So now that the debate is done and the air has cleared, we are no closer to clarity on anything except that global warming is being caused by Donald Trump’s bombastic hot air. Now the sideshow is about who can be the toughest as they all clench their soft bellies as they strike their Rambo poses. Graham even waxes poetic about G.W. although it is obvious that too much blood is being diverted from his brain to other parts of his body to recognize the fundamental causal fact that we are in this mess because of the failed jingoism of G.W. In a collective nod to amnesia, all of the candidates are clinging to the hubristic and by now, historically discredited bromide that all the rest of the world needs is a healthy dose of American democracy, despite the vacuum of post-op care required for the sovereign patients to make the gender change. The crusading morality that filled the stage is the same brand that allowed the Bush triumvirate to embrace Chalabi who was just one of many who knew how to play America for the fool. The candidates should know by now that you can teach others a language but you cannot force them to speak it. Teddie C’s precision carpet bombing – boy, I certainly hope he gets his term straight before he moves into the role of Dr. Strangelove – will do only what America seems to do best in that region, create division and power vacuum. Of course, ISIS is a global danger that demands a coordinated, global response but like any cancer it is going to take more than radical surgery to eliminate it especially if you want the patient to recover. And if we learned anything at all from the debacle of Iraq, America needs, needs to listen to, and needs to respect its allies. America has never won a war by itself (okay, we can debate the Spanish-American War but Grenada doesn’t count) and it is time to stop deluding itself into believing that America can do it alone this time around either. So instead of bluster, braggadocio and bullying, it would be hear what real policy might sound like if their debate was rooted in humility, not hubris. Perhaps then they would have greater appreciation of the value of learning from history, rather than being doomed to repeat it. Maybe then, their trumpeted sense of Christian virtue would be less sanctimonious and more reflective of what it means to serve as sewards of this earth. Maybe then they would start understanding the difference between ideological belief and fact, scientific and otherwise, that would allow them to address climate change, erosion of the middle class (the backbone of a capitalist democracy) and gun violence (which has nothing to do with prohibition, the 2nd amendment nor the loss of liberty but with a sane approach to deal with an insane problem), to name just a few of the countless issues of equal or greater importance to the welfare of this country than ISIS. And maybe, just maybe if we are lucky and pray really, really hard, a dose of humility will allow for the emergence of visionary leaders for this confused and troubled country.
On the cusp of what is likely to be another travesty of a debate, I have been pondering the idea of America’s greatness or lack thereof. Is there validity in considering such a concept and even if we believe there is, what is its relevance to a world stage whose roots are so different than ours?
To some, and I would posit, sadly to a majority, greatness is defined foremost by power, notably militarily although economic hegemony has always been a sword less articulated but welded nonetheless. According to this view, all of America’s other achievements flow from the premise of a mighty military – and victorious – nation. But it also demands a healthy dose of hubris that can obscure both America’s resistance to risk lives in order to combat emerging world orders in the early 20th century, and America’s failures in the fights of Korea (okay, standoff) and most notably, Vietnam. Now more than ever we are a nation whose attitude is yes, we are all in just as long as the “we” remains in the hands of the 5% or so who serve in the arm forces. Imagine what a conscription or better yet, a war tax would do to such a comfortable war by proxy mindset. Our drone wars are mere extensions of a video game culture that expects a victorious outcome if we only can master the controller. But a definition of greatness, rooted in concept of military might, reduces the value of the nation to a league table of tracking our wins, losses, draws. Worse it fuels an identity dependent upon more than any other that type of scorecard. It fails to take into account other ways to serve, other ways to be truly great.
Where that concept of greatness begins, what are its roots, I will ponder in another entry. Right now, I need a refill of my morning cup.