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Truth and Shadow: To Understand A Lethal American Presidency

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To them, I said, the truth would be literally nothing but the shadows of the images.”-Plato, The Republic

Though derelictions of an unprecedented sort, even the most evident shortcomings of Donald J. Trump’s presidency are essentially just “shadows.” To more fully understand what has brought the United States to such a once- unimaginable national declension, we must first learn to look beyond these reflections. As long as we remain focused on mere reflections of what is important, we will ensure only persistent governmental debility.

               What then? Among other things, we would need to concede American democracy to the perpetual sovereignty of unqualified persons. In consequence of such plainly intolerable concessions, there could emerge no meaningful solutions to what most imperils the United States. What might then be said about American “greatness?”

               “I’m sorry?”

               Exeunt omnes?

               For the United States, such deeply ironic surrenders should never need to be considered.

               At some point, this pathological sort of surrender or debility could include not “just” nuances of national deformation, but also de facto “blueprints” for a nation’s collective disappearance.

               There are better ways for a country to proceed. Americans ought not passively accept such immobilizing forms of bewilderment. This era remains, after all, the Nuclear Age.[1] It continues to be a time for prudence and abundant caution, not visceral or  reflexive response.

               To better understand certain still-threatening American defilements – an obviously primary obligation for all US citizens – analysts must begin at the beginning. Recognizably, this battered country’s authentic problems are not narrowly partisan or exclusively political. No national government – no President, no Congress, no hyper-adrenalized promises of “change” from one side or another – can expect to halt the insidious trajectories of our staggering decline.

               Wherever one looks, the Trump presidency has spawned a lethal assault on an already-fragile nation – a dissembling presidency that absolutely has to be removed by the country’s electorate – but even this grotesque leadership assault represents little more than a “shadow.”[2]

               Both literally and metaphorically, the United States is now caught up in a titanic struggle between life and death, between health and disease. In order to suitably “cure” the nation, not just of Covid19 but also of conspicuously corollary debilities of unqualified national governance, Americans must first correctly identify the pertinent “disease process.” Otherwise, at best, we might manage to excise certain visible pathologies, but still leave all underlying, systemic and metastasizing national “malignancies” fully intact.

               By definition, that would represent a meaningless or “pyrrhic victory” for a nation at existential risk.

               Always, as with identifying plausible solutions to the Corona Virus assault, pertinent analyses must be appropriately (1) systematic and (2) dialectical.[3] Hard questions must be raised. For one, how did Americans ever manage to get to this bitterly rancorous and disjointed national place? In time, will the long-term anarchy of inter-state relations be transformed into an even less sustainable chaos?[4]

               Relevant explanations – though not genuine long-term solutions – are still substantially unhidden.

               Somehow, driven by egocentric considerations of taxation, commerce and a barbarous presidential ethos of self promotion, our American system of governance has managed to create a uniquely toxic amalgam. From this palpably poisonous fusion of plutocracy and mob rule, virtually any conceivable destructions could still be born and multiplied.[5] As we have so unhappily been witnessing, this expanding wreckage has recently been enlarged.

               Where are we now? It is September 2020, and several alarming portents ought not be too-casually disregarded or thoughtlessly shrugged off. Currently, China, being diminished in increments by Donald J. Trump’s gratuitous insults and threats, is beginning to talk openly about selling off its approximately one trillion dollars of American debt (US Treasuries). During this same early September period, Trump has described US military veterans as “losers” and “suckers” (a perverse recapitulation of his prior disparaging references to American prisoner of war Senator John McCain as “no hero”); appointed a new postmaster-general in order to destroy mail-sorting equipment and slow-down the mails; and imposed bizarre sanctions on the International Criminal Court (a frontal attack upon international law in general).[6]

               There is still more. One again, this president has stood uncritically on the side of Vladimir Putin, this time regarding the latest Russian poisoning of dissidents. Trump also appointed a new and manipulable Covid19 advisor to assure America’s further subordination of science to politics, and has pushed ahead with an utterly incoherent and treasury-busting military parody known formally as “Space Force.”[7] Similarly incomprehensible was Trump’s previous withdrawal of the United States from the World Health Organization in the midst of pandemic.

               Credo quia absurdum, said the ancient philosophers. “I believe because it is absurd.”

