A few miscellaneous thoughts I gathered during the week:
Roy Moore’s response to the allegations that he preyed on children is damning. He all but admitted it in what was supposed to be an exculpatory interview with propagandist Sean Hannity. Now he is going to cast himself as the embattled Christian being persecuted by liberals. He’s only under fire because he’s one of the few willing to boldly stand for truth. The message is: Alabama voters, don’t think about Moore preying on children; think about how the liberals sneer at anyone who dares to stand up for God.
Will it work? Probably. People who weren’t bothered by President Trump’s history of sexual assault are unlikely to be upset about this.
It’s a shame Bill Clinton didn’t resign during his presidency. Of course, the religious right would still find some case somewhere for their whataboutism, but I wonder if Clinton’s behavior had a deeper culture-forming effect. To what extent did it encourage Americans to make the (absurd) calculation that private character does not bear on public leadership?
In a speech in Vietnam yesterday, President Trump said this:
From this day forward, we will compete on a fair and equal basis. We are not going to let the United States be taken advantage of anymore. I am always going to put America first the same way that I expect all of you in this room to put your countries first.
This is a perfect summation of Trump’s bizarre view of global politics and trade. Everything is zero-sum, and history is absent from his thinking. He doesn’t show any awareness that he is raging against the very global system that the United States set up. He effectively said, “We are not going to let the United States be taken advantage of by the U.S.-led global order anymore!”
It is certainly reasonable to believe that the costs of sustaining America’s post-World War Two posture in the world are too high, or to believe that in various ways the U.S. harms other regions of the world with its policies. But what we see from Trump is something different. He takes his gut zero-sum instincts and is pretending to make a foreign policy with them. And he shows no understanding of why every other U.S. President since FDR has opposed his view of the world.
This week was the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution. Isn’t this a good candidate for the most catastrophic turning point of the twentieth century? Or does all of that get categorized under the heading of Archduke Ferdinand’s assassination? It’s easy to imagine something else sparking the Great War even if the flukish assassination had never happened so my vote is for the Russian Revolution.
As for consequences of the Revolution, on the minus side we have tens of millions of people dead in futile attempts to impose social and economic relations that free people never willingly choose. On the plus side we have, I don’t know, Sweden? Does the Russian Revolution get to claim credit for the peaceful social democracies of Western Europe? It’s hard to believe we couldn’t have found our way to Sweden without tens of millions of deaths in the process.
On a teaching note, in my experience we seem not to do a good job contextualizing for our students the global history of communism in the twentieth century. We emphasize the Red Scare in the United States and its victims, and how absurd the hunt for communists was in the 1950s. We should do that. But we sometimes fail to contextualize that fear in the broader global context in which there was in fact a murderous ideology that was at that very moment needlessly killing millions, most notably during the The Great Leap Forward. That’s scary!