Sunday, November 06, 2016

Reflections

Absorbed as we may be in this election, there are reasons to reflect on what's happening in other parts of the world.

Reflecting on them offer something to consider before the final voting, beyond the unparalleled disaster that would be Trump.

The news is giving us multiple suggestions of threats-- old and at least for the US in modern times, new--to our primary institution of the election itself, of the voting process.

Some of these threats may be inflated.  Some are on the books as voter suppression laws, which are at least partially working (as in North Carolina, where early voting was curtailed.)  The new ones are Russian direct meddling, making use of a ego-driven dupe called Assange and wikileaks and using the insatiable appetite of American media; and elements of the federal investigation and police force known as the FBI trying to manipulate the campaign on knowing behalf of one candidate.

Some of these threats--like voter suppression techniques--have been met by voters who refused to be denied, who stood in lines for hours to vote.  That looks to be happening again.  Perhaps enough voters will see through the other attempted manipulations and punish them by defeating Trump.

While this campaign has been going on,  ordinary people from the city of Mosul are in a horrific situation.  Such desperate situations and threats are common throughout the Middle East.  Several countries in South America and Africa are in economic hardships and near chaos.

We have none of that, mostly because of strong and stable institutions, especially those that support individual rights and liberties.  They need to be protected.  Trump and today's Republican Party threaten them.  There's no getting around that.  It's simply true. A good deal of the evidence is what they say and do in public.  It's right out there for everyone to see.

Racial divides are becoming clearer, especially as this election looks more and more racially divided.  There have been a lot of reasons given for Trump's lower middle class white appeal, some of them valid critiques of the excesses of wealthy and powerful corporations and interests, some of them indictments of a culture that is so dumbed-down that an ignorant reality show stereotype can inspire adoration and, worse, credibility.  But racial attitudes remain part of the mix, and it's no coincidence that the rise of Trump began with his attempts to humiliate President Obama.

As Jelani Cobb writes in the New Yorker, as part of a general description of what Trump represents:

The old presumptions hold that some element of national humiliation and decline predisposes nations toward fascism, or at least the appeals of fascistic movements. But in the U.S. this movement sprang up on the contrails of the first black Presidency—a moment that was, perhaps na├»vely at the time, thought to be one of national affirmation and triumph. The unsavory implication here, of course, is that, for the cornerstone elements of Trumpism, that triumph was a national humiliation, that the image of an African-American receiving the deference and regard that the Presidency entails invalidated these Americans’ understanding of what the U.S. is, or at least what it is supposed to be."

Cobb writes that this campaign has exposed our weaknesses and the fragility of our institutions, based in part on exposing this lingering racism (as well, I would argue, the climate crisis so-called debate.)  "An exceptional nation would have better reflexes than this, would recognize the communicable nature of fear more quickly, would rally its immune defense more efficiently than the United States has in the past sixteen months."

As he notes, even if Hillary wins these problems won't go away easily.  But if she does not win, they become themselves institutionalized.  And then we're on the path to our version of Nazi Germany, and the internal weaknesses that lead to chaos and the inability to respond with resilience to crisis of any kind.

We look at places like Mosul as far away, if we look at them at all.  But we might look at them as reflections of our possible future, if we allow these threats to triumph.

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