You can step out of my kitchen and step into the Boulder open space, maybe a distance of 10 feet. There you will see tens of deer, a family of Coyotes and an occasional bear I call Bob. You could get in a car and drive 80 miles to the world’s best ski resorts like Vail or just walk the mountains. You could jump on a plane and end up in San Diego beaches in less than 3 hours. You could drive up the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) from San Diego to Vancouver. Yes, this country is breathtakingly beautiful.
However, I am not talking about the physical beauty of America. Rather I am seriously stunned by beauty of the moral fiber of the country and its adherence to the Rule of Law. In the case of America that rule is enshrined in a 300 year old document called The Constitution.
In a stunning check to the Presidential power the Ninth Circuit Court in San Francisco upheld the lower court decision to stay President Trump’s so called Muslim Travel ban. The President has wide ranging powers to decide who can or cannot come into the country. The separation pf power gives that authority to the President. Trump thought he will use that power arbitrarily to placate his base and do something called Travel ban which is a disguised form of Muslim ban from his atrocious race baiting campaign. The courts has called his bluff and now the Presidency may have curtailed power for good. I am not sure it is a good thing for the country, but because it is this clown of President it is sure a beautiful thing to behold. America has a beauty in its system of check and balance that is hard to match. One can scour history since the beginning of time and such balancing power would be hard to find.
I come from Bangladesh. Where transparency and rule of law is just so many words. The powers that be do as they please and then dress up the actions with after the fact narrative that suit the occasion. The powerful in most countries create their own facts and the go about imposing them using various tools available to the State. In the Middle East the Saudis and its cohort countries live in a make believe world that is replete with the media saturation of the ruling class. There is never a day when the King or the Princelings of Saudi dynasty do not (dis)grace the front pages of newspapers, TV shows and so on. In China, real news is simply blanked out. If you pick up China Daily News or any newspaper in China you will see nothing about the demonstration that you just witnessed on the streets, the pollution that is blanketing the cities, or an industrial disaster that just took so many lives. No, you will see ribbon cutting on some grand building, accomplishments in some obscure sport like Ice Hockey and so on. That is because the most regimes outside the US has managed to define what truth is, facts be damned. Their truth is devoid of facts. It is what they say it is.
Well, Trump and his team are trying a version of this. Kellyanne Conway, the official Bimbette, blurted out a phrase from George Orwell’s famous novel, 1984. I am not sure that she ever read that seminal book. The phrase is Alternative Facts! So, that is the danger that US faces with the new administration. The beauty that US is in danger of becoming soiled by such things as alternative facts, constant degradation of media and muddying of the truth. On the other side of the equation stand the left leaning conspiracy theorists. Marie, a very good friend of mine, texted me after the Ninth Circuit Court decision, “whew, they came thru. A cynical side of me wonders if it’s all a charade”. She in her own way is also diminishing a thing of beauty, America. She is basically questioning the goodwill and judgment of the judiciary very much like Trump and his cronies on the other side. Where do we go from here?
Marie also sent me a longish text about how the rule of law can be broken down and a dictatorship can be established. I took inspiration from her texts to write this rant while basking in 75 degree weather in the middle of the Colorado winter. Climate change, what climate change? There is no such thing!
Of course, we know from history of Fascism that fear is the determinant factor in establishing dictatorial states. They pry on people’s fear of the other, fear of poverty, fear of losing the only life they know and so on. Trump and his cohorts are acting from the playbooks of dictators from the beginning of time. Here is quick list of things that dictators do to establish their rule. Let us see how closely Trump administration follow the playbook.
Generate Fear: This is one of the signature achievements of Trump, the marketer. He came down those gilded escalators to declare, “Mexicans as rapists and criminals” and a call to build a 30 foot tall wall along the Mexican-US border. Fear of the others started off his campaign. Then of course the famous declaration, “I Donald J. Trump call for complete and total ban on all entry by Muslims”. This was not a well-thought out policy position but a xenophobic fear mongering of the others. This is slogan and now he is trying to make it a policy. Well, at least he succeeded the stoking of fear. Now he is the President.
Suppress the Press: In the Weimer Republic the Nazis started going after the press and vilified it for supporting the communists, the Jews and all the “others”. The tradition of a free press in Europe was not so strong to start with and the suppression of the press simply made it impossible to resist the armed brown shirts and the like. Press existed to glorify the Fuhrer! Today in the US, the Breitbart group, Fox News all beat the drum of White Supremacy and Hail to the Chief. The traditional media is branded as partisan and opposition. These are the tools of Fascism and they are fully engaged in my beautiful America.
Demonize Institutions: Historically, from the tribal Chiefs in the plains of Africa thru today’s Trump the Demagogues have always tried to diminish the institutions that could challenge their power. One ploy was to co-opt religion for the service of the Master class. Religions has been used and continued to be used as justification for brutality and discrimination. In the US the institutions are the Courts, various Federal and local agencies that provide services and protection, American Civil Liberties Union, various grass roots social and civic organizations. The Trump folks are on a campaign to demonize these institutions. Trump just called the Judge from Seattle who ruled against him, “so called judge”, the Trumpians routinely say mosques are den of terrorism and ACLU is a communist front. The name calling and the labeling is aimed at marginalizing these institutions. I remember, during the War of Liberation, the Pakistani Military leadership routinely called the Bengalis as stooges of India, checked their penises for circumcisions, gave prominent leaders Hindu names ( for example, Taj Uddin Ahmed was called Tejaram Singh) and so on. All in the hope to marginalize the people who sought independence from an oppressive regime.
These tactics do work for a period of time. All one has to do is look at the rise and fall of The Thousand Year Reich under Hitler in space of some 17 years. Similar thing happened to Mussolini in Italy,Gadhafi in Libya. It has worked for about a hundred years for the Saudi monarchy, mainly because they have managed to conflate religion with statecraft and also because of very backward looking conservative population.
America, the beautiful on the other hand has a robust and cherished tradition of free press, freedom of speech enshrined in The Constitution and various institutions that guard these freedoms jealously. The danger will come from the Demagogue and fear mongering Trump administration as well as the Left leaning protesters when both sides will demonize these institutions and cast them aside. The road to Fascism is paved with such nonsense as “Alternative Facts” and “it is a charade”.
The vigilance we need in protecting the unique and beautiful America we know and love is to push back against both sides when they trivialize the institutions and spin conspiracy theories and posit “alternative facts”. At the end of these institutions keep America, the beautiful, truly a beautiful place to live and breathe.