Well, congratulations, America. You have, among other things, made post-communist, marginally corrupt and economically inefficient nations like the one I’ve been living in look like models of decency, civility and economic opportunity.
When we talk about the New America with our friends here in Romania, they laugh and say everything will be okay. They say that Trump will be controlled and that things will eventually return to normal. I can understand their perspective. After what they lived through, Trump and his brand of xenophobic nationalism looks like small potatoes.
They are, though, by and large worried about Trump cozying up to Putin and his threats to pull out of NATO. Most Americans either don’t know or don’t care that most central and eastern European nations have weak and disorganized standing armies. NATO is their firewall against Russian aggression. One good head fake from Putin could cause Trump to turn his head for a moment and voila any or any number of these nations could be occupied.
You may want to lock in that Prague vacation pretty soon. And, if you think that’s hyperbole, remember what Russia recently did in Ukraine.
I think what’s really going on, though, with my Romanian friends is that they are experiencing a pleasant, yet scary, sense of schadenfreude, the German word for deriving pleasure from other people’s misfortunes. The pleasant part is that we are finally experiencing what they suffered under a hateful, autocratic, intellectually and morally compromised narcissist. The scary part, of course, is that Trump, by nature of the fact that he controls the free world, can, and probably will, make choices that affect all of them, and none of it will be good.
I’ve been aware for a long time that guns are a mighty scourge on America. When my students in Romania learn that there are 30k handgun deaths a year in the States, they shiver. When I tell them that it’s common to get a text from my children’s school in Denver stating that the school is on lock down, they gasp. We (I’m using the term “we” more and more loosely these days when it comes to my attachment to America) are so inured to gun violence that most of us hardly care at all anymore.
But living in Romania, where guns are illegal, creates a very different habit of mind, especially when you go to public places. Here’s an example: we took the kids to a movie tonight and I didn’t think for a minute about the possibility of some crazy person storming the theatre and opening fire. Moreover, I routinely walk around Timisoara, or any other given city in this part of Europe, late at night and I never worry about my safety.
I don’t worry about these things because people aren’t walking around with concealed weapons in their coats or strapped to their belts. Because guns are illegal, citizens can enjoy a greater sense of freedom (yes, freedom from the anxiety of getting shot) and ease. God only knows how guns and violence will spread their already-powerful wings over the nation over the course of the four, eight, who knows how many years.
I’ve also been aware for some time that America is a land that plays fast and loose with the truth. Over the course of this past election season, and as I watch from afar as Trump continues his early morning tweets, it appears that reason and logic have simply flown the coop.
I imagine all those old Philosophy Professors who in the 1990s lost their logic classes to general education curriculum revisions that made way for sexier introductory courses. I can see them all gathered around televisions in university pubs across America, sniggering in their beers and shouting at the the television.
When Trump calls Hillary Clinton “very dumb” the Philosophy Professors leap from their chairs and shout, “Ad hominem attack!”
During the second Presidential debate, when Trump was asked to explain his aggressive comments about women and he kept repeating, “ISIS . . . . ISIS . . . ISIS,” the Philosophy Professors, face palm and mutter, “Begging the Question!”
When Trump tweets “Beyonce and Jay Z, I like them . . . I get bigger crowds than they do. It’s true. I get far bigger crowds,” the Philosophy Professors, sing in unison, “False Analogy!”
When the Philosophy Professors read Trump’s tweet, “14% of noncitizens registered to vote,” they just whisper to themselves, “Bat shit crazy.”
Not that even a national course on logic could save us from the mess we’ve put ourselves in.
I understand why President Obama has to publicly encourage the success of the Trump regime. He has to do that–it’s his job as the leader of the nation and the Commander-in-Chief to keep the ship of state right and true.
It’s not, though, my responsibility to do the same. In fact, I see it as my responsibility to do just the opposite of what President Obama is doing right now: Trump is a demagogue and a nationalist and and his brand of racist, anti-Semitic, misogynistic henchman must be stopped.
This should be shouted from the rooftops. We can’t wish or cry this away or think that everything is going to be alright. It’s not going to be alright.
As I write this, word is spreading that Trump and his emerging staff will implement a national registry for American Muslims.