Thursday, June 01, 2017

America's 21st Century Sword of Damocles

Trump of Arabia: is 45 simply immune to the violent 
domestic terrorism taking place in America?
In retrospect, it was just a couple months ago back in March that a 28-year old white man from Baltimore named James Harris Jackson walked up to a 66-year-old African-American man he didn't even know and plunged an 18-inch sword into his back and chest because he hated black men.

Frankly the widely-circulated video clip of a smiling Donald Trump waving a shiny sword around during a welcoming ceremony in Saudi Arabia last week struck me as a bit odd.

It was the collective optics of the whole affair that troubled me.

Particularly given the deafening silence from the White House over the recent slate of deadly and disturbing acts of racial hatred that have blighted the American landscape - here he was smiling and waving a sword.

The same man who spent his first weeks in the Oval Office signing executive orders to help fast-track unneeded oil pipeline construction, tapping a man who doesn't believe human activity is warming the planet as the head of the Environmental Protection Administration, and picking the CEO of the largest oil company in the world to be Secretary of State.

Yeah, that guy. Awkwardly swaying to the thundering cadence of tribal drums with a sword in his hand next to smiling oil-rich Saudis pleased over a U.S. commitment to a $100 billion arms sale agreement; and the accompanying back-door deals that are sure to enrich the Trump Organization and the financial interests of his son-in-law Jared Kushner's family.

Check out Trump's face in the photo above - he looks pretty happy right?

As if his frequent denigrating of brown-skinned foreigners, Muslim-bashing and fanatically repeating the words "radical Islamic terrorism" over and over to cheering throngs like some kind of demented magical chant hadn't been a central theme of his presidential campaign.

Yet, there he was clutching the sword alongside people he'd just as soon ban from entering the United States had they been citizens of a neighboring middle-east country just a few hundred miles away.

Cassandra Fairbanks and Mike Cernovich flashing
"White Power" hand signs at the White House
Now I'm not suggesting that the man who retweeted posts from known white supremacists and Neo-Nazis on multiple occasions, including some featuring overtly racist imagery, was making a not-so-sly effort to appeal to the fringe alt-right ditto-heads and white supremacists who've taken to stabbing innocent people of color (and innocent white people who came to their defense) in public without provocation.

But like I said, the optics of the sword-thing bothered me when viewed in the context of the White House basically ignoring the slew of recent high-profile hate crimes in the U.S.

In the same way that the White House giving press credentials to right-wing fringe bloggers and alt-right "journalists" like Cassandra Fairbanks of the Russian propaganda arm Sputnik News, and freelance fake news specialist Mike Cernovich.

Note the two of them in the photo above engaging in what's become a favorite pastime of the sleazy alt-right bigots now being admitted to the White House briefing room - posing in front of the lectern in the press room of "the people's house" flashing the newly popular "White Power" hand sign.

If you're not familiar with Cernovich, last week he and the dependably delusional Alex Jones claimed that Republican Montana Congressman Greg Gianforte was "set up" after he was caught on audiotape attacking and body-slamming reporter Ben Jacobs after being asked whether he supported the Republican healthcare bill.

Interestingly, both the White House and the Justice Department have used heated rhetoric and righteous indignation since January 20th over terrorist attacks (both real and imagined) committed by individuals indoctrinated by a warped view of Islam as a justification to try and enact domestic U.S. policies and laws that discriminate based on religion, ethnicity and nationality.

CNN's Fareed Zakaria
One of the most insightful analysis of Trump of Arabia's klutzy first presidential trip abroad I watched over the Memorial Day weekend was on Fareed Zakaria's latest episode of GPS (Global Public Square), his weekly discussion of global affairs on CNN.

It's a commentary worth watching if you didn't get a chance to see it or read the op-ed he wrote on which it's based (see link below).

While the usual White House suspects quickly "branded" 45's 1st trip abroad a success, Zakaria took time to look closer at Trump's visit to Saudi Arabia.

Many people are aware of the fact that 15 of the 19 hijackers on 911 were citizens of Saudi Arabia.

But to listen to the heated rhetoric of the Trump administration, one would assume Iran is responsible for the bulk of violent terrorist attacks around the world committed by radicalized individuals.

As Zakaria wrote in an Op-Ed piece in the Washington Post on May 25th:

"According to an analysis of the Global Terrorism Database by Leif Wenar of King's College London, more than 94 percent of deaths caused by Islamic terrorism since 2001 were perpetrated by the Islamic State, al-Qaeda and other Sunni Jihadists. Iran is fighting those groups, not fueling them." 

As millions watched on video, Trump daintily curtsied after accepting a big gold medal known as the Collar of Abdulaziz al Saud Medal from Saudi King Salman last week.

