Sunday, January 26, 2020

Does Truth Matter?

Every American should be staggered by Adam Schiff's closing argument in Donald Trump's impeachment trial.  In his momentous and immortal speech, he states with brimming emotion, "If the truth doesn't matter, we're lost."  This is an almost unreckonable sentence.  Here is the chief House Impeachment Manager, standing before the Senate to make a cataclysmic claim.  The podium is physically small and yet the stance invites global judgement. 

Schiff is certain that his side's case is beyond reasonable doubt.  The president withheld crucial aid to pressure Ukraine.  Why?  Because he wanted our NATO ally to announce an investigation of Joe Biden, a political rival.  To smear him.  Trump, in other words, employed his vast executive power to monkey wrench the cogs of our sacrosanct electoral process.

Sadly, Schiff is correct.  Not only in rhetoric, but in substance.   The implication is beyond dire.  If Trump eludes congressional oversight, he escapes our failsafe of checks and balances.  He achieves the mantle of dictator, one who also happens to be the most powerful man in the world.

It's easy to balk at such an enormous conclusion.  Politicians will be politicians.  And yet this impeachment trial, only the third in the history of the United States, is extraordinary even among its peers.  Bill Clinton, the last president impeached, committed a sex act.  Andrew Johnson, right after the Civil War, fought to re-establish slavery despite the law.  But Trump is the first to seek out foreign aid to subvert the Constitution, something he swore an oath to protect.   

Even a casual look at Trump's behavior shows something frightening:  a rejection of the obvious for the fruits of the devious.  If Trump had wanted a serious investigation of Biden, why not ask the CIA, instead of Ukraine?  One might further inquire why the Republicans, who controlled Congress for the first two years of Trump's presidency, showed nary a spark of interest in Biden during that time.

When confronted with the above point, both the president and the GOP sidestep without agility. Indeed, clumsy is inevitable when you ignore every known fact to firebreathe conspiratorial claims--claims that mesh with Russian propaganda--and that lack even a scintilla of merit. 

For instance, US intelligence services have repeated stated that Russia interfered in the 2016 elections.  But both Trump and the GOP continue to weave webs around Ukraine.

Even more damning is what could be called "The Coincidence Con."  According to Trump's defenders, it is mere coincidence that Biden was the person singled out by our president for investigation.  The timing, they adamantly protest, is just a fluke of chance.  Trump's goal was merely to investigate corruption.  It had nothing to do with getting votes.  Nothing at all.

Adding another layer of absurdity to this response, Trump does not express any interest in corruption in the transcript where he talks to the Ukrainian president.  The word doesn't appear at all.  Trump does, however, ask for a "favor" and then goes on to push for an investigation of Biden.

The above are just specks of frost on the tip of a deep iceberg.  Throughout the procedures of the hearing and the trial, Trump's defenders have flouted logic and eschewed dignity to ballyhoo the specious and the fallacious   Some Senate Republicans have outrightly revealed that they have no inclination to be impartial. 

We know that, under established dictatorships, minions knuckle under at the threat of jail or worse.  Whatever the king or queen decrees.  Off with their heads.  But what to say about the Republican party in this cancerous moment for our country?  Why do they follow Trump when all reasonable roads lead to condemnation? 

However mysterious the failure of the GOP, while we flounder as a bastion of freedom, it shall go down in world history as a singular failure.  It presents us with a most awful scourge, a tragedy that tips a telecommunicated planet toward darkness, an indelible  exemplar of the most despicable in human beings.  


Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Political Abuse

Political abuse involves a tyrannous leader.  It has a lot in common with domestic abuse.  In both contexts, those on the outside, disengaged from the inflictor-victim dynamic, don't understand what's really going on. 

The first reaction is to express outrage and exasperation for the abuse, and to state the obvious.  It doesn't help.  Such reactions stem from a righteous ignorance that crystallizes in questions like, "Why don't you just leave?" or "Why can't you see what's really going on?"
Ending abuse isn't like showing someone how to solve a math problem.  Abusive relationships solidify over time and are highly resistant.  They involve a calculative mind control, one that is both strategic and tactical.  It is a common misconception that the inflictor 'just has an anger problem' or some other pity-worthy condition. 

Although mental disorders may well be present in an abuser, what's going on is something else entirely:  an observant manipulation that proceeds in careful stages.  A house of abuse is built with an insidious and devious carpentry.  When looked at in full light, it is unrepentant, malign and premeditated.  

If you ask counselors at any domestic violence agency, they will tell you eye-opening stories.   An abuser can spin on a dime from ranting and raving to looking calm and polite the next.  Many of them will relentlessly blame others, especially the victims, and never accept blame themselves.  If mandated for anger management, they use that opportunity to share and improve their techniques with other perpetrators.

The analogy in politics is a spin artist who lusts for total power without conscience.  Such a leader first seeks to ensure the faith and trust of their followers, then uses that to isolate them further from the facts.  This goes on an on, a conspiratorial wooing, until a kind of singularity event:  the constituency reaches a place where they will sacrifice their dignity, freedom, health and money rather than question.  They have at this point bought into a loyalty test, one that requires them to see falsely in order to retain their leader's approval. 

All abusers latch onto insecurity and weakness.  If a victim has a fear of being alone, the abuser strives to become the sole source of comfort and understanding.  If the victim has a distrust of others, the abuser does everything they can to expand that fear. 

Intimidation and threats are common.  This means 'flexing the muscles.'  At the political level, this could involve tariffs, building walls, military action, or selective disaster aid.  It includes vicious verbal attacks against those outside the flock--the enemy--or those who stray.

The goal is authoritarian:  "I alone have the power.  I can send my support elsewhere, should I deem you unworthy.  I can cast you out completely." 

An essential element is flipping.  Always blame others even when you are clearly at fault.  Always claim others are hateful or prejudice, even when, by that very proclamation, you are the one spreading prejudice and hate.

In domestic violence, flipping means that the victims end up blaming themselves for being abused.  In politic abuse, it means that the people or institutions (like the media) who criticize the leader are denounced as enemies of the state.

What could be called 'strategic instability' keeps victims on edge and alert to the abuser's every behavior.  Such behavior, such as an unexpected act of violence, can look erratic, spontaneous, or just outright crazy.  Maybe it is. But it also meshes with a larger strategy, creating useful crises, mudding the calm waters of objectivity, and in effect reminding followers of the need for continuous servitude.

No examples of an abuser leader have been given in this article.  This is intentional, to make a further point.  There is indeed an abuser in our country right now at the highest level.  However, Democrats and Republicans will disagree on who that is.  This reinforces how deeply we are stuck in a morass of human frailty.  And though one party is right, neither of them grasps the depth of the problem.