2018: Passage to Promise or Collapse?

In my most charitable description, 2017 was a wake-up call for America; a year marked by surprise, anger, sadness and regret. In 2018, each of us must consider the blessings of the past and the challenges of the future while embracing an honest assessment of the role we must play in setting a course that reflects the values and dignity of predecessor generations. 2018 like 1776, 1865, and 1945 is one of those seminal years in American history that will determine the fundamental welfare of our citizens for the next two to three generations until we, inevitably, face a crisis of identity again.  The answer to the question, “What does it mean to be an American?” seems an abstract or, at best, rhetorical question.  Yet, in practice, it is the question at the top of the pyramid formed by our values, and beneath which our norms, policies and behaviors flow.  It defines us in every way.  Trump’s answer, wrapped in the patriotic tones of “America First,” is a deceit of epic proportions that aims to destroy the American Dream and abdicates American leadership across the globe.  No self-respecting American can sit this one out.  It is time for all hands on deck.  Trump is a cancer that is eating the soul of our republic and is an existential threat to the future of our children and grandchildren.  He, and his willing bootlickers, must be banished to the ash heap of history so that we may right the ship, which is currently listing toward peril.

On behalf of my fellow Baby Boomers, I apologize for where we are today—for allowing this monster of avarice and deceit to seize the reins of American power and influence.  Although it is true that Millennial voter turnout may have prevented Trump, they did not create him.  He is an early member of the Baby Boomer generation, born to parents who endured and sacrificed much during the Great Depression and World War II but, unlike their parents, went on to a contrary life of radical self-involvement with an insatiable appetite for consumption and aggrandizement.  We Boomers presided over the greatest period of expansion in American wealth and power with the conscience of a sociopath.  Numerous studies in presidential history argue that any sitting president is simply a reflection of the soul of the electorate, and Trump is unexceptional in this regard.  Together with Millennials, Boomers can take America back; redemption can be achieved in 2018, but the clock—both temporal and electoral—is ticking.

The identity of promise—of Global Stewardship—is denominated in the values of our founders including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness without regard to race, religion, creed, or national origin.  Those who embrace these values are caretakers of the American Dream that assures everyone access to opportunity balanced by responsibility within a framework of meritocracy.  This is the ethic of greatness; of a relentless subscription to humanity and humility undaunted by fear.  Stewardship means that the days of American power acquired through coercion are over.  In the future, it will be earned by the extent to which America enables others to achieve their dreams within the context of their unique and legitimate cultures. We must engage with the world in coopetition: competing to cooperate.  It is not our duty as Americans to judge and condemn, it is our duty to protect each other and to support each other as a matter of humanity, rather than as determined through the narrow lens of nationalism.  ‘Promise’ also embraces the fiber of hope—it is prospective—that America’s greatest days lie in the future, not the past.

The identity of collapse—of “America First”—is a narrow, isolationist, and demeaning nationalism that attempts to crush the American Dream and abdicate America’s role in the world.  Its proponents believe there are more threats than opportunities in the world.  That “those people” want what we have and we must fight to protect our borders, our classrooms, our government, our military, and our churches, from the insidious encroachment of intellectuals, socialists, non-Christians, and non-white and non-English speaking peoples. Exploitation trumps stewardship while ignorance is cause for prideful celebration.  Its leaders prey on those threatened by progress with empty promises of returning them to yesterday’s greatness.  For American firsters, there are no shades of gray, only black and white; in every contest, there is winner and there is a loser.  Moreover, the ‘Collapse’ identity plays host to the conceit of a swindler whose prospects are assured by the extent to which he can divide America and concentrate power in his own hands while stealing the wealth and liberties of hard-working Americans.

These are the stakes: the two very different identities in contention for the future of America for decades to come.  This is the year—2018—when, someday, you will be asked, what did you do to protect the American Dream?  What did you do to save America and the world?  In 2018, complacency is complicity.  Unlike prior generations, it is unlikely you will be asked to leave your family to go off to a foreign land with no assurance of your return.  But, you must set aside the whining and fear and stand up for your future.  Participate by contributing through work and financial resources. Focus on flipping Congress in 2018 away from the harlots of Trump’s tribe so that we might preempt their embezzlement of America’s future.  America’s nightmare will not end by counting on someone else to save you.  The time for surprise, anger, sadness, and regret are over.  It is time to win for all of us here today and born tomorrow.  Let’s roll.

By |2018-05-30T20:37:39+00:00December 30th, 2017|American Identity, Donald Trump, General|0 Comments

The Great Regression

The Trump presidency has cast a disorienting pall over America and the world. His daily dishing of stupefactions—each seemingly more stunning than the last—manage to exceed the most brazen expectations of presidential misbehavior while his Republican cohorts in Washington, who have yet to realize he is sinking their ship with the ham-fisted skills of the captain of the Titanic, stand grinning like toddlers who have just filled their diapers. Meanwhile, foreign leaders look on with growing dismay, as the world’s lone superpower appears hell-bent on self-destruction like a heroin-addict with a full spoon and a loaded .45.  As Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone political writer tasked with explaining this clown show to rocker Millennials and graying Boomers wrote:

Welcome to the Trump era, the flushing-toilet-bowl stage of America’s history, where every move any of us makes is part of a great swirling synergy sucking us with ever-greater alacrity down the hole of failure and destruction.  Good news, bad news, it all heads in the same direction soon enough, after a spin or two around the bowl.[1]

Taibbi’s fecal flushing metaphor aside, America is nowhere near the collapse so many citizens and allies fear, or that fertilizes the flowerbeds of President Putin’s fantasies.  Collapse is no more certain than Trump growing a conscience, or a pair of manly stones suddenly appearing nestled in the Worsted groins of Congressman Ryan and Senator McConnell.

