Reading between the Lines: Dialoguing with Text to Squeeze Out Truths

MEDIA, 5 Sep 2016

Gary Corseri – TRANSCEND Media Service

1 Sep 2016 – William M. Brasch’s diatribe against Trump and his “extreme right-wing supporters” (presently at LA Progressive– link below*) merits a point-by-point rebuttal of its mis-statements and hyperboles that add to the confusion, anger and resentment in our bizarre, “democratic” (but media-controlled and campaign-financed) political process.

Let’s try to transcend our Controllers’ (as Huxley called them) love of journalistic monologues, and the logical fallacies of ad hominems and broad-brush painting.  Let’s practice a critical dialogue with the text here  (the kind one learns in Grad School, say, when dealing with a poem by Yeats).  Let me state from the start that I am neither a partisan for Trump nor Clinton.  As a student of Literature and Literary Criticism, I like Derrida’s “deconstructionist” theories about the relationship (often obfuscated) between text and meaning; as a journalist, I seek Truth.

Let’s start here: regarding Trump’s concerns about admitting Syrian refugees to the US, Mr. Brasch writes:

“His solution is to issue an unconstitutional moratorium against Muslims who wish to migrate to the U.S.”

Frankly, I haven’t heard of such a Trumpian trope, but I’m pretty sure the power to issue such a “moratorium” does not lie with the US president—no matter how emboldened.  Mr. Brasch then complains about Trump’s complaints that we do not know enough about those people we are admitting into our country:  he writes:

“…we do know about ‘them’ because the vetting process for admitting persons to the U.S. is about two years; the U.S. in fiscal year 2016 plans to admit only 10,000 Syrian refugees.”

In fact, according to an article in the Washington Post (January 13, 2016):

“The United States already plans to admit 85,000 refugees from around the world in the fiscal year that began in October…. The total allotment is 15,000 more refugees than in the previous year and includes 10,000 Syrians … under a special [UN] vetting process that typically takes 18 to 24 months. The ceiling for refugees is even higher for 2017, when it will rise to 100,000.”

Considering the dire state of American cities, high youth unemployment, and an especially perilous life for African-Americans and Hispanic-Americans, why wouldn’t we want to be very careful about who crosses our borders and takes up residence next door?  As a matter of fact, “vetting” is what I and millions of Americans have been subjected to as we made our way through the mazes of education and careers.  We used to call the process “grading,” and reviewing a resume!  Sometimes we would “vet” potential mates.  We called that “dating”!  I recently renewed my driver’s license.  The officious clerks reviewed my driving record, I submitted various proofs of residence and identity.  No one called it “vetting,” but they might as well have.

(Some argue that the US has a moral obligation to admit the refugees from Syria, etc.  Perhaps we do; but I think we have a far more serious moral obligation to terminate our imperial aggressions that have caused millions of deaths and dislocations around the world since the latest version of our “greatest generation” fought the latest version of our “war to end all wars”!)

Mr. Brasch continues his cataloguing:

“The extreme right wing denounce President Obama for attending an elementary school in Indonesia where, they claim, he was indoctrinated to anti-American propaganda and became a Muslim.  For the past 12 years, the right wing has referred to the president as Barack HUSSEIN Obama. What they don’t emphasize is that the Founding Fathers were adamant that there is a separation of church and state, and that no one religion is included or excluded from persons running for any office.”

How smoothly he glides from “extreme right wing” to the merely “right wing”!  One wonders, Is the “extreme left wing” the same as the mere “left wing”?  In terms of “emphasis,” it is also worth noting that many, if not most, of our “Founding Fathers” were so “adamant” about the “separation of church and state” because they did not want Quakers and other religious “revolutionaries” protesting those wig-haired gents’ “right” to own and trade slaves!  Long after the fervor of 1776 subsided, octogenarian Ben Franklin rose in Congress on his crickety, arthritic legs in support of the Quaker Resolution against slavery.  (The Resolution was soundly defeated.)

