Contrarian Guest Contributor: How Poor Whites See Themselves

I live in a Post-Explanation America and so do you. This is a country where if you are wondering about how a real estate developer and television personality with virtually no qualifications for elected office (outside the Constitutional requirements) ascended to the Presidency of the United States, you are liable to be sitting like Rodin’s “Thinker” wondering for all time. There a million theories as to how this happened and regrettably even more finger-pointing and blame than theories. Since Election Day, progressives have been groping for answers as to why so many white working-class Americans, once Democratic mainstays, voted overwhelmingly for a man who shows little interest outside of media stunts in pursuing policies that will work for their economic benefit. But maybe that was never the basis for their vote. Maybe all of us, sitting on our high horses with our fancy educations, completely misunderstood these people and what motivates them.

The following was reprinted with permission from John Paul Brammer, a writer, speaker, and activist based in New York City. His work has been published in The Guardian, Slate, Vox, BuzzFeed, NBC and many other outlets. According to his website, “His work blends the deeply personal with the political.” Mr. Brammer brings personal experience and profound insight to help answer a question that all of us need to consider at length. Follow him at johnpaulbrammer.com and on Twitter @jpbrammer.

 How Poor Whites See Themselves

So I’m a Mexican-American from a poor, rural, mostly white town in Oklahoma. What’s missing from this debate? How poor whites see themselves. If you’re wondering how poor, exploited white people could vote for a guy with a golden elevator who will fuck them over, here’s how.

They don’t see themselves as poor. They don’t base their identity on it. They see themselves as “temporarily embarrassed millionaires”. The stigma against poverty is incredibly strong. It is shameful to be poor; to not have the comforts of the middle class. So they pretend that they aren’t poor. They purchase things to make it seem like they’re not. They are willing to lie to make it seem like they aren’t poor. In my town, wealth wasn’t associated with greed, but with hard work and inherent goodness. You are blessed if you have material wealth. When they see Trump, they don’t see an extortionist who is rich because of the very conditions that keep their own communities in poverty. They see someone who worked hard and was justly rewarded with wealth. Most men, especially, think they too could be Trump were it not for the unfair obstacles put in their way. White men who don’t consider themselves successful enough have so many excuses for their “failures”. The idea that immigrants are the reason they are poor and not wealthy like Trump is so appealing. It takes all the shame and blame away. And here we have a man who, they think, “tells it like it is” and is willing to name the things stealing prosperity out of their hands. If these people saw themselves as an exploited class of people, if American culture didn’t stigmatize poverty so much, it might be different. But America has so entangled wealth with goodness and poverty with moral deficiency that they can’t build that identity. They won’t.

Trump is rich, and so according to American criteria, he is also:

  1. Wise
  2. Fair
  3. Moral
  4. Deserving
  5. Strong
  6. Clever

He has to be.

Capitalism and the American Dream teach that poverty is a temporary state that can be transcended with hard work and cleverness. To fail to transcend poverty, and admit you are poor, is to admit that you are neither hardworking nor clever. It’s cultural brainwashing. So if an exploited class of people doesn’t want to admit that they’re exploited, to blame themselves for their oppression, what manifests? Xenophobia. Hatred of anyone who is “different”: queer people, people of color. These people are eroding the “goodness” of America. And if they would just stop ruining America, then the perfect design of America could work again and deliver prosperity. I’m telling you, as someone who has spent almost his entire life in this environment, that if you think cities are a “bubble”? Good God. But the reality is, of course, that these exploited people are indeed exploited, even while they victimize others, when they victimize us, they are still victims. How do you balance those realities and what conclusions do you reach to improve the lives of both? Well, I’m not smart enough to have the answer. Still, we need to understand that the identity white working class people have built for themselves is diametrically opposed to, well, reality.

Because Trump won’t make them rich. Even if he deports all the brown people, it won’t bring them what they’re hoping for.