               If these “crazy” infringements were not enough to satisfyingly worsen life in the US and also throughout the world, Donald J. Trump’s reliably obsequious attorney general stated shamelessly during a major television interview that he “could not really be sure” that voting twice is illegal. Said William Barr, America’s senior legal officer, “It depends upon the state.” Can this conceivably be a serious official response?

               Credo quia absurdum.

               There is more. Americans face many interrelated obligations. One overarching duty concerns this country’s distressingly proud culture of American illiteracy. Lest such an indictment sound harsh or even silly, one need only be reminded that this US president rose to high office by exclaiming to cheering rally crowds: “I love the poorly educated.”

               This 2016 campaign refrain was not just an off-the-cuff spasm of populist sentiment. Rather, it was a carefully fashioned echo of Joseph Goebbels’ 1934 Nuremberg rally shriek: “Intellect rots the brain.” It stands in starkly ironic contrast with the earlier expressed viewpoint of Thomas Jefferson. Said America’s third president: “To penetrate and dissipate the clouds of darkness, the general mind must be strengthened by education.”[8]

               Over the years, certain others have understood Jefferson’s wisdom. “The mass man,” says 20th century Spanish philosopher Jose Ortega y’Gasset, “learns only in his own flesh.” This is precisely the aspiring demagogue who now sits smugly in the American White House. With such inherently distorted national leadership, the United States can never expect to distinguish correctly between truth and shadows.[9]

               Never.

               None of this is mere hyperbole. After all, we continuously inhabit a feverishly anti-intellectual country, a place of consistent analytic decline, one where exemplary medical science is often anathema, where truth is often given no quarter and where virtually no one pauses to read a serious book. This worrisome demographic includes Donald J. Trump, who not only eschews the instructive written word – especially where it might sometime be elegantly fashioned or science-based – but who also draws vast political support because of his expressed loathing for literature, law[10] and philosophy.

                In the United States, this ironic loathing is not veneered or in any manner denied or disguised. Here, instead, a disfiguring American president’s consuming lack of intellectual and historical interests has actually come to represent an enviable political asset. Credo quia absurdum.

               Core citizen obligations obtain. Always, We the people must remain determinedly analytic. Derivatively, we should promptly inquire: Is there any graspable evidence to support genuinely existential threats or concerns?

               Incontestably, all of us are now under persistent and still-growing microbial assault from Covid19. Still worse, this biological “plague” could sometime intersect with the more “normal” geopolitical hazards of war,[11] terrorism and/or genocide.[12] In the imaginably worst case scenarios,[13] this intersection would also be “synergistic;” that is, a fearful coming-together wherein the injurious “whole” would be tangibly greater than the calculable sum of injurious  “parts.”[14]

                Significantly, credible explanations are unhidden. At the head of America’s government and society now sits a “mass man,” one who openly abhors intellect and simultaneously extracts correlative political  benefits. This would not be the case (and also America’s potentially existential curse) if the prevailing modalities of U.S. culture and law were more closely aligned with proper standards of evidence and truth. Now, on any given day, Donald Trump (or his designated lapdog of the moment, e.g., Attorney  General William Barr on voting twice, or Vice President Mike Pence, who fawns uncontrollably because he has no apparent license to think) makes statements that are preposterous prima facie.

               Back home in Indiana, Mr. Pence could never even have imagined a future in which he would ever be taken seriously.

               Credo quia absurdum.

               There is more. Although many Americans remain content with strangely still-lingering hopes to grow personal wealth, even the richest among us are deprived. Resigned to either a dreary future of exhausting and unsatisfying work, or to a terminal prospect of war and disease, even the financially most “successful” must now live with variously intersecting kinds of death and despair. Small wonder, then, that “no vacancy” signs hang prominently outside America’s largest prisons and that a progressively immobilizing Opiate Crisis is no longer even news.

               In a nation of increasingly institutionalized unhappiness, it is simply the “new normal.”

                There is more. For the most part, once flaunted American “truths” are now discoverable only as myth. One prominent example can be found in our massively beleaguered universities.

               For more than fifty years – the actual time I have lived in several of our most distinguished national universities – considerations of raw commerce have  trumped considerations of pure learning.[15] What is surprising these days is that dishonorable and illegal parental efforts to get their kids into college should even be considered scandalous. What were these coddled young people planning to learn?

               No one seems to know, not even the prospective students.

