YIN VS. YANG: Tell me I was dreaming. I woke up this morning convinced Chumash Casino had booked the ultimate pay-per-view knock-down-drag-out in the heavyweight class: The Pope versus Donald Trump. And if not, my question is, why not? It would feature the ultimate confrontation between the best and worst angels of our nature. And who else on the Planet could concoct such a spectacle but the folks running the show up at the casino?
At this nanosecond in history, I recognize that bagging further on The Donald has become the equivalent of beating a dead horse with two hoofs tied behind its back. For 30 years, Trump has burned through many fortunes — the man’s worth $8.7 billion even though he’s declared bankruptcy four times — by cornering the market on ugly and offensive. To let Trump’s latest diatribes against Mexican immigrants get under your skin — they’re rapists, drug dealers, not to mention the very worst elements of Mexican society, but some, he said he assumes, “are good people” — is to fall hook, line, and sinker for one of the most obviously cynical branding campaigns ever.
But this time might be different.
The good news is that Big Business — never known to be unduly squeamish — can’t distance itself from The Donald fast enough. Miss America, Miss Universe, NBC, the PGA, ESPN, Macy’s, and, yes, even NASCAR have decided to shun Trump by curtailing various and sundry business relationships. The bad news is that despite all this, The Donald ranked second of all 16 Republican presidential aspirants in a recent CNN poll. He placed, second, as well, in a poll of likely Iowa and New Hampshire voters.
I accidentally celebrated the Fourth of July by taking a call from a guy who just happened to be an immigrant from Peru, sounding off about how city parking patrol officers have been ticketing customers at his auto transmission shop, located in an alleyway between Gutierrez and Montecito streets. How did it make sense for City Hall to issue him a business license — and to take money from him — to fix transmissions at his location, he demanded, if it was illegal for his customers to park there? For the record, there is a no-parking sign. Even so, I felt his point; I saw his pain. But inevitably, inexorably, the conversation shifted to Trump. How could it not? “America is better than that!” the man exclaimed. “America is bigger than that.” He totally got me. In that moment, a foreign-born immigrant I’d never met managed to make me feel genuinely patriotic. Were it not for the drought, I would have run around the neighborhood with sparklers blazing in my hair, throwing M-80s at the sky. As an added cherry on top, he reminded me how a Latino-owned beer company that’s been making Trump Tower beer changed the name of the brew to Chinga Tu Pelo. In Spanish, that means “Fuck Your Hair.” Can’t get more succinct than that.
Meanwhile, our rock-star Pope has been drawing millions during his tour of South America, inveighing mightily against economic exploitation, environmental depredation, and rapacious consumerism all with an astonishingly light touch given the Debbie Downer subject matter. Francis manages to get across to the extent he does because he’s got his fingers strategically plugged into the twin light sockets of forgiveness and redemption rather than dispatching the Church’s bread-and-butter demons of guilt and shame. Such abject fawning aside, The Pope would be far more persuasive by declaring the Church was cool with birth control. With more than seven billion of us on the planet, it’s obviously time to put on the reproductive brakes. Equally obvious are the economic and environmental benefits of doing so.
While on the road, the Pope’s been banging the gong as part of his campaign to soon make saints out of Father Junípero Serra — founder of the California missions and decimator of native populations — and former Salvadoran Archbishop Óscar Romero. I say former because in 1980, Romero was shot to death while saying mass by right-wing death squads armed, trained, and bankrolled by the United States. Without our intervention in that fight, it’s doubtful the war would have lasted nearly as long — 12 years — or been so bloody — 75,000 killed. Dead bodies became so plentiful that birds feeding on the remains grew so heavy and fat they could no longer fly. (I don’t pretend to know on what flimsy technical grounds Romero will be sanctified, but they have to be as strong as the stretched rationale to justify sainthood for Serra, about whom the nicest thing that can be said is that he loved the Chumash to death. If Serra — an agent of colonial empire — gets the nod, then Romero, an agent of colonial resistance, should, too.) All that took place in the heyday of Ronald Reagan’s cheerfully unapologetic policy of arming any Central American goons willing to profess ardent anti-communism and to sacrifice other people’s blood. That’s ancient history now, but one of the consequences of this policy was a massive exodus by residents of the affected countries. Naturally, many came to the United States. Many, it seems, now work for The Donald himself. Recent news articles suggest that a large percentage of the construction workers now building the new $200 million Trump International Hotel, located just five blocks from the White House, are undocumented immigrants from those Central American countries, most of whom entered the United States illegally. This might seem hypocritical, but it’s really not. Trump never talked shit about Central Americans, only Mexicans.
I ardently hope the booking agents working for the casino can make my foolish dreams come true. If not, I’ll have to get by with Chinga Tu Pelo! I think I’ll manage.