The original piece, written as a series of Tweets, can be found at https://storify.com/positiveforcedc/how-poor-whites-see-themselves

Contrarian Quick Take: No Recount for Clinton

I am absolutely, totally and completely opposed to any attempt to audit the vote count in any state from the 2016 General Election that chose Donald J. Trump 45th President of the United States instead of Hillary Clinton. It doesn’t matter that Clinton’s vote tally is now 2 million more than Trump’s. It doesn’t matter if the difference reaches 3 million, 5 million or 10 million votes. There is a principle involved here. We don’t elect our Presidents by popular vote. We choose them in the Electoral College at the state level and Clinton lost.

There will be no abolition of the Electoral College because it’s very difficult to alter the Constitution to accomplish that. The Founding Fathers designed the Constitution to make that sort of thing extraordinarily hard to do. Also, you should forget about trying to change state laws that govern how their electors are chosen. It’s far, far too late for that now. And by the way, you can’t rely on “faithless electors” changing the result and you really shouldn’t. This is how we choose our Presidents and Democrats, I’m sorry but you lost. As appalling and frightening as his administration may turn out to be, this country earned and deserves this President.

If you don’t like President-elect Trump, consider that an estimated 41.6% of eligible voters did not cast a ballot in 2016. That’s 96,421,324 people who simply decided not to vote. That means nearly 1/3 of you didn’t care enough on November 8, 2016 to make your voice heard. Why are people in support of some stupid idea made by a bunch of idiot election lawyers and egghead computer geeks that is 100% doomed to fail?  If you think you may have made a mistake by not voting and are traumatized that Trump and his jolly pirate crew are going to be calling all the shots for the next 4 years, well…you should have thought of that 2 weeks ago.

And by the way, why would a politician with the long experience and savvy of Mrs. Clinton subject herself to an even more humiliating loss than we, the voters of the United States, gave her earlier this month? I urge her to stay out of politics and reject this call for a recount. The American people clearly do not want her in public office and I implore those behind this ridiculous notion to stop trying to find magic tricks that will upend the election process so you can put her in the White House.

I know this all sounds terribly harsh. Well, it is. I’m no fan of Trump either but I know when I’ve been beat. I ask that the great masses of broken-hearted progressives out there who still can’t believe it to please stop this madness.  If you don’t like your new Republican national government, fine. Whine and complain about them about them to your heart’s content. Whatever. But if you don’t vote, don’t expect some legal or technological miracle to save you post-election. Focus on 2018 when the entire House of Representatives is on the ballot and most of the Senate. Concentrate on getting your local GOP statehouses and governors flipped from red to blue. Oh, you say Democrats can’t win the House because of gerrymandering? You say the Democrats have 23 seats to defend in 2018 to the Republicans 8? Well, Donald Trump was supposed to get crushed in this election. The Senate was supposed to go blue and even the House was supposed to be in play. Since when are we going to believe anything Nate Silver has to say anymore?

Look, it’s this simple. If you really and truly believe that “I wasn’t given any real choice” so you stayed at home instead, then may I suggest you and your fine sensibilities move to Russia? I can guarantee that you won’t ever have to worry about what your vote means or doesn’t mean there. One-way flights from New York to Moscow on good, reputable airlines start as low as $399.

Do you know what Privilege is?

Do you know what Privilege is?

It is the ability of being able to vote for someone like Donald Trump and yet insist that you are not a bigot.

It is the ability to say “I Matter”, “I’m Being Left Out” and “I Want My Country Back” when people like you have been running this nation ever since it was founded.

It is the ability to ignore that if you are a white, straight, Christian man that you have never had occasion to fear who you are in this country and that so very many people because of the color of their skin, because of where they came from, because of what they believe, because of who they love or simply because they are women have had a very long time to become afraid of you and with good reason.

It is the ability to say something absurd like “The millions of people who voted for Trump can’t all be bigots”, including your family, friends and neighbors based solely on the belief that half the country can’t be so brazenly racist, sexist, xenophobic, anti-Semitic, misogynistic and ultra-nationalist. Yes they can and yes they are, regardless of how as shockingly high a number that appears to be.

