Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Ischinger's call for truth, trust and transparency needs trumpeting globally

For a while immediately after the January 6th insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, there were many public comparisons made between the “Black Lives Matter” protests and the events of that horrible day in January.

It might seem useful and appropriate to take the veil of the kind of glib comparison that some make, for their own political purposes, in much the same way that non-equivalencies have been the stock and trade of the last four years in the United States.

White supremacists, and a goodly number of the seditionists were clearly supportive of white supremacy values and goals, differ significantly from those protesting the murders of clearly innocent black men and women, by most often white police officers. The immediacy of the injustice leaves blood on the hands of those bad actors who committed those murders. However, the injustice of some 400 years of what can only be called apartheid, colonialism, repression, racial bigotry and even radical racial bigotry, makes the violent cry for the false extension of the trump presidency look like a fall from a child’s wagon, resulting in a bruised knee. There cannot be permitted any attempt to justify the actions of January 6th, 2021, and to falsely try to weld that day to those several days of massive street protests just won’t fly.

Conspiracy theorists, including those cultishly enmeshed with something called QAnon, for whom trump was (is?) considered a saviour from the “satanic pedophiles” in the Democratic, also come already disqualified to be even entered into the same sentence as equals, to those protesting on behalf of murdered black men and women. Their total and complete disregard for what can only be called empirical evidence, truth, transparency and basic public facts renders them outside the pale of what must be considered legitimate public discourse. It is not merely hate, racism, bigotry and violence that define  their motives and their actions; it is an all-out onslaught against whatever truths they wish to erase through their inflammatory rhetoric, beliefs and actions. Even those who do not subscribe to the QAnon conspiracy hoax, (and it has to be labelled for the lie it is and for the danger that lie imposes on the body politic), their participation at the Capitol on January 6th represents an open, defiant, dangerous, act of anarchy. And that anarchy is the fruit of the seeds planted by trump, and especially reinforced by his sycophants in the Republican party, in both the Senate and the House of Representatives, over the four years of the trump scorched earth policy against science, truth, facts and their flower, democracy.

For Republicans now to reinforce their allegiance to their “leader” in a manner evocative of the servile obeisance of North Koreans to their Kim Jong-un, or of many in Russia to Putin, or of millions in China to Xi Jinping, or of Philippino’s to Duterte, or of Brazilians to Bolsonaro, or of Hungarians to Viktor Orban. And while that list may not capture the length and depth of tyrannies, it serves as a reminder of the growing muscle of right-wing tyrannies, and the danger those tyrannies pose for human rights, for free press, for free and fair elections, for collaboration with those who seek both policy and practices that will impede the destruction of the ecosystem, that will curtail the pandemic, that will foster international co-operation in the design and free delivery of vaccines. Those tyrannies, too, will likely be more conducive to continuing attempts to commit cyber crime, illicit drug deals, intelligence piracy, and a prevalent tendency to secrecy, especially when it comes to investigating the source of pandemics like COVID-19. Or course, the western media, especially in the U.S. will not often, or perhaps ever, stretch as far as to compare their former president with right-wing dictators, except perhaps as symbols of anti-democratic governments with right-wing, white supremacy impulses. They will say things like, ‘he prefers dictators to former U.S. allies’ in an almost anodyne expression of their embarrassment, shame and disgust.

The State Republican party of Oregon yesterday (from The Guardian’s Lois Beckett, on Monday January 25, 2021), “claimed.. by resolution that the January 6th attack by a pro-trump mob was a ‘false flag’ operation, an orchestrated conspiracy ‘designed to discredit President Trump, his supporters and all conservative Republicans, and to create a ‘sham motivation’ to impeach the former president. To back up these false claims, the resolution cited links to rightwing websites, including the Epoch Times, a pro-Trump outlet that has frequently published rightwing misinformation, as well as the Wikipedia entry for ‘Reichstag Fire’…Bill Currier, Republican party chairman, (said), ‘We’re partway in the door of socialism and Marxism right now..and we have to fight…It’s time for choosing. People can decide what they want to believe and when they wan tot do, but there are people standing up and there are people sitting down..”

Language that actually borrows the Third Reich, memorializing the burning of the German parliament (Reichstag) in 1933, coming from the Republican state party in Oregon can and will only enflame both sides: some Republicans, especially those in the Senate already campaigning to shut down the impeachment trial, emboldened, without having to take responsibility for such language, and Democrats who can and will see such expressions as emboldening their efforts to govern without seeking compromise with recalcitrant Republicans.

Appearing on the Global Public Square, with Fareed Zakaria, just this past Sunday, German diplomat and author, Wolfgang Ischinger, told the world that there are three things needed precisely at this moment: TRUST, TRUTH, and TRANSPARENCY! His recent book, World In Danger, A vision of a European future of peace and stability despite the present gloom. The brookings.edu website carries this nugget: “Ischinger examines the root causes of the current conflicts and suggests how Europe can successfully address the most urgent challenges facing the continent.” The author served as deputy foreign minister (1998-2001) in Germany and has served as Germany’s ambassador to both the United States and the United Kingdom. He has chaired the Munich Security Conference, the world’s leading forum for debating international security policy, since 2008. Henry Kissinger praises in book in these words, also from the brookings.edu website: ‘Ischinger is one of the most perceptive analysts of international affairs. His book should reach a broad audience.’

