Attacks on Trump’s character are mere distractions from the real issues – By Mohamed Hamaludin

Attacks on Trump’s character are mere distractions from the real issues

By MOHAMED HAMALUDIN

Former FBI director James Comey likens the president of the United States to a mob boss, calls him “unethical and untethered to the truth” and declares him “morally unfit” to hold the office.

Big deal, right? Not really, not in these times. Even before the 2016 election, Trump was videotaped boasting about groping women. He said if he shot someone in the street, his supporters would still stand by him. Several women accused him of sexual molestation and worse and at least two others claim they had affairs with him and were bought off to keep silent. Yet, true to Trump’s assertion, nearly half of Americans still support him.  

Trump is way past the point of being hurt by character concerns. They have not caused much worry among his supporters, the Republican leaderships in Congress or the Evangelicals, self-appointed guardians of American morality who gave him 80 percent of their votes. They merely serve as distractions from the real issues.

These include the people whom Trump has picked for his administration and the impact his policies will have on the country. Gina Haspel, appointed CIA director, has been accused of complicity in torture and destroying dozens of videotapes of torture. Newly appointed National Security Adviser John Bolton once chaired the Gatestone Institute, linked to Russian media and anti-Islamic propaganda. Mike Pompeo, confirmed as Secretary of State, has a record of supporting “regime change” in foreign countries. This triumvirate will oversee U.S. foreign policy.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is doling out millions to charter schools, while teachers have to strike for a living wage.Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt, who is facing several federal investigations,is gutting policies curbing pollution and opening to oil drilling environmentally sensitive lands and all offshore sites, including off the Florida coast.

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson has purged the agency’smission statement of promises of inclusivity and anti-discrimination.This lone black Cabinet member once said slaves were merely “immigrants who came here in the bottom of slave ships.”

Some appointees have already been forced out of office and some are under criminal investigation or indictment — new inhabitants of the “swamp” that Trump promised to drain. In fact, he has extended blanket exemption from White House ethics rules for all his senior staff.

The Affordable Care Act – Obamacare – has been so gutted that the cost of health care is soaring.The recent multi-trillion-dollar tax cuts permanently doles out hundreds of billions of dollars to the wealthiest people, with everyday Americans getting only a one-year benefit.

Some issues do not seem to be on the Trump agenda, such as voting rights, which have been rolled back, unemployment, housing and, particularly, poverty.  Fifty years after the Kerner Report uncovered the appalling level of poverty, an updated study published this February concluded, “There are far more people who are poor now than was true 50 years ago. Inequality of income is worse.”Today, 46 percent of Americans are living in severe poverty — 16 percent more that in 1975.

United Nations official Leilani Farha, on a tour to look at poverty, was astonished to see the number of homeless people, including a young man heating tortillas in a dirty skillet in San Francisco.“The last time I saw cooking on a sidewalk was in Mumbai,” Farha said, referring to the Indian city.

Lack of diversity in the workplace is seen even in the FBI, of which Comey speaks with such reverence. Alice Speri, reporting for The Intercept on April 21, said 83 percent of the 13,500 agents are white and only 4.4 percent are black – down from 5.3 percent in the 1990s.

But if the grown-ups are unwilling to do the heavy lifting, the young are waking up to the country they may inherit. They have started with guns and schoolsafety, with the March For Our Lives, on March 14, in Washington, D.C., organized by students of Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, where a gunman killed 14 students and three adults, followed by a nationwide protest at 2,500 schools on April 20 led by 15-year-old Lane Murdock of Connecticut.

Justin Blackman, 16, the only one to walk out of the 700-student Wilson Preparatory Academy in North Carolina on March 14, was joined by 350 schoolmates for the later protest.

Delilah Matrese, 10, of Hamilton Elementary School in Pennsylvania, was also alone when she decided to walk out for the April 20 nationwide protest – but her father, Stephen Matrese, joined her.

Havana Chapman-Edwards, who accompanied her parents to the March 14 rally, also was the only student at Fort Hunt Elementary School in Virginia to walk out for the protests. She is only 7 years old and her mother, Bethany Edwards, signed her out of class.

“She wanted to represent African and African American girls who are victims of gun violence, as well as her cousin, Tony, who was a victim of gun violence,” the mother said.

Today it is guns but, as these young people grow older, at least some of them will extend their activism to other issues as they see the tangled web of lies and deception that passes for politics. Therein may lay the hope for a much better America.

Mohamed Hamaludin is a Guyana-born journalist who  worked for several years at The Chronicle in the 1970s and in the Cayman Islands and Turks and Caicos Islands before immigrating to the United States in 1984 where he worked at The Miami Times, the Miami Herald and the South Florida Times.  Though now retired, he writes a commentary every two or three weeks for The South Florida Times. He may be reached at hamal1942@gmail.com.

The above column first appeared in South Florida Times and was slightly updated for timeliness.

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