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A World in Flames, Trump Becomes "Presidential"


This is what I get for going on vacation.

A lot has happened since my last post–a lot more than one would expect in, oh, a mere ten days. Let’s see:

  * In Syria, Assad's regime (probably) gassed a bunch of civilians.
  * This provoked a bombing of a Syrian airstrip by the US. The airstrip is apparently still operational, so "mission accomplished," as the kids say.
  * Trump got to do a victory lap, looking "Presidential," with the media playing along and acting as if he'd finally become someone you could take seriously as an international leader.
  * A rejected asylum applicant from Uzbekistan plowed a truck into a crowd in Sweden, killing four people.
  * ISIS claimed responsibility for two bombings of Coptic Christian churches in Egypt on Palm Sunday, which killed 45 people.
  * American politics continued to deteriorate, as radical right-wing judge Neil Gorsuch was confirmed to the US Supreme Court only after Senate Republicans rewrote the rules--giving Gorsuch the narrowest confirmation margin in decades.
  * Trump promised to cut all federal funding for Amtrak, which would leave 220 US cities with no passenger rail service at all.
  * The US sent warships toward the North Korean coast in a show of military muscle. This can only end well.
  * As perhaps the only silver lining, notorious Trump advisor and chief strategist Steve Bannon got taken down a couple pegs, as he was removed from the National Security Council and an embarrassing spat with Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner became public. Not quite an epic fall from grace for the poster boy of the alt-right, but it'll do.
  * I lied, the other silver lining is that terrible, terrible Kendall Jenner Pepsi commercial getting dragged by literally everyone and producing tons of hilarious memes.

And I’m sure that’s not even everything, but those are the points that stick out.

Trump has likely learned a lesson here, namely that when his poll numbers sag, he can bomb somebody and enjoy some positive media attention. Given that such attention is already wearing off not even a week later, he may additionally learn that Americans have pathetically short attention spans, and so you have to keep doing “Presidential” things if you want to be taken seriously. Since more of the same style of bombings would quickly become boring, Trump will likely have to escalate and vary his military performances to keep getting good press. He might do that even once it stops working, since the military is one area where the President has very few restrictions on his power, and Trump has been visibly frustrated by his inability to get what he wants from Congress.

This is the part where I’m supposed to say what we can do, but the answer right now is probably “not much.” Realistically, Trump’s opposition needs to organize–and to do so without the support or significant involvement from the Democratic Party, which largely went along with Trump’s strike against Syria. The fact of the matter is that both major American parties love war, not least because the US is the world’s largest weapons dealer, and companies that produce those weapons are spread throughout the country, providing lots of jobs–jobs which said companies can threaten to take away if members of Congress refuse to do their bidding. Plus, Americans just don’t care all that much about bombing foreigners–non-Americans are always viewed as less valuable, less human, than (white) Americans.

How this kind of organization could be achieved is not a question I have an answer to. I have seen some movement in that direction but nothing too concrete yet, just baby steps. The US needs a real antiwar movement, a real left wing that stands up to the corporate power that Trump represents. It will take time to build, and in the meantime a lot of damage is going to be wrought–perhaps more than can be repaired anytime soon. These are dark times. I hate to come back and start again on such a down note, but it is what it is.