Being Nice to Dictators

Being Nice to Dictators

This is what American foreign policy has come to. We give dictators whatever they want in order to keep the peace and to keep migrants from flooding Europe and by extension, eventually, America (and for oil). Today Trump announced that he will end the sanctions against Turkey in exchange for a cease fire in the land grab against the Kurds in Syria and to end the presence of a minority group despised by Turks for reasons that are rooted in ancient animosities. Ending sanctions may not be a done deal yet, but it most likely will be. Next the Russian sanctions will end by executive decree because Trump likes to imagine that he is a strong man, despite the fact that he is just a corrupt bombastic pawn.

Once again the president exerts his executive power as if Congress does not exist. He does not see this as breaking an oath to uphold the Constitution because he sees the executive branch as all-powerful and he finally has a Chief Justice who agrees with this self-serving interpretation of our founding documents. Once again the president of America chooses to please Putin in Russia and Erdogan in Turkey, both “strong men.”

We have been wary of backing these men because their goals in Europe (and now in the world) are imperialistic as well as political, and because the spread of authoritarianism was something we have opposed for decades as democracy offered the world more freedoms. Now that capitalism has spread everywhere, perhaps we see that greed was our true goal, and now that we achieved our economic goals our humanistic goals of encouraging nations towards democracy have become expendable.

So we remain silent as the citizens of Hong Kong demonstrate to preserve freedoms they already own from being taken away. China’s business is China’s business, until one day in the not-so-distant future it becomes our business. We don’t want a war with China, but we should take a principled stand in support of human freedoms and telegraph that we mean what we say. We do not usually knuckle under to dictators until now when the economy of the entire world is so tied to the new capitalist China that stock portfolios trump humanitarianism.

China has also become a bit scary. It is so big and it is a giant machine run by one man. There is no way to be disloyal to the leader in China except from jail or from exile. Capitalism run by one leader is intimidating enough; the thought of a military with unlimited human resources run by one leader who demands absolute loyalty is terrifying. If we are afraid to stand up to China on the small things, I think we can one day expect to have to face this giant on some fairly big things, or perhaps we will just capitulate and keep our thoughts to ourselves. Isn’t love of freedom the reason we are usually not nice to dictators?

Of course we can’t have this conversation without a few words about North Korea and the mythic-dispenser-of-cruelty-to-his-own people, and dictator supposedly in a “love affair with our President. Sometimes people are so convinced of their own deity that no amount of “tough love” will change the way they behave. North Korea is a bit quieter but it could be a silence that is covering up a plan to treat the world to some future dastardly deeds with killer results.

It is difficult to believe that someone as egomaniacal as Kim Jong-Un plans to go peacefully into the sunset. Exactly what his plans are it is difficult to discern but if he ever teams up with Russia, China, and Turkey he will have access to some pretty enormous pieces of world real estate and whatever assets and weapons the leaders of these nations choose to grant him. Perhaps this is the reason that Trump thinks cozying up to all of these nations is a necessity right now. Sadly what seems to be the case is that he would like to become a member of this “strong man” group.

Goodbye freedom. Goodbye Republic. Goodbye democracy and free speech, including freedom of the press. Learn to follow orders blindly and just do the tasks assigned to you by the Big Brothers and you will be fine. Life will be a grim business and mercifully short. This could be our future if we don’t figure this out now. This is what being nice to dictators wins us.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-poised-to-make-statement-on-turkey-syria-situation-amid-mounting-concerns/2019/10/23/809d3e80-f5a1-11e9-a285-882a8e386a96_story.html

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – BBC

Trump, Putin and Us

Trump, Putin and Us

What a week! We can now see the connections between Trump, the GOP, the NRA, and religious fundamentalists and Putin in Russia that have been building for decades. And yet we still find a Trump/GOP base in America that cannot be swayed.

https://www.salon.com/2018/07/21/how-low-can-trump-go/

“As the investigation of Special Counsel Robert Mueller closes in tighter and tighter on Trump’s inner circle and Trump himself, tending to his base is the key to Trump staying in office. A recent Washington Post poll showed that close to 50 percent of Republicans believe that Trump won the popular vote in 2016. He didn’t; Hillary Clinton received nearly 3 million more votes than Trump. Nearly 70 percent of Republicans believe Trump’s lie that millions of illegal immigrants voted in 2016, and nearly 75 percent believe that voter fraud occurs “somewhat or very often.” It doesn’t; numerous studies have found voter fraud to be close to nonexistent.

But it’s this statistic that’s most shocking in the Post poll of Republicans. “52 percent said that they would support postponing the 2020 election, and 56 percent said they would do so if both Trump and Republicans in Congress proposed this,” according to the Post.”

In case you didn’t read that quote, it said, in a Washington Post survey 52% of Republicans polled would support postponing the 2020 election.

