I never understood the appeal our culture has with organized crime. Not long ago, a social worker was boasting about her daughter’s marriage to a man whose father was in the mob.
For those of us that did research on such things as sex and labor trafficking, mob bosses seem less glamorous. They seem crude, anti-social, narcissistic, and calculating individuals, very dangerous, that would sell any kid for a few bucks. They may be feared, but there is little reason to respect them. Fear and respect cannot coexist.
Yet, as my friend and colleague says, what is the difference between a Wall Street investor and a drug dealer? Does the investor care if the company sells questionable products (an AR-15 rifle or restraining chairs) such as those that destroy the environment? Or do they care about making money? Does the drug dealer care if those they sell to die or have a family? Maybe the drug dealer cares more because that was the only employment they could get. Such is not true with the investor or broker.
They had a choice, as our lawmakers do
Scarface and the Boys’-Only Club
While one can never stamp out corruption or organized crime, it does seem that when our President acts more like Scarface than one upholding the principles of democracy, when the GOP goes along, supporting someone that is not a conservative but one that demands loyalty over everything else, then our country has become one big mob family. This family only cares about loyal rich boys.
Consider former Attorney General Jeff Sessions. For most of his short tenure, the President would beat up on him, constantly humiliating Sessions. Yet the Attorney General seemed unphased, falling at the feet of the President until he was fired by the President.
But recently, Sessions was still showing loyalty to Trump during Trump’s impeachment hearings. What gives? Does Sessions have any honor or dignity? Session’s blind loyalty even at the cost of his own career and reputation is startling, but not at all unique.
Also consider Mike Pompeo who all but turned his back on the intelligence community, on his former West Point legacy, to support a President that asked a foreign government to investigate a former Vice President of the United States and his son. Even if such is not an impeachable offense; such seems a clear pathway to jeopardizing the security of the United States. Trump’s firing of Marie Yovanovitch, a well-known and respected diplomat on both ends of the political spectrum, seemed fine with Pompeo. When does personal loyalty or gain become more important than the very democracy these officials are supposed to uphold? How does such not play into the Russian’s hands? Maybe when their personal selfishness and gain are more important?
Yes, Trump Supporters are the Minority
When one knows that conservatives can no longer win in a fair democratic process, the idea of a mob boss or despot, something the President has openly supported and or mimicked, seems the best way to keep power and control. When we look at the country’s changing demographics (a purple Texas on the horizon, a blue Virginia, a shrinking white population, and poor, rural whites feeling left out), democracy becomes the enemy.
Yet, effective governing would not fight our differences through misinformation and mischaracterization, it would recognize that people are politically diverse and conservatives still need to serve liberal interests and liberals need to serve conservative interests. If they did, more liberals may vote for conservatives. A nation cannot be free if it destroys the more vulnerable. Our lawmakers have taken a dangerous fundamentalist approach since Reagan, “No negotiation, just war.” Then what we get is something like a mob or gang turf war.
Maybe this is why we need to “Build that Wall” and “Make America Great Again?” This is why we need to flood our federal courts with conservative, pro-Trump judges, and this is why Russian election interference, why Putin himself seems more like an advisor to the U.S. President than a foe.
The idea of a tough guy as president is nothing new. Ronald Reagan capitalized on this image masterfully, the cowboy in the hat, the John Wayne, that is going to save the U.S. from Carter, women, black, and gay people. Reagan was against every form of civil rights legislation, but what mattered was that he looked tough. He was hardly so in real life.
Trump Voters are Being Sold Out of Freedom
Such is a common theme with conservative pundits and leaders. While they may look tough, they are not. We can find them, while not being small-town conservative, living in liberal worlds among the rich and famous. Trump is not tough. He ran from the draft, as Rush Limbaugh did, and the only place Reagan could be tough was when he acted tough. He was an actor after all. When I look at the President, I fail to see any toughness or control. I see an insecure man, and such insecurity can be extremely dangerous when left unchecked by our branches of government.