What allows us to rise as one people is the understanding that all of us are bigots to some extent. Nobody likes to think they are a bigot but to some degree everyone is. I’m a bigot. You’re a bigot. Everyone is somehow prejudiced and it is something that each one of us must strive to overcome.

What many of us fail to understand is that prejudice does not require intent.  All it requires is the refusal to acknowledge that there are so many people who hate and despise other people solely because of their race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, etc. and then justify their hatred as something other than plain and simple bigotry. We must acknowledge once and for all that racism comes in many forms. It comes as traditions, rules, laws, codes of behavior and all manner of things above and beyond calling someone a cruel name or using an arcane label.

It is saying “You people are lazy”, “You people aren’t strong enough”, “You people cheat and are miserly”, “You people are an abomination against God”, “You people are all violent” or just “You people don’t know your place” and not understand that this is bigotry in its purest form. It is the delusion that by depriving basic human rights from others that you are just protecting your heritage, your religion or your “way of life”. It is excusing your own hatred as “just my opinion”. It is this belief that “No, it can’t be me. I’m not a bigot.” which permits institutions that allow bigotry to stand, function and grow unabated.

What is Privilege? It is the ability to excuse a man who divides the country using every form of bigotry there is and then speaks about unity only after he wins. It is believing that by having women and minorities in his inner circle will somehow make him immune to the charge of being a sexist, a misogynist or a racist. It is ability to ignore the reality that this same man who by filling his cabinet with known racists, white supremacists and eugenicists sends a powerful signal to many in this nation that he intends to hold his grip on power by continuing to divide with fear and prejudice. And it is the inability to acknowledge that by supporting him you have taken sides with a terrible man who has said terrible things against millions of your brothers and sisters and appears prepared to continue to do terrible things because he like all of us is a bigot. Only now he has near limitless power to act on his bigotry.

What was the Great Sin his opponent committed that you couldn’t live with? Perceived dishonesty? The potential for graft? The failure to acknowledge that These People Don’t Belong Here? The desire for vengeance and punishment for crimes that for over four decades the law could not see but somehow you could? What was it that for all the danger, the hatred and the bigotry that this man represents you still found him a better choice? How comfortable will you feel about what you have done a year from now? Five years from now? Ten?

We are asked by you to give him a chance. How much of a chance do you want us to give and how long do you ask that we wait? The next election cycle will undoubtedly be too late for some.

Maybe for all.

half-staff

It Depends On Whose Dead Bodies We’re Talking About.

The Dakota Access Pipeline has “environmental disaster” written all over it. It’s a senseless destruction of land and culture and a blatant disregard of treaty with the Standing Rock Sioux Nation. I hate this pipeline and would love to see it scrapped. But it’s time to be truthful. The protest against it near Cannon Ball, North Dakota is a tragic exercise in futility.

Many of the “police” at the site are privately contracted security guards, not unlike the ones the US military had in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are a heavily armed, paramilitary force and really answerable to nobody other their employers who pay them very, very well. Local and state government stand to benefit greatly when the pipeline is operational so they are going to be of no help. Quite the contrary, they apparently are all too thrilled to throw as many of the protesters behind bars and to be blunt, people are crazy to think they will lift a finger to stop any violence when it happens.  Some in this country may even welcome a forcible crushing of this protest, the First Amendment be damned. As such, in the absence of direct intervention at the Federal level, the self-described “water protectors” out there are sitting ducks. When the time comes that the corporate overseers of this project back in Dallas decide they are bored with this nuisance, those guards will be given leave to do whatever they want.

Let me say that again. They can and will do whatever they want.