               To repair a broken country, candor and good taste – not just presidential elections – will be indispensable.For a time, We the people have no longer been motivated by any proper considerations of enduring human value. For the most part, we don’t actively seek any equanimity or “balance” as a healing counterpoint to frenetic daily lives. Distressingly, we still search anxiously for “opportunities” to buy into a life of narrow imitation, an inherently unsatisfying existence dedicated to leeringly empty pleasures and steadily-expanding mountains of pain-dulling drugs.

               At almost every level, therefore, Americans “freely” choose (like the oft-flaunted “American freedom” not to wear a mask) a life of diaphanous shadows over one of tangible truth.

               Not much mystery here. The relevant numbers are easily available and “beyond any reasonable doubt.” To wit, at each and every moment of the day, millions of America’s more-or-less exhausted citizens consume enough alcohol and drugs to suffocate any still-lingering residues of human wisdom. By itself, and long before Covid19, the Opiate Crisis cost the country several trillion dollars (to apply the narrowly quantifiable metric of money), and still represents wholly unfathomable levels of grievous human suffering.

               Americans need to be candid. These are not superficial infirmities. Instead, what we are describing hereare deep, irremediable and inconsolable levels of collective despair.

                Truth, not shadow, is exculpatory. Whatever is now being decided in our politics or in our universities, Americans are presently carried forth not by Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “high thinking and plain living,” but by profoundly sorrowful eruptions of fear and agitation. At times, we the people may wish to slow down a bit and “smell the roses,” but America’s battered and battering ambience continues to impose upon its residents the ruthlessly merciless rhythms of a self-propelled machine.Left unchecked, the predictable end of all this delirium will be atrophied governance, advancing disease plagues and international war.[16]

                Donald J. Trump was not foisted upon the United States ex nihilo, out of nothing. He is, in fact, the predictable outcome of a society frequently indifferent or refractory to verifiable truth.  

                Americans inhabit the one society that could have been different. Once, we likely even possessed a potential to nurture individuals to become more than unthinking cogs of a compliant crowd, herd or mass.[17] Emerson, after all, had described Americans as a people guided by industry and  “self-reliance.” Now, however, we dutifully prepare to accept almost any conceivable personal infringements in order to avoid thought and cheerlessly “fit in.”

               In the end, credulity remains America’s worst enemy. Our still too-willing inclination to believe that personal and societal redemption can lie in politics and elections describes a potentially fatal disorder. Of course, many critical social and economic issues do need to be addressed further by America’s government, but so too must our deeper problems be solved at the individual human level.

               In the end, this is the only proper level for undertaking real change and transformation, the only stage that is not merely a reflection or shadow (what the philosophers would call “epiphenomenal”). Already back in the fourth century BCE, Plato set out to explain politics as a reflective and unstable realm of sense and matter, a second-order arena of human action formed by inconsequential half-thoughts and distorted perceptions.

                For Plato, in stark contrast to the stable or primary realm of immaterial “Forms” – from which all authentic truth must ultimately be drawn – the political world must be dominated by wizardry, falsehood and “anti-reason.”[18]

               Going forward, whatever our personal political preferences, history and intellect must be given a renewed pride of place.[19] Too often, we ought to finally know by now, a threatened civilization compromises with its afflictions, cheerlessly, and even while the “herds” (Friedrich Nietzsche and Sigmund Freud) or “crowds” (Soren Kierkegaard) or “mass” (Carl G. Jung and Jose Ortega y’ Gasset) chant rhythmic nonsense in a fevered unison. To meaningfully restore us as a nation to long-term health and potential (these two objectives must always proceed together), we the peoplemust learn to lookbehind and even beyond the upcoming November elections.

               For now, the shadows are poisons in their own right, but the tangible sources of these poisons must be targeted as well.

                Donald J. Trump – despite the obvious perniciousness of his catastrophic presidency – was never this country’s core “disease.” Rather, he has been a pathological reflection, a darkening shadow, or what Plato would have predicted was the inevitable symptom of any society that mistakes transient half-thoughts for genuine understanding.[20] Though the ancient Greek philosopher’s most ambitious remedy –  “to make the souls of the citizens better”[21] – is hardly a realistic goal these days, it must remain a manifestly overriding objective of decent human governance.

