You’re just wrong

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver returned for another season on HBO last Sunday and fans like me will tell you that it’s long overdue. Unfortunately, John is almost exclusively preaching to the choir and I fear that Red State, Middle America (the proud members of, “Trump Country”) will never get the message; nor will they bother to consider it if they happen upon it. Oliver can too easily be dismissed as just another “liberal” (to be said in a disparaging voice) who uses too many off-color jokes and too frequently curses. Granted, these same people managed to talk themselves into overlooking the President’s %^**#-grabbing, foul mouth and horrible behavior, but, as I’ve said before, people can talk themselves into anything. Lord knows that Trump certainly does.

The news and rumors coming out of the White House are disturbing enough – from the needless fear mongering and probably unConsitutional travel ban to the childish berating of Federal Judges and the entire Judiciary to the absurd talk of massive voter fraud on an impossible scale to the increasingly serious allegations of Russian collusion and the resignation of National Security Adviser Michael Flynn – but the heart of the matter goes much deeper than this and it is far more troubling. Based on the examples John Oliver gives and others you can easily find, I honestly think that Trump does not believe in truth. I’m not saying that he simply disagrees with me or you about the facts on this or that issue; I’m saying that he doesn’t understand what a fact actually is and he doesn’t care to. When you look to the National Enquirer, Breitbart, and InfoWars as credible sources. When you’ve had compulsive liar Roger Stone working for you. When you compliment the work being done by conspiracy supernut Alex Jones (who thinks Sandy Hook was a, “false flag,” performed by actors) and then you turn around and call nearly every major news outlet, “fake news,” because they’re not friendly to you, you’re a couple of sandwiches short of a picnic.

I know some of you voted for Trump because you hated Hillary or wanted a particular type of Supreme Court pick or wanted the repeal of Obamacare or any number of reasons, but I implore you to put that aside for a moment and think about the future of the country you love. Most of the hyperbolic rhetoric out there is ridiculous (e.g. “liberals are communists” and “conservatives are fascists”) but the dangers that the #NeverTrump Movement tried to warn you about are real! You’ve been had by this conman in the White House. I know it hurts to find out you are wrong and it’s much easier to avoid the possibility but facts are stubborn things and this needs to be said in no uncertain terms; you’re just wrong. The Donald does not deserve your support.

There I go again, preaching to the choir. I mean, honestly, is anyone who disagrees with me going to consider what I am saying? Is anyone open to being a convert? I doubt it, and yet I keep soldiering on, “fighting the good fight” (as I keep telling myself). Maybe the problem here is with people, in general, who seem to be driven more by their emotions than reason. Even if this is true, however, it still brings me back to the same point: How do you get through to them when they are wrong?

In more depressing news, yesterday, Robert Kennedy, Jr. and Robert De Niro held a press conference to push their anti-vaccination nonsense. These two men of the left, and very vocal Trump critic in De Niro’s case, nevertheless share this irrational belief with the new President, and they are all putting us in greater danger. Kennedy and De Niro have gone so far as to offer $100,000 to anyone who can prove that vaccines are safe. This is like offering to pay for proof that Oswald wasn’t framed or the Holocaust wasn’t faked. You can always deny any proof and dismiss any facts you like if you live under a conspiratorial worldview.

One more thing that further depressed me this week is that I started listening to Michael Lewis’s latest book, The Undoing Project (he also wrote Moneyball and The Big Short). It’s about a couple of Israeli psychologists who spawned the field of Behavior Economics and demonstrated that people are not as rational as they like to believe they are. For example: Take a room full of people and ask everyone to write down the last two digits of his/her phone number. Then have everyone write down their best guess how many African Nations there are in the United Nations. What you will find is that the people with the higher phone numbers will also make higher guesses. Yes, we are that easily manipulated and thrown off by things that are seemingly irrelevant.

