Sunday, September 11, 2016

Resisting the bobble-heads of contemporary history

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDF party is defeated in her home state of Mecklenberg-Western Pomerania by the AfD, an anti-immigrant, anti-austerity party.

This is a quote from Merkel, while speaking to the Bundestag, following the vote this week:

"If we seek to get the better of each other for short-term gain … the ones who'll win are those who depend on slogans and simple answers," she said. "I am quite certain if we bite our tongues and stick to the truth then we'll win back the most important thing that we need, the trust of the people." (From Don Murray’s piece, Germany anti-refugee vote leaves Merkel in a Mess on CBC News website, September 09, 2016)

One has to wonder if her words are not applicable to the world community. It seems that Trump’s whole campaign is based on the latest dishonest, “trumped-up” tweet. In fact, one enterprising and creative report, MSNBC’s AMJoy, ran the sound of a bird tweeting through a narrative overview of Trump’s evolving slanderous “birther” history, denouncing the eligibility of Obama as president, because he was not born in the U.S.

It is not only Merkel’s political future that is in a “mess”.

On the same newscast announcing the agreement between the United States and Russia for a cease-fire (what number is this?) in Syria, the Russians were expressing scepticism that it would hold, and since the announcement, another 90 people have been killed by cluster bombs in the conflict. And this cancerous war has been spewing carnage for FIVE years, not only without a let-up, but the conflict has grown even more complicated with both Russia and the United States flying missile-dropping sorties over the country, without even a joint agreement to refrain from interfering with each other’s manoeuvres. Their declaration that, should this ceasefire hold, they will jointly attack ISIS, is one only a fantasy-addict would trust.
Afghanistan provides nearly daily headlines of another bomb and more deaths. Iraq’s headlines are black with the ink of (it seems) almost weekly suicide bombings and resulting deaths.

That nuclear device, tested underground by the North Koreans this past week, nearly equal to the device that was dropped on Hiroshima in 1945, killing some 150,000 and leaving thousands more deformed, sick and dying, has catapulted the world into yet another layer of both frustration and angst.
And of course, not only can we as individuals, it seems, do anything to change the course of tin-pot dictators like Kim Jong Un, it would seem that sanctions imposed by other countries without serious implementation and monitoring have or will do much to “dry his powder” and the threat of North Korea’s growing capability to produce and “missilize” smaller devices that could reach the United States increases daily.

Trump’s rhetoric, irresponsibily, sounds like Kim’s actions. Just yesterday, reports surfaced indicating that Trump would attack the Iranian fleet if they harassed the United States ships in the Strait of Hormuz. This is precisely the kind of situation that Obama has worked so hard to de-escalate, to ‘talk-down’ and to bring to a more hopeful and more long-standing resolution. And it is precisely the kind of diplomacy for which his political opponents continue to revile him and his presidency. And it is precisely Obama’s political discipline that is underlying the anger and the threat posed by Trump himself. Kim’s bombast, just like Trump’s bombast, while they may be headline grabbing, and media manipulation, cannot be trivialized because each man is so unpredictable and so volatile and so ego-maniacal and so fundamentally unworthy of TRUST, (ironically, Trump’s primary attack on Clinton is that she cannot be trusted!). And giving Trump the nuclear “codes” (simply the most dangerous military machine in this history of humankind) linked to his not-so-whispered hints that he might agree to Japan’s acquiring nuclear weapons, and his “bomb the hell out of ‘em” rhetoric, enmeshed with his deport, exclude, “purify” and “isolate” goals as his method of “making America great” scares the heaven out of anyone’s imagination, whether they live in the U.S. or not.

Clinton’s “basket of deplorables” comment, referring to the hatreds she painted half of Trump’s supporters as embodying, (sexism, racism, Islamaphobia, homophobia) may not have been politically savvy. It certainly gives talking points to Trump surrogates (really sycophants!) and injects a buzz into the media’s work schedule. By comparison, however, it demonstrates a kind of “reality check” for which her opponents are categorically unprepared and pathologically denying.

