Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Response to The Right Stuff

(See: Just Above Sunset: The Right Stuff)

The author of “The Right Stuff” is Tom Wolfe, with whom, many years ago, I shared an elevator in New York City.

He could not have been mistaken for anyone else in the car, much less on the planet, wearing a painfully-bright white three-piece suit, and, while my mind’s eye may be wrong about this, I somehow remember him carrying a foppy-looking cane. He looked like a cartoon version of a Southern Planter, but apparently didn’t mind the attention this gave him, since everyone on the ride laughed good-naturedly about it, which he took with a gently smiling grace that only someone who hears this all the time could affect. I remember wondering why he kept up the act; still, I envied him his life. It looked like fun.

I made myself read the book in the early 1980’s, just after CNN named me overall producer of its upcoming coverage of the second mission of the Space Shuttle Columbia. I thought it would help me understand the people who risked their lives to do this sort of thing.

I especially recall the phrase, “Spam in a Can”, which was Chuck Yeager’s description of what would become of any of his fellow test pilots who decided to sign up as Mercury astronauts. He complained that a so-called “astronaut" would not in any way be “piloting” the spaceship — he would not be in control if and when, God forbid, anything went awry — which, at some point, was bound to happen.

I also remember Wolfe’s contention about the drawls we’ve heard on those cockpit microphones for decades, from jetliner captains, many but not all of them former military pilots, when they come on to talk to the passengers and crew — always equally calm and collected whether instructing everyone to prepare for an emergency landing, or merely to point out that Mt. Rushmore is out there on the left side of the plane. That calm demeanor of pilots everywhere, Wolfe claimed, originated with Yeager himself as he famously faced life-and-death problems to become the first human to break the sound barrier miles above the earth:
Two nights before the scheduled date for the flight, Yeager broke two ribs when he fell from a horse. He was worried that the injury would remove him from the mission … 
Yeager told only his wife, as well as friend and fellow project pilot Jack Ridley, about the accident. On the day of the flight, Yeager was in such pain that he could not seal the X-1's hatch by himself. Ridley rigged up a device, using the end of a broom handle as an extra lever, to allow Yeager to seal the hatch.
And that’s the real "Right Stuff" — not the bluster of a self-involved newby who tries to scare a problem to death by growling at it, but instead just knowing about how things work and just thinking about a problem, then quietly doing what needs to be done to solve it.

I imagine Donald Trump thinks he has it, but he doesn’t. He’s way too obsessed with "political correctness” to allow him to understand what is a real problem, and too busy calling his opponent names to notice that so many of his own followers are racists.

Yes, racists. Answer these simple questions about Trump supporters, posed by Justin Gest:
Is it racist to associate immigration with the greater globalization of commerce that has altered the economic prospects of outmoded people? 
Is it racist to be frustrated that members of ethnic minorities are rendered new advantages unavailable to white people, such as affirmative action policies and ethnicity-specific advocacy? 
Is it racist to believe that white working-class people are underrepresented in political leadership or vilified in popular media?
If you answered “Yes!” to all of these questions, give yourself a perfect score!

You’d think that having so many “Deplorables" backing you would be something that worries you more than that people accused of crimes in this country are being treated fairly. Trump’s more upset with how good our country is, than he is concerned with solving the real problems it faces. And yes, of course his audience cheers when he complains about terrorists getting fair treatment, because he seems to attract the sort of vigilante lynch mob we used to have in our Wild West days, before the law arrived out there to tame it.

Trump praises “dictators” and “strongmen” whenever he notices them do very un-American things to their victims, and yet he complains when he sees American leaders not acting like dictators. He favors “profiling"? Isn’t profiling what that terrorist did last week in Minnesota — ask his victims if they’re Muslim, and then stabbing them if they’re not?

The so-called “Radical Islamic Terrorists” he talks about want us to act like them — and not coincidentally, so does Donald Trump!

Why do he and his gang of clueless Deplorables fall into the terrorists' trap?

Because their idea of having the Right Stuff for the job requires not analyzing things too closely, and not getting the big picture. Because Trump celebrates fear and venerates it and encourages it in others. And because Trump has a bad attitude that, in his case, comes from living a mostly-successful life of always trying to get away with something, and he makes others believe that having a bad attitude about people is okay, and neither he nor them seem to be smart enough to realize it.

I’m beginning to think Radical Conservatism is a personality disorder, and lately, as so often happens (think McCarthyism), is inherently un-American.

Americanism is not kicking someone’s ass, just to watch ‘em squirm and because it demonstrates to your fellow conservatives how tough you are. What Americanism is is ignoring terrorists and not allowing yourself to become like them, but instead showing them the strength that comes from being good — not just "good at what you do", but the kind of goodness that impresses God, assuming the guy exists.

In short, Donald Trump has the Wrong Stuff. He’s not very bright and he’s nasty and weak, and if he ever becomes president, he will make America the same way.

And so, yes, don’t be afraid to call him what he is:

Donald Trump is a “Radical Conservative Terrorist”, and the reason he is more dangerous to America than ISIS is that he, unlike the terrorists from way over there, has an actual chance of taking over our country, and rendering its founding principles into just so many dusty old unreadable documents that nobody cares about anymore! 

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