Any husker du, I don’t know what the conclusion is to this stream of consciousness. What I do know is that it’s making me think about my own work, refuting conspiracy theories and how I should or should not be going about it. For now, I guess I’ll have to just keep telling people, “You’re just wrong,” and coming off like an arrogant jerk they’re not interested in listening to. :(

Hunting Hitler

Last Friday was International Holocaust Remembrance Day and it inspired me to write the following post about a particular piece of Fake History that recently came to my attention. That night, however, my second son decided he wanted to be born, which delayed me from finishing this for nearly a week, but it also inspired me all the more to keep fighting the good fight against nonsense. I don’t want to see my boys grow up in a nation were fairytales are as readily accepted as facts or given “equal time” in some perverse distortion of fairness. Any husker du, here’s the situation…

It was nearly two weeks ago that a friend asked me, “What do you think of the History Channel show, Hunting Hitler?” I was shocked to learn that the program, which claims Adolf Hitler did not commit suicide at the end of the Second World War and escaped to South America, has two seasons on the air and it’s not alone in this conspiracy subgenre. My friend, who’s no dummy, thought parts of the show sounded convincing but he was clearly skeptical as well. I was certain that the premise of this fable was false but wanted to look into the details a bit before passing any definitive public judgements.

WHO IS BOB BAER?

The principle “investigator” in Hunting Hitler is Bob Baer, a former CIA man who cashed out for a conspiracy career. Like one-time Nixon Aid and compulsive liar, Roger Stone, Baer is quick to proclaim that he’s, “not a conspiracy theorist,” and simply follows the evidence wherever it leads. Of course, if these men actually did that, they wouldn’t have anything to peddle. Check out Bear being interviewed by Alex Jones (aka Captain Disinformation), and his interactions with a couple of 9-11 “Truthers” on the street in this video:

The fact that Bear would appear on Jones’ program and they got along so well together is a huge red flag. The fact that he thrives on asking questions that are rooted in partial truths, at best, and filled with allusions to wild, unrealistic accusations, while never fully crossing the line and saying, “I’m a truther too,” is sickening. For example, the story about the five Israelis who were detailed after filming the Twin Towers on fire and apparently smiling and/or laughing is real, to a point. The crucial fact that Bear gets wrong, however, and which makes the story far less sinister, is that there is no evidence the Israelis were there in advance of the first plane hitting the first tower. Like the other onlookers that day they had no advanced knowledge of the attack and there is zero evidence that Israel was involved in 9-11 in anyway! What is particularly disgusting about this story, and the way Bear chooses to misrepresent it, is the fact that Jew hating is the mother of all conspiracy theories and this story in particular has been used by others to blatantly accuse “The Jews” of being behind 9-11; going so far as to claim that, “4,000 Jews stayed home that day.” You don’t get in bed with trash like this unless you are trashy.

Another extremely troubling part of this video comes at the very end when Bear claims, “I know the guy that went into his broker in San Diego and said ‘cash me out, it’s going down tomorrow,’” the day before 9-11. Then he adds that the man’s brother, “worked in the White House.” Really? And you didn’t take these “facts” to anyone in law enforcement or any credible news outlets? These claims would be very easy things to verify if they were true. It seems obvious to me that Bear is more interested in trying to look cool in front of a couple of gullible truthers than he is sincerely interested in the thousands of people murdered on 9-11. His behavior is pathetic and it’s even more pathetic that the inappropriately named “History” Channel would choose to work with someone like this.

THE SHOW

Despite Bob Bear’s more than questionable character, I watched an episode of Hunting Hitler (S01E03: Escape from Berlin) and part of the next (S01E04: The Tunnel). I quickly found the presentation of its facts and innuendos to be dishonest and illogical. For example, they talk about Hanna Reitsch, a rare female Nazi pilot who was in Hitler’s Bunker for a couple days near the end. She flew Generaloberst Robert Ritter von Greim into Berlin to meet with Hitler and out again two days later. According to the show, the fact that Reitsch could get out of Berlin in a plane, “certainly sent a very strong message to Hitler that if she could do it, he certainly could.” They then go through a greatly drawn out sequence walking around subways and abandoned airport tunnels to prove that there were likely tunnels available to Hitler at the time that could have theoretically got him from his bunker to the Tempelhof Airport without going above ground. Since Hitler’s, “last public appearance,” was April 20, 1945, and there were several planes that apparently took off on April 21 from Tempelhof, the show concludes that Hitler could have got to the airport undetected and left on one of those planes. There are so many problems with this tale, including:

