A Return to Civility, Part II

In our last podcast, I spoke about the history of recent Supreme Court confirmation proceedings. But why? With so much animosity in the news, why just point out the problems in the nomination, confirmation, and SCOTUS decision-making processes?

To think, there are so many other issues facing our Federal government. Debt-ceiling gamesmanship, deficit-spending, questionable tax policy, exploding entitlement budgets, delusionally bloated Pentagon-spending, ACA, insurance premium-gouging, prescription price-gouging, questions about social media censorship and regulation, environmental regulation and climate change, election interference from overseas, immigration policy,  NAFTA, NATO, ICC, WTO, TransPacific Partnership, human rights… and on, and on…

So why obsess about the deterioration of the Supreme Court confirmation process? Well, because its symptomatic of what I see as the reductionist, myopic, and selfishness that has, while it has always been there, has now completely overtaken the American corporate and political landscape. Identity politics has replaced political debate; Political disagreement is now seen as evidence of a moral or patriotic flaw in those with which we disagree. The neo-tribalistic perceptions of political ideology have become the norm, and compromise is a now bad word. There are fewer and fewer true leaders left in elected government. Common purpose and Noblesse oblige have been subsumed by personal and partisan Machiavellianism. Relativism is now the dominant moral philosophy of Congress and the White House.

But, maybe that’s just me. It seems, to me, that the lack of political courage domestically and internationally has brought us closer to the edge – the point of no return in terms of climate change, the edge of losing the stability of international NGO regimes that were developed in the ashes of the Second World War, instead of recognizing our collective human destiny, the national and international actors seem to desire a return to the competition for international resources and hegemony that brought us colonization, jingoism, racism, two world wars, and near use of nuclear weapons during the Cold War.

To use psychological terminology, both internationally and domestically, we are regressing, not maturing. We’re playing Hungry Hungry Hippo and zero-sum games, as opposed to incorporating game theory and win-win into our mindsets and guiding principles. We need a long game, not a putting game; as the Iroquois often said in deliberations, we need to think about the Seventh Generation, not our personal checkbooks and neotribalistic aspirations.

Because, what the world needs, if American leadership. Yes, for decades, there has been a robust debate between those who support unilateral American leadership and those who believe in multilateral world leadership with a strong, active, and an engaged American presence in the world stage. What the world has now, is an international power vacuum.

Today, as we speak, there is a genocide against the Rohingya in Burma… and the Burmese say, what happened to the Native Americans, don’t you still keep them on reservations even today?

Saudi and other US allies bomb Yemenese civilians with US-made bombs, and whisper that it’s their Vietnam, their Nicaragua after all, right?

Russia commits assassinations and attempted assassinations of dissidents in the UK, and says, hey, the US did it too in 1953 Iran, 1954 Guatemala, 1963 South Vietnam, and 1973 Chile.

Russia annexes Crimea, Eastern Ukraine, and intimidates its neighbors… and sends social media bots to exacerbate divisions between Americans; all the while, the President of the United States says he respects Putin and believes the Head of State of a foreign power, over his own government’s non-partisan intelligence community.

Of course, it is not just Putin that Mr. Trump admires, he has also expressed his admiration for Duarte of the Philippines, Kim of North Korea, and Xi of China.

Yes, China, where the decades-long Hannification of Tibet is essentially complete, during which the US let China into the WTO and facilitated the transfer of technology through not just corporate espionage but nation-state espionage against US corporations… then the US became dependent on borrowing money from the very people who have stolen US technology, and even imprisoned the Panchen Lama. Would the US react so banally if the Vatican Secretary of State were kidnapped, or the heir to the Chief Rabbi of Israel?

Which brings us to this week. This week news broke that there are nearly a million Uighurs interred in concentration camps in the People’s Republic of China. Once again, the US hems and haws. Officials toss the word ‘sanctions’ out again like a panacea, whereas it is more like a placebo.