To be clear, there does exist an epic arm-wrestle over the future identity of America and, as president, Trump does occupy the best seat to affect the outcome, but with each forthcoming blunder—each boisterously larger than the last—Americans are awakening to the reality first suggested in 1811 by French philosopher, Joseph de Maistre, that we “get the government we deserve.”  Trump’s “America First” theme that aims to codify his “taking America back” to highly romanticized bygone days of greatness—when bobby-socks, Brylcreem, and Budweiser were markers of a much whiter and more Christian portrait of power—will (hopefully) be characterized by historians someday as the last gasp of a Waspy and clumsy America that fell victim to the intoxicating arrogance that plagues all aging empires.  This crisis, which follows in a timely eighty-year cadence after the first three crises: the American Revolution, Civil War & Reconstruction, Great Depression & World War II, will be labeled, in Trump’s (dis)honor: the Great Regression.

The accomplishments the Trump administration claims in its first one-hundred days will likely be re-classified  by historians under the more appropriate header of “damage report.”[2]   There is virtually no corner of American progress that Trump has left unscathed, to the glee of those who feel 1968 was a better year than 2018 could ever be. The cornerstones of his regressive movement attempt to kickstart dirty industries, dumb-down American education, embolden white-male supremacy, and hoodwink Americans into thinking the world is flat and profoundly dangerous, all while his family shoves millions of dollars in their pockets.  He will definitely leave his mark, which will either fix the beginning of the end of the American empire, or demarcate the call to action that propelled America forward to rid itself of Trump’s dystopic dimwittedness and re-claim its destiny as a steward of global progress.

This alternative American identity—the narrative of global stewardship—contemplates an America whose power is gained not coercively, but referentially by empowering people throughout both America and the world.  This is not a fearful America, nor is it bounded by bigger walls and bigger guns.  It is an America that believes in itself and its traditions of inclusion and  empathy, and of its passion for education, innovation, and leadership.  It views dynamism and creative destruction as prerequisites to continued greatness, rather than a “great” that can only be found in a Rockwellian past.

Purging and healing this boil on the back of American history will not be easy, nor will it be painless.  Everyone who wants a better tommorrow for their children and grandchildren must join up, stand up, speak up, and act up. It means those who sit on the sidelines hoping that their fellow Americans will defeat Trump’s regressive fantasies—who don’t do their part—are contributing to the risk that Trump will succeed in relegating the United States of America to the ash heap of failed world powers.  As painfully amusing as Trump can be, he and his sycophant congressional n’er-do-wells must be thrown out before their damage report metastasizes from sea to shining sea.  The threat is clear.  Do not sit this one out; Trump and his cadre of truthbenders, slurping from their cups of magical thinking, will fight hard to prevail. The question is: is it their America, or ours?

[1] Matt Taibbi, “The War in the White House,” Rolling Stone, May 18, 2017, Issue #1287, p. 24.
[2] Credit for this characterization is due David Remnick, editor of The New Yorker.
By |2017-06-30T18:44:40+00:00May 13th, 2017|Donald Trump|0 Comments

Global Stewards or America First?

Although the word “unprecedented” was used constantly in 2016, and though there were many behaviors and statements made that were indeed unprecedented, what was going on—fundamentally—was not.  We do this to ourselves about every eighty years.  We renegotiate and redefine our answer to the question: What does it mean to be an American?

Toward the end of each American crisis (and we are nearing the end of the fourth American crisis) we define a new identity.  After the American Revolution that gave birth to our country, we identified as Land of the Free.  After the Civil War and Reconstruction, we became the Land of Opportunity.  After the Great Depression and World War II, we became Superpower.  Today, as we conclude this crisis—the War on Terror and Great Recession—we have a choice of new identities: Global Stewards or America First.

Global Stewards is the direction President Obama was taking us, and likely would have continued under Hillary Clinton had she been elected.  President Trump has proposed a nearly opposite identity in his inaugural address, America First.  Trump’s advocated new American identity has visceral appeal to many Americans.  It makes folks who feel left behind, or feeling suddenly dispossessed of their position in American social, economic, and political order, empowered, or at least comforted in the moment.  It taps resentment of government as its clarion call.  It is, however, a diabolical ruse intended to concentrate power in the presidency of Trump without regard to established American values or the rule of law.  It is profoundly dangerous.

America First is a fearful, zero-sum, win/lose, and isolationist future for America.  It puts America’s position in world order in peril by allowing other powers like China and Russia to move aggressively—both politically and economically—into Asia, the Middle East, and Europe.  It relies on deceit and divisiveness to exercise power over Americans for the benefit of the very few, represented most obviously in Trump’s selections for his cabinet.

Trump won the presidency not, however, by fear and anger, or even by Mr. Comey or Mr. Putin.  He won because too many Americans were complacent or apathetic.  Voter turnout and civic engagement operate at pathetic levels in America, but in a democracy you get the government you deserve.  Moving forward, many more Americans must take responsibility for themselves, their community, and their country if we are to transcend and defeat the mockery of American values President Trump represents.  We must unite and engage with a calm sense of profound resilience if we wish to protect the future of this great nation.

 

By |2017-06-05T22:11:05+00:00January 23rd, 2017|American Identity, Donald Trump|0 Comments