  • Hanna Reitsch, who proved escape from Berlin was possible, as Hunting Hitler puts it, and inspired Hitler, didn’t fly into the city until April 26 and out again on April 28, long after the day the show pretends that Hitler escaped from the city.
  • Not only do we have the eyewitness testimony of Reitsch and von Greim about visiting Hitler but we have the testimony of many others, include those who were there until the very end, when he committed suicide and his body was cremated in a gasoline fire.
  • Hitler was last filmed outside the bunker on April 20, giving medals to child soldiers, but he was seen in the public areas of the bunker up until his suicide on April 30 and he was photographed surveying the damage from Allied bombers on April 28.
    last-photo-of-hitler
  • Reitsch did not land or take off from Tempelhof, because it was too dangerous. She had to use a road that the troops on the ground had turned into a makeshift runway. It is also well known that her flight out of Berlin was the last plane to leave the besieged city.
  • Reitsch and von Greim were give poison vials by Hitler, with which to kill themselves, if it became necessary. The same kind of vials that Hitler and his longtime mistress and short-lived wife Eva Braun used, along with many others who kill themselves rather than be captured by the Russians or face a future without Hitler to lead them.
  • When Reitsch was captured by the Allies at the end of the war she expressed regret that she was not able to stay in the bunker and die at Hitler’s side. She also continued to be a loyal National Socialist until her death in 1979, refusing to the very end to renounce Hitler and the faith she had placed in him.
  • Reitsch and von Greim, like all the other eyewitnesses who survived the bunker had no doubt that Hitler died there. The accounts they all gave also call into question Hitler’s sanity in those final days. He seemed to have no realistic sense of how few troops he had left and wanted to pretend that he was not out of options, despite every fact that was presented to him, until the last possible moment. He was not a man with the presence of mind or the desire to plan for escape.

In short, Hunting Hitler’s scenario for Hitler escaping Berlin on April 21 (or any other day) makes no sense and has zero credibility, yet they have gone on and on from there, pursuing “leads” about where their imaginary Hitler went and what he did after the war.

Lenny DePaul, who Hunting Hitler bills as a Former Commander with the U.S. Marshals and, “One of the most skilled manhunters in the world,” claims in E03 that when he tracks a fugitive he has to get inside the criminal’s mind and know, “what his every thought is.” But he seems to know very little about how Hitler thought and he clearly spent no time learning anything substantive about this madman. Instead, he looks exclusively for “clues” that suggest Hitler may have tried to escape Berlin and then asks how Hitler would did it? Later he talks about how, “Any individual on the run,” has the same mindset, “Escape, escape, escape. He’s going to do whatever it takes.” In other words, DePaul assumes that Hitler was an individual on the run, despite no evidence of this and a wealth of evidence to the contrary, and he then applies some generic motivations to Hitler rather than understand Hitler’s particular mindset at the time of his suicide. There is no investigation here and no reason to believe anything DePual, Bear, and company present.

WHAT REALLY HAPPENED?

Hitler had opportunities to leave Berlin and some tried to convince him to do so but he refused. Hitler was not, by any reports or indications, concerned with is own life or his people as much as he was obsessed with murdering Jews. Hitler was a fanatical conspiracy theorists, who was convinced that Jewry had to be stopped and he was willing to divert much needed manpower from the frontline fighting to ensure that as many Jews were rounded up and executed as possible. Hitler was still railing against the Jews and blaming them for starting the war in his, “Political Testimony,” which he dictated to his secretary, Traudl Junge, in the bunker, on April 29, and signed in front of her, before marrying Eva Braun in a public ceremony in the bunker. In that same document, Hitler stated that he was choosing death rather than falling into the hands of his enemies and having his body desecrated in, “spectacle, presented by the Jews, for the diversion of the hysterical masses.” He made this decision one day after the former dictator of Italy, Benito Mussolini, was killed, along with his mistress, and his remains were put on public display.

death-of-mussolini

death-of-mussolini-cu

Anyone who has spent any time actually studying Hitler knows that these were the thoughts on his mind at the end, not, “Escape, escape, escape.” This is why he not only took poison and shot himself in the same moment but had his body burned with the last of the gasoline his men could siphon from the cars in the motorpool above the bunker. The man tasked with carrying out Hitler’s cremation was Otto Günsche, who stood outside the door as Hitler and Eva killed themselves, then personally directed the removal of the bodies and burning. Günsche was captured and spent more than a decade in a Soviet prison, where he was questioned repeatedly about Hitler for Stalin, who wanted to know everything he could about his adversary and how he died. To believe that Günsche successfully lied all those years during his imprisonment, and continued to lie until his death in 2003, along with so many others who were there as witnesses until the end, is utterly ridiculous and would be laughable if it were not so serious.

