There is a real danger that the American population will fall into one of two traps when facing the terror threat: writers are already talking about the threat of immunization, a kind of deadening effect, rendering report of more terror almost irrelevant; others, of course, are ramping up the apocalyptic view of terror, including the full morphing of the police and law enforcement into another military machine.
Immunization vs the apocalypse: hardly the only two options available. And yet both are the stuff of headlines, extremes that wrap their massive ‘arms’ around the most vulnerable: extreme racism and the proliferation of guns on the one hand, and thumbing the nose at ‘those bastards’ as if they are not worthy of any attention, in a seemingly defiant act of denial.
Several years ago, Carol Pearson studied and wrote about the narrative of several archetypes emerging from the parade of American movies and novel in books dealing with The Hero Within. One of her observations, at that time, was that two archetypes dominated American culture: the warrior and the victim, represented respectively by men and women.
There have been some changes in that analysis since those books appeared. Many women have shed the victim archetype, preferring their own version of the warrior, different from the male version, but nevertheless refusing to accede unquestioningly to male dominance. Many men too have found their magician and morphed out of the warrior archetype, provoking considerable push-back from those males mired in their own reductionistic version of the warrior.
Lest any think that Trump and Clinton represent merely the “warrior vs victim” conflict, although there is considerable evidence to support that picture, let’s poke around the immunized/apocalyptic dichotomy of the apprehension of the terror impact on world culture. Men, for starters, cannot be classed simply as warriors, given the many black victims at the hands of white police officer. White men do however poll in large numbers as Trump voters and accept the Trump declaration that he will destroy ISIS. Similarly, women cannot be reduced to victims, especially given the ‘hawk-like’ rhetoric and policy options preferred by the Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton.Hillary, in order to demonstrate her bona fides as a national leader has almost gone overboard in her demonstration of her willingness to engage the military whenever and wherever needed. There are figures in both parties who still hang on to the male/warrior and the female/victim models, yet their numbers have diminished dramatically.
While the rhetoric of both Trump and Clinton has veered toward the militaristic and enhanced security apparatus in their approach to terror, differences remain in their approach to immigration, especially from Muslim countries, Trump, almost apocalyptically advocating a ban, and “vigorous vetting”. Yet, when pressed by Leslie Stahl on 60 Minutes about how he would destroy ISIS, Trump evoked NATO, neighbouring countries and very few American troops on the ground, hardly a convincing proposal, nor is it one far removed from what Obama is already doing, except Trump adds a large measure of bravado, bluster and “heavy breathing” as if to punctuate his authenticity and his grasp of the situation and the need for American power much better than that offered either by the weak Obama or the weak liar, Clinton. On the other hand, Clinton, in her responses to this and all other issues is much more measured, nuanced, detailed, and expressive of a deep and comprehensive policy “wonk”, a legal and experienced intellect and sense of responsibility.
It is the scholar versus the salesman image that seems to be in competition vying for the keys to the White House, and it says here that, tragically and perhaps to their own detriment, Americans have always preferred salesmanship to deep thought in their political leaders. In Obama, they have had both in large measure for the past eight years; a similar blessing is not on the horizon for the next four.
Trump takes a macho/muscular (apocalyptic?) approach to Latino immigration also, with his proposal of the “wall” along the Mexican border whereas Clinton prefers a comprehensive immigration reform including pathways to citizenship for all immigrants without criminal records. Again we witness the competing “images” of the prize fighter to the legal scholar, the former evading all attempts to pry into and to poke holes in any detailed proposal (refusing even to offer one), with the latter heavily laden, even perhaps burdened, by her own file cabinet/hard drive/ memory stick and Cloud storage of detailed policy proposals. Advantage, among the ordinary Americans: Trump, even though the world needs a more ‘seasoned’ and nuanced perspective and set of proposals.
And there is the over-riding question of “trust” for both candidates. This issue, too, can be illustrative of a deep divide, in the perceptions (and potential voting patterns) of American voters. Attempting to paint Clinton as a disaster as a Secretary of State, a liar and a ‘crooked’ politician, Trump lives in his own echo chamber, demonstrating adherence to the political dictum, “repeat something often enough and some will believe it to be true”….even if the facts do not support it. Ad hominum attacks characterize all of Trump’s public utterances, and presumably his private ones as well. Opponents are painted with the same kind of personal attack used by early adolescent, pre-teens in order to embarrass, alienate and destroy all competition, all opponents. Theirs is a black-and-white world of “friends (BFF) and enemies” (those they cannot control). And the melodrama of their emotions is reminiscent of the kind of exaggeration both of danger and of self-importance and potentcy exhibited by the early adolescent demographic.