(God knows why since Trump's barely been in office over 100 days and his only significant accomplishment aside from alienating most of America's traditional NATO allies in Western Europe has been getting a right-leaning conservative appointed to the Supreme Court.)

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross & Secretary of 
State Tillerson get their sword on with the Saudis
Trump accepted his medal after he and top cabinet officials from his administration including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross linked arms, hoisted swords and participated in the traditional Saudi Ardha sword dance before a welcome dinner at Muraba Palace in Riyadh.

It is of interest to note that while the Ardha sword dance celebrates peace, Saudi Arabia executed more than 150 people in 2016 by beheading them with a sword.

In addition to the arms sale agreement, the Saudi king and the unpopular American president also signed their names to a rather vague joint agreement to "counter violent extremism".

Despite the fact that, as Zakaria noted in his Washington Post Op-Ed:

"Almost every terrorist attack in the west has had some connection to Saudi Arabia."

Zakaria and other political observers generally concluded that Trump "got played" by the Saudis.

And let's be frank, there are many of them, not all, who are probably eager to see the highly-publicized lawsuit filed against the Kingdom by the victims of 911 victims suing the Saudi government for having provided support for al-Qaeda for years quietly go away.

The former reality-TV host-turned conservative politician awkwardly blundered his way through visits to Israel, where he oddly began to wander off without shaking the hands of Prime Minster Netanyahu after a joint press appearance.

That wasn't even the low point.

Trump shoving his way to attention in Brussels
He later made a complete ass out of himself in Brussels in front of the leaders of the NATO countries.

Not just by incorrectly accusing them of not paying their fair share of the NATO budget, which only demonstrates his weak grasp of how NATO is financed and who pays what share.

But by famously and obnoxiously shoving his way past Dusko Markovich, the prime minster of Montenegro, during a photo op like a dimwitted mannerless 13-year-old trying to bully his way to the front of the middle school cafeteria line on Pizza Friday.

But despite all his blustery rhetoric and buffoonish behavior, and the White House communication staff's feeble attempts to try and spin his disastrous trip overseas as positive, there was a palpable sense here in America that no one was minding the shop while Trump was embarrassing himself and our nation's reputation on the global stage.

Each day, as he flailed about abroad, new revelations about the ongoing investigations into Russian ties with multiple members of Trump's top advisers and cabinet members kept dropping in the news like bombs.

Like Kushner meeting with a corrupt Russian banking official prior to his father-in-law taking office to establish a "back channel" to the Kremlin and curry favor with Putin.

The list goes on, it's so mind-numbing at this point it's hard to keep track of from day to day.

Portland stabbing suspect Jeremy Joseph rants
during a court arraignment on Tuesday
But all throughout, here in America we witnessed two racially-motivated stabbing attacks on innocent people in Maryland and Oregon that stunned the nation.

Meanwhile the White House spin machine was trying to put lipstick on the mud-covered pig that was Trump's overseas trip in an effort to deflect from the fact that German Chancellor Angela Merkel is now the De Facto head of the free world.

While most Americans are trying to come to grips with the reality that one of the the aftermaths of Trump's divisive hate-filled campaign rhetoric is that it has motivated fringe right-wing hate mongers to feel free to violently lash out against innocent people of color.

As if they're trying to emulate Dylan Roof's slaughter of innocent people at a Bible study in South Carolina to make some kind of obscure and obscene point.

There are violent domestic terrorists running amok in this country and the Trump administration is pretending they're nothing but "isolated incidents" not worthy of comment from the executive branch.

This week a noose was found in the National Museum of African-American History and Culture in the nation's capital, and as reported, it's just one of a slew of recent disturbing cases of nooses, heinous symbols of violence against people of color in 19th and 20th century America, found hanging in public places - including a middle school in Crofton, Maryland for God's sake.

Jeff Sessions and Donald Trunp
Amidst all this, what's Attorney General Jeff Sessions talking about?

Filling prisons with drug offenders and putting the brakes on the Department of Justice's role as en enforcer of civil rights.

So to conclude, that's what Trump dancing around with that sword in his hand in an ornate Saudi Arabian palace represented to me.

It symbolized the dance of delusion in which this administration is engaged.

As a Wikipedia summary notes:

Traditionally the Sword of Damocles epitomizes "the imminent and ever-present peril faced by those in positions of power. More generally it is used to denote the sense of foreboding engendered by a precarious situation, especially one in which the onset of tragedy is restrained only by a delicate trigger or chance."

There's a Sword of Damocles hanging over the head of Donald Trump right now, and he seems oblivious that it not only threatens him - it threatens the very fabric of the nation he claims to love.

And as many Americans and the world's leading nation's express complete bafflement over Trump's decision to back out of the Paris Climate Agreement in a stunning display of ignorance and the rejection of science and rationality, it's painfully clear that the Sword is hanging over us by a thread.

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