Threat To U.S. Democracy Is Now Very Real

(“The media should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for awhile”—Steve Bannon, official chief Trump propagandist.)

President Donald Trump’s erratic behavior during his first few days in office have only confirmed fears the country is devolving into a neofascist state governed by an unhinged yet calculating, lying authoritarian leader.

For me to go over the bucket list of Trump’s political moves and rambling utterances—some of which are entirely disconnected from reality—during his first week as president serves no useful purpose in terms of the resistance to the emerging fascism, at least as I see it. It’s Trump’s strategy to flood the field with bizarre, outlandish claims and now shifting presidential edicts, which fragments what could be an unified response to the nightmare that is upon us.

One group focuses on his lie and juvenile fixation about how he actually won the popular vote in November over Hillary Clinton. Others deal with his threats against sanctuary cities and immigrants. Another organization deals with Trump’s obvious disdain for reproductive rights for women. Yet other people focus on Trump’s lack of interest in preserving LGBT rights, let alone advancing them. People, and rightly so, deal minutely with Trump’s intended unraveling of our health care system and what it will mean. We’re too busy keeping up instead of speaking up.

As Trump might put it himself, he wins identity politics the greatest ever. How we define ourselves politically and personally is vastly important as is the embrace of the plethora of individuals and groups that, in the past, has made our country stand out among nations. But our country’s history, one that includes the government’s attempted genocide of indigenous people, slavery and racial discrimination tells the nation’s darker hateful and violent side, one that shouldn’t be forgotten as Trump attempts to degrade and fragment his opposition. It will not be one person—though leaders will emerge—or one group that will create a successful resistance to this new and very real chapter of American horror.

It will, perhaps to state the obvious, take the unification of different stakeholders in the progressive movement for any successful response to Trump. Whenever we’re mocked in the media or by the GOP for our disparate concerns with mantras like “those crazy protestors are all over the place” know that this is our strength just as long as we remain committed to the overall cause of resisting fascism. We can’t forget the larger goal as we express our identities and individual concerns.

As a part of remaining focused, I want to address only three issues that emerged during Trump’s first week. Those issues are (1) his lies about how he won the popular vote, (2) his clamping down on freedom of speech and (3) the information, questions and arguments that have emerged about Trump’s mental stability. Viewed as a pattern, these issues should terrify any rational person.

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All Talk No Raises

The idea getting bounced around that somehow Republican lawmakers in the Oklahoma House and Senate have gotten a clear message that our poorly-paid public school teachers deserve raises doesn’t pass the basic logic test.

The Oklahoman weighed in on the matter with a recent commentary titled rather bluntly “It's clear that Oklahoma lawmakers have gotten the message about teacher pay,” but I don’t see that it’s clear at all. In fact, the crushing November defeat of State Question 779, which would have raised teacher salaries, sent the opposite message.

That message is this for lawmakers: A majority of voting Oklahomans are perfectly fine with major cuts to education at all levels and aren’t overly concerned that teachers here have about the lowest salaries in the nation, forcing many of them to leave the state for better pay.

The Oklahoman editorial mentions that new House Speaker Charles McCall has been told by the Republican caucus that their constituents’ “No. 1” issue is raising teacher salaries, but that smacks of political hyperbole to me. The commentary also goes over some plans by lawmakers that have been offered to raise teacher salaries in the upcoming legislative session.

I supported SQ 779, and I would support just about any plan that would raise teacher salaries by any amount, but the facts don’t add up at this point that it can happen. A small raise? Maybe for some window dressing. But the state faces a nearly 900 million dollar budget shortfall next fiscal year and might even have to endure a revenue failure this year, which would mean even more cuts.

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Telling The Truth On The Sentence Level

(Given the dangers of the illegitimate presidency of Donald Trump, Okie Funk will for now donate approximately half of its posts to national issues, especially those that raise the specter of contravening or threatening our country’s democratic structures. What this means in a pragmatic sense is that every other post will focus on something that might be only tangentially related to Oklahoma.—Kurt Hochenauer)

It might seem counter productive right now to criticize the reporting in The New York Times given the grave threat this nation faces by the authoritarian President Donald Trump. We need as many reasoned, intelligent voices as possible.

After all, we have been told that since the election subscriptions have increased “tenfold” at The Times, although it remains unclear to me just what type of subscriptions—digital, print, trial—these represent and how much reading is really happening. The larger question is whether The Times can hold on to the subscribers.

I’m not, of course, generally against skyrocketing interest in what is widely considered not only the best daily newspaper in the world but also the model for journalism in general. But the model part of its reputation and influence is where the problem resides. This problem of The Times as a model has reached a breaking point with the election of Trump and his craven disinformation tactics.

Although just over the weekend there was an extremely hopeful sign, The Times remains tied to an old-school type of objective reporting that has become about itself rather than the truth. This is a sentence-level issue. I’m not the first to make this argument. When journalistic outlets quote lies from people in power—even when uttered by the president of the United States—they should be reported as lies. Words like lie, lying, false, falsehood, distortions, wrong, error, etc., should become a normal part of the journalistic lexicon under a Trump presidency. No one should be allowed to obviously lie in a newspaper story these days without the lie getting defined openly and, frankly, just for what it is.

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