This past Sunday, I watched the most disturbing footage I’ve ever seen on the TV news magazine show 60 Minutes. They depicted small children and their mothers, and people of all ages foaming at the mouth in full body spasm and being asphyxiated as a result of serine gas bombs dropped on innocent civilians by the Assad regime and the Russian military. I sat there dumbfounded, feeling something between outrage and almost primal fear. The fear was related to my realization that all the lessons, rules and international laws, painfully gleaned from the World War II experience were officially forgotten. “How could this have happened?” I kept asking myself as I watched the piece in horror. I could think of nothing else for the next 24 hours. Out of that thought, I reach the following conclusion:
America, with its great wealth and power, and its steadfast adherence to the rule of law, its professed values with regard to freedom and equal opportunity for all regardless of race, creed or color, its strong institutions charged with protecting those values for the individual citizen against the onslaught of government, money and power and its willingness to stand up for those values against any tyrant anywhere in the world, was the only thing keeping tyrants and dictators from abusing their people and eventually letting lose the dogs of war that will eventually kill us all. To Osama Bin Laden, where ever he may be, I say mission accomplished. His objective wasn’t just to destroy a few buildings and murder a few thousand people, but to destroy the American way of life, its belief system and to provoke it into behaving like a paranoid white racist country before the entire world.
On 9 / 11 / 2001, a large enough portion of white America may have lost all of its capacity to believe its precious values could be afforded to anyone in America who was not white and of European ancestry. Consequently, after 9/11 the majority of America elected a fully right wing government (the Whitehouse, congress and Supreme Court) and empowered them to do all the things they had wanted to do since prior to World War II, especially in the area of finance and in their desire to rescind civil liberties in favor of the rich and powerful. For that indiscretion of judgment, America was rewarded with the near bankruptcy of the Country and financial markets world wide. The public backlash of this resulted in the election of a black president. Obama’s greatest weakness is that he didn’t understand that until the final days of his presidency. He thought, as many of us thought, that his election had something to do with America’s movement to becoming a more enlightened society. In retrospect, all his election did was strengthen the resolve of the evermore emboldened fascist, white supremest element of American society since 9 / 11, to disempower anyone in the country who is not white and male.
Conversely, on 11 / 9 / 2016, progressive white Americans, all Americans of color and religious minorities of all kinds may have lost their capacity to trust that the country will ever live up to its promise of becoming the Utopia of free men and women of all races, creeds and colors, and an inspiration to the entire world, which it has aspired to be since the end of World War II. With the election of Donald Trump, a man of low morals and integrity, a hateful insensitive man who goes out of his way to be nasty and abusive to anyone who disagrees with him, a man who values money over honesty, integrity and quality of life, and most of all, a man who is completely unqualified for the task he was elected to perform as president of the U.S., America has announced to the world that it is no longer interested or invested in its commitment to maintaining order and civility in a world made smaller by electronics and jet travel. To be fair, Trump didn’t by himself create the toxic social climate our country finds itself, but is a manifestation of the deeps the collective character of all America has sunken as a result of the psychic trauma of 9 / 11. It didn’t happen precipitously, but eroded slowly by our willingness to rationalize what we know was wrong. Things like condoning torture, denying due process to people we profiled as terrorists or drug dealers and of course, failure to protect the air we breath and the water we drink for the mere promise of jobs and higher wages. Now we are at the point of being willing to not only rationalize but condone the slaughter of women and children by our current administration’s refusal to denounce Russia for being the terrorist nation it is by virtue of its complicity in the Syrian atrocities and its culpability in attempting to undermine our electoral process and that of all of Western Europe.
To assume the Trump vision of American greatness will leave us untouched by the events happening in Syria, the rest of the Arab world, the Philippines and throughout Asia and Africa is to live in a fool’s paradise. Remember, the atrocities committed by dictators throughout the world are being committed against their own people. How long do you think it will be before our own dictator, or members of his supporters or members of his opponents commits those same atrocities? Also, it’s easy for one great power to underestimate another great power’s ability to strike back when one of them is in civil war or chaos of one kind or another (remember Iraq vs. Iran in 1980?). Such miscalculation of course would be the beginning of the worldwide apocalypse we’ve all feared since the end of World War II.
I say our country is not on the path to greatness, but on the path to tragedy. It may be costly to us as individuals, but we Americans must truly be great, not only for our benefit but for the benefit of humanity as a whole. There simply is no other nation in the world rich enough and powerful enough, and until recently, respected enough to do it. The lesson of WW2 is that without the leadership of a united America, humanity will give into its greed and fear and ultimately destroy itself. I know all this sounds farfetched and outrageous and like something that could never happen in a million years, but so did the possibility of electing someone like Donald Trump ten short years ago. If we don’t wake up and educate ourselves as to what it truly means to be an American in the modern world, we could well be doomed to perish in a living hell like the people of Syria.