer of three dirhams, and snatched the toothbrush out of my hand with palpable umbrage.

We were back at the hotel in time to stuff ourselves obscenely at lunch, and then to wonder how to fill in the hours before Love on the Beach time. I will not deny having been bored shitless much of my time in Agadir.