SOME QUESTIONS SHOULD NOT BE ASKED

According to Hunting Hitler there is, “no physical evidence,” of Hitler’s death. In fact, enough of Hitler’s teeth survived for a positive identification by the Russians. Stalin, however, chose to keep this information to himself and even claimed that Hitler had escaped because it was in his political interest to keep the boogieman of Hitler’s ghost alive. Nevertheless, Stalin’s people took meticulous records about what actually happened to Hitler. In time, the Soviets decided to destroy the last of Hitler’s remains, as the Allies had decided to destroy the entrance to his bunker and his mountain home, to prevent these things from later being used as some kind of sick holy shrines and artifacts by his misguided followers. The photographic evidence of Hitler’s remains, however, are conclusive, along with the records of their examination, and the overwhelming eyewitness testimony. To say that it is reasonable to doubt what became of Hitler and think he might of gone into retirement while the Jewish State of Israel was created and Germany was divided into two, with half going to the communists, is to completely deny reality. It is no more rational than asking if the Holocaust actually happened and that is exactly where I fear we are headed. How long before the (NOT) Hitler Channel or some other well funded outlet is willing to create a show centered around that sick premise?

According to Tim Kennedy, a former MMA fighter and Special Forces soldier who serves as another “investigator” on Hunting Hitler, the show has a, “$2 million-per-episode budget,” which makes me want to vomit. I can only imagine the good, entertaining, and informative work I could do with two million dollars. It could fund many truthful videos and a polished website where people could find reasonable information and conclusions about the past. Sadly, the funding for sensible projects like mine does not seem to be as readily available as it is for sensationalistic garbage.  I can’t believe that this is where we are at. That such ridiculous amounts of money are being wasted asking questions that already have definitive answers, and that the audience for such foolishness is so large that you can turn a profit from exploiting their ignorance, even when you are spending two million dollars an episode. Please, tell me we are better than this, because I’m losing faith.

DOWNFALL

If you are interested in Hitler’s final days, I highly recommend that you watch Downfall (2004), which is currently streaming on Netflix. It is perhaps the most faithful reproduction of a historical event that I have ever seen, with a heavy reliance on eyewitness testimony and other evidence, and minimal dramatic licence. If you have ever seen any of those, “Hitler reacts to…” videos on YouTube, then you have seen a little piece of Downfall.

Those spoofs can be pretty funny but the actual film is horrific. To think how deeply and faithfully so many people fell for this tyrant’s lies and followed him faithfully into death. It only goes to show the degree to which people can delude themselves and why we must do what we can to stop ourselves from going down a similar road. We must stand up for truth and advocate for reasonable sources of information. We must not give into conspiracy theories or any other alternative facts. Nor should we accept such drivel as merely a TV show, with no real world consequences. It was wild stories and Fake Historical Documents, like The Protocols of the Elders of Zion that “proved” to Hitler he had to fight the Jews. What will be the consequences of shows like Hunting Hitler? It’s hard to say but the longer we accept them the greater the damage will certainly be.

 

I almost feel sorry for Sean Spicer

Amid the vast amount of and reasonable questions and valid criticisms of President Trump there is, naturally, a spattering of self-righteous childishness from high profile figures like Madonna and unknown vandals in the streets. Trump Supporters can easily point to these people as representative of, “The Left,” thus insulating themselves from genuinely considering any anti-Trump messages. The latest outrage, and it really is an outrage, was a Tweet from SNL writer Katie Rich, who attacked Trump’s 10 year old son, Barron. Many on the right saw this as typical of, “Liberals.” Siraj Hashmi at RedAlertPolitics.com was quick to frame the story that way and attack the hipocracy of those who, “spent 8 years protecting Obama daughters,” but are presumably fine with Ms. Rich’s comment.

Of course, both sides want to believe that their side is full of noble warriors fighting for Truth, Justice, and the American Way, while the other side is a festering pile of rude and disdainful rubbish. And both sides look for the most offensive, stupid, and/or inaccurate things they can find on the other side in order to judge them by it. Intellectually honest people, however, should not fall into this trap. Ms. Rich’s poor choice is not political proof of anything fundamental to, “The Left,” or,”Liberals,” just as GOP Congressional Staffer Elizabeth Lauten’s belittling of Malia and Sasha Obama and Rightwing Talkshow Host Rush Limbaugh’s comparison of 12 year old Chelsea Clinton to a dog were not political proof of anything fundamental to, “The Right,” or, “Conservatives,” when those things happened.

