Wisely said: Our own land and US flag cannot be replaced by another but it can join with other nations to achieve good in the world that cannot be achieved alone (Eleanor Roosevelt 1941, paraphrased here for modern media).
Proverb: Me and my nation against the world, me and my clan against the nation, me and my family against the clan, me and my brother against the family, me against my brother (Somalia)
Quote: Unthread the rude eye of rebellion and welcome home again discarded faith (William Shakespeare, King John, ca.1600’s).
In the news: George W. Bush compares domestic extremists to 9/11 attackers. “Children of the same foul spirit and it is our continuing duty to confront them.” (Brett Bachman, Salon, 9.11.21).
In context: The two huge American continents could have been self-sustaining had they not been populated by human social creatures. The people of those continents were not monks or ascetics living in blissful retreats . They were lusty competitors eager to take on global peers. The United States in the temperate zone was most content with its own pursuits while braving wider waters for economic gain until the world knocked rudely at its door.
The 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor was one of the times when America was dragged from complacency into a joint commitment with the world in the Second World War. The 2001 9/11 attack was a direct provocation on the US mainland that brought the world to America’s side. Unfortunately, America had little practice with leading cooperative efforts and its response was clumsy.
The United States was the prime mover behind the United Nations established after the Second World War. It was a global forum for airing grievances to avoid the national face-offs leading to war. The need was critical. Another world war would no doubt involve the nuclear weapons that would annihilate humanity. While the diplomatic tools of the UN were largely ignored after its founding, on 9/11 the United Nations was the global hub where the 9/11 terrorist attack was immediately condemned in the strongest possible terms.
The unthinkable act of destroying the World Trade Towers by two deliberate air strikes was carried out in the host city of the United Nations in the US host country. For the first time ever, the Security Council adopted a binding resolution calling on all near-200 nations to unite in fighting global terrorism. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, NATO, founded within years of the United Nations, for the first time ever invoked its article 5 regarding collective defense if any member was attacked. Both those radical actions were taken the very next day after the 9/11 attack. Omissions garbled response, particularly those in the Security Council resolution that neglected to address two critical components of joint action.
The UN Security Council resolution passed the day after the 9/11 attacks affirmed that the assault was aimed not just against the United States but on all nations who shared its values. The resolution called for concerted effort in bringing to justice not only the perpetrators but all who aided and harbored them. The crucial elements not filled in concerned human rights and imbalances in the capacity of countries to fight terrorism. Those gaps were later filled in by further resolutions but not before mayhem broke out because of the US tendency to bolt from the fold even as it was in possession of the world’s mightiest and deadliest powers.
Within days of the 9/11 attack, the US led a coalition of forces into an attack on Afghanistant to destroy al-Qaedo terrorist strongholds. In the US through its media, there was little attention paid to the allies and even less to Afghanistan’s own needs in subduing domestic extremists fighting for control of the country. A year later America shifted its focus to nearby Iraq in a misguided next step as it pursued a haphazard war on terror in the Middle East with little regard for regional nuances. Human rights abuses occurred and instead of working with allies to build up the capacity of countries to fight terrorism, the US used its own forces to impose its own way of doing things. On a grand international scale, the situation was like the classical case of the “control freak” in a personal relationship.
Like many control freaks fixated on a single goal, the US was distracted by events overseas and lost track of its own domestic situation in a rapidly changing global world powered by information exchange through technology. Eight years of social progress led by the western industrialized world’s first non-white leader led to a whiplash of a backlash when a globally shrewd opportunist took advantage of liberties offered by the land of opportunity.
Donald Trump was the ultimate control freak whose driving pleasure seemed to be the violation of social limits. By all measures, he seemed an overgrown version of the proverbial schoolboy punk, shunned by most but a hero to those with his aspirations but with far less cavalier flourish. He flaunted delight at a challenge, which was how he handled the Covid pandemic when it hit in an election year to threaten an economy expected to re-elect him.
Obfuscation was a favorite Trump tool. “It’s always good to do things nice and complicated so that nobody can figure it out,” he told New Yorker magazine in 1997. Thus, when faced with a virus he couldn’t control, Trump at first denied any threat, then advised forbearance until it passed, then as contagion and deaths mounted, he turned the virus to political advantage.
