Saturday, August 18, 2018

The upside of a forest fire

When you wanted to hint at the dangerous symptoms of a person’s personality or behavior, you could say, “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.” In the lead up to the 2016 election it wasn’t enough to say, “Where there’s fire, there’s fire,” even with recordings and well-documented evidence. In 1991, when they were hard to make, an entire documentary was made on the unethical business practices of then-liberal Donald J. Trump. A couple more were released before he announced any political ambitions. As such, his con-artist behavior was exposed well before there was reason to conspire against him for political purposes. Another question we should keep in mind is, “How bad is fire, really?”

There has been much skepticism of the government since the Vietnam-era. There have been declassified documents released describing false flag operations to rally support for war. Richard Nixon broke law and claimed on national TV, “When the president does it, it’s not illegal.” It’s clear that no right-minded person would refuse to question the ethics of wire-tapping and the surveillance state. Those now seem like quaint times. Corruption is such that telling people what they want to hear is not a political ploy, it’s a political necessity. The federal deficit is not the only thing generally growing by year, the moral and ethical deficit grows, too. With it, there’s a lot of deadwood through bloated laws, career politicians, and unquestioned ideas and practices.

Who would you put as the best president of your recent memory? The safest bet might be Barack Obama, because he was moderate, meek, and even-handed enough not to accomplish much of anything at all. Even pathologically leftist documentarian Michael Moore recently stated he would be remembered, “As the first black president. Okay. Not a bad accomplishment. But that’s it.” Say what you will about his manipulative tactics, Moore did outline in an essay with eerie accuracy how conservatives would win the presidency through the rust belt states, describing Trump as a “human Molotov” thrown at the system of government by disgruntled, forgotten blue-collar workers. Obama’s crowning achievement is a healthcare system both parties agree isn’t working. His legacy is of drones and jailed journalists, and bailing out banks from their financial failures and the rule of law. Go back and you have George Bush Jr., whose actions abroad more-or-less saw him criticized into a catatonic state where he now leads a subdued life painting portraits. He may have devolved into the under-achieving child the media painted him as. Behind him is Bill Clinton, whose then-impeachment in the #MeToo era would now see him ousted. This, not ignoring his secret Republic-leaning behavior, his Crime Bill which destroyed minority families that he now regrets, or the wag the dog tactics he deployed as distractions from his sex scandals. George Bush Sr. rounds out the last 30 years. Huffing about incompetent presidencies produces a net loss, there’s not much legacy left to taint.

How bad is fire, really?

An important point people often forget is that the right answer is more than not the least wrong answer. If we were beings in a perfect environment, the biggest struggle we faced would be the struggle of wills, a battle that could eventually be won. Instead, we exist in a state often hostile by way of natural disaster, under threat of disease, under threat from the animal kingdom, and the fights that occur over finite resources. It’s easy to point out fracking as wrong, and to be against a pipeline tearing through cherished U.S. lands inhabited by natives, but when you consider our oil dependence informs our relationship to Saudi Arabia, with their record of human rights abuses, suddenly the answer is less clear and weighing wrongs is more viable. Diplomatic solutions only work when one is agreed upon, if not, in the meantime, the moving train of reality requires consequences for both action and inaction.

Symbolism is a main artery behind any campaign, that’s why every candidate at that time becomes a brand stilted on a few slogans. If symbolism were all that mattered, Kennedy and Obama would be the best U.S. presidents, and Trump easily the worst. Many find it disrespectful to refer to presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren as “Pocahontas” for her unproven claim of Native American heritage. A mean-spirited act, yet pales compared to the level of cynicism and indifference toward Native people you would need to exploit a false heritage for social and political gain. The latter transgression is more insidious and far worse. (Note: since this was written Warren has released a report showing no significant ties to Native American ancestry.) Symbolism is important as it creates an immediate and often visceral emotional response, however what lasts and what people are ultimately defined by is their actions.

The polarization has reached a fever-pitch in the U.S. We are the third biggest country, the third most populated, with the largest economy. Considering these factors, owning up to the title of United will always be a challenge. We are in the midst of a political forest fire. This purge feels the result of a decades-long distrust of government that came along with continued interventionism. It feels the result of the romanticization of revolution, that revels in glory more than blood. It feels the result that as with Western countries, increasing secularization has left a moral cavity to be filled by fervent political affiliation. Government has the most distrust and least perceived effectiveness of any time. The importance placed on hundreds of people to coordinate the lives of hundreds of millions is shortsighted by both sides, with voting booths a hair more effective than wishing wells. But that’s the paradigm, people want change. People want the standard of living lost to them by technology and globalization since the 70s, made up for, somewhat, by debt, women in the workplace, and longer hours. If the system in place to facilitate progress is impeding it, there can be value in a self-destructive act. An amputation is rational if you’re at risk of infection, turning what would normally be a self-destructive act into one of self-preservation.

