Hot Tub Time Machine
Watching Ken Burns’s latest epic, The Vietnam War, on PBS this week reminded me of teaching U.S. History to high school students and getting them to see the parallels between Vietnam and the American Revolution. You do not need to be an Ivy League history professor to note the obvious connections between the two wars. An imperial power occupies a “colonial” territory thousands of miles away from home and is drawn into a never-ending war of attrition until the expense and internecine turmoil within the Empire lead to the independence of the “upstart rebels.” That we, in the U.S., referred to Ho Chi Minh, the North Vietnamese leader, as “the George Washington of VN” should have tipped us off as to where the war was going but “fighting communism” and “saving face” trumped common sense, and historical awareness. I bring this up because Donald Trump’s speech to the United Nations General Assembly on Monday only reinforced, once again, how staggeringly ignorant our “President” is and how little he knows or understands about United States history. He also revealed again that he is a Grade-A, Size-Large hypocrite, unrivaled among international leaders.
As regards Trump’s historic ignorance: it’s as if he never heard of the League of Nations and how the lack of participation by the United States, in no small part, contributed to the inevitability of World War II. In pursuing isolationism in the 1920’s and early 1930’s the United States allowed for the rise of Fascism in Europe. Trump’s speech, with its emphasis on sovereignty --- and its accompanying claim that sovereign self-interest is the best course for all --- was essentially a call for the dissolution of the United Nations. Beyond his embarrassing demand that other nations “pay up,” Trump stated:
In foreign affairs, we are renewing this founding principle of sovereignty. Our government's first duty is to its people, to our citizens -- to serve their needs, to ensure their safety, to preserve their rights, and to defend their values.
As President of the United States, I will always put America first
While citing the U.S. involvement in the creation of the U.N. and its implementation of the Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe, it is clear he can read about U.S. history off a teleprompter without truly understanding anything he’s talking about.
By the end of his speech Trump had, in essence, given the finger to the U.N.
As far as hypocrisy goes, let’s consider the following. Here’s a statement Trump made at the U.N:
Rogue regimes represented in this body not only support terrorists but threaten other nations and their own people with the most destructive weapons known to humanity.
Given the actions of the “good people” in Charlottesville who killed Heather Heyer and were not rebuked by Trump (terrorists), along with this statement:
The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea. Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime. The United States is ready, willing and able
I believe the United States, led by Donald Trump, qualifies as a “Rogue regime.”
In the same fashion, Trump said “Authority and authoritarian powers seek to collapse the values, the systems, and alliances that prevented conflict and tilted the world toward freedom since World War II.” Looking at his Bannon-led move to “deconstruct the administrative state” at home and his clear “America First” positions on the Paris Accord, NAFTA, the Iran Accord, and castigation of the United Nations, what we see, in Trump, is one who is seeking “to collapse the values, the systems, and alliances that prevented conflict and tilted the world toward freedom since World War II,” don’t we?
Donald Trump would like us all to join him in his Hot Tub Time Machine and travel back to a time when White men ruled not only America, but all of Western Europe, too. His rejection of the U.N. (just as we once rejected the League of Nations) and his isolationist impulses (a la Lindbergh in the ‘30’s), along with his white supremacist, misogynistic, anti-immigrant domestic policies create a portrait of a man who wants a rapidly changing world to cataclysmically reverse itself. Buffeted by hurricanes, his EPA still denies climate change science. His unfathomable distress over the U.S. having had a Black President demands we not only un-do all of Obama’s legacy but also spin the U.S. back decades and decades to fit his “Playboy philosophy” world and “restore order.”
Donald Trump not only embarrassed the United States on the world stage this week, he did serious damage to our nation’s place in the world as a moral, political, and cultural force, much less a “leader.” As we move forward in a more dangerous and uncertain world, where Nature itself is attacking us in unrelenting waves, Trump is leading from the rear, trying to convince us that retreating to some mythical past is actually the only sensible thing to do. He has demonstrated not only that he is unsuited to lead our nation but that he is, in fact, a danger to the America people.