               There is one last but still primary point. In certain all-too-frequent cases, a portion of society does not “mistake transient half-truths for genuine understanding” – that is, confuse shadow for truth – but  instead, makes such dire substitutions willfully and knowingly. In these always-ominous cases, ones where certain citizens declare themselves to be “conscientiously ignorant,”[22] there can be no calculable benefit to offering mindful clarifications or elucidations of what is real.[23] Here, the only residually rational path to “remediation” is both conspicuous and immutable.

                It is to blunt political influence of the self-deluding societal portion as much as practicable, and, simultaneously, to sharpen this influence among those who would still favor Reason over Anti-Reason.[24]

               In today’s Trump-defiled United States, this path offers a difficult but navigable route, an indispensable journey from shadows to truth. America can choose to take this correct path, but the decision time still available is not unlimited. Too long conned by a willfully self-serving president, citizens can either rise above the Trump-applauding “mass,” or feebly accept a continuous display of  terminal retrogression.


[1]For generic assessments of the probable consequences of nuclear war by this author, see: Louis René Beres, Surviving Amid Chaos: Israel’s Nuclear Strategy (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016; 2nd. ed., 2018);   Louis René Beres,  Apocalypse: Nuclear Catastrophe in World Politics (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980); Louis René Beres, Mimicking Sisyphus: America’s Countervailing Nuclear Strategy (Lexington MA:  Lexington Books, 1983);  Louis René Beres, Reason and Realpolitik: US Foreign Policy and World Order (Lexington MA;  Lexington Books, 1984); and Louis René Beres, ed.,  Security or Armageddon: Israel’s Nuclear Strategy (Lexington MA:  Lexington Books, 1986).

[2]In a recently-published book, this infringement has been declared a “serious national security threat” by a former FBI agent working on such urgent matters: See, in The New York Times: https://news.yahoo.com/ex-fbi-agent-russia-inquiry-154326623.html 

[3] Dialectical thinking originated in Fifth Century BCE Athens, as Zeno, author of the Paradoxes, was acknowledged by Aristotle as its inventor. In the middle dialogues of Plato, dialectic emerges as the supreme form of philosophic/analytic method. The dialectician, says Plato, is the special one who knows how to ask and then answer vital questions.

[4] Historically and jurisprudentially, anarchy is an old-story, dating back to the Peace of Westphalia in 1648. Chaos, however, is “more than” anarchy, and would render all national  policy decisions even more uncertain, unpredictable and problematic.

[5]Sigmund Freud maintained a general antipathy to all things American. According to Bruno Bettelheim, he most strenuously objected to this country’s “shallow optimism” and its corollary commitment to variously crude forms of materialism. America, thought Freud, was very evidently “lacking in soul.” See: Bruno Bettelheim, Freud and Man’s Soul (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1983), especially Chapter X.

[6]The obligations of international law are generally obligations of US law. In the precise words used by the U.S. Supreme Court in The Paquete Habana, “International law is part of our law, and must be ascertained by the courts of justice of appropriate jurisdiction, as often as questions of right depending upon it are duly presented for their determination.  For this purpose, where there is no treaty, and no controlling executive or legislative act or judicial decision, resort must be had to the customs and usages of civilized nations.”  See The Paquete Habana, 175 U.S. 677, 678-79 (1900).  See also:  The Lola,  175 U.S. 677 (1900);  Tel-Oren v. Libyan Arab Republic, 726 F. 2d 774,  781, 788 (D.C. Cir. 1984)(per curiam)(Edwards, J. concurring)(dismissing the action, but making several references to domestic jurisdiction over extraterritorial offenses), cert. denied,  470 U.S. 1003 (1985)(“concept of extraordinary judicial jurisdiction over acts in violation of significant international standards…embodied in the principle of `universal violations of international law.'”).

[7]See, by Louis René Beres,  https://moderndiplomacy.eu/2019/12/28/trumps-space-force-a-predictable-future-of-war-and-chaos/

[8]Too often these days, this means an increasingly job-centered notion of higher education. In this unfortunate devolution, see, by this author, at Princeton: Louis René Beres, https://www.dailyprincetonian.com/article/2018/06/a-core-challenge-of-higher-education

[9]In the 17th century, the French philosopher Blaise Pascal remarked prophetically, in his justly celebrated Pensées: “All our dignity consists in thought….It is upon this that we must depend…Let us labor then to think well: this is the foundation of morality.” Similar reasoning characterizes the writings of Baruch Spinoza, Pascal’s 17th-century contemporary. In Book II of his Ethics Spinoza considers the human mind, or the intellectual attributes, and – drawing further from Descartes – strives to define an essential theory of learning and knowledge.