Mr. Brasch continues his foray by reminding us of the controversy at the Democratic Convention when a distraught and angry mother and father, who had lost their son to war, challenged Trump about his knowledge of the US Constitution:

“ [While] some of Trump’s advisors claimed the Khans, who are Muslims who emigrated from Pakistan, could have been terrorists—Trump himself didn’t rebuke them for their comments—”

Of course, we cannot know whether Trump did “rebuke” his advisors in private.  Mr. Brasch appears to be discomfited by the lack of a public “rebuke” or apology.  In fact, Trump has shifted his “advisors” and “surrogates” quite a bit, especially in recent weeks and months.  I have not heard that Hillary has “rebuked” any of her advisors, including Huma Abedin, for their poor judgment.  One wonders with Job: “Where is the place of understanding?  Where can wisdom be found?”

Unrebuked, Mr. Brasch carries on.  Concerning Steve Bannon’s recent appointment as a Trump “advisor,” Brasch informs us of:

“Steve Bannon, who had been CEO of Breitbart News, an extreme right-wing online news site that promotes white nationalism and opposes immigration of individuals who would be part of minority cultures in the United States.  Bannon’s ex-wife, Mary Louise Piccard, accused him of anti-Semitism during a child custody fight in 2007.”

It seems that we are to take accusations of “anti-Semitism” made in court during a child-custody battle 9 years ago as proof positive of irredemption.  , the “extreme left,” or “just left,” or the other On the other hand, apparently, for the “extreme left” or “just left” or simply the other guys, accusations of infidelity and sexual addictions made by Hillary’s principal aide, Huma Abedin, against her sexting husband, former senator Anthony Wiener, should not reflect on Hillary’s judgment or on her “extremely careless” handling of national security emails.  One wonders if any “rebuking” has occurred?

Undaunted, in regard to this fuzzy charge of “anti-Semitism,” Mr. Brasch continues:

“….most Jews are liberals who are willing to stand up for the rights of all minorities and are strong advocates of social justice.  They see in Trump personality traits that remind them of more than four millennia of anti-Semitism from numerous rulers, demagogues, and masses who believed their own problems were caused by Jews and other minority religions and cultures.”

Talk about ad hominems, broad-brush painting, poisoning the wells, etc.!  As a half-Jew I declare that in my extended family and among my colleagues, I have known fools and sages, bright stars and dull bulbs, “liberals,” “conservatives,” and “extremists”!  The argument here is a glaring red herring!  What “personality traits” can possibly associate Trump with “four millennia of anti-Semitism from numerous rulers, demagogues, and masses?”  Really?  Four millennia?

So, it appears we have an “extreme right wing” “anti-Semitic” Steve Bannon advising Mr. Trump.  Oddly, there is no mention of Hillary Clinton supporter Madeline Albright, who, as Pres. Bill Clinton’s Secretary of State informed reporter Leslie Stahl that the deaths of 500,000 Iraqi children as a result of the POTUS embargo on medicines entering Iraq was “worth it.”  (Someone might want to inform Mr. Brasch that Arabs are also Semites and that much of the “four millennia” of suffering was actually about Arabs suffering at the hands of other Arabs, as well as Christians and Jews.)  As for “personality traits” that remind us of the worst of our species, what to make of Hillary’s demonic laughter when she commented upon the sadistic, sodomizing killing of Libya’s Qaddafi: “We came, we saw… he died”?  (Our language-swords cut both ways!)

Mr. Brasch concludes:

“Hillary Clinton said Trump ‘is taking hate groups mainstream and helping a radical fringe take over the Republican Party.’”

Frankly, I am much less concerned about the “take over” of the Republican Party or the Democratic Party (which in my mind together form the “Republicratic Party”) than I am concerned about parboiled journalism of half-truths.

Let us have education committed to how to think above what to think, and let us have journalists committed to ferreting whole truths out of the miasma of half-truths and distortions; let us encourage dialogue between informed citizens, and we may begin, finally, to revere the gifts bequeathed to us by generations of men and women who struggled for light out of the darkness, for perdurable peace beyond constant wars.




Gary Corseri has published and posted articles, fiction and poems at hundreds of venues, including, TMS (Transcend Media Service), The New York Times, Village Voice, Redbook Magazine and Counterpunch.  He has published 2 novels and 2 collections of poetry, and his dramas have been produced on PBS-Atlanta and elsewhere.  He has performed his poems at the Carter Presidential Library and Museum, and he has taught in universities in the US and Japan, and in US public schools and prisons.  Contact:

This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 5 Sep 2016.

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