“By interpreting freedom as the multiplication and the rapid satisfaction of needs, they do violence to their own nature, for such an interpretation merely gives rise to many senseless and foolish desires, habits and most absurd inventions.” Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov
The elderly of North Korea know fire and fury very well. They survived carpet-bombing by the US Air Force, the dropping of napalm on their towns and cities. War and utter destruction is their history, never to be forgotten. Yes, the leader of North Korea is as nutty and unstable as the leader of the United States, but let’s keep in mind that North Korea doesn’t stage massive military exercises -- war games they are called -- near the border of the United States.
I keep reminding myself in these days of August that Donald Trump and his band of incompetent kleptocrats and bigots are a symptom, not a cause. The problem is neoliberalism, imperialism and militarism; I keep reminding myself that American capitalism is a failure, a brutal and inhumane system that works -- spectacularly well -- for only a small percentage of the population and leaves the majority insecure, indebted and in misery; I keep reminding myself that the economy is a castle of sand, sure to be toppled by the next big wave; I keep reminding myself that racism lies at the heart of the American experience, and that it takes little to unleash that wicked genie from the bottle. Look at what just happened in Charlottesville, Virginia. To me it was like being shot back in time, to 1955 or 1860 or 1741. We can say, “this isn’t us,” but it’s not true -- this is us. Racist, violent, intolerant and ignorant.
The author Ta-Nehisi Coates, speaking on Democracy Now, placed the inaction of the Charlottesville police in perfect context when he said, imagine if, after the killing of Eric Garner by police, black people had organized a march and flooded into the streets laden with torches, clubs, guns and shields, and brawled in the streets with counter-protesters. Do we think the police would have stood idly by and done nothing? Unarmed black people are gunned down in this ass-backward country for driving a vehicle with a busted taillight.
Fareed Zakaria passes himself off as one of the wise men of CNN, but, like so many of his colleagues, he’s a hack who toils within the narrow confines of what masquerades as public debate. On Bill Maher’s HBO show the other day Zakaria said that illegal immigration has been a long-standing problem in part because it has driven down the wages of working Americans. Maher let this trope pass without challenge. Wages in America have been flat for decades by design. Offshoring manufacturing jobs to China, Mexico, Vietnam, Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, and other countries where labor is dirt cheap was a conscious decision by American corporations and the allies they bought in government. Trade, tax and monetary policies that favor capital over labor, investors over workers, have also contributed to wage stagnation here. And let’s not forget the effects that union busting have had on wages. Decades of corporate attacks on what once was called Big Labor by corporations, with support from Republicans and Democrats, have done far more than illegal immigration to produce the staggering level of wealth inequality that is not only tolerated in this country, but celebrated.
Every single day King Donald I exposes the deep cracks and fissures in the foundation of our system, the insane and insatiable desire for wealth and power, the complete indifference to human needs, domestically and abroad, the unbridled arrogance with which America deals with the rest of the world. Even if King Donald were driven from his throne tomorrow the system would stumble on toward the abyss, like a blind ogre.
It was 70 years ago that the British partitioned India. Millions of Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs suddenly found themselves on the wrong side of arbitrary lines. The mayhem and dislocation and violence that ensued was monumental and the ramifications continue to this day.
Fear and intolerance are powerful things.