If those security contractors, or the Morton County Sheriff’s office, or the North Dakota State Police, or any of the myriad enforcers with a badge and a gun out there decide to go in and kill fifty protesters, they will likely do just that and there isn’t a single court with any jurisdiction in these United States that will send a single one of those men to jail. The law, right or wrong, will call the protest “trespassing on private property” and that is all that will be required to initiate a legal mass execution.  At the rate we are going, there is nothing to indicate that this will not end in a brutal and violent crackdown. Why? There has never been a point in our national history where the needs and rights of Indigenous Peoples have ever trumped private interests. This pipeline is 60% completed, has cost almost $4 billion and despite the injunctions currently in place, construction will resume sooner than later and it will resume through Indigenous land. It’s oil, people. Nobody is going to get in the way of the flow of oil which everybody needs and loves. And ugly as it sounds, obscure petitions on even more obscure websites, appeals to the United Nations or a protest that is smaller than the average Grateful Dead concert will do little if anything to dislodge a powerful oil developer like Energy Transfer Partners.

I’m very upset at this. Not so much because of the construction of the pipeline itself. I’m upset because it’s only when the abuse of the Indigenous people of this nation reach an absolutely horrendous point such as this exigency do white people start to care and that is the rub. This is why it’s now acceptable for the rich and famous to now make “appearances” in opposition to the project. Rarely, however, are the elite of Hollywood’s activist class actually going anywhere near North Dakota. Some do, but it’s always best to play it safe. Protests in New York and Washington, DC are great.  So are interviews on YouTube, primetime cable news shows and of course, what could be better than the ever popular hashtag activism on their Twitter feed? They want you to know that they “stand with Standing Rock”.

Well, so what?

Well-known entertainers and media stars don’t want trouble. They just want exposure. Honestly, who wants to go to where there’s the potential for real danger to life and limb? Especially theirs, since they have a vested interest in maintaining those faces and bodies that keep them so very well compensated at the box office. Does anyone think these celebrities will go to North Dakota and stick it out long-term to fight a real injustice? Hell, no. They want a photo-op and then they are gone.  Lawrence O’Donnell will not lose a day of sleep once the protest has been successfully terminated. America barely knows who Amy Goodman is now much less cares. So when she was arrested for reporting on this travesty, it was hardly noticed.

Worse yet, the endless parade of celebrities who never trouble themselves with Indigenous matters at any other time will still be able to enjoy their lives of luxury when this protest inevitably ends. It’s a disgusting spectacle. Think about it. What do Leonardo DiCaprio, Susan Sarandon, Pharrell Williams, Rosario Dawson, Mark Ruffalo, et al really have to lose if the pipeline goes through? Not a damn thing. Riley Keogh is out there taking promotional selfies with people there like she’s at a family barbecue, for God’s sake. Now, I’ll give credit where credit is due. Shaliene Woodley went to Standing Rock and got herself arrested and humiliated and brought attention to the cause. Good for her. On the other hand, Ms. Woodley is privileged enough to have the best of attorneys at her disposal to get her out of jail as quickly as she can get thrown in. Plus, as soon as her agent calls with the latest Divergent script, she is on the next plane back to Los Angeles. Guaranteed. Who do the people who live there all the time have to turn to when they get beaten, strip searched and imprisoned? Nobody, that’s who.

Dr. Jill Stein has been out there, but seeing as her future in politics is up in smoke, she may as well take up professional activism full-time. As for the Rev. Jesse Jackson? He just goes where the cameras are and has for the last thirty years. As nice as it may appear, it’s all just famous people making themselves feel good by going somewhere to have a camera pointed at them and say “Look at me! I’m progressive! I care about issues! And by the way, check out my new movie.” Don’t believe me? Then ask Ben Affleck about the attachment of this protest with promotion of the new Justice League movie set for 2017 release. Wow. Now that’s what I call heroism.

So what’s the solution? Let the Dakota Access Pipeline go though.

Seriously.

Let it go through and wait for catastrophe to strike. When white people start dying after the pipeline breaks down, which at some point in the future it will, you can rest assured that the Powers That Be will get their collective asses in gear and fast. When rich white people are getting hurt then things get done. That’s a fact. Things never get done when the people who were here thousands of years before America even existed are the ones getting hurt.

