As a public service journalist who once made a living scrutinizing the powerful and championing the needy, I absolutely abhor the immigrant bashing now in vogue in this great nation.
Yes, we have a problem with illegal immigration. That's true.
However, this modest challenge pales beside the larger problem of the fake tough guys now bullying our nation's most defenseless residents. These posers represent nothing more or less than a precipitous decline in the collective manhood of the United States and a significant degradation in our collective sense of honor.
I've covered 15 hurricanes in the field and can tell you from experience that you don't really know anyone until you see how they conduct themselves in adversity. Meaning after the power goes off, faucets run dry, cell service fails, and first responders stop responding.
This nation has faced a similar kind of adversity since 9/11 and cowered fearfully before it.
We've come up short and allowed many of our most cherished values to be compromised. Chief among them, the heroic ideals of the strong championing the weak and the rich elevating the poor.
I grew up around working class role models who taught me that only cowards bully the weak, and the real measure of a man is their willingness to stand up to bullies and advance the greater good. This American belief system is reflected in iconic films as diverse as the Man Who Killed Liberty Valance, Band of Brothers, The Grapes of Wrath, Malcolm-X, Stand and Deliver, Norma Rae, Avatar, To Kill a Mockingbird, Stand By Me, The Matrix, Remember The Titans, The Outsiders, My Bodyguard, Guardians of the Galaxy, On the Waterfront, Schindler's List, and It's a Wonderful Life.
Heroic sacrifice and stubborn defiance in the face of tyranny are essential elements of the American narrative.
However, those courageous beliefs are being supplanted today by the ridiculous idea there is no greater embodiment of the American Way than the silver spoons who terrorize the needy and vulnerable for their own sadistic amusement and financial enrichment.
This is what our poser president and those emboldened by his pitiful example are now teaching our children.
Hollywood is even trying to program us to admire this shameful conduct behind disgraceful films like Zero Dark Thirty. A reprehensible flick which celebrates the torture of helpless prisoners of war in the far off lands we now garrison in the name of greater corporate profit growth.
The heroic sacrifice of our men and women in uniform is being replaced by the heroic greed of the hedge fund managers and private equity fund managers hiding behind them. People who enrich themselves by laying off their fellow Americans.
Silver spoon mofos like Donald Trump are presented as the Alpha Males of this new Amerika. Instead of the Grima Wormtongues they are.
We're being programmed to celebrate their arrogance, big talk, sadism, hypocrisy and deceit. Instead of the quiet heroism, strength and self sacrifice of real tough guys, like veterans John Kerry, John McCain and Max Cleland.
Kerry, McCain and Cleland were serving in Vietnam while Trump was dodging the military draft then in place. Not once, but five times.
The same monied interests that back him are now hijacking a free press which once championed the weak, scrutinized the powerful, and employed populist columnists like Jimmy Breslin and Mike Royko. It's being replaced by a captive press which mindlessly regurgitates Wall Street press releases, celebrates wealth and greed, and peddles terror and group bias.
The "men" who champion this reduced Amerika represent the worst of us. They do benefits but not burdens and have given us the stolen valor crisis, assault rifles in Chipolte restaurants, a resurgent Klu Klux Klan, and a right wing noise machine that appeals to our basest instincts.
Today, these posers routinely post photos of themselves and their firearms in political discussion groups frequented by peace-loving progressives.
They habitually claim military service they have not performed and wear medals they have not earned.
It's also quite common for those who have served in support roles to exaggerate the dangers they were exposed to.
The painful truth is that for every special forces operative serving at the tip of the proverbial spear there are more than 50 warehouse clerks, lifeguards, IT specialists and personnel officers in the modern military.
For the posers who engage in this indefensible behavior, the truth is whatever they can lead others to believe. Just like their ridiculous president.
These Amerikans deal in terror and fear because those are the emotions which motivate them. They treat their firearms like fashion accessories because they think everyone else is just as big a faker as they are.
The con artists who engage in this bluster represent the worst of us and should not be allowed to lead. They need to be pushed back under the rocks from which the Trump presidency has encouraged them to slither.
I don't object to the anti-immigrant stuff because I'm in denial abut the size and scale of the illegal immigration challenge confronting us. Especially in border areas where up to 40 percent of the population can be undocumented. That's well past the point of how much is too much.
The federal government embraces a one-size fits all approach to this challenge which levels states like Maine, Iowa and Montana with hard-hit Texas, California and Arizona. It doesn't work.
The reason we don't is because the U.S. Chamber of Commerce wants a free market for global labor, in which U.S. employers can import cheap and docile labor from low-wage nations. This Republican lobbying group has been supportive of unlimited immigrant labor for decades and is the enemy of hardworking Americans.
It's also one of the biggest donors to the epic failure that is our corrupt political establishment. The Chamber spends more to lobby our corrupt Congress via legal bribes than the next four organizations combined, according to www.OpenSecrets.org.
Nobody making $2,000 a year is coming up here on spec. And the painful truth is Mexicans treat us a lot better when we visit their land than we treat them up here. Habitually.
We had a pretty small team my junior year, with just 15 or 20 guys. Instead of the normal 40.
The only juniors who suited up for the annual game were those who truly loved to play football. But come senior year, there were 90 fake tough guys waiting to beat up on the smaller underclassmen behind us.
Many were posers, with no love for the game whatsoever. They wore their team jerseys to school every day, basking in the tough guy status they thought it conveyed.
Some of them lash out when they're scared. Others just think that when they're bullying someone else they're less likely to be picked on themselves.
Case in point, Hurricane Irene. As this storm bore down on New York City in 2011, several of my poser classmates began railing online against the residents of Rockaway Beach. It's a poor, low-lying area where many residents simply lacked the vehicles and financial resources to evacuate.
Because the posers were terrified. Lashing out at others is the only way such people can contain their fear.
How do I know?
I know because I've covered 15 hurricanes and tropical storms. Seen it before. It's human nature and it happens every time.
A few years after Irene, one of the same former classmates began railing online against efforts to lift the minimum wage in Seattle. This one had a small company producing treadmill workstations there.
He's the kind of poser who calls himself "president, CEO and chairman" even though he only has five paid workers and one of them is his wife. In this case, Mister Wannabee claimed the new rules would actually hurt economic growth by forcing him to reduce his workforce. The implication being that his product was made in Seattle.
When I pointedly asked whether his production was actually in China he began backpedaling for all he was worth. Homeboy said he'd been referring to his paid interns all along.
Because the truth doesn't matter for these unprincipled men. It's just something to be twisted to promote the fiction of their own perfection and superiority.
They're not stand-up guys. Never were. Never will be.
If they could, they would.
Which is why those of us who can, must.
If for no other reason than because America is better than this and so are Americans. Some of us anyway.
Which kind of American are you?