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Racism and Avarice: Thanksgiving in Trump’s Dystopia

We are more than what they would have us be.

President Donald Trump talks to reporters as he departs the White House, November 21, 2017, in Washington, DC. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)

I’ve never been one for omens or portents. If New Hampshire gets clobbered with snow this winter, it won’t be because of the three-ringed caterpillar I saw last week, and if the Patriots lose on Sunday, it won’t be because I spilled the salt. Fate has more methodical ways of tipping its hand than bugs and condiments.

Still, there are some moments that whisper a true chill into you, moments that stop you short, steal your breath and send shards of fear up your spine. One such just happened in Germany, where construction workers were excavating an old stadium when they accidentally unearthed a massive swastika buried more than a foot beneath the ground. Given everything that is happening here and around the world, with the meteoric rise of the hard right on all fronts, it is difficult to see such newly discovered evil and not hear the voice of Yeats asking, “And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?”

It is difficult to see that, and not see this for what it is: The president of the United States of America has ordered 59,000 earthquake refugees from Haiti to get out of the country within 18 months. They came here in 2010 because they were running for their lives from the aftermath of an earthquake their country still has not recovered from. They were granted Temporary Protected Status to save them from deportation, and most are now part of flourishing Haitian communities in places like Boston, Florida and New York.

If the president has his way, they will be returned to a country ravaged by almost a million cases of cholera, a country not nearly ready to take them back, a country that sees more than a full quarter of its gross domestic product come from personal donations given by Haitians in the US. Many will have nowhere to go once they arrive. Here, they have jobs, lives and children, and contribute to society.

Why do this? One theory holds that our droopy-drawers president, chafing at the constitutional restrictions on his malevolent behavior, needs to spend his wrath by destroying smaller items within his reach. He is a born wrecker, but like a little kid too scared to kick his big brother, he goes outside instead and stomps the flower bed.

That is more of a symptom than a reason. On the doorstep of Thanksgiving, those 59,000 people — who fled calamity to make a better life here, as so many immigrants have for centuries — will be leaving, and for no reason other than this: They are Black, and Donald Trump scores points with his base by showing 59,000 Black people the door just because he can. That’s it, that’s all. The United States will not be any safer, stronger or more prosperous upon their eventual departure. We will be lesser than we are, and spiteful smiles will hide behind the hoods of the president’s friends.

Welcome to our looming national identity, friends and neighbors. This is the country as people like Donald Trump wish it to be, the country people like Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul are getting well paid to help create. Their desired dystopia is a fractured, dissonant, disorienting place that appears to be comprised solely of white Christians who have no money, no jobs, no health care, no retirement, no breathable air or drinkable water, and no women not in service to men. There’s an oil derrick in every pot and fracking waste flaming in the tap, the guns grow on trees in ripe metal bunches (only 20 per day per customer, please), and everyone stands for the anthem, even if they’re dead.

That’s the best I can figure it, anyway. We’re headed that way at flank speed, with every day bringing new evidence that this revolution — of the wealthy, by the wealthy, for the wealthy — is not well begun, but almost done, with the soldiers of white supremacy and nationalism swarming in support. They’re rolling up voting rights, dismantling the internet, gobbling up even more control over the national media and deporting everyone they can who isn’t a whiter shade of pale. The clampdown is happening right here in plain sight.

We are witnessing, in sedate tones on the network news, an attempted smash-and-grab robbery of a breadth and scope seldom seen in the long, sordid annals of human history.

Their revolution will take a giant leap forward if the Republican tax plan finds its way to Trump’s desk. We are witnessing, in sedate tones on the network news, an attempted smash-and-grab robbery of a breadth and scope seldom seen in the long, sordid annals of human history. They seek to divert more than a trillion dollars to a group of people so small, they could fit inside a midsized college football stadium with seats to spare. It better be a nice stadium, because these people are already loaded. Why give them a trillion dollars? Trickle down rides again, you see; if we make rich people richer, we all benefit! P.T. Barnum, your table is ready.

This plan, if enacted, will ravage poor and disabled people, children and the elderly, and will even lay a heavy hit on middle-class property owners who are about to lose a whole slew of deductions. They say everyone will get a tax cut, but this is a lie; tax cuts for individuals will only be temporary before becoming tax hikes, while tax cuts for corporations remain permanent.

Making individual tax cuts temporary was done specifically so the Senate could pass this bill with 51 votes instead of 60: No Democratic votes required, a necessary sleight of hand given that the elimination of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate — which will deprive some 13 million people of health coverage — is part of the overall package. They need that ACA money to cover the windfall being delivered to the rich, again, in what will be among the largest transfers of wealth in history.

Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, one of the erstwhile heroes of the ACA repeal fight, is already on board for the tax plan, because the administration said it will open the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) for oil drilling and mining in return for her vote. They claim money from ANWR’s annihilation will help pay for the tax cut, but in truth, they’re buying Murkowski and using a national treasure as the coin, and that 51-vote threshold inches ever closer.

Understand this, and understand it well: The Republicans do not care about how incredibly awful this bill is or how much damage it will do. They are under the strictest of orders to get this done, so the Kochs and the Adelsons of the world can get their long-coveted payday. These GOP paymasters made it clear months ago that their political donations would cease until this tax plan is passed. For Republicans, passage of this bill is an existential matter; if the big-money donor well dries up, the party is finished. They may say it’s about freedom or small businesses or getting a win for the president, but it’s about survival for them. They have their orders, and intend to fulfill them to the last letter if they can.

Rank racism and towering avarice are on the menu this Thanksgiving. Fifty-nine thousand good people now suffer the terror of threatened displacement, with millions more standing on the cusp of ruin in service to a powerful few. There is nothing new here. All the Thanksgiving apocrypha in the world cannot obscure the genocide, slavery and greed that clang across 10 generations of brutality in pursuit of profit. This is the truth that lies beneath the veneer of holiday. Wealth must be extracted; this is all ye know and all ye need know.

If we push back with all our collective might, we can and will prevail, and that swastika can go back into the ground after it is jackhammered into so much rubble.

There are no stone tablets here, however. Those 59,000 Haitian refugees can be granted permanent residency if Congress chooses to act. The GOP tax plan can be defeated if a small clutch of Republicans decide to vote against the grain. If we push back with all our collective might, we can and will prevail, and that swastika can go back into the ground after it is jackhammered into so much rubble. Nothing is settled, caterpillars and condiments to the contrary.

Thanksgiving is, in many ways, a celebration of our national mythology, a pleasing fiction to obscure the boneyard beneath. However, for those of us who feast today, let us do so in tribute to our finest attributes. Let us pledge to be guided by them for more than the length of a meal, a football game and a midnight shopping trip. We are better than what they would have us become, and we can prove it all year long. Be thankful for that, too.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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