This Isn’t Denmark

Let me make this perfectly clear. You can vote for whatever third-party candidate you want to. It’s your right as an American to vote for whomever you please so long as they meet the qualifications set forth in Article II of the Constitution. But here is your quandary. None of those candidates have any mathematical hope of winning the Presidency and that is an inescapable fact. A protest vote in this election is crazy, petulant and above all extremely dangerous.

In case this frightening reality managed to elude anyone, Donald J. Trump is the Republican nominee and he may very well win. It’s easy to say “If not now, when?” OK, that’s a fair question. How about when you don’t have a certifiably crazy demagogue who demeans and insults every person he comes into contact with, calls for racial profiling, banning all members of a religion totaling 1.6 billion followers worldwide from entering the U.S., building a wall on the southern border and forcing another country to pay for it, punishing women who exercise their right to choose and holds foreign dictators in high esteem as models for “strong leadership”? Do it when Paul Ryan is the Republican nominee in 2020, that’s when.

Has anyone else noticed that so many people who want to cast a “protest” vote are young, mostly white and can’t imagine that a Trump presidency will be all that different from the 44 that preceded it? Well, it’s easy when you have enough advantages or privilege granted to you from birth that you feel insulated enough from the machinations of Donald Trump and his ilk. It’s easy when you’re somebody like Susan Sarandon and can watch society burn from the comfort of your penthouse in New York because you have enough money to shield you. It’s easy to shout slogans like CORRUPTION! OLIGARCHY! CORPORATE MEDIA! It’s easy when you think a Trump presidency won’t affect you that much.

Believe me it will and not for the better.

Yes, yes, yes, we all know that money is the root of all evil in politics. But let’s also be a little realistic. You need it to run an effective campaign and neither of the two major “third” parties have much of it. As of August 22, 2016, Jill Stein and the Green Party had $1,876,899 in their campaign coffers. You can purchase two taxi medallions in New York City with that but it’s going to be awfully hard to run a full-blown presidential campaign with the same amount. The Libertarians don’t fare much better. As of the same date, they have $2,953,292 in their campaign war chest. That’s less than the amount of money proposed to upgrade the public swimming pools in Lexington, Kentucky.

Also, consider this. There are 8,163 Federal, state and territorial offices in the United States, starting with the President, Senate and House of Representatives all the way down to state and territorial governorships and seats in their respective legislative bodies.  Do you know how many the Green Party holds? Zero. The highest public official in the United States who is a member of the Green Party is Bruce Delgado, who is the mayor of Marina, California. How about the Libertarian Party? Nope. They don’t have any either. Libertarian Robert Stephens is the mayor of Springfield, Missouri. A third-party needs to have far more candidates at the local, state and Federal level if they want to begin building coalitions and working with Democrats and Republicans to get effective and positive legislation passed. Just shooting for the top office isn’t enough.

It would also help to not have candidates who appear as crazy and unprepared as Trump. Libertarian Gary Johnson doesn’t know what or where Aleppo is and was under the impression that nobody was hurt in the recent bombing in New York. These aren’t gaffes. They’re ignorance. Green Party candidate Dr. Jill Stein, the ultimate liberal conspiracy theorist, states that Donald Trump would be better than Hillary Clinton or even Barack Obama, that unemployment figures are manipulated as part of a government cover-up to oppress the masses and is more concerned with childhood vaccines and GMOs than how to combat terrorism. Come on, people. You can find more qualified candidates than that.

Here’s something else. Do you know how many electoral votes the Green Party has won in their entire history as a political party? The answer is none. How about the Libertarian Party? They can boast one electoral vote and that was in 1972. But any third-party can sure throw a monkey wrench into an election with disastrous consequences. Just ask Ralph Nader.