Trump’s appeal lies in his “mob boss” style of governing. His supporters, even his opponents, see him as Scarface, a big-screen movie bully where we all are playing a role under him. His firings of Vindman and Sondland are seemingly retaliatory and would be punishable in any other profession. Vindman has had a very honorable military career, and what did he gain by coming forward? How has coming forward benefited Sondland? At best, they can write a book.
The message is clear. Show loyalty and nothing else matters. If one in the administration steps out of line, then they get brought down. Meanwhile our checks and balances are under constant assault, and once we lose democracy, it will take millions if not hundreds of millions of lives to get it back. I write to the Trump voter: you are being had by a salesman. Blind loyalty is never okay or democratic.
I Know Small-Town America
My message to the Trump voter and supporter: I am white trash with a PhD. I grew up in the rust belt, and I understand that democrats always talk middle class but never about us. I grew up in conservative gun country where men walked down the streets with rifles. We only had two gun crimes in 18 years. I slept with a semi-automatic rifle. Yes, hardworking white people are the “flyover” people and are despised in a similar way that minorities are. Yes, many liberals have become very intolerant of views they don’t support, and often warrant policing of private lives. We have every right to be mad at Washington, but destroying Washington means destroying our nation, weakening it globally. It means ignoring critical science because such science is less in line with politician’s political gain than a difficult truth we must all face.
But should we sell our souls and honor to a man that only values himself and acts in reckless abandon? Should we support politicians that only care about reelection and distortion at the cost of this nation? There will always be liberals and conservatives: we all are part of democracy. To separate them out is to create a mob war, and such has nothing to do with democracy.
True Leaders Don’t Run and Then Talk Tough
No, it is never OK for a President to fire military and government officials that served their nation honorably and are brave enough to call out bad behavior. It’s never okay to humiliate a war hero in the late Senator McCain, in part, because our own President lacks the confidence to be Commander in Chief. It’s never okay to allow another man to call your daughter a “piece of ass” or to ask China and Ukraine to investigate U.S. officials. No, it’s not okay for a President to support despotism in favor of a democratic republic. No, this is not some reality television program that only cares about ratings.
Here are the numbers of those that died defending our democracy in combat and in operations: 1,190,085 dead; 1,430,290 wounded. Instead of acting like tough guys but running from military service, they and their families paid to keep this nation a democratic republic. These men and women were conservatives and liberal, and a whole bunch of other things. They were Christians, atheists, agnostics, Muslim, Jewish, Native American, and of every race. When our flag is raised after a battle, it’s not done by one person, but by the bravery, honor, and pain of all. I may be liberal, but I am still your brother. Those brave men and women were not fictional mob bosses that care more about themselves than their nation.
If we want to make America great again, we can start by recognizing that though guys and mob bosses are only caricatures of insecure, self-serving men in tough guys’ clothing. The braves ones, in mob culture, end up fired … a nation compromised.
Earl Yarington is a social worker (LMSW) and an associate professor in literature, writing, and cultural studies (PhD) at Prince Georges Community College and adjunct professor at Indiana University East. He is the author of many publications under his name and under pen name Justin Forest. Earl’s focus areas are the representations of girlhood in media,, eroticism, and child pornography law, paraphilia, sex offending and criminal justice. He is especially interested in the treatment of those with sexual challenges such as minor-attraction (pedophilia, hebepedophilia) to help prevent child sexual abuse while providing humane support for individuals seeking help. His book Lolita in the Lion’s Den challenges readers to address what is so often hidden and misunderstood about minor-attraction, sex offending, and the child emotional, psychological, and sexual abuse. Earl provides sex therapy under supervision for the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists. Earl writes about sexual issues, education, and occasionally politics. His writing is based on his expertise and knowledge, and such does not represent the opinions or positions of agencies, universities, and colleges that employ him, nor that of the Baltimore Post-Examiner LLC.