We also learned of the close connection between Maria Butina, a Russian operative, and the NRA. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/20/opinion/republican-party-national-rifle-association-trump-russia.html

And we learned that Russians attended the National Prayer Breakfast, a Conservative fundamentalist religious function. https://www.salon.com/2018/07/21/putins-close-ties-to-national-prayer-breakfast-revealed_partner/

If America and Russia become besties, and if Trump is able to postpone the 2020 election, what can we expect America to be like. Hard to tell. This morning in the New York Times there was an article by a man who knew Sakharov, a Russian physicist and dissident who spent long periods imprisoned and in a Russian gulag. He warns us that life without freedom is a double life. You steal private moments of freedom at your risk and in public you comply to whatever the government asks. Within the article is a reprint of Sakharov’s essay, distributed in Russia as a secret document passed from hand to hand.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/20/opinion/andrei-sakharov-essay-soviet-union.html

“Sakharov’s decency made him a moral compass orienting not just the East, but also the West. He insisted that international relations should be contingent on a country’s domestic behavior — and that such a seemingly idealistic stance was ultimately pragmatic. “A country that does not respect the rights of its own people will not respect the rights of its neighbors,” he often explained…

Mr. Trump has taken America’s human-rights-free foreign policy to absurd new heights. His assertion that North Koreans support Kim Jong-un with “great fervor” undermined America’s moral standing, sabotaged North Korean dissidents and legitimized an evil dictator. His shocking refusal to confront President Vladimir Putin of Russia over his country’s blatant interference in the 2016 United States presidential election highlights his unwillingness to protect Americans’ democratic rights, let alone Russians’ human rights.”

Trump’s Base

But I don’t think this is what is on the minds of Trump’s base. Their interests are perhaps more varied and more parochial. Some are passionate about killing Roe v Wade. Some are simply nostalgic for what they consider better times for the middle class in America and they insist on having that back. Some are concerned that America will no longer be a white and Christian nation, and they will allow children to be placed in cages if that will make their wishes reality. Some are protecting an almost frontier vision of America, with absolute rights guaranteed by local law enforcement and by the federal government, think Duck Dynasty and the passionate defense of guns in America.

But what Trump supporters will get in the end probably will be quite different from what they are asking. They may get an end to Roe v Wade but they will also lose good health coverage, especially for those with preexisting conditions, which will be practically everyone. They may be able to stop all immigration and thereby end illegal immigration and they may no longer see their benefits spent on “those people” but they may also lose their own benefits. Medicare and Social Security use money from the budget that Trump and the GOP would like to earmark for other things, or steal. Without Medicare and Social Security seniors will die and they will die earlier and in greater numbers than is natural. If Trump and the GOP see seniors as burdens because they are no longer able to labor physically and perhaps, even mentally, then a man with so little compassion would be happy to let go of unproductive members of American society with barely a twitch of emotion. Poor people have already been written off. Trump says there are no more poor people in America.

https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/06/donald-trumps-poverty-problem/563960/

I think we can easily predict the demise of the social safety net. No poor, then no food stamps, no welfare, no Medicaid. We the people are the ones that will be cut out of America’s budget.

Who will do the work the immigrants have been doing, America’s dishes, weeding, planting and picking. Who will clean America’s public restrooms and serve as teacher’s aides in our schools? Who will complete American renos and put in American floors? Trump’s base could very well find itself doing all of these jobs or living in a nation where the niceties are no longer observed and filth and hunger and disease are what we inherit. We will have a government that keeps passing the dollars up the chain and we will be paid lower wages and have fewer ways out of the poverty that doesn’t exist.

We are the people who did not know how to turn a nickel into a million dollars, or who did not have a daddy who gave us a million dollar stake. We are the people who never learned to be ruthless in business but only ruthless to each other.

Who will our friends be? Well, Putin, and President Xi and Kim Jong Un and Duterte and Erdogan. We will have a whole new cohort of meanness and no one to appeal to for aid and assistant. Perhaps we will start picking off American drug dealers and drug users like Duterte.

The Rich, the 1%

What will the wealthy be doing? I saw an article about that this week also. They will be looking for guards they can trust to protect them in their walled estates. Sound familiar. It should, it is feudalism without knights, only paranoia.

https://www.cnn.com/style/article/doomsday-luxury-bunkers/index.html

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/01/30/doomsday-prep-for-the-super-rich

In a world that promises to be crowded with 9 billion people, how expendable will most of us be? Trump’s little cult is helping him and others separate the wealthy from the poor in whole other dimensions besides our bank accounts and our possessions. Trump’s base may be dooming themselves and us to obsolescence. Unless we show genius or the willingness to perform menial tasks, how will we be necessary to people who do not value the rights of ordinary people. Why should they share the wealth with us? I doubt that they intend to.

Whenever you get into this realm of extrapolating the future from the present you lose any real basis in fact and you lose your credibility. The future could unfold in many different ways. However I do not see a role for Donald Trump in the future of America. Now that we have him in the oval office though there does not seem to be a way to rid ourselves of him that is consistent with our morality. And that is a dilemma because we are dealing with someone without morality, only some kind of code of personal loyalty. We know he is a bad President, possibly a traitorous President but we have given power to the Conservative literal interpretation of our Constitution and we therefore have no way, within the rules of our system, to unseat him. We are waiting for absolute proof  which we may never have. This is a man who knows how to cover his tracks and see his troops indicted for his own deniability.

Our squeamishness may land us in Trump/Putin land. We can practice when Putin comes to oversee our election in November. I bet he will be here for Trump’s military parade. Donald will be so proud, except for the lack of the tanks. How will it feel? Like a betrayal of every little thing we treasured about the USA.

I am, as always, sitting in the cheap seats.