Fire Monkeys and My Thoughts on the Presidential Primaries

April 06, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

These are some of my thoughts on the current presidential election primaries. Also included in this blog post are some monkey photos that I’ve taken in Asia this Chinese year of the Fire Monkey.  

Are We Still Just a Bunch of Political Fire Monkeys?  (I took the photo below in Huan Hin, Thailand)

My first impactful memory as a child was when I was six years old. It was the day that I went with my father and our beloved 18 year old babysitter Maureen to downtown Portland, Oregon to join the large peaceful protests against the Vietnam War. I remember riding on my father’s shoulders and things were fun and festive. Then the teargas and the lines of angry police came. 

My father quickly carried me away from the mayhem, but we lost Maureen.  She showed up at our home several hours later. Our beautiful, blond and tall babysitter was now black, blue and bloodied by police clubs. I became a very angry little boy in that moment and I thought, “police bad, war bad, violence bad.” (I took the photo below in Rishikesh, India)

This experience sparked a passion in politics that continued throughout my adult life, and I have always sought to balance that passion with empathy and compassion for those who don’t share my political beliefs and values.

I have an advanced degree in Latin America Studies from the University of New Mexico and I was professor of Spanish and Latin American Culture for 12 years. (I took the photo below in Rishikesh, India)

I have spent years educating American voters about the civil wars in Central America, the war on drugs, the war of choice in Iraq and our current and seeming to never to end war on terror. 

As you might imagine, I strongly resonate with Bernie Sander’s campaign and his message. (I took the photo below in Mt. Seraya, Bali, Indonesia)

In Chinese astrology, this is the year of the Fire Monkey, and the hottest and highest stakes presidential primary season of my lifetime has me thinking about a lot things beyond politics, including our anthropoid ancestors.

In a troop of monkeys there is an emphasis on stability and order. Among males, there is an “alpha” male who clearly dominates everyone else in the group.  In these communities, politics and alliances also play a big role. (I took the photo below in Rishikesh, India.)

So what’s up with Donald Trump’s macho appeal to so many Republican voters, and my fellow supporters of Bernie Sanders who loathe Hillary Clinton?

“Why is Donald Trump wining the majority of Republican primaries?” my liberal friend asks while shaking her head and flipping through her Facebook feeds. 

According to conservative New York Times political columnist David Brooks, “Trump voters are a coalition of the dispossessed. They have suffered lost jobs, lost wages, lost dreams. The American system is not working for them, so naturally they are looking for something else.”

That makes sense, but what is more significant is that Trump's "I’ll fix this shit" bravado is appealing to voters with authoritarian inclinations. This is scary if we consider parallels to 1930s Germany. (I took the photo below in Haridwar, India.)

It still remains to be seen if Trump will be the nominee. Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican nominee, recently called Trump a “phony, a fraud.”  It is possible that the Republican Party leaders, in a bit of quandary about what to do with this guy, will not allow him to become the nominee. 

Fry up some good popcorn and pour yourself an ice cold drink this July, because the Republican convention in Cleveland will be brokered, contentious and nasty. (I took the photo below in Hua Hin, Thailand.)

I always understood why Republicans disliked Hillary Clinton. They saw her as the “uppity” First Lady who tried to force “socialist” universal healthcare down their throats in 1993. Politically she is too far to the left for many Republicans: single payer healthcare, abortion rights, immigration, global warming, and one of the more liberal voting records during her time in the US Senate. 

In their eyes Hillary is a 1960s hippie in a fancy dress suit.

As a Bernie Sanders’ supporter who wants to remain informed, when I look at voting records and public statements, Clinton and Sanders are much closer in policy and ideology than they are with any of the Republicans running this year. (I took the photo below in Hua Hin, Thailand.)

I remember my friends who voted for Ralph Nader back in 2000 telling me that there was little difference between Al Gore and George W Bush. Gore was a continuation of Bill Clinton’s presidency and Nader was a true progressive, but my friends did not disparage Gore. There was no talk of trying Gore for war crimes, calling him a criminal, or a political “whore.”

From Whitewater to Benghazi, it is the Republicans that created the negative frame that Hillary Clinton is twofaced and not to be trusted. Many progressive Bernie Sanders’ supporters have now also bought into in this Republican framing over her. (I took the photo below in Rishikesh, India.)

If you were to read my Facebook newsfeeds right now, you’d think Hillary Clinton was more evil than the most conservative Republican. 

Hillary’s supporters (not in my Facebook newsfeeds) say that her critics are sexist and that she is judged differently than her male colleagues. Her more reasonable detractors on the left believe that Hillary Clinton simply represents the status quo. She is a political game player, and that unlike the election of Sanders, or even Trump, Clinton in the White House changes very little of our “broken” system.  

Many Bernie Sanders supporters are threatening not to vote in the fall if Hillary Clinton wins the nomination. A minority of them would rather have Trump elected, cynically believing that with Donald Trump in the White House things will get so horrible that our country will finally “wake up.”  Viva la Revolución! (I took the photo below in Mt. Seraya, Bali, Indonesia.)

I understand that we are in the middle of a contentious democratic primary and our country has changed a lot this century, but I believe that the ire for Hillary Clinton goes beyond politics.

What is happening on a more primal level with Trump’s enthusiastic support, and the leftwing scorn of the most powerful female politician in America?

I believe that many Americans are still uncomfortable with a woman keeping us safe from the big scary world out there.  I mean, how many female Commander in Chiefs have we elected? (I took the photo below in Hua Hin, Thailand.)

Donald is the chest thumping orangutan, patriarch and protector of the clan.  He tells it like it is. He takes no prisoners. He makes no apologies for America’s greatness. He will persevere and strengthen the empire!

And who is the woman that many Republicans and Bernie Sanders’ supporters despise?  Is Hillary really the conniving chimpanzee with an easy smile that will stab you when your back is turned? (I took the photo below in Hua Hin, Thailand.)

Bernie is an honest, decent man who has motivated voters who otherwise feel hopeless or apathetic about national politics. He has helped to ignite a progressive movement in this country that I hope will move forward independently of this and future elections.  

In substance and policy Bernie is my candidate, but on Inauguration Day, January 20, 2017 I’ll be very comfortable saying “Madam President.”

Or are we still just a bunch of political fire monkeys? (I took the photo below in Rishikesh, India.)

This essay was also published (without all the fun monkey photos) in Elephant Journal: http://www.elephantjournal.com/2016/03/are-we-still-just-a-bunch-of-political-fire-monkeys/

Photo note: I took all images close to the monkeys with a 100mm lens (2x) or less. 

 


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