Reflection on the Times

About a year and eight months ago, when the US presidential election was in full swing, I channeled everything I was thinking at the time into this post. Pouring what I felt into words helped me absolve a bit of the anxiety I had around both presidential contenders (one just a bit more than the other).

We all know what happened next. Many of the anxieties that I articulated in that post have come to pass, and some have manifested in ways that none of us could have ever predicted.

I try to make this blog as non-political as possible. The focus of A Wayward Duck is, and will always be, about seeing and understanding the world. I took exception back in July 2016, and I will do so again here. Inevitably, politics creeps its way in, as the world’s social and economic plights are forever married to our geopolitcal systems. I again feel the need to flesh out what has happened since I last wrote on the topic, how I feel about all of it, and where we go from here.

My recent family trip to Denmark will serve as a timely and relevant backdrop to my meandering musings.

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Downtown Lemvig, a tiny Danish market town with a population of 7,000, where my sister played professional basketball (that will never not be weird to say).

Let’s get something out of the way.

My aim is not to condemn Donald Trump. We all get enough of that in our media (mainstream and social). That said, for my own sanity, and perhaps yours, dear reader, I feel the need to write out some of the things that have baffled and horrified me about this President, administration, and the party of which he serves as standard bearer.

Yes, the media already does this every day. But by nature or by design, a great many controversies get lost in the shuffle as the talking heads perpetually move on to the next thing. In this clickbait, headline-centric culture of ours, issues that would otherwise bring the roof down just don’t have the staying power these days. As such it’s sometimes hard to wrap our collective heads around just how truly bad things have gotten.

The moment he took the oath of office, Trump was violating the constitution, according to White House ethics lawyers and Supreme Court litigators, who filed a suit claiming Trump’s businesses receiving payments from foreign governments is illegal. The suit went no where, and Trump didn’t immediately transfer his businesses to his sons. He replaced the leader of a federal agency which overseas the use of Federal land, including the controversial Trump hotel in DC. He also never released his tax returns, as he promised. The mar-a-lago-ization of our country began, has been well documented, and now, normalized. The House Oversight Committee has stopped accepting calls relating to investigating Trump.

He lied about 3-5 million illegal ballots being cast, the first lie of his presidency (aside from the inauguration crowd hubbub), and the latest in a series of lies that began long before his political career, escalated during the campaign, and endures to this day (2,000+ lies or misleading statements in just his first year). He commissioned an investigation based on this first denial of truth, on the taxpayers dime, that predictably went no where.

Trump signed an executive order banning citizens from 7 Muslim-majority countries from entering the US for the next 90 days, setting off countless crises in airports and producing horrid, tragic stories of families in limbo. Trump also announced plans to increase the number of countries, and said Christian refugees would be given preference, a clear violation of the constitution. The ban did not include countries in which Trump has business interests.

Trump promoted Steve Bannon to his security council, a position he was wildly unqualified for. The same man who, as head of the radical right wing propaganda site, Brietbart, was funded by a billionaire named Robert Mercer, who also funds Cambridge Analytica. Bannon has been documented mulling over the mobilization of a “troll army of radicalized, rootless young white males”. Catalyzed by an army of Russian bots, his idea came to fruition, forming the foundation of both his readership at Brietbart and the young voters who were paramount in getting Trump to the white house. Though since ousted, Bannon’s sickening, treasonous, manipulative approach to political propaganda endures.

Trump froze EPA grants, cutting off funding for environmental research, redevelopment of former industrial sites, air quality monitoring and education, among other things. He also mandated all EPA scientific studies be reviewed by his political staff prior to public release (and he banned EPA employees from talking about it). He backed out of the Paris Climate Accord, joining war torn Syria as the only country to not stand with the international community to take on the most pressing challenge of our time.

His dictatorial tendencies have been on full display since the the first few months. He has threatened to send federal troops into Chicago, called the media the “opposition party”, said torture “absolutely works” , artificially filled the crowd with paid sycophants who clapped for him at his first talk in front the CIA, and broke 7 decades of presidential precedents, by not relying on the White House Council of Economic Advisers. Many, many more examples of Trump’s authoritarian practices have been well documented.

He stacked his cabinet with nine-figure+ net worth business elites like Betsy Devos, billionaire Secretary of Education who is actively gutting our public school system, Steve Mnuchin, former Goldman Sachs executive and current Secretary of Treasury, and Rex Tillerson, former Exxon Mobil CEO and now Secretary of State.