I can sympathize with many eager revolutionaries who were crushed when Bernie Sanders wasn’t the nominee of a party he eschewed for the whole of his political career. But let’s be honest.  He was as cold and calculating a politician as any of the other big-ticket candidates for President. His campaign was pure political calculus. He remained either an Independent or a member of the old Liberty Union Party stretching all the way back to 1981 and became a Democrat in 2015 solely because he knew you can’t  win the White House as an independent. But for so many people left enthralled by his campaign, they came to the conclusion if they vote third-party, even at this most dangerous time in our history, you could conceivably have everything you and the rest of the country is entitled to: free education, a decent place to live, free medical care, good jobs, etc. because they have it Denmark, right?

This Isn’t Denmark.

This Isn’t News: Donald Trump is Racist Pig (But Don’t Let The News Try to Tell You That).

In its infinite stupidity and quest to forever appeal to the lowest common denominator, NBC News reported today that Donald Trump “conceded” that President Barack Obama was, in fact, a US citizen by birth. Not to be outdone, CNN reported that Trump “finally admitted” Obama’s legitimacy to be President under Section I, Article II of the Constitution.

Other news outlets covered this non-story in a similar fashion with headlines like “Trump accepts Barack Obama was born in US” (BBC) and “Trump Believes Obama Born In US” (CBS) as if this were a major policy address. Even the Washington Post, who is no friend of Donald Trump, had a headline that read “Trump acknowledges Obama was born in U.S.”  Only the New York Times started its coverage of this pointless, idiotic story by printing “Unwinding a Lie: Trump’s Long Embrace of ‘Birtherism’”. They were one of the few media outlets that called out this whole affair using the appropriate term: LIE. But hey, as for the rest of you in the press, we understand. Donald Trump’s tirades are fantastic for ratings. It makes for great copy, too.

Even it is political vomit.

What a service the mainstream media provides in covering truly breaking news. It was certainly magnanimous of Donald Trump to legitimize Barack Obama for us. If not for the press hanging on his every word as if something intelligent and useful were to emerge from that twisted mind of his resembling actual policy or proposals, we would have missed this most important announcement. Thanks to the national press corps assembled at his brand new luxury Washington, DC hotel (no doubt the penthouse of which will be his official residence should he win in November) we can breathe a sigh of relief that we actually have 44 Presidents of the United States instead of 43 and maybe 1 impostor because…shhh! That last one is black!

Forget for a moment the moronic statement by Trump preceding this that: “Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008 started the birther controversy. I finished it, I finished it.” What is far more amazing is that after eight years, we are still talking about this issue. Let’s not be coy anymore about Donald Trump and everyone else who embraced this belief, even for a moment. The fact that the Democratic nominee for President in 2008 was an African-American ignited the so-called “birther” conspiracy theory and nothing else. This story is the end product of racism. It was a desperate attempt to discredit Barack Obama by those who could not conceive of a successful and well-educated African-American ascending to the highest office in the land. To these “birthers”, this whole lunacy is little more than a coping mechanism to try to wrestle with the reality that the people who to them are little more than the descendants of the house help and those who used to work the cotton fields are now everywhere in government, education, law, medicine…even your next door neighbors. Even the President of the United States.

I, for one, am sick of this “white fragility” that Donald Trump personifies. This notion that he and other straight white men like him are just “Americans” with the sole right of defining our national culture needs to stop. People like Trump have always been challenged by the presence of these “others” in society. To Trump, these “hyphenated” kinds of Americans mean trouble for his ilk. They aren’t part of the old dominant structure of this country like he was and therefore must be something less than him. You can tell by the way he talks about people. “Oh, look at my African-American over here. Look at him.” Who the hell says something like that and is unaware of how that sounds? He knows. He just doesn’t care. He also knows the press will give him a pass on it because they are dying to hear the next crazy thing he utters and it gives him and his ego a hard on long enough to seal the southern border.

