Reflections on an article in the United Kingdom’s Guardian periodical by Simon Jenkins on August 17, 2017 (With Every Sneer, Liberals Just Make Trump Stronger).
While everything in this article is true, my concerns are profoundly more strategic. The plan to delegitimize Mr. Trump as president is well funded and well planned and has always been utterly obvious. It is premised on distortion and manipulation of everything about him and everything he says, whatever it is he really does. Not that there is really very much good to say about Mr. Trump except that he is what much of the United States polity has been clamoring for, someone outside the traditional political classes, which is, of course, why leaders of both major United States political parties despise him. That he was until recently an opponent of the endless war syndrome and of the addiction to regime change in other countries is why the military industrial complex and its allies despise and fear him but that tendency seems to have been beaten out of him.
Perhaps the only really good thing that can be said of Mr. Trump as a political leader is that he is vastly less dangerous to the world than his recent opponent and her followers would likely have been (remember the quote “We came, we saw, he died”? I’ll never forget it), and probably less dangerous than those who have united to seek his ouster regardless of the tactics required, or of the consequences. Most of his political opponents are addicts to power; without it they are suffering desperate withdrawal symptoms. They need power back now, no matter what that does to the future, an all too normal reaction for the addicted; only the present matters. So they goad Mr. Trump and others into lose — lose situations, lose — lose for him and lose — lose for the nation, regardless of resulting violence, mayhem or murder. And then they engage in orgies of faux recrimination echoed endlessly on mass media. We are all in danger of drowning in floods of crocodile tears.
After a hundred and fifty years, the issue of the removal of historical monuments treasured by some but offensive to others seems to have been settled upon by political opportunists as a wonderful way to polarize society, to their benefit and no one else’s. Lacking real solutions to real problems, tried and true distractive tactics were pulled from the archives of groups like the early Christian Church, the Catholic Inquisition, the Spanish Conquistadors of Latin America, the Nazis, the Taliban, Al Qaeda and ISIS: cultural destruction for fun and profit.
Take the recent disaster in Charlottesville, Virginia as an example. The issue involved the demand that a historical symbol be destroyed, one meaningful to some and extremely hurtful to others, a statue of Virginia General Robert E. Lee (more accurate to refer to him as a Virginian than as a Confederate as he opposed both slavery and secession; see “A Singularly Ludicrous Conflict: Most conflicts are”). He probably represents the best in us and had he, instead of Lincoln, attained the presidency in 1860, slavery would likely have been ended sooner and without a Civil War. But unfortunately, like most decent people today, he disdained politics. In defeat he was as powerful a symbol as he was in battle, not because he bitterly clung to the lost cause, it was never his cause, but because he almost immediately became president of Washington College, at least for now Washington and Lee University, and he continued his mother and daughter’s pre-Civil War activities to help Afro-Americans and to punish those who abused them. Oddly then that given the historical facts, the worst among the original protesters, the ones whom life has led to hate others because of their race, ethnicity or religion, the ones who desperately fear non-whites for reasons having little to do with reality, the ones who should have disdained Robert E. Lee, were the ones defending his statue, when it should have been those from the left, oddly mostly white college students, many bused in from outside, who, had they known any real history, should have been playing that role. But politics makes strange bedfellows and truth is rarely relevant, at least today. Unfortunately, the foot soldiers, the pawns artfully manipulated by unscrupulous power mongers among us, have little or no real knowledge of history or of its causes or of its consequences. They just know how to hate and how to react and how to provoke and how to polarize. After all, that’s what they’ve been organized to accomplish. Of course, history as fact may itself be a historical relic, or perhaps it has never really been accurately documented. Most of what we’re taught is propaganda and more and more, in Orwellian fashion, subject to change with the tides.
So, … back to our prospects based on current trends. Back to Cassandra’s echoes.
In the end the greatest likelihood is that Mr. Trump will not win but neither will anyone else. We’ll all lose, the political traditions that have permitted the United States to function continuously as a political republic will have vanished. While in the short term the probability is that political, civic and social chaos is likely to ensue, that is emblematic of most transitions. The medium and long term consequences are hard for anybody to predict except perhaps for the aforementioned seeress Cassandra but no one ever listens to her. Of course, the probability is that even now, politics will not be what it has been in the past (except during the period leading up to our uncivil, Civil War). The law of unintended consequences will probably be in full display, much to the delight of “Murphy” and the chagrin of those who succeed in bringing Mr. Trump to ground.
Hopefully the deliberate mass polarization of United States society accomplished through “identity politics” and the utter demolition of a reliably accurate mainstream media will lead to rejection of the current duopoly and to the successful evolution of new mass sources of information, but if the “Deep State” is as real and as powerful as it seems to be, that will not occur without a violent transition and the most likely outcome, as it has been historically in most places, is the eventual rise of a dictator, probably military, and not against the wishes of the people but one the majority will clamor for, being utterly fed up with the selfish aloofness of the “ruling classes” and their obvious lack of concern for the common welfare. Fool me the thousandth time may do the trick as faux programs to address real needs continue to fail and the wealthiest continue to become a smaller and smaller and wealthier and wealthier minority.
Relatively peaceful transition to dictatorship is not all that likely unless it happens so gradually that we don’t realize it’s here until it’s too late to avoid. A group of historians and academics have predicted that the probability of another civil war in the United States may be as high as 45% (see “What are the chances of a second American Civil War? (A Best Defense update”). If that were to come, it would probably not be region against region but the kind of civil strife we are already seeing as groups like Antifa (yes, there really is a violent alt.left, despite mainstream media cover up) battle their mirror images on the extreme right, but magnified tenfold, a hundred fold, a thousand fold. And it is a real and present danger, a river of gasoline flowing while politicians and faux journalist play with matches in their desperate efforts to undo the results of the last presidential election. Still, some fires are cleansing, nature uses them to keep forests healthy and the results of the law of unintended consequences are not always negative. Sometimes Murphy is played for a fool.
All things that are born grow, reach a peak, decline and die, unless they commit suicide first. Ecclesiastes 3 puts it rather beautifully although related events tend to be rather ugly, as we are already experiencing:
For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest. A time to kill and a time to heal. A time to tear down and a time to build up. A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance. A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones. A time to embrace and a time to turn away. A time to search and a time to quit searching. A time to keep and a time to throw away. A time to tear and a time to mend. A time to be quiet and a time to speak. A time to love and a time to hate. A time for war and a time for peace.
It does not smell as though the United States is still in its growth stage.
© Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2017; all rights reserved. Please feel free to share with appropriate attribution.
Guillermo Calvo Mahé (a sometime poet) is a writer, political commentator and academic currently residing in the Republic of Colombia although he has primarily lived in the United States of America (of which he is a citizen). Until recently he chaired the political science, government and international relations programs at the Universidad Autónoma de Manizales. He has academic degrees in political science (the Citadel), law (St. John’s University), international legal studies (New York University) and translation studies (the University of Florida’s Center for Latin American Studies). He can be contacted at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org and much of his writing is available through his blog at www.guillermocalvo.com.