So, the president responded to news of North Korean missile testing by tweeting that they will be “met with fire and fury and frankly power, the likes of which this world has never seen before,” which is not necessarily the most prudent response to a volatile dictator who is aiming nuclear weapons in your direction. I would put it in the category of “not a great plan.” It is, however, entirely unsurprising. It’s the only thing DJT knows how to do—get tough. Whatever the circumstances, domination and punishment are the only tools in his toolbox.
The response to North Korea may be scary, but it isn’t Trump’s most puzzling use of threats and “getting tough.” He pulled out of the Paris climate accord because they “want a better deal.” Kind of like how they alienated our allies in pursuit of “a better deal.” But, hey, the goal is just to “put America first,” and how is that a bad idea? Don’t we own our first allegiance to the people of our own country?
Um…maybe. But the thing is that if you, like DJT, define success as “winning,” then you aren’t actually looking for the best possible results for your own side. You assume that the deal being bad for someone else makes it good for you. Which is, of course, delusional. OK, not that there’s anything new about 45 begin delusional. But still, it’s pretty remarkable to see this attitude played out on the world stage.
You might think that the point of trade negotiations is to benefit everyone in the process. That’s why there are trade organizations. It’s not hard to imagine that if you go into those negotiations with the desire that the other people lose, that you will soon miss out on the opportunity to negotiate at all.
You might think that the point of a climate agreement is the understanding that we are all on this planet together, and there is no way to exempt your own country from the effects of climate change. But DJT somehow refuses to see that—although it might be different when his golf course at Mar-a-Lago turns into a swimming pool.
The fact of the matter is that the current administration works out of an ideology of “getting tough.” The primary value is expressing dominance, not achieving goals that would be of real advantage to the citizens of the US. We “get tough” with our allies rather than looking at how we could cooperate to mutual advantage. We “get tough” on crime by lengthening prison sentences, even if there is no evidence that more people in prison actually makes our streets safer. We “get tough” by eliminating regulations, without bothering to pay attention to whether those regulations serve the common good, or whether there might be different regulations that might serve everyone better. We “get tough” by building a border wall, without bothering to find out what the impact might be not only on would-be immigrants, but also on the towns and businesses that depend on immigrants in order to thrive.
The goal is to demonstrate power and control. And all under the guise that domination is somehow “putting America first.” Without any regard for whether the results will accomplish anything that Americans want. There is no weighing of costs and benefits. There is no search for creative solutions. There is only the goal of winning, and you know that you are winning because someone else is losing.
It is, in short, the epitome of both white supremacy and toxic masculinity. And it could be the death of us all.
Unless we insist on a different way. There are many ways to resist: protest, letter-writing, phone calls, community organizing, voting, donating, etc., etc. All of them matter, and you can’t prove that any of them matter in the moment. So here’s a suggestion. Resist by embracing a different world view. Do it not because it’s the woo-woo, spiritual thing to do. Do it because the only thing that ultimately makes sense is to opt on the side of what works. In any conversation, in any choice, enter in with curiosity about what is most likely to create health and happiness. In any conversation, in any life choice, take a moment to wonder about what would provide an opening for joy, for connection, for possibility. In situations where someone is likely to lose, find ways to mitigate rather than accentuate the loss. Think about what the result is that you are hoping for, and try to find even small steps that move that direction.
This should, of course, be obvious. Who doesn’t want to work toward optimal solutions? The answer is, people who are so busy putting themselves first that they can’t manage to even think about what they actually want. Yes, it’s ludicrous. It’s the kind of bizarre behavior that is practiced by frightened people who are so busy desperately grabbing on to what they know that they can’t see beyond their own noses. It’s also the kind of ludicrous that is currently running the country.
Until we can usher in different leadership, perhaps the best we can do is practice pragmatic care for our interconnected lives, and trust that somehow leadership will follow.
Also published on Medium.