Originally published in Al Jazeera 13 NOVEMBER 2016
To some, ignorance is bliss
byStanley L Cohen
Which do you want first … the good news or the bad?
The good news: The steady stream of useless, mind-numbing campaign rhetoric has finally come to an abrupt, albeit unexpected end.
The bad: A man who sees an unused weapon as a lost opportunity for profit has won the elections.
Tragically, under his administration, knee-jerk, gunboat policies will surely continue, blowing through the arid winds of the Middle East and anywhere else that people struggle for freedom, justice and self-determination. And they will pursue such policies in ways that will make the ruthless blush with envy.
I’m not a Clinton supporter either, never have been. I didn’t vote for her or, for that matter, anyone else this time around. During the campaign season, she spoke at various times about core universal rights such as the right to a fair trial before an independent civilian judiciary, the right to education, free speech and dissent, religious freedom, a robust untamed press and equal rights and respect for women and members of the LGBTQ communities.
Like the campaign rhetoric of Trump, support for some of these values was for Clinton likely little more than a disingenuous electoral ploy designed to win votes as she tried to obfuscate a ruthless and deadly foreign policy. Whether this was indeed so, we will never know, and it really doesn’t matter.
To be sure, lofty ideals and human rights guarantees such as these will find no place whatsoever in a Trump White House that will be noted for little else than brash, brute and bombastic rhetoric surrounded by a wall of ignorance and indifference unparalleled in US history.
Trump’s narrow vision of the world
Is there any wonder why – given his stated view of the world and his fear and ridicule of its social, religious and political diversity – that the first to reach out to congratulate Trump was the ruthless Egyptian despot Abdel Fattah el-Sisi followed by Benjamin Netanyahu, who called him a “true friend of Israel” who will work to strengthen “the ironclad bond between the United States and Israel … rooted in shared values, buttressed by shared interests and driven by a shared destiny”?
These tyrants and others see in Trump a politician who shares their view of autocratic control as a valued means of securing a very narrow, hateful vision of the world and the exclusion of all others. Like all despots, Trump will rage from up high about protecting human rights and the dignity of the individual while finding comfort in, and solidarity with, those who cart away political opponents and dissidents to deep dark prison cells or the nearest cemetery.
President-elect Trump has led a life committed to little else but himself, to the pursuit of his own needs, whims and fantasies. There is nothing in his very public and well-documented record of selfish achievement which shows any knowledge of, let alone commitment to, issues such as peace, justice, human rights and international law.
To the contrary, for Trump, such goals are little more than impediments – mere diversions from his lifetime pursuit of personal power and wealth. A chase that has now brought him to the throne of unparalleled discretion and power. In times when reason and calm are needed, we will find in him little else than a sea of abject confusion and explosive anger.
For those who find hope in the possibility that maturity and reason (in the otherwise cold and narrow vision of the president-elect) will suddenly find nourishment and support through an inner circle of seasoned and sensible advisers, think again. While the names Giuliani, Gingrich, Palin, and Bolton, may conjure up, for some, a picture of vast experience, it’s little but a ruthless practice built on the back of racial and religious intolerance and supremacy.
Theirs is an arrogance of military might and adventurism that has proudly supported genocide in Palestine, brought us the invasion of Iraq, and cost the lives of millions of innocent civilians worldwide.
The Trump brand
To Donald Trump, it’s always been about marketing his brand. Whether it’s the dozens of buildings, now worldwide, that bear his name, as if mortar and cement can somehow substitute for maturity and wisdom, or the years of reality TV shows remarkable for little more than his dismissive abuse of others, the president-elect has shown an uncanny capacity for leveraging a name that is little more than just that: a name.
Indeed, it was the cornerstone of a campaign in which he constantly took credit for getting over and for skirting public responsibility and obligation at the same time that he tried to sell himself as a populist driven by concern for the aspirations and needs of others.
Sadly, it worked.
In his campaign slogan “Make America Great Again”, Trump pandered to those who feel alienated, indeed lost, from the “American Dream” – whatever that may mean today. In his dark reach for votes, his rhetoric signalled that he will continue an arrogant and destructive brand of exceptionalism that for decades has brought death and destruction to large parts of the world in a desperate effort to prop up an ageing empire built on rank colonialism and little else.
When it comes to domestic issues such as race, religion, immigrants, equality and the rights of women and minorities, Trump is very much a known commodity. After all, his campaign, like his life, has been one in which he has targeted with pride people of colour, Muslims, immigrants, the handicapped, political activists, women and dissidents alike.
When it comes to foreign policy, however, it is very much a different story. In President Trump, you will be dealing with a commodity that puts a smile on the face of the ignorant. An empty recluse of thought, he finds comfort in simplicity in a world that is anything but simple. Good luck. We will all need it.