On the day Tillerson was confirmed, the House killed a transparency rule which required oil companies to report payments to foreign governments. As Exxon CEO, Tillerson had lobbied against this provision. Here’s a picture of Russian president Vladimir Putin awarding Tillerson with the Russian Medal of Friendship. Well deserved.

Tillerson has led a state department that has seen a mass exodus of their senior staff, lifelong diplomats and experts of their craft. The oil tycoon, who violated sanctions with Russia while at the helm of Exxon in 2014, has also refused to fill hundreds of diplomatic vacancies across the world, cut funding, and even cut whole departments within the State Department. Rachel Maddow goes point by point through Tillerson’s gutting of the State Department. (She does a better job than I ever could.) Power abhors a vacuum, and the power we are giving up everyday across the world will be assumed by others.

Unthinkably, Trump picked an even worse candidate, John Bolton, to head the DoS after Tillerson’s ousting. Bolton, a hyper-hawkish war monger has advocated for preemptive war with Iran and North Korea.

Our loss of clout and respect abroad goes far beyond the State Department’s actions (or inactions, rather). In a phone call, President Trump threatened his Mexican counterpart with sending US military to stop “bad hombres down there.” Trump’s first call with Australia, one of our closest allies, also went terribly, and ended prematurely after, according to Australian media, Trump berated PM Turnbull. Spurred into a consideration by a petition signed by 1.5 million citizens, UK officials announced that Trump would not be allowed to address the UK Parliament during his visits. He’s also engaged in a member-measuring contest with North Korea’s authoritarian leader, Kim Jong Un.

His ignorance and aversion to understanding his role or the world at large is constantly on full display. He refuses to read briefings, attend meetings, and generally learn. As one example of many, during a failed raid in Yemen, which cost the lives of an American Navy Seal and some 30 additional people, including 10 women and children, Reuters reported via US military officials that Trump “approved his first covert counterterrorism operation without sufficient intelligence, ground support or adequate backup preparations.” Press Secretary Sean Spicer admitted that Trump was not in the Situation Room during the Yemen raid. He issued the green light while at dinner, and during the raid itself, Trump was busy sending unrelated, incendiary tweets. 

This is getting long winded and I haven’t even scratched the surface.

The DACA repeal that left thousands of families at risk of being displaced. The blatant nepotism. The constant turnover in the executive branch. Tax cuts that overwhelmingly benefit super wealthy and add trillions to our debt. Dialing back LGBT rights. The affair with a porn star. Cutting of crucial regulations like consumer protections. The overwhelming evidence of collusion with Russia (see: Flynn, Manafort, Kushner, Tillerson, Sessions, Page, Stone, Slater, Rosneft, Kislyak, Don Jr., Nunes, Chaffetz, Steele Dossier, firing Yates, firing Comey, refusal to enforce Russian sanctions, refusal to investigate election hacking, denial of intelligence community conclusions, countless business ties, and Trump’s long lasting love affair with Putin).

(Credit to Amy Siskind for all the sourcing)

Every day he sits at the helm of our nation, Trump sullies the office of President and the dignity of the United States. He is a walking, talking, tweeting insult to democracy, decency, morality, and patriotism.

We have placed in our highest office a proudly ignorant, racist, mentally unstable, mendacious, hypocritical asshole. He is a traitor, a liar, and a criminal.

The only part of his legacy that won’t be dripping with shame and revulsion will be this tiny bright spot: he exposed the Republican party for what it is.

This, perhaps, is the most sickening part, the deafening silence of sober-minded elected officials in the GOP in light of the unparalleled, undeniably unprecedented degradation of all we know and value as a country. But, Trump has brought this Republican hypocrisy and greed for power at any cost into the sunlight, and for that I am thankful.

Shame on us as a country for having allowed this beast to slouch his way into power.

End rant.

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Blood boiling? Here’s some silly Danish rocks on the Jutland coast to diffuse the outrage.

Whew.

Funny, I said at the beginning of this post that this wouldn’t be about bashing Trump. And yet here I am, 1700 words later and that’s all I’ve managed to accomplish.

When I wrote “Are you for Trump?” four months before the election, I sought to share my conversations with those I met while traveling in Europe, using their words, thoughts, and questions as a mirror of my own political leanings, and those of my country.

Now, 14 months into a presidency that has felt like a lifetime, I traveled to Denmark, and found it to also be a mirror through which to reflect on.

Why did this happen? How did so many millions let this man con them all the way to the White House? We’ve seen demagogic strongmen bully their way to power in the third world, but how do we explain the movements of such right wing movements in places like France, Italy, and the Netherlands?

Check back soon to see how I answered these questions for myself while wayfaring through the land of Danishes.

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