The base of Trump support came from the country’s disenfranchised, those who didn’t fit neatly into society. Because the message of the White House grifter was divisive with a rebellious bent, many of his most ardent fans were hot-heads so stoked by official sanction that they turned frenzied when their leader lost his lofty official status.
Goaded by the White House interloper who reviled the democratic system, Trump followers stormed the US Capitol on his behalf so as to prolong their own relevance. In essence, they were led to destroy the system they aimed to seize, an obfuscated state if there ever was one.
The Capitol rioters claimed to be patriots recruited by their White House leader to “stop the steal” of a vote proven by every legitimate means to be the most secure ever because of irregularities in the 2016 election that put Trump in power. But if the Trump patriots were so moved by their beliefs as to doubt every reliable source in favor of instant violent action for no discernable reason, the only culprit that could be blamed was the lazy thinking that had taken root under four years of Trump in a fallow field primed by technology.
Covid was not the first pandemic to hit the world since the Black Death of the Middle Ages. By 2021, the deadly 1918 flu had passed. Polio and tuberculosis were under control. Mad Cow, Swine flu, Bird Flu and Ebola were at bay. Even HIV was under control after a UN global conference that mobilized government and civil society to take concerted action. Those high level UN meetings on HIV/AIDS began in 2001, teh year of the I/11 attack on the US. The meetings recur every ten years. Global issues at a basic level such as disease or climate call for global solutions, meaning they need sustained review and realignment.
The historic 1918-19 flu, for example, did eventually end but not before 50 million people died worldwide. Since then, medical marvels such as the 1923 introduction of penicillin had cut down on the numbers of people lost to virulence. And while medical innovations were crucial managing disease, the most basic rules of common sense were the greatest imperatives for a global pandemic response. That was the area that Trump politicized.
The world of the 1918 pandemic did not have the benefit of vaccines. It did, however, have the benefit of observation which has not failed to prove still relevant. In 1918, the First World War brought people from all nations into close proximity in trenches. Poor people in cities worldwide lived under close-packed, squalid and malnourished conditions. As the pandemic raged, people learned that keeping distant, wearing masks and staying clean could help stem the spread of the disease. A hundred years later with the benefit of vaccines, the Covid pandemic would have been more controlled but for the national leadership that played a big role in the course of the disease.
China was thought to have originated the virus. Trump declared China a culprit and a dispute arose among free-speech US politicians as amplified by unregulated social media over the nature of the virus, whether it was an accident of nature, a laboratory error or a deliberate act of hostility in a power struggle for global dominance. In reality, science labs in the 21st century were global enterprises. Scientists served internships all around the world as a way to share information and develop talent, which only became a problem when politicians used the fruits of scientific inquiry to advance targeted agendas.
Thus, when China was accused of unleashing the virus, it resorted to its default position of denying responsibility and imposing secrecy on its activities to prohibit inquiry. In response, the American leader vilified China in its greater strategy to stay in power through a massive mind-control scheme aimed at his own supporters. Basic mitigating practices became politically motivated attempts to restrict freedoms. The Covid virus had a field day while Americans were driven to destroy the goose that laid the golden eggs of the freedoms that many of the world’s near-200 countries were trying to achieve.
Nine months after the 1/6 attack on the US Capitol that shocked the world, Washington was erecting barricades against a potential new riot staged on behalf of the original 1/6 insurrectionists. Under investigation for numerous crimes, the US former guy was trolling Reputlicans who depended on him for political support despite all evidence that his endorsement was the kiss of death, as shown by the unsuccessful attempt to recall the Democratic governor of California. Those dynamics in the land of the free indicated that freedom was in great need of the personal skill called exercise of common sense.
In the globally transitioning world of 2021, there was an overwhelming cach of reasons to be malcontent and angry. Technology promised unbounded opportunity. It delivered a limited world of frustration. Extrapolated to the global level, the challenges were daunting. But from the cat bird seat of the privileged United States that was host country to the United Nations, one observation seemed obvious.
US insurrectionists were misguided just as the US had been in its ill-advised war on terror. As demonstrated by his 2021 speech commemorating the 9/11 attack, George W. Bush had learned from experience. It was possible that 1/6 insurrectionists had followed his lead. They had a lot of energy that could be turned to world good if only they worked with the system that gave them the opportunity instead of venting anger by tearing the system down.