Which brings me to the point that I set out to talk about. Did you catch this moment of frustration from White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer yesterday? The relevant part is about 1 minute 52 seconds into this clip:

I almost feel sorry for him. I’m sure it is, “demoralizing,” and, “frustrating,” to listen to the constant drumbeat of a press corps that is largely negative and, sometimes, unfairly so. I agree that many members of the media, if not most, are looking to, “undermine [Trump’s] credibility,” and there is a, “constant theme,” here at a level we have, “never seen,” before. But I can’t help thinking of that famous phrase from Galatians 6:7, “A man reaps what he sows.”

Sean Spicer chose to work for Trump, a compulsive liar with little regard for facts or manners. A man who seems to believe that any and all poor behavior can be brushed aside by simply saying, “I’m not politically correct.” A man who looks to the most wild claims he finds on the Internet or in the tabloids first and readily rejects anything that does not fit into his predetermined conclusions, no matter how well documented it is.

You want to talk about undermining a President’s credibility? Who lead the racist birther charge for years (Yes, years!) claiming President Obama was not a real American? I’ll tell you who. The same man who took out a full page in four major New York City newspapers in 1989, calling for a return of the death penalty in response to the Central Park Five (five young men of color accused of and later falsely convicted of raping a white woman jogging in Central Park). The same man that refuses to accept the innocence of the Central Park Five, to this day, and has no sympathy for the 40 years of combined time they spent behind bars for a crime that did not commit. The same man who thinks it’s okay to mock the disabled, then lies and says he never did that. The same man who likes to brag about molesting woman, then lies and says he never said that. The same man who attacked a Gold Star Family and all POWs, despite his own record of multiple deferments to dodge the draft during the Vietnam War, and his own inability to understand the meaning of the word, “sacrifice.” The same man who can’t seem to control himself enough to avoid a 3am tweetstorm against a former beauty pageant contestant. Who thinks women should be valued based on their looks and ridiculed for having a menstrual cycle.

If I were to judge Sean Spicer simply on his tone in yesterday’s press conference I would feel very sorry for him and I would predict that he’s not going to last long in this job. But we should to look at the larger context and the kind of climate that his boss has set for us all. A meaner, less, “politically correct,”environment in which everyone gets their own, “alternative facts,” and anything goes so long as you win. Trump has come a long way with this worldview. It’s got him all the way to the White House. Now you expect that it’s not going to be used by reporters and others to get him out of the White House? Get real, Spicer. You ain’t seen nothin yet.

The Oscar

the-oscars-2017-betting-odds

The Oscars don’t air until Sunday, February 26, but the nominees were announced this morning at 7:18am CST (I guess they figure odd times get noticed). As usual I haven’t found the time to see nearly as many as I hoped to but I still have some thoughts to share.

I suspected that there would be a conscious effort to make this #oscarsalittlelesswhite, which it is, but no Lead Actress or Song nomination for Hidden Figures? Really? That feels like a big snub. It’s one, “must see film,” that actually is a must see and I thought it would be all over this list. I also suspected that Birth of a Nation was going to be shutout, just as it was at the Globes, because of the controversy surrounding the director’s past, but I was still hoping I might be wrong and it would get some, small recognition. It certainly deserves to be judged on it’s own merits and it was powerful. It’s stuck with me.

Honestly, what’s up with all the love for La La Land? Sure, I enjoyed it, particularly the ending sequence, and I know movie people love to see movies about movies, but it doesn’t live up to the hype, people.

I am ashamed to say that I haven’t see any of the documentaries but at least 13th is on Netflix because they can be hard to come by.

Lastly, if you’re wondering, my favorite film of 2016 was, Kubo and the Two Strings, which at least got nominated for Animated Feature. I’ve never seen anything quite like it.