Fear of the “other” is another element in the political fuel of the current world ‘mess’. The AfD party in Germany is saying “enough” to the immigration policy of Merkel. And the Trump gang is saying “enough” of the moderation and the open-door policy to granting immigrants, both Latino and especially Muslim, a welcoming to their newly adopted homeland. In both cases, these “unwanted” people are either striving for a better life for themselves and their families, and/or fleeing conditions which no American or German would tolerate. Racism, stoked in the United States, by a contempt for the first Black President, and enflamed by an army of refugees crossing seas and land boundaries in Europe provokes calls for “walls” both in Calais and on the Mexican border. It has already produced wire fences along some European borders.

There is a sanitized and detached quality to the rhetoric of people like Justin Trudeau, when speaking at the close of the G-20 Conference in China, advocating free trade and a pushback against isolation. However, there is a rising tide among the Trump supporters and the anti-immigrant parties in Europe of hatred and fear and isolationism that has already morphed into the very dangerous nationalism that lies at the centre of groups like the KKK, the Nazi’s and the current far-right parties that are seeking power in many quarters.

And their political ambitions cannot and must not be sanitized, rendered objectively clinical and thereby rationalized or normalized. They are dangerous; they are determined; they are well funded; they are well organized; they are media-savvy; and they threaten the kind of geopolitical as well as national stability in many areas of the globe. They are, in short, parties of collected resentments and bitterness and they are based on racial hatred and contempt.

Clinton’s hosting the “intelligence and national security” seminar, and then following the bipartisan meeting with a sombre and sober and very “quiet” press conference provide a graphic, and for those really listening, a hopeful political shift in the narrowing opinion polls. As one insightful Democratic analyst put it, on Smerconish on CNN yesterday, it is not that Trump’s numbers are rising; it is that Clinton’s have been falling.  

Bombs, and by inference, explosive rhetoric, are neither fruitful nor determinant in healing the wounded pride of an individual, or of a nation. And when frustration and anger reach a “boiling point” then reason and diplomacy and the physical and emotional and intellectual act of listening and really hearing one’s adversary slip out through the crack under the door, or out through an open window, leaving the most important and most effective options out of reach.

And facing this kind of “one-up” game of geopolitics that takes its timing and its ‘thrill-seeking’ from the massive video-gaming universe, and the accompanying “wipe-out” extremism, any attempt to counter this “culture” of extreme and instant “victory” through such longer-term agreements for ceasefires, reminds us of the punishment of Sisyphus condemned to pushing a rock uphill only to find it descending upon him with every thrust.

The cornerstone of their political rhetoric and their advertising is “slogans and simple answers” (just as Chancellor Merkel says above) and they are feeding an insatiable appetite for quick, simple and devastating answers to very complex and tightly knotted enmeshments of competing and unyielding interests, foes really. The ‘silver bullet’ is a cliché because it is both true and deeply and profoundly desired. And the more angst the people feel, the more intense is the desire for a quick and facile, (and of course glib and flippant and superficial and uninformed and unwilling to become informed) answer.

Kim’s silver bullet is a missile-launched nuclear warhead, pointed straight at both South Korea and the United States. Trump’s silver bullet is: a wall, a deportation order, a missile into an Iranian ship, another verbal projectile into the mid-section of Hillary Clinton, another ‘firing’ of another opponent….and they are all of the same immature mind-set. These silver bullets generate headlines; they generate fear and they are the minimalist vocabulary of the most naïve and dangerous minds that seek to lead.

And together, we ordinary people must reject both their methods and their ambition to take positions of responsibility. And in order to discharge that responsibility, we must shake off our own  fears and our resistance to accept the short-term fix, the silver bullets, and to bear down for the long-term, sustainable and  durable resolutions. Our own reservoir of patience, our own reservoir of tolerance of ‘the other’, our own reservoir of resistance to violence in all forms as the preferred solutions and our resistance to “political tranquilizing pills” of these glib and hollow sales pitches from opportunists like Kim and Trump are being stretched and will continue to be tested so long as the dollar drives the media machine of the instant entertainment drama.

We cannot permit the power-driven, politically opportunistic bobble-heads to seduce us, with their persons nor with their hollow promises.

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