Donald Trump believes America is being smothered by Undesirable People. It has gotten under his skin to the point that he has lashed out and the press keeps letting him do it. But as for us? We let the press get away with it each and every time. Well, no more. It is Privilege by any other name and it’s stupid. Americans of all kinds knew from the beginning that Barack Obama was an American. Why can’t Trump? It’s because he’s a bigot. He’s Archie Bunker without even the courtesy to be funny. But we have allowed the media to cover this and all the other dreck he utters like legitimate news items and that is something that needs to be stopped just as surely as any racial hatred. Want to see a real conspiracy? How about the one perpetrated by the national press with the public’s help that “both candidates are equal”; a notion which is patently untrue and you’d have to be blind not to see that.

I guess we shouldn’t expect more than this. When we have so little in terms of anything else from the Republican nominee we shouldn’t expect much more. But we should. Shame on you, American news media, for the cowardice you show and sensationalism you foist on us as “news”. You breathe life into the never-ending stream of lies this perversion of a man spews out on a near daily basis and that is unforgivable. Walter Cronkite is spinning in his grave. So is Edward R. Murrow.

And shame on you, too, Donald. You’re a racist and if any of your supporters believed this line of bullshit at any point then so are they.

And that’s deplorable.

We Are Not F***ing Kidding About Donald Trump and Nuclear Weapons.

First, a history lesson because context is everything…

In October of 1962, nearly 54 years ago, President John F. Kennedy squared off against Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev in what would become known as the Cuban Missile Crisis. This political and military standoff over the installation of Soviet nuclear missiles in Cuba, just 90 miles from the United States, prompted almost everyone around the nation to conclude that the world was on the brink of nuclear war and the end of civilization as we know it was imminent.

In his now famous televised address to the nation on October 22, 1962, President Kennedy revealed the presence of the missiles in Cuba to the American people and announced his decision to enforce a naval blockade to prevent any further buildup of such weapons there. He also made it clear that the United States was prepared to take whatever action was necessary to compel the Soviet Union to remove this doomsday threat to our country. In his address, President Kennedy said:

…Aggressive conduct, if allowed to go unchecked and unchallenged, ultimately leads to war. This nation is opposed to war. We are also true to our word. Our unswerving objective, therefore, must be to prevent the use of these missiles against this or any other country, and to secure their withdrawal or elimination from the Western Hemisphere….It shall be the policy of this nation to regard any nuclear missile launched from Cuba against any nation in the Western Hemisphere as an attack by the Soviet Union on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon the Soviet Union.

In the waning days of the standoff, US Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara said of October 27, 1962, “I thought it was the last Saturday I would ever see”.

Whether it was because of strong American diplomatic efforts and military resolve, Divine Providence or just sheer unadulterated luck, cooler heads ultimately prevailed. Khrushchev agreed to remove the missiles if the United States would pledge that there would never be an attempt to invade Cuba, along with a further agreement from Kennedy to remove US nuclear missiles in Turkey that were aimed at the USSR. As a result of clear thinking and sound judgment, you and I get to sit here and read this today.  It is no exaggeration to state that had there been even the slightest alteration in the events of those Thirteen Days, if anyone on either side made just one wrong move, our planet would have quickly been reduced to a lifeless, radioactive rock. Those days in 1962 were as real as it gets.

So far.

This is the crux of the discussion now taking place about Donald Trump and nuclear weapons. When we walk into the voting booth in November, we must consider his temperament and judgment, or the lack thereof, and the near limitless ability that we have granted our Commander-in-Chief with regard to the decision to use the most powerful weapons ever constructed. Each American President has been obliged in some way to deal with provocations from hostile nations. Countless decisions are made in the White House with regard to foreign policy and military action, but since the end of the Second World War, all those decisions are tempered by the knowledge that we now live in a world where we can wipe each other out completely in a matter of minutes. The decision to use the Atomic Bomb against Japan was said to have tormented President Harry S. Truman until the day he died. And the weapons that exist today in our nuclear arsenal far outweigh the destructive power that was first unleashed at Hiroshima. The “Little Boy” Bomb dropped there on August 6, 1945 had a blast equivalent to 18 kilotons of TNT and we’ve all seen footage of the destruction that device was capable of. Now consider that the most common type of warhead in the US nuclear arsenal has a yield of 1.2 megatons of TNT.