[10] For the authoritative sources of international law, see art. 38 of the Statute of the International Court of Justice: STATUTE OF THE INTERNATIONAL COURT OF JUSTICE, Done at San Francisco, June 26, 1945. Entered into force, Oct. 24, 1945; for the United States, Oct. 24, 1945.  59 Stat. 1031,  T.S. No. 993,  3 Bevans 1153, 1976 Y.B.U.N., 1052.

[11] Notes Sigmund Freud: “Wars will only be prevented with certainty if mankind unites in setting up a central authority to which the right of giving judgment upon all shall be handed over. There are clearly two separate requirements involved in this: the creation of a supreme agency and its endowment with the necessary power. One without the other would be useless.” (See: Sigmund Freud, Collected Papers, cited in Louis René Beres, The Management of World Power: A Theoretical Analysis, University of Denver, Monograph Series in World Affairs, Vol. 10 (1973-73), p, 27.)

[12] See,  by Louis René Beres, https://digitalcommons.lmu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://search.yahoo.com/&httpsredir=1&article=1151&context=ilr

[13] “The worst,” says Swiss playwright Friedrich Durrenmatt, “does sometimes happen.”

[14] For pertinent issues of a nuclear war, see, by this author, Louis René Beres, at The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists: https://thebulletin.org/2016/08/what-if-you-dont-trust-the-judgment-of-the-president-whose-finger-is-over-the-nuclear-button/ See also, by Professor Beres,  https://warroom.armywarcollege.edu/articles/nuclear-decision-making/ (Pentagon).

[15] See, by this writer, at Princeton:  http://www.dailyprincetonian.com/article/2018/06/a-core-challenge-of-higher-education

[16] Ironically, this expectation of international war stands in contrast to the customary legal assumption of solidarity between states. This rudimentary assumption concerns a presumptively common struggle against both anarchy and international war. Such a “peremptory” expectation, known in formal jurisprudence as a jus cogens assumption, was already mentioned in Justinian, Corpus Juris Civilis (533 CE); Hugo Grotius, 2 De Jure Belli ac Pacis Libri Tres, Ch. 20 (Francis W. Kesey., tr, Clarendon Press, 1925)(1690); and Emmerich de Vattel, 1 Le Droit Des Gens, Ch. 19 (1758). According to Blackstone, each state and its leaders are expected “to aid and enforce the law of nations, as part of the common law, by inflicting an adequate punishment upon offenses against that universal law . . . .” WILLIAM BLACKSTONE, PUBLIC WRONGS, in COMMENTARIES ON THE LAWS OF ENGLAND, Book 4 Ch. 1 (Philadelphia, J.B. Lippincott & Co. 1893).  Though assuredly not known to US President Trump or to his most senior legal advisors, Sir William Blackstone’s Commentaries represent the core foundation of all US law.

[17]These key terms, more-or-less synonymous, were favored, respectively, by Soren Kierkegaard, Friedrich Nietzsche and  Carl G. Jung.

[18]Accordingly, we may learn from Karl Jaspers’ Reason and Anti-Reason in our Time: (1952): “Reason is confronted again and again with the fact of a mass of believers who have lost all ability to listen, who can absorb no argument and who hold unshakably fast to the Absurd as an unassailable presupposition – and really do appear to believe.” Could any words better describe the “mass-man” (and “mass-woman”) who presently prefers Donald Trump’s medical Covid19 judgments to those of Dr. Anthony Fauci?

[19]See, by this author, at Yale, Louis René Beres, Yale Global Online: https://yaleglobal.yale.edu/content/call-intellect-and-courage

[20]“It must not be forgotten,” says Guilllaume Apollinaire in The New Spirit and the Poets (1917),”that it is perhaps more dangerous for a nation to allow itself to be conquered intellectually than by arms.” Still the best treatments of America’s long-term disinterest in things intellectual are Richard Hofstadter, Anti-intellectualism in American Life (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1964); and Jacques Barzun, The House of Intellect (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1959).

