Sunday, March 19, 2017

America on the Precipice

"Yesterday I felt truly embarrassed. The 'leader of the free world' just sat there, awkwardly, waiting for Trump to shake her hand." - George Takei

George wasn't the only one embarrassed. To tell you the truth, I was flabbergasted. I've never seen anything like this in my lifetime, not even from Nixon. And believe you me that guy was about as antisocial as it got.

But this took the cake. A sitting president behaving like a spoiled brat, refusing to shake hands with a world leader. Even 9 year olds don't act this way. BTW, take a gander at the above picture of Angela Merkel. That look says it all. She knows she's standing next to an asshole, and, sadly, the rest of the world knows it too.

And that is the real and present danger here. For beyond the mere ridiculousness of Trump's antics, lies the underling problem that poses the greatest threat to the United States. Donald Trump isn't merely a buffoon who gets lampooned on Saturday Night Live, as the President of the United States, he is the face of America to the entire world. And right now that face has a lot of egg on it. He hasn't just diminished his own reputation abroad, he has diminished the very office he occupies.

It isn't just our allies who are now beginning to realize that this man is a putz; our foes are starting to realize it too. One of those foes, North Korea, launched four ballistic missiles two weeks ago that landed in the Sea of Japan, less than 200 miles off of Japan's northwest coast. And while there is no evidence that the North Korean's have the ability to launch an ICBM, it is only a matter of time before they do. When that happens, the entire west coast of the United States will be open to a nuclear attack.

If this manchild can't handle even the most basic of presidential duties, such as being cordial to his guests and not engaging in reckless conspiracy theories that even his own party knows are bullshit, how in the world will he be able to handle a real crisis like the threat of a nuclear attack from North Korea? How would he react if Vladimir Putin decided to invade Eastern Europe? Based on Trump's comments about NATO, Putin may well feel that he has a green light of sorts to take back what many Russians feel was stolen from them after the breakup of the Soviet Union. And, God forbid, what would he do if the government of Pakistan were to fall into the hands of the Taliban and all those nuclear warheads that were aimed at India suddenly were aimed at us?

I can't even begin to imagine what the consequences might be, but know this much: one of these scenarios is likely to play out during the course of the next four years. You know it, and I know it. The scary truth is that not only is this president not prepared to handle any or all of these crises, he has shown no inclination to even learn about how to deal with them. Never in the history of the United States has there been a president with less intellectual curiosity than Trump. To put it in computer terms, it's as though his auto save feature isn't working.

Not only is he bereft of any capacity to learn, he is contemptuous of anyone or anything that challenges his preconceived notion of reality. He calls the media fake news for reporting facts he doesn't like; he berates the intelligence community for alerting him to threats that contradict his administration's stances; he accuses the former president of wiretapping him to divert attention away from a Congressional hearing that is looking into his campaign's ties to Russia. Donald Trump isn't just living in his own private Idaho, as it were; he's the emperor of Trumpland, where he is always right and everyone bows down and worships at his alter.

America first? More like America alone. Because that is the likely outcome that awaits this country if this president doesn't grow up and act the part he was elected to do. This isn't rocket science. If George W. Bush could do it, then Trump has no excuse.

America stands at the edge of the precipice. At stake are decades of alliances, partnerships and treaties that have defined what we refer to as the West. The wave of nationalism that is currently sweeping across Europe and which was primarily responsible for the Brexit vote in Great Britain and Trump's election here, is threatening the very stability of the European Union. Right now Merkel might be the only thing standing in the way of a fractured continent. The last time that occurred, an entire world was at war.

Since the days of the Truman Doctrine, America has taken the lead role in the spread of democracy throughout the world. Not all of those efforts were successful. Both the Korean and Vietnam Wars, as well as our presence in the Middle East, continue to serve as painful reminders that interference in the affairs of other nations, even with the noblest of intentions, can have profound consequences for millions of people.

But on the whole, the latter half of the 20th century was a golden age for the United States. We outlasted the Soviet Union and saw NATO expand its influence in Europe. Eschewing the isolationist tendencies that defined pre-World War II America helped establish an empire that was the envy of the world.

I say "was" because all that is now in jeopardy. Donald Trump and his Minister of Propaganda, Steve Bannon, do not accept an America that is actively engaged in the world. Rather they see an America that looks inward and withdraws from the world. This "we take care of our own" mindset, I should point out, is not a new phenomenon in American politics. Many on the Left, including Bernie Sanders, share a similar vision. But we are now seeing it come to fruition in this administration. And it could not have come at a worse time.

With the Middle East in turmoil, an ever-increasing Russian threat in Europe and a very unstable and volatile situation in the Korean peninsula, now, more than ever, the world needs the United States to lead the way. Instead the Trump Administration peddles in conspiracy theories at home and insults its closest allies abroad.

These are very perilous times both for the nation and the globe. What is required is the steady hand and sound judgment of a mature and responsible president; not the machinations of a megalomaniac with an inferiority complex.

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