Monday, November 21, 2016

What Makes a Country Great?

Make America Great?

Let's look at this. When you think of a great country, what is it that you think of?

One way to imagine greatness is to imagine a future history book looking back on these times.

Future students - will they see these events as a source of pride? Or as a source of embarrassment? Will these events stand in a spotlight? Or will it be a historical era that future historians gloss over because it is just too embarrassing?

We elected as our leader a bully - a person who seems to be incapable of going a day without abusing (verbally or otherwise) other people. If this is greatness, then contempt for others must be great.

We have elected as our leader a pathological liar. In my imagination, a great leader of a great country stands up before the country and tells them the truth and rallies them, in the face of that truth, to change the world and make a greater truth. Nothing Trump says can be trusted. If he were to go on the air and announce that a terrorist attack had been thwarted, all those with a respect for honesty would have to disbelieve him, until evidence came from another, reliable source. If this is greatness, then honesty and truth are a corruption which no great nation would aspire to.

One of the reasons why we cannot get the truth out of our President is because he does not know the truth. I do not know the biographies of every President, but I think it would be a challenge for a historian to name any that was as pathetically uninformed - as painfully ignorant - of the facts of the world as Donald Trump. When future generations generate lists of "the 10 stupidest American presidents", please let this forever be the bottom of that particular list. I want no future generation to surpass us on this measure.

If we had been lucky, this would have happened in a time when we could simply sweep the Trump presidency under the metaphorical rug and - after selecting a competent leader in 2020 - pretend that the intervening four years did not exist. The history books could have gone from Obama to whomever follows with just a few words about what happened in between.

Unfortunately, we selected an idiot for President at exactly the time when we could least afford to have an idiot for President. Future generations are going to watch their cities (and whole countries) disappear under rising seas and ask, "When did this happen? What was the pivotal decision?" Future historians will have little choice but to point to the year 2016 - the year that America "the greatest country on Earth" - elected an idiot for President.

They will also likely be looking back on decades of global violence and ask, "How did this happen?" They will trace its roots to the time when America abandoned justice and embraced injustice. They will trace the cause to our decision to abandon tactful and intelligent diplomacy and replace it with brute force and blunt trauma - inflicting suffering on millions who had done nothing to deserve it. Behavior that will, without a doubt, create in countless people a desire to strike back against the authors of those injustices - and to ally themselves with any who have the power to do so.

There is a chance, however slight, that the world can correct for our mistake. The rest of the world has an option to deal intelligently and rationally with the challenges of our time and, thus, be the heroes that save future generations from the suffering that they would have endured with Trump's America serving as an actual world leader.

But this is not "making America great". This is "making America so pathetic that its greatest contribution to the world's problems would be to go to its room, close the door, and not bother the grownup nations as they deal intelligently with these problems."

And there is a chance that this may be premature. Trump lacks intelligence, wisdom, or any actual concern for the welfare of others. But perhaps he is not so great a fool that he cannot recognize his own incompetence - and not so lacking in compassion that he lacks the motivation to put competent people in charge of making actual decisions. His first two weeks as President Elect give us little reason to hope. Like arrogant idiots throughout history, he mistakes flattery for competence, and gives to the flatterer what he should give to the competent.
Make America great?

A great nation values honesty, integrity, and deals intelligently and rationally to provide real-world solutions to real-world problems.

On that measure, we are not making America great. We are making America an embarrassment.

We have done exactly what a great nation would never have done. It would take the greatest self-deception to see the next four years as a period of greatness. It will be a period of injustice and ignorance that spread suffering that a more intelligent and virtuous nation - a greater nation - could have avoided.

No comments: