I try to keep up with important national (US) and international news. When I was away at my residency week at MASS MoCA earlier this month, I read/heard very little news, which was nice for a bit of a mental break, but it has been a challenge to catch up and keep up.
The pace of news here in the United States has been a particular challenge. Important news stories are breaking all the time – and I’m not talking about the news channels that call almost everything “breaking news.” The investigation into the relationship among Ukraine, the Trump administration, and Rudy Giuliani and his associates is especially concerning. The Congressional investigation is ongoing, but is in its early stages. Any depositions taking place right now are confidential, as grand jury investigations would be in the court system. There have been contradictory public statements from the president, his chief of staff, and Giuliani, sometimes even within the same interview, statement, or tweet-day. (Is there such a thing as a tweet-day? I’m not sure of the proper nomenclature.)
I am appalled by Trump’s withdrawal of support for the Kurds in Syria, who did most of the fighting and lost over 11,000 in the international battle against ISIS (ISIL). That he decided to do this without consulting his Cabinet, national security advisors, and the military leadership is stunning. The deaths, injuries, and loss of homes and livelihoods of the Kurds of northern Syria is his personal responsibility, as he withdrew the United States troops that had been protecting against an invasion by Turkey.
It will be incumbent upon the next US president, whomever it will be, to begin repairing the damage that has been done to our standing among nations. It will be a decades-long process and our reputation will never be fully restored. I hope that Congress will pass new laws to explicitly prevent some of the corrupt and unethical conduct that we have seen from this president, laws that had never been written down as it was assumed that ethical constraints and thoughtful, collaborative decision-making practices would hold. We also need to re-balance the powers of the various branches of the government. The executive branch has become much too powerful. It is no longer co-equal with the legislative and judicial branches; indeed, it has defied both Congress and the courts on multiple issues.
The United States also needs to acknowledge and develop better defenses against cyber war, which can be more wide-ranging and dangerous to civilian populations than armed conflict. Foreign governments have infiltrated or attacked government, corporate, and private systems. We need to better protect our financial, utility, business, and government computer systems to avoid the chaos of election tampering, blackouts, transportation disruptions, business shutdowns, and more.
It would also be helpful to reinforce that the right to freedom of speech and freedom of the press does not give license to lie, slander, threaten, exploit, or incite violence.
The list of tasks could go on, but that seems to be enough for one post.
I am very sad to write this about my country that I love so much. I am trying to gain comfort from this quote from Abraham Lincoln’s first inaugural address:
We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.
It is sobering, though, to think about how terrible things became and how long it took for “the better angels of our nature” to re-assert themselves.
We need those “better angels” now, not in some distant future.