Robert Azzi: Why I’m angry: Thank you for asking

  • Richard Grenell (left) stands with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic in this Jan. 24 file photo. President Donald Trump has named Grenell acting director of national intelligence. AP

For the Monitor
Published: 2/23/2020 6:45:10 AM

Recently, I read newspaper columns that asked: “Why are Americans so darn angry?” and “America, how did it get so out of hand?”

Those columns, along with other opinion pieces, letters and Facebook posts from New Hampshire Republicans warrant response, I believe, because they actively advance a limited, white and privileged agenda and advance false narratives about what America is – and what it aspires to be.

As I’m feeling angry a lot these days I’m willing to respond to those who appear to believe that autocracy and corruption are acceptable forms of political engagement, to respond to those who so fear the wrath of their fellow travelers that they’re willing to deny this nation’s values in order to maintain their party status.

There are times when it’s enough to be angry at Donald Trump and his base. I know he’s charismatic; I know how ignorant, narcissistic, vindictive and racist he is and I know how cleverly he’s manipulated his base with lies, dog-whistles, and validations of grievances and resentments – especially grievances and resentments against those who don’t look like them – especially against those who are minorities and communities of color.

But that’s not enough.

Between Trump and his base are those GOP apparatchiks who, shameless, are willing to support – for their own parochial interests – the rending of the fragile, diverse, pluralistic tapestry that has been carefully woven over generations.

I decided I wanted to respond to those enablers, those in positions of authority – particularly within the Republican Party and Trump’s re-election apparatus who reinforce his message without shame, without truth, without regard for this nation’s history, aspirations or struggles – because it’s the right thing to do.

Today, more Americans should be angry at what we’ve become!

After 9/11, after al-Qaida terrorists hijacked four aircraft and perpetrated the deadliest attack ever on American soil, our intelligence community was totally restructured.

NASA, the CIA and the other 15 elements of our intelligence community were combined under one directorate – one authority – the office of the Director of National Intelligence, the DNI.

Since 9/11 our intelligence professionals have been diligent in trying to identify, report upon and eliminate threats to the homeland and have been, for the most part, successful, including tracking down and killing Osama bin Laden, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Anwar al-Awlaki and other terrorists.

Today, that professionalism and focus is in jeopardy.

Recently, after a senior intelligence official briefed – as required – congressional lawmakers that Russia wants to see President Trump re-elected – that Russia was continuing to interfere in our elections – Trump, in a fit of pique, fired the acting DNI, Joseph Maguire, believing him to be disloyal for telling Congress what Russia’s intentions may be.

Trump then decided to replace Maguire with the current American politically-appointed-ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, as acting director of national intelligence.

Grenell has no intelligence experience – no intelligence background. Our security is being placed in the hands of someone whose only qualification is that he is loyal to Donald Trump.

Maguire’s not alone; others are being purged – other incompetents are being brought in.

That scares me – and it makes me angry.

It makes me angry because it represents the actions of an administration that’s becoming increasingly xenophobic, jingoistic and racist, which is manipulating intelligence to support that authoritarian agenda.

When, during the State of the Union address, Trump bestowed the Presidential Medal of Freedom upon the vile, misogynistic, racist, immigrant-scorning Rush Limbaugh, it made me – as I recalled previous recipients and all that they had accomplished to bring honor upon America – angry.

I’m angry because Trump’s enablers – who are assertive in affirming their bona fides as retired military, pro-Second amendment, pro-family, pro-American patriotic values, values to which most Americans aspire – appear to deny those very values by embracing an administration that denies the existential nature of America.

It is un-American to advocate for America while denying liberty and justice to all.

It is un-American to support keeping people in concentration camps and children in cages.

It is un-American to deny the hungry food, deny the thirsty drink, to deny care to the sick, clothing to the naked, shelter to the sojourner.

It makes me angry that as we deny the needy there are Americans who support pardons and commutations for war criminals and corrupt politicians, police commissioners and construction company owners.

What Trump is inflicting upon America will not be forgotten when he leaves office. There is no return to default button, no reset.

The judges deemed “not qualified” by the ABA will still be on the bench. The State Department and intelligence professionals forced from government service will not return.

The Department of Justice will not magically replace the bandana over Lady Justice.

America is out of hand because people are angry at being disenfranchised; that 1% of our people control 40% of our wealth; that they are making more money that is being wiped out by increases in the cost of living.

I’m angry that Trump’s supporters are incapable of acknowledging that while 6.6 million new jobs were created in the first 36 months of Trump’s tenure, 8.1 million were created in the final 36 months of President Barack Obama’s tenure.

I’m angry they can’t acknowledge that the trajectories for both unemployment and stock market growth are direct extensions of growth patterns begun under President Obama after the Great Recession.

Finally, I’m not angry that Nancy Pelosi tore up her copy of Trump’s State of the Union message – it was a bogus document unworthy of being more than confetti. Her act was neither childish nor disgraceful – certainly not illegal – it was an expression of outrage by a strong woman in the face of a misogynist and racist.

Today, we are being called upon to confront a president who, after white supremacists marched in Charlottesville chanting “Jews will not replace us,” referred to them as very fine people.

Today, we are being called upon to confront an American president who – either through his apparatchiks, rallies and texts – continues to dog-whistle to his followers that the American intelligence services can’t be trusted, that honest journalism is the “Enemy of the People,” that Mexicans are rapists, that Muslims “hate us,” that America is closed to people from “shithole” countries, that America is being invaded and that Democrats are threats to America.

That makes me angry.

(Robert Azzi, a photographer and writer who lives in Exeter, can be reached at His columns are archived at

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