Sunday, June 4, 2017

Global Depression

Dear Readers,

I have never before let this blog fall silent for so long. It is a measure of how terribly dispirited I have been feeling, watching the Trump presidency unfold. Almost every day there is a new outrage, a new insult to intelligence, a new threat to either the fabric of American society, to our international relations, or to the health of the planet. It is simply overwhelming. Trump goes to Saudi Arabia and embraces the authoritarian dictator Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt, not to mention the unelected rulers of the Saudi royal family, a monarchy straight out of the Middle Ages that exports a highly fundamentalist form of Islam that feeds into the Islamic extremism of Al-Qaeda and ISIS, while hurling insults and threats at Iran, which despite its flaws, is a country where people actually get to vote for their leaders in relatively free elections, unlike Egypt or Saudi Arabia. Then he goes to Brussels, the headquarters of the European Union, and criticizes the leaders of Europe for not paying more for the NATO alliance, even while refusing to reaffirm America's commitment to the basic principle of the NATO alliance, the "one-for-all and all-for-one" idea that any attack on any NATO country will be viewed as an attack on all NATO countries and mobilize the entire alliance to repel the aggression.

It is hard to contemplate Trump's eagerness to berate America's NATO allies and his unwillingness to restate America's commitment without feeling deeply worried that he is signaling to Russia that America is unconcerned about Russia's invasion of Crimea and intervention in Eastern Ukraine, which could embolden Putin and his generals to think about further actions to destabilize, weaken and possibly reclaim parts of the former Soviet Union, most crucially, the Baltic States. And now this week, his announcement that the US will pull out of the Paris Climate Accord is the most sickening moment of all. Like Hitler and Mussolini proudly denouncing international cooperation in the 1930s as Germany and Italy quit the League of Nations, Trump has expressed contempt for the nearly 200 countries that worked together to craft that finely-balanced, far-sighted accord, and proclaimed once more that "America First" is his guiding star, oblivious to the fact that rejecting  this agreement will mean America becoming marginalized or even irrelevant in further discussions on the single greatest issue facing mankind today: the fate of our planet and the conditions for all life on earth.

In explaining his decision to abandon the Paris treaty the other day, Trump said that he is tired of other countries laughing at America, and that they won't be laughing any more. I think this statement give us insight into a central paranoia within Trump World, the nagging suspicion that he is not properly respected by other people--"they're laughing at me''--which now, in his thinking, applies to America as well. While Trump is not America, it is true that for the next several years, he is the face America shows to the world, and to that extent, how other countries see Trump is how they will see America. However, I strongly doubt that people in other countries will now be laughing less at America with Trump as head of state. It may even be the opposite. The reactions, however, are not limited to laughter. I sense that people in Europe and elsewhere are shaking their heads in disgust, feeling sad about America's declining status as a leading country, and some may even be crying instead of laughing.

I also wonder what this does to Paganism.  Trump's continuing use of anti-Muslim and anti-foreigner rhetoric, his continuing push for a nonsensical ban on travel to America from a number of Muslim-majority countries,  and the stepped up raids and arrests of undocumented workers from Mexico and Latin America,  are all sure to be received well by right-wing Americans who love to see non-white, non-Christian people harassed and demeaned, even if such actions do nothing to improve their lot in today's dysfunctional, winner-take-all economy, in which automation and corporate greed do as much to displace jobs as any foreign trade agreements. At least they can feel that they are "better" than "those people," those non-white, non-Christian Others who they enjoy scorning and/or hating and/or fearing. I assume that some right-wing Pagans will also enjoy this kind of elevation of white, European-descended Americans over non-white, non-European descended others. But what about the Christian element? Do right-wing Pagans ignore this aspect of Trumpism? Perhaps some ex-Christian, right wing Pagans will actually be persuaded to return to Christianity, seeing this as their best option for upholding their racialized sense of identity and their attachment to European heritage in this age of Trump. Others may take a more "a la carte" approach, embracing Trump's scorn for non-white, non-European people, especially Muslims, Mexicans and Latin Americans which is also expressed, more subtly, in his disinterest in any government action to aid African-Americans, while choosing to overlook Trump's appeals to Christian identity.

For Pagans who feel a strong connection to European culture and heritage, Trump's pro-Russian, anti-NATO, anti-EU leanings pose an interesting challenge. Most  European Pagans in formerly Soviet-controlled lands are pleased to be out of the Soviet Union--or in the case of Central European countries like Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic and Slovakia,out of the Soviet Bloc--and are are not eager to return to some Putinized mafia-state recreation of the Soviet Empire. Will they and their counterparts in America feel gratified by President Trump weakening European defenses against Russian aggression, whether this be outright invasion as in Crimea, borderland conflict as in Eastern Ukraine, cyber attacks against former Soviet states as happened in Estonia in 2007, or interference in election campaigns as was attempted in France and Germany this year, and seem to have played a role in the Brexit vote in the UK and the denigration of Hillary Clinton in the US presidential campaign last year? It could be that many American Pagans do not care or know enough about contemporary politics in Europe to take any stand at all. They may prefer to just stick to their European-derived traditions without thinking much about the current state of the Europe from which their traditions derive. My wish would be that Pagans would open their eyes to what is happening in the world and take a stand with European leaders, and European Pagan groups, in opposing Russian interference or domination of their countries, and in also opposing Trump's friendliness toward Russia until Russia ceases its interference in countries across Europe.

I would also hope that Pagans in America, all of whom claim to love nature and the gods of nature, would see Trump's cruel, ignorant and dangerous decision to pull out of the Paris Climate Accord as an affront to one of their primary religious values. Even if they are right-wing leaning, as I know some American Pagans are, I urge them to realize that Mother Earth--or whatever name the totality of our beautiful natural world has in any particular Pagan tradition or any particular Pagan's thinking--is calling out to us. I do believe that as Pagans, we have a duty to resist Trump to protect the Earth. This will be a test of whether Paganism in America is really a nature-based form of spirituality, as its followers have often asserted, or whether white tribalism is really the core value.

Right now, I find it hard to be optimistic.


Julia Ergane said...

I understand ALL of your frustration. In fact, so much so that I am now a total cynic and the "founder" of The Diogenes Society, a small group of us who STILL tries against ALL ODDS to find an honest human being. I have only found hypocrites and people filled with all sorts of greed on every scale of the political spectrum and in society as a whole. The shallowness is asking for tyranny. Well, now they have it -- the ultimate in stupidity is ours. I have known for years that this would happen if things -- such as really good, decent, humanistic education -- had not been shelved to make way to create "round baseball heads" as a former professor of my husband said. People have been TAUGHT not to think. It is easier not to think. It wastes beer drinking time, sports time, stupid TV programming time, etc. Just blame people with a darker skin or a different religion for all my problems, that's easier. BAH HUMBUG!

Ananta Androscoggin said...

Will America die as a fifth-rate has-been of a nation once the Reactionary "conservatives" have completely remade it into a Fascist White Protestant Police Theocracy where the only value is "ideological purity" to false principles?

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