One can only hope that Biden’s state and national security advisers will put the book on the president’s required reading list. Perhaps after such an assignment, Biden might be prompted to change his call for “unity” to a call for truth. It is, after all, the demise of truth in which the conspiracy theorists, the supremacists, the obstructionists in Congress, and especially the Republican leadership traffics, depends upon and cannot survive without. One of the signature features of the Democratic Party, for too long, has been a proclivity to civility, a compulsion to “play fair” and to moderate their language into diplomatic tepid and luke-warm tea. At the same time the Republicans have been, and will undoubtedly continue to fire their verbal (and vacuous) rhetorical cannons, grabbing the headlines, sustaining and enriching the culture of hate, contempt, racism while linking socialism to Marxism. And for the Democrats to call such language extreme, immoderate or even irrational is to miss the point: it is another seductive, seemingly professional and clearly dispassionate understatement.

Believing that the Republicans will only continue to call anything and everything proposed by the Democrats as socialism and Marxism is neither historically accurate nor politically and ethically tolerable. Call such talk and such misinformation what it is: an unadulterated lie! And only if that message is pounded, and pounded in and through every public interview and statement made by each and every member of the Democratic Party, in every forum, will the public even begin to come to the point of view that libraries, for example, streets, sewers, sanitation workers, and even educators in public schools serve as living, working, effective, necessary and highly professional examples of how the state takes care of human needs in every town, city, state and across the nation. Not only are visible public services provided by state funds, supervised by state officials, the state undertakes to protect every person living within the state’s (and the nation’s) borders. It is the state that issues passports, enabling all citizens to travel around the globe; it is the state that curates information about the pandemic, national security risks, nuclear armament developments, climate changes swirling across all continents and oceans, documents the changes in both flora and fauna, especially those directly related to the food we all eat and its cost, and the state also funds much new research into vaccines, therapeutics, cancer treatments.

This lie that socialism and Marxism are Satanic and thereby must be avoided, as if they were another form of the plague has to be countered just as vociferously, vehemently and urgently as doe the lie of the election fraud, the disappearing pandemic, the Russian influence peddling in favour of trump’s election and re-election. Political speech, editorial opinion, television talking points, and their respective participants, have to be able and willing to tell the truth, and not merely those truths that superficially seem to support the conventional water-cooler talk. And everyone around a water-cooler, too, has an obligation to confront those specious, unsustainable, and especially untruthful statements that overflow the hallways wherever there is a water-cooler.

It is not only those elected Democrats that have to find the political and ethical spine to call a spade a shovel, and to call a lie a lie, without prevarication, without fear of reprisals from their media interrogators, interviewers and their political bag-men and women. Ordinary people, in every classroom, in every office, in every board room, on every factory floor have to wake up to the smell of the stench of the lie. Back in the 90’s, Scott Peck, while doing research for his book, People of the Lie, scoured the Pentagon in search of a single individual who would claim responsibility for the My Lai massacre. He found no one. By Committee, apparently, the decision absolved all individuals of direct responsibility. And yet the chain of command brings with it that specific responsibility, for the desk, or the jeep, or the wheel-house, or the byline where the “buck stops”….And shirking that responsibility only provides added sabotaging fodder for all those who seek refuge under the desk, or without a byline, for whatever it is they decide, publish, spread.

There is a crying and perhaps never more resonant cry for the truth, since only with and through a commitment to the truth, whatever that truth may be (and not only about the mortality rate of the pandemic) can there be any hope of establishing public trust, not only in the science of this galloping virus, and its variants, and the desperate race of the vaccines and therapeutics to catch up. There is a crying and desperate need for  those charged with public responsibility to wear, to walk into, and to utter nothing but the truth.

And that will mean that people in what we regard as high office will have to face the truths of their watch, both the successful and the not-so-much. Having worked in the United States, in a situation in which those in charge refused to take responsibility for the conditions of that workplace, and even to become familiar with those conditions, because they were effectively permitted innocence (and ignorance) by those who knew, but whose truths were never sought or desired, I know how tragic a failure to acknowledge especially organizational truth, in the deepest and darkest truths of its toxicity. Similarly, those who have come to be known as whistle-blowers, too often demeaned and disgraced by those in power who seek the refuge of lying irresponsibility, must come to be regarded as the canaries in the various coal mines whose toxicity (not merely literally but also metaphorically) are threatening our planet’s capacity to endure.

Ischinger’s mantra of “truth, trust, transparency” would be a welcome injection into the veins, the hearts and the minds of each and every public and private organization, and especially in those national and provincial and state governments whose work is needed today more than at any time in the last three-quarters of a century.

Can the author/ambassador’s words be integrated into a political firestorm as part of the extinguisher? 

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