Now imagine Donald Trump, who is so unbelievably thin-skinned he is that is easily goaded into apoplexy when simply asked about why he hasn’t released his tax returns, having control of about 4,500 such warheads.

There are numerous threats that face our nation today. Between large-scale aggression from nations such as Russia, China and North Korea to a seemingly endless parade of unconventional threats from terrorist factions, the next Commander-in-Chief will have many tools to work with. Diplomatic and economic pressure, intelligence gathering and cyber warfare, covert special operations and yes, large-scale conventional troop deployments are all options the President has. But as one who remembers a time when the Berlin Wall was still very much standing, the threat of global annihilation is still very palpable to me. It should make everyone shake with terror a when we consider a man who can barely keep his hands off of Twitter when he’s angry having direct access to the Football, which is the briefcase that gives the President the ability order a nuclear strike from anywhere.

We cannot allow any candidate from any party to the nation’s highest office to cavalierly treat the nuclear option as simply one of many that can be employed to deal with whatever threat might come our way. Economic sanctions and special operations should not be considered as reasonable a choice as a nuclear strike. You can’t nuke terrorism out of existence as much as you might want to.  Smaller nations attempting to get nuclear capability of their own or just saber-rattling cannot be casually blasted off the map just because they piss us off.

And you most certainly cannot use the threat of nuclear destruction as leverage for negotiation, to make you “unpredictable” or to extract the behavior you want or political concessions from a nation because they fear you might make them glow in the dark for the next 25,000 years. There is a term for that. It’s called nuclear terrorism. Is that what you want in the White House?

In her speech at the Democratic National Convention, Hillary Clinton said:

Donald Trump can’t even handle the rough-and-tumble of a presidential campaign. He loses his cool at the slightest provocation. When he’s gotten a tough question from a reporter, when he’s challenged in a debate, when he sees a protestor at a rally…imagine, if you dare, imagine — imagine him in the Oval Office facing a real crisis. A man you can bait with a tweet is not a man we can trust with nuclear weapons.  I can’t put it any better than Jackie Kennedy did after the Cuban Missile Crisis. She said that what worried President Kennedy during that very dangerous time was that a war might be started – not by big men with self-control and restraint, but by little men – the ones moved by fear and pride.”

There is perhaps no better definition of the Little Man moved by Fear and Pride than Donald Trump.

A President must accept the responsibility of having such awesome power at their command with grim seriousness and profound reverence. Does Donald Trump have grim seriousness or profound reverence about anything save his own fragile ego? Can any of us imagine this ego, this hypermasculine Id amplified by the ability to completely level a whole a continent on a whim? Contrary to popular belief, there really are no checks against a President if he chooses to order a nuclear attack. There’s nobody to act as a counterbalance. If he wants a missile to be fired, it will be fired.  A person must be absolutely f***ing crazy if they believe someone like Donald Trump would act with anything resembling restraint if given power that our forbears once believed was reserved for God.

It’s not an easy thing to be able to literally blow up the world and nobody should make light of it. President Truman understood all of this. He made the choice to use the Ultimate Weapon to end the most terrible conflict the world had ever witnessed and even then he only used it against two cities. But the consequences were so profound that we debate his use of it to this very day and continually struggle to limit the presence of this destructive force on our world. President Kennedy was without a doubt confronted with far worse. He stared down the greatest fear our species has ever faced. In 1962, humanity faced extinction by our own hand. He knew that the penalty of miscalculation or arrogance would be planetary suicide. Kennedy understood that nuclear aggression could not be left unchallenged. But he also understood what a nuclear exchange would mean for the people of the United States and…well, everyone else on the planet. He made difficult decisions and each carefully calculated move was fraught with risk. The consequence of failure with any decision regarding the use of nuclear weapons could mean total, complete and absolute destruction of our world.

We have done this dance as nation already. Let’s not do it again.