Here is where the question of trust takes on a more serious implication: Trump’s pre-adolescent conception of the world as a nasty and unsafe and dangerous place (his own words) requiring the destruction of all opponents in order to be a winner, and to avoid being a loser begs serious scrutiny. American power, military, political and economic were so abused in their deployment under Dubya, that Obama has wisely and persistently demonstrated measured and collegial deployment, without abandoning America’s allies. Clinton offers a continuation of that approach, based on her tenure as Secretary of State under Obama. On the other hand, Trump never apologizes, and even told Leslie Stahl he would never apologize. When someone so brazenly and so arrogantly announces that he will never apologize, we all know that this is a person not to be trusted with power of any kind. Painting himself as invincible, should be become president, is a sure sign of an imbalance in his self-awareness and in his apprehension of the nation in relation to other world powers.
Whether Hillary’s “I regret having used a private server for emails, and would not do it again,” or “I did all I could do to protect our officers in Benghazi” are enough to earn the trust of American voters, is still and open question. However, here is where her tone and her approach give her an advantage over her opponent, given his total commitment to his “perfect persona’.
Does Trump fall into the “immunized camp? If not on ISIS, (he boasts he will destroy ISIS), then certainly on climate change about which not a single word has apparently crossed his lips, or we assume, his brain since he declared his candidacy. The fact that millions of American Republicans are still willing to support a candidate and a party platform that refuses to commit billions to the needed effort to combat global warming and climate change is both shocking and reprehensible. Here, Clinton clobbers her Republican candidate, especially after the hard work by Bernie Sanders and his camp to insist on major platform pledges on this file. The Democratic ticket, whomever it includes as the Vice-presidential nominee, should be able to attract those whose considered and reasonable view on this file demands national government action of considerable proportion. Neither apocalyptic, nor immunized, but straight down the responsible middle is where Clinton will lead the country should she win the keys to the White House.
On Planned Parenthood and a woman’s right to choose, there is no wiggle room for the Republican ticket, so far right are both Trump and his VP pick, Mike Pence, that should they win, it is highly likely Roe v Wade will be overturned, especially after they have completed their weighting of the Supreme Court with radical right wing justices. For those watching this election, The Republican position on women’s health is, in a word, unacceptable. Based as it is on a historic belief that all abortion is evil, supported in large part by the Vatican, this position can be considered apocalyptic and absolute. For those who have not begun to weigh the issues bearing on their decision to vote, they might consider this issue as a litmus test for their choice for president.
With respect to a minimum hourly wage, the $15 minimum on which Sanders campaigned has finally moved Clinton to his side, leaving the Republicans clinging to the lowest possible number, on the basis of the phoney argument that anything higher will cost jobs, something that has not happened in states where the minimum wage is already at $15.
And then there is the question of Muslim and black integration into the American culture’s melting pot, although these days, it looks more like a frying pan. How Muslims, Latino’s and blacks could even consider voting for Trump and the Republican party is a question most people living outside the United States simply do not, and will not ever, understand. Trump’s apocalyptic contempt for anyone who is not “white” and pure, is just another of many of his exaggerated “power” positions, in an attempt to seduce all those “fed up with being pushed around” even though there is absolutely no evidence that the United States stature among world power is anything but highly respected, following eight year of Obama, and the previous eight years of Dubya.
Ignoring the long and heavily earned civil rights for blacks first, and for all ethnicities, Trump would take the country back to the nineteenth century, in his pursuit of his “law and order” agenda. Aligning himself and his party with police and law enforcement, to the exclusion of the evidence from the black community, even a black surgeon/police officer who treated the victims after the brutal shooting of police officers in Dallas, Trump, while consistent in his racist ideology, nevertheless seems immunized and insensitive to the plight of minorities, no matter their colour, language, heritage or culture.
Hillary Clinton has a history of supporting the minority communities, especially the black community, as First Lady of Arkansas, as First Lady of the United States, as Senator and as Secretary of State although her contribution to the black community may be overshadowed by her more vocal and enthusiastic advocacy for the feminist movement. Nevertheless, her reasoned, responsible and achievable approach to reinforcing civil rights of all minorities is so diametrically opposed to the racism of Trump, as to warrant the support of the American voters of all political parties and persuasions. Trump’s position is not supportable nor sustainable, and the nation cannot afford to retreat on this issue.
Reciting phrase from the Bible, as part of the press conference by law enforcement in Louisiana will not mediate the racial divide in the country. Neither will a presidential candidate who cares not a whit about the racial divisions. There is certainly no guarantee that Hillary can bring about the healing of the racial chasm that currently energies the body politic. However, her history, her experience and her determination to work with others, something Trump is pathologically unable and unwilling to do, even with his own political party, bode well for the potential to reach a level of reconciliation everyone desires.
It is not accidental or incidental that the president called Hillary the most “qualified” person ever to seek the office of president. Nor is it a sure thing that the nation will inaugurate its first woman president on January 20, 2017. Far from deserving an electoral victory, in November, because she is the first woman candidate of a major political party, Hillary Clinton is the better choice for president by far. She, like all of us, is also far from perfect; yet given the binary choice, the weight of the evidence in favour of casting a vote for the most powerful office in the world goes to Hillary Clinton, and if the Republican primary voters cannot or will not concede that, then the general election process must.
The world is watching, and waiting and hoping and praying, while holding its breath!