In case you missed it, here’s the complete list:

BEST PICTURE

Arrival
Hacksaw Ridge
Hidden Figures
Fences
Hell or High Water
La La Land
Lion
Manchester by the Sea
Moonlight

ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE

Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea
Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge
Ryan Gosling, La La Land
Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic
Denzel Washington, Fences

ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE
Isabelle Huppert, Elle
Ruth Negga, Loving
Natalie Portman, Jackie
Emma Stone, La La Land
Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins

ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water
Lucas Hedges, Manchester by the Sea
Dev Patel, Lion
Michael Shannon, Nocturnal Animals

ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

Viola Davis, Fences
Naomie Harris, Moonlight
Nicole Kidman, Lion
Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures
Michelle Williams, Manchester By the Sea

ANIMATED FEATURE FILM

Kubo and the Two Strings
Moana
My Life as a Zucchini
The Red Turtle
Zootopia

CINEMATOGRAPHY

Arrival
La La Land
Lion
Moonlight
Silence

COSTUME DESIGN

Allied
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Florence Foster Jenkins
Jackie
La La Land

DIRECTING

Arrival, Denis Villenuve
Hacksaw Ridge, Mel Gibson
La La Land, Damien Chazelle
Manchester by the Sea, Kenneth Monergan
Moonlight, Barry Jenkins

DOCUMENTARY (FEATURE)

Fire at Sea
I Am Not Your Negro
Life, Animated
OJ: Made in America
13th

DOCUMENTARY (SHORT SUBJECT)

Extremis
4.1 Miles
Joe’s Violin
Watani: My Homeland
The White Helmets

FILM EDITING

Arrival
Hacksaw Ridge
Hell or High Water
La La Land
Moonlight

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

Land of Mine
A Man Called Ove
The Salesman
Tanna
Toni Erdmann

MAKEUP AND HAIR STYLING

A Man Called Ove
Star Trek Beyond
Suicide Squad

ORIGINAL SONG

“Audition (The Fools Who Dream)”, La La Land
“Can’t Stop the Feeling,” Trolls
“City of Stars,” La La Land
“The Empty Chair,” Jim, The James Foley Story
“How Far I’ll Go,” Moana

ORIGINAL SCORE

Jackie
La La Land
Lion
Moonlight
Passengers

PRODUCTION DESIGN

Arrival
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Hail, Caesar!
La La Land
Passengers

SHORT FILM (ANIMATED)

Blind Vaysha
Borrowed Time
Pear Cider and Cigarettes
Pearl
Piper

SHORT FILM (LIVE ACTION)

Ennemis Interieurs
La femme et le TGV
Silent Nights
Sing
Timecode

SOUND EDITING

Arrival
Deepwater Horizon
Hacksaw Ridge
La La Land
Sully

SOUND MIXING

Arrival
Hacksaw Ridge
La La Land
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

VISUAL EFFECTS

Deepwater Horizon
Doctor Strange
The Jungle Book
Kubo and the Two Strings
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

WRITING (ADAPTED SCREENPLAY)

Arrival, Eric Heisserer
Fences, August Wilson
Hidden Figures, Allison Schroeder and Theodore Melfi
Lion, Luke Davies
Moonlight, Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney

WRITING (ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY)

Hell or High Water, Taylor Sheridan
La La Land, Damien Chazelle
The Lobster, Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthymis Filippou
Manchester by the Sea, Kenneth Lonergan
20th Century Women, Mike Mills

 

 

America First is unAmerican

america-first-logo

It seems like most people are already sick of the inauguration and the protests and the never ending battle of politics and spin machines. They have chosen their side, or they have chosen no side, and they have constructed a comfortable narrative around themselves to reinforce their position. President Trump is going to, “Drain the swamp,” and finally, “Get things done.” Or, “Not my President Trump” is going to, “Roll back our rights,” and create a, “Fascist America.” Or, “Politicians are all the same and Trump is no different, so who cares what they do?”

Still, I can’t stop offering my two cents for those willing to listen. One thing I have been thinking about a lot is Trumps declaration that he/we will, “Put America First.” I know this resonates with many who feel like they have gotten the shaft from globalism but I see it in far more ominous terms and can’t stop thinking again of President Kennedy’s Inaugural, in which he said:

“Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”

Obviously, JFK’s rhetoric was a bit over the top. No nation has infinite capacity in terms of manpower, wealth, or will to endlessly bear any and all burdens. Nevertheless, the point he was making is a very important one, one which was, “tempered by war,” and greatly informed by the times in which he lived. As a young man, he saw the first incarnation of the America First Movement and, under his father’s isolationist influence, he too became a supporter of the movement for a time. This radically anti-war, anti-foreign entanglements philosophy, grew out of The Great War (aka World War I), and the feeling that America had won a pointless victory at a very high price (more than 116,000 military deaths). While most Americans did not join any formal America First organizations, they did share the general sentiment, and they were willing to stand by as Hitler ravaged Europe and Imperial Japan laid waste to Asia. Not until we were directly attacked at Pearl Harbor did we wake up to the fact that we could not and should not withdraw from the world.

