Of Amazon – and Amazons


In the through-the-looking-glass world of Trumpian lunacy, it was perhaps inevitable that President Donald J. Trumpet should tilt his lance at one of the corporations that he was supposedly trying to help with his tax cuts and defend a business that has been laying off the very kinds of workers he swore to protect.

But then, little makes sense about Donnie Two Scoops’ attack on behemoth Amazon.

According to The Donald, Amazon pays little or no taxes – even though he just gave the internet retailer a tax cut – and “uses the Postal Service as their Delivery Boy,” even though Amazon gets no special rate but does outsource the most expensive part of the shipping process, according to Politifact. (A grammatical pet peeve: Amazon is an it, not a they. Singular agreement, Mr. President. “Amazon uses the Postal Service as its delivery boy” would be correct grammatically but not factually in the spirit in which the sentence was intended.) And anyway, what’s wrong with using the Postal Service? Don’t you want it to stay in business and continue to employee people? Sheesh.

This is about more than taxation and package delivery, though. As with all things Trump, it’s complicated. The Amazon assault is partly about a narcissist’s dislike of another alpha male, Amazon owner Jeff Bezos, who may very well be richer than The Donald. That Bezos owns The Washington Post, a leader in reporting on Trumpian shenanigans with some of the funniest, most scathing posters, doesn’t help Poor Widdle Donald. (Can’t you hear him privately: “I’m just going to hold my widdle bweath until all these fake journawists stop saying mean things about me.”)

Amazon’s eclipsing of brick-and-mortar stores means fewer tenants for Trump properties as well. But at its heart, Trump’s attack on Amazon is both genuine and oblivious. It’s part of the appeal to the base that shows he doesn’t get it: Technology has changed the world, and we won’t be putting that genie back in the bottle. In this sense, it doesn’t matter if Amazon pays taxes or not or ships via the post office or camel caravan traveling the Silk Road. The fact is that there are people like my grad school nephew who shop almost exclusively online, because they have busy lives and like the convenience. Forcing Amazon to pay more tax is not going to change the shopping habits of customers like my nephew.

Don’t forget, as Amazon grows, it will have to employ more people, too. But it won’t be employing them in the same way or in the same numbers. And that’s the crux of Trump’s argument. He wants us to be crabs crawling backward, punishing those who don’t comply. But time is a river that flows in only one direction – forward. The historical past is always with us – offering inspiration, comfort and warnings. The social past, however, is deader than Jacob Marley. Even when fashions come back, they don’t come back in the same way, because we’re not the same. We’ve changed. We’ve grown. And, if we don’t adapt, we die. It’s that Darwinian.

Oddly enough, I understand more about this than Trump’s base might think even though I don’t share its politics. In 2009, I lost a dream job as a cultural writer to the rise of digital media over print. It was a time when my personal life was falling apart as well. I found myself fighting a war on virtually every front. But I realized if I were going to survive and thrive, I would have to reinvent myself as an editor, a career I never sought, and as a kind of warrior woman, a latter-day Amazon. Had I not done so, I’m convinced that I would never have become a blogger or a novelist. I realize now that my job loss and subsequent adaptation were part of the making of me.

It’s not just people like me. The city of Lowell, Massachusetts, from which my people hail in this country, was a declining mill town. But in the 1970s, it began welcoming Cambodian refugees from the Khmer Rouge and resurrected itself as a cultural center.

It can be done. But it takes minds made strong and flexible by education and constant use. Unfortunately, what we have increasingly in the United States is an uneducated – or undereducated – populace calcified in misinformation, ignorance, prejudice, fear, hatred and violence and led by someone who is no Alexander in the visionary, lead-from-the-front department.

Without education, imagination and leadership, all you’re doing is substituting one set of losers for another. And that’s no way to win.