After all, China has weathered the steel sanctions well enough, while American soybean farmers suffer and Harley-Davidson has announced it is moving some production to Europe. Not overseas where its cheaper as the jingoistic narrative goes, but to the land of socialism, free university, and free healthcare… Europe.

So, how does the US tell China to stop the internment of Uighurs. The US still imprisons foreigners in GITMO without Due Process and separates asylum-seeking families at the US border. And just this week, as news of the Uigher re-education camps broke, leader of the United States has denied the death of thousands of Puerto Ricans…

And our response, as Americans and human beings, our response has been to double-down into neotribalism and identity politics. The problems facing the world are not the fault of one man, but it has been exasperated by him.

Trumpism needs to be rejected and filed away in history with fascism, Stalinism, McCarthyism, South American Caudillos, and rulers from across the globe including the Middle East and Africa who use cult-of-personality strongman tactics. I hear conservative voices cry out against the increasingly violent Left, the so-called AntiFa; but many of the same voices have been silent about the violent Right… from the the continuous presence of the KKK in America, the institutional racism of Southern law enforcement that attacked Civil Rights protesters, right up to the militia movement, the Sovereign Citizen movement, Ammon and Randy Bundy, etc.

Violent rhetoric and political violence from all sides of the political spectrum must be stopped. Instead of complaining about political violence and violence rhetoric from our ideological opposites, we all need to remove the log from our own eyes and ideologies before pointing out the splinter in others’ eyes and ideologies.

Democratic politicians who play the same games of manipulative populism and fearmongering need to be voted out; we used to talk about who we are, not who we’re not. We used to promote vision, not vitriol. Yes, its hard to be the minority party, but it doesn’t mean you have to lower your standards to the lowest forms of politics. It is also hard to be the party in power, to govern not gripe. The traditional Republicans need to regain their moral standards. Since 2010, traditional Republicans have thought they could use the Tea Party movement, only to become controlled by them… don’t believe me? Just as Speaker John Boehner. Ask Jeb Bush. The Republican leaders who have tolerated Trump in exchange for tax cuts and Supreme Court seats need to go. We need new leadership in both parties. We need national unity, not national dysfunction. The New Jerusalem is shrinking from its promise as the beacon on the hill for the world to look up to, no, America has become dystopian, not Utopian.

It’s possible. Rhode Island, long one of the most nepotistic judiciaries, implemented reforms that have ushered in candidates of qualification, not political affiliation. A return to a supermajority for Supreme Court nominations. An end to the gerrymandered districting in the House of Representatives. Bi-partisan co-sponsorship for legislation. Guaranteed up/down votes on bills offered by the minority party. Depoliticalization of the debt ceiling. Ending dark money. Rebuilding partnership with historic allies, and maybe taking a break from questionable new allies. A commitment by politicians, especially presidents, that recognizes treaties are -according to Article VI of the US Constitution- the supreme law of the land and cannot be withdrawn from, but need to be renegotiated or unratified legislatively at the 2/3 threshold in the Constitution.

We can meaningfully address the myriad of issues facing our Federal government. Debt-ceiling gamesmanship, deficit-spending, questionable tax policy, exploding entitlement budgets, delusionally bloated Pentagon-spending, ACA, insurance premium-gouging, prescription price-gouging, questions about social media censorship and regulation, environmental regulation and climate change, election interference from overseas, immigration policy,  NAFTA, NATO, ICC, WTO, TransPacific Partnership, human rights… and on, and on… We can do it if we collaborate and compromise with a win-win mentality, not the reductionist neotribal mindset that has become the norm in recent years.

It’s possible. And, even if it wasn’t, are we willing to live in the tit-for-tat Banana Republic as we’ve become, or do we want the new America to be like the old America: imperfect, but searching to be a more perfect union.

PHOTO CREDIT (Public Domain):  https://www.archives.gov/exhibit_hall/american_originals_iv/images/jfk_inaugural_address/inauguration.html
Photographer/Painter: Record Group 111, Records of the Office of the Chief Signal Officer (111-SC-578830)

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