After that devastating, nearly Apocalyptic time, Americans became the driving force that charted a new course for the world, creating the United Nations, the World Bank, and so many other institutions and agreements that promoted international cooperation and the much vilified, “globalization,” of today. When President Kennedy, the first member of World War II generation to become President, took the Oath of Office, he wanted to reaffirm America’s commitment to this future and to make it clear that we would put American Values before any short-sighted ideas of, “America First.” He saw America as a moral leader, with an obligation and duty to lead, and prevent further world conflicts, even if this proved to be a burden for us. For the most part, all Presidents that have followed him have shared this sentiment. They may have disagreed on when and how American military might, foriegn aid, or diplomacy should be used, but they have not shirked from the idea that these things can and should be used when appropriate, nor have they taken an isolationist, let’s pull away from the world to, “Make America Great Again,” attitude.

The Trump Administration marks a titanic shift in many ways but not enough attention has yet been paid to his Fortress America mentality. Like his personal behavior – throughout his career in real estate, casinos, Reality TV, and numerous failed endeavors and scams –  Trump sees the world of global politics the way he seems to view business, as a zero sum gain. I need to look after mine (and maybe screw you over) so that I “win” and someone else “loses.” The idea that we can all win, that we are all in this together, or that sometime there are values and ideals greater than getting the biggest piece of the pie or passing the finish line first, does not appear to cross his mind. His America First rhetoric is a call for us to be like him on the world stage. To, “get ours,” and let others attempt to get theirs, so long as they don’t get in our way. He wants to make this a more selfish, more “me” obsessed society, as if we don’t have enough of that, and the spin his puts on it is that he is doing this, “for us;” as if the promotion of isolationism and greed is really some kind of communitarianism.

I know, Trump Supporters will complain about this or that trade deal, international effort, or organization; and on an individual level they may have a point. Certainly there are improvements that can be made to everything and some things are just wrong. But the idea that America is a vital part of the world and must play a crucial role in it – that we must not fall into the simplistic, “America First,” mentality – is something we cannot afford to lose sight of. I realize that many people object to us being the, “Policeman of the world,” but I think that is an unfortunate phase for our role as a global leader. We are more like the World’s Fireman. Like it or not, we need to be there to help fight the small fires, lest they become an all encompassing blaze. And we need to do what we can to pull others from the flames. We cannot police the other 95% of the world’s population, but we must not jerk our knees and reflexively, “Put America First.” The best we can hope for in that scenario is to be the last house on fire.

One other interesting note about slogans that recently come to my attention. After Trump chose, “Make America Great Again,” for his campaign, the Purge film franchise chose a variation on this as a tagline for their third movie, The Purge: Election Year (2016), “Keep America Great.”

the-purge-election-year

It’s a rather cheeses, formulaic dystopian story about a horrid future in which America’s get one night each year to commit any crimes they please, even murder. The New Founding Fathers of America (NFFA), the political party who rule in Washington created this system to remove the homeless and other people they see as draining our resources. One thing that is spot on about the film is they way they portray the corruption of our values, including the doctrine of Christianity, through the clever use of language. The NFFA justify Purge Night by saying that just as Jesus sacrificed himself for our sins, we must sacrifice others for the betterment of society. Given the fact that many self-professed Christians have convinced themselves that President Trump is somehow, “one of us,” and the fact the Klu Klux Klan pretends to be a Christian Organization, and the fact that even the Nazis were defended in Germany by many clergymen and laymen alike, I don’t see The Purge’s take on killing people for Christ as all that out there. It is a sad reflection on the fact that people can convince themselves of anything, if they want to. In a funny twist of irony, Trump has already said that he is considering the use of the slogan, “Keep America Great!” in 2020. I’ll leave it up to you to decide what meaning and significance we should see in this.