As systems get older, they become bloated, they contain excess baggage and what should be simple and streamlined processes get bogged down, in this case with bureaucracy. This is where creative destruction could provide a net gain. When a system reaches a point where destruction is a more effective, viable option than change through its normal channels, the setting is ripe for and susceptible to this inevitable process. It is not pretty, it is not perfect, it’s a system seeking balance and self-preservation. It’s rarely a matter of the right answer, but a matter of the least-wrong answer.

Change, as was promised in 2008, never came. What happened was the previous Bush-era, again, with a friendlier face. What is happening now is actual change. The problem is the idea of “change” depends entirely on how you interpret it, and it could have quite a negative connotation. When change is promised and the status quo is maintained, it’s not absurd to see why people could switch support from Bernie Sanders to Donald Trump, and their entirely disparate agendas. The message was clear: anything, at this point, is better than more of the same.

Forest fires have their uses. If controlled, they prevent larger, less controllable forest fires. They clear the deadwood, aid germination, allow for more diverse plant life, increase sunlight and return nutrients to soil. The political forest fire isn’t much different. It forces the hand in moments when stagnation is the least effective answer. This is not to downplay their destruction. It is possible to objectively examine the results, instead of becoming distracted by symbolic failures.

It’s taken as a given the strife between Israel and Palestine will go on indefinitely. This administration cemented Jerusalem finally as the capital of Israel. Blood was shed for the decision, but blood has always been the currency of that conflict. Their border was attacked and defended. There is no plausible perfect decision in a conflict in real-time when human life is always at stake. The upside is that now this involvement is transparent, instead of feigning a diplomatic approach and secretly arming and supporting nations financially. To respect a small and only country, for a notoriously displaced people subject to extreme prejudice from surrounding nations is sound and politically savvy. It comes at a cost, but the cost accumulates in both action and inaction. It is relativistic, unfortunately that often coincides with what is realistic.

The 1,000-mile Dakota Access Pipeline protested at Standing Rock seemed easy to point out as a definitive wrong, when by executive order the construction process was expedited. It’s an issue that pulls at the heartstrings and no one wants to see indigenous people treated any less fairly. It’s also difficult to weigh this against the gains of energy independence, which means more political sway to not bargain with or provide arms to Saudi Arabia. Within the last week, their weapons, made in the U.S., took out of bus of children in Yemen. Only for oil, we are allies with a nation that won’t let women drive, allows corporal punishment, and state-sponsors terrorism.What’s in the diplomatic playbook for two negative outcomes?

This administration reneged on the Iran Deal. It’s important to note it passed without congressional approval, and required U.S. to provide a notice before inspections, which excluded inspections of military sites and allowed their missile program to continue. After the deal was not renewed Iranian MPs stood before their parliament holding up a printout of a U.S. flag, burning it while shouting “Death to America.” A pathetic display considering they did not have the gravitas to even sign the deal when all other nations did. If this is at all indicative of their idea of diplomacy, the right decision was made.

This administration has not done much, but has done more than any other, to alleviate the suffering of people in North Korea and tensions at their Southern border. Brokering peace between the two nations would be the best bit of optimistic world news since the end of WII or the fall of the Berlin Wall. North Korea has propagandized fear and lies of imperialist American tyranny for long enough, what was needed to counter their dictator’s posturing was not a soft touch or diplomacy, but a firm and assertive hand from one petulant leader to another.

This administration is also getting a few things right financially, lowering the the world’s highest corporate income tax rate to be competitive, or at least in parity with the global economy. Potential relief to defense spending has also occurred with NATO allies being held to their financial commitments.

The fires must die out eventually. As suggested, this was the perfect opportunity for people on the left to realize where their rhetoric went wrong and prop up more moderate voices. Instead of working as an antidote, the left’s loudest voices have doubled down. More vitriol is more fuel for the fire, and that’s exactly what will spiral things out of control. If an irrational vocal minority can be quelled, it’s quite possible this all can have been for the better. If for the time being, America has been made to care again. Photos of children at our border kept in cages in 2014 received no outrage until 2018, once the people had construed the false and insulting narrative of a dystopian, neo-Nazi uprising in America. What was revealed is that journalism was asleep, sedated by articulate but vapid Obama-era symbolism.

Legacy media is losing viewership and essentially dying. Their problem is increasingly informed and skeptical masses. They are wed to the idea they are the sole gatekeepers of what is fit to print, and by its nature, what is assumed the general public can handle or decide for themselves. This paradigm is lost in the information age, especially among free countries in an ever-more connected world. The desperate way to try to control this power of information is to shout even louder, get meaner, cut at their enemies deeper. It could be the reason for our extremely polarized views, shouting at the moon is the only way to be heard anymore, and it’s inevitable the rational masses will take a step back and notice these vocal minorities are, in fact, shouting at the moon.

That climate can change, but the prerequisite is having the intellectual honesty to concede fair points to people you disagree with. There’s more political discourse and involvement, but it could be tilted on its axis in a transitory period by voices who put agenda before fairness. It would not harm anyone to acknowledge that some worthwhile things could or have come this administration, even if only incidental. The bigger threat we face is not the somewhat controlled demolition of decayed segments of a republic, but hysterical masses pushing an over-correction so far any semblance of a balanced political future becomes impossible.

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