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Monday, June 25, 2018


Junior's got the gun

by Tom Sullivan

Let's talk about power. Not star power, real power. For longer than Donald Trump has had breath, the real power of the United States has grown. Perhaps reluctantly at first. Yet over time, its ability to lead, to project power, and its power to wrestle, often painfully, with its many imperfections and improve itself has made it the light symbolized by the torch held aloft in New York harbor.

Spoiled, immature, needy, insecure, manipulative (I could go on), Donald Trump has cultivated star power most of his life, but until now he has never had real power. He does not know how to wield it. Yet he craves more of what he plainly does not know how to use.

At #GunFAIL, David Waldman compiles hundreds of incidents of death and injury suffered by people mishandling firearms. For all gun owners' claims to being "responsible," most of the incidents seem to stem from unsafe handling of firearms by people with insufficient regard for their power. Many are law enforcement professionals. Many incidents involve children wounded or killed when they picked up their parents' unsecured guns.

Imagine the terror of a mother walking into a room and finding her toddler playing with a loaded weapon, knowing it could go off in the seconds before she can cross the room and take it away. Now imagine U.S. allies across the planet realizing the American people have been similarly careless.

You probably don't have to imagine. Glance at the president's Twitter account or watch one of his rallies. When he's not referring to himself in the third person, the person sworn to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States is issuing statements like this:

Foreign policy consultant Molly K. McKew writes in the Los Angeles Times that Europeans are dumbstruck that at the hands of Trump America is alienating the very allies that make it a superpower. Because its power lies not simply in its military and economy:
Our allies are unnerved. In the midst of starting trade wars (and personality wars) with Canada and Europe, Trump stormed out of the G7 in Charlevoix, removing his signature from the joint communique. His bullying was captured in a now-famous photo of the American president sitting petulant and isolated, surrounded by irritated peers, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel leaning in.

In Singapore, Trump issued fatuous praise for North Korean tyrant Kim, who — with the complicity of Russia and China — has starved his people in order to build nuclear weapons to threaten the United States. The president’s pledge to end military exercises on the Korean Peninsula delivered to North Korea, Russia and China a prize they have wanted for decades, for which the United States got nothing in return. Our Asian allies were left as shaken as our European ones.
Events inside the U.S. give them more reason for trepidation.
In Europe in particular the images of child migrant detention camps read as a data point in a pattern of troubling behavior. Trump spurred a rally of his supporters to scream about migrants being “animals,” and he talks about them “infesting” the country. When former CIA Director Gen. Michael Hayden warned of Nazi echoes in Trump’s “zero tolerance policy”, many Americans objected to the comparison. In Germany, however, and in nations that were captive to the U.S.S.R., people nodded. They remember the 1930s, and what it was like to wake up in a country that had slowly gone mad. And they hear that “following silence” from America.
Perhaps their experiences inform their perception of the risk more than does ours. "Responsible" Americans have handed the equivalent of a toddler the equivalent of a very large, loaded gun.

Meantime, "very serious people" insist in the face of what the world can see as a clear and present danger that we maintain decorum. Asking Sarah Huckabee Sanders to leave a restaurant or chanting until Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen abandons her dinner is beyond the pale. Even when what prompted the protests was their complicity in abducting infants and toddlers and holding them hostage in cages as leverage to get their migrant parents to give up their right to request asylum.

Shouting is not my style. "Nevertheless," writes Jennifer Rubin, "it is not altogether a bad thing to show those who think they’re exempt from personal responsibility that their actions bring scorn, exclusion and rejection." I prefer the Stephen-King creepiness of entire restaurants going silent when a Trump staffer enters. The only conversation audible would be Every Word they speak. If anything, shunning is so conservative an approach to expressing social disapproval, not even the Washington press corps could find fault. (I kid.) Don't like it? Then as conservative parents might say, you should have thought of that before you did X.

November cannot and may not come soon enough.

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For The Win 2018 is ready for download. Request a copy of my county-level election mechanics primer at tom.bluecentury at gmail.