[21] Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung both thought of “soul” (in German, Seele) as the intangible essence of a human being. Neither Freud nor Jung ever provided any precise definition of the term, but it was not intended by either in some ordinary or familiar religious sense. For both psychologists, it represented a recognizable and critical seat of mind and passions in this life. Interesting, too, in the present analytic context, is that Freud explained his predicted decline of America by making various express references to “soul.” Freud was plainly disgusted by any civilization so apparently unmoved by considerations of true “consciousness” (e.g., awareness of intellect, literature and history); he even thought that the crude American commitment to perpetually shallow optimism and material accomplishment at any cost would occasion sweeping psychological or emotional misery.

[22] This is a phrase used by Jose Ortega y’Gassett in The Revolt of the Masses (1932), commencing the Spanish philosopher’s timeless chapter on “The Barbarism of `Specialisation.'”

[23]As explained best by Friedrich Nietzsche’s Zarathustra, “What the mass once learned to believe without reasons, who could ever overthrow with reasons?”

[24] On this seemingly everlasting bifurcation, see especially German philosopher Karl Jaspers, Reason and Anti-Reason in Our Time (1952). Karl Jaspers is best-known to the present writer for his classic The Question of German Guilt (1947, wherein he observes with timeless prescience: “A general truth must not serve to level out the particular present truth of our own guilt.”

LOUIS RENÉ BERES (Ph.D., Princeton, 1971) is Emeritus Professor of International Law at Purdue. His twelfth and most recent book is Surviving Amid Chaos: Israel's Nuclear Strategy (2016) (2nd ed., 2018) https://paw.princeton.edu/new-books/surviving-amid-chaos-israel%E2%80%99s-nuclear-strategy Some of his principal strategic writings have appeared in Harvard National Security Journal (Harvard Law School); International Security (Harvard University); Yale Global Online (Yale University); Oxford University Press (Oxford University); Oxford Yearbook of International Law (Oxford University Press); Parameters: Journal of the US Army War College (Pentagon); Special Warfare (Pentagon); Modern War Institute (Pentagon); The War Room (Pentagon); World Politics (Princeton); INSS (The Institute for National Security Studies)(Tel Aviv); Israel Defense (Tel Aviv); BESA Perspectives (Israel); International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence; The Atlantic; The New York Times and the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

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The Indignant Politics of America’s Mass Shootings

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Why do mass shootings garner the lead stories in the news cycle? Could it be the sudden cluster of deaths alone? Perhaps it is the public fascination over a shooter plotting evil or to illicit political theatre where finger pointing, blaming far-right ideology, chalking it up to mental illness, or creating a stir over the demise of the 2nd Amendment and government taking our guns.

These narratives would seem too simplistic for well-educated lawmakers obfuscating their responsibility by playing into an uncompromising political base rather than demonstrating a bipartisan effort to solving problems. Does the clinging to power in the legislature somehow become more imperative than the pains felt when facing the end of a barrel. In retrospect, lawmakers might ponder one of Mother Teresa’s favorite texts in the bible, which she often quoted to support her ministry, is “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did to me”.

To avoid fecal mudslinging over attempts to find common ground with political rivals or facing noisy garden-variety cynicism that it is possible to move the needle, courage will be required to grasp the big picture of gun violence and understand critical facts to create value in building trust across the aisle. According to the data compiled by the Gun Violence Archive (GVA), America is on track this year to be the second highest year for mass shootings with 607 mass shootings through November 22 against a total of 690 in 2021 (GVA defines a mass shooting where at least four people are shot excluding the shooter).

While 637 deaths and 3,179 people shot in mass shootings so far in 2022 is abhorrent, there has been a stark total of 40,373-gun violence deaths in the US this year as of Nov. 29. A total of 21,978 of these deaths were suicides whereas 18,395 comprise of homicides, unintentional, and defensive use.

For those wondering about racism in law enforcement by the likes of Black Lives Matter and the far left defund the police efforts, 62 officers have been killed in the line of duty so far this year with 769 subjects shot dead or injured in police situations.

About 40% of Americans now own firearms where 18% of American households purchased a gun during the COVID-19 pandemic, and 5% of US adults bought a gun for the first time. The question that bares asking is why the increase in purchases. Could it be State AG’s allowing criminals to walk or no-bail for violent crimes only to reoffend and commit further harm and death? What about worried citizens who are fearful of the millions of immigrants illegally crossing the southern border, or the Antifa riots that caused mayhem, death, and destruction with little to no police response to protect neighborhoods and businesses. With Americans being killed at the highest rate in 30 years, they are now packing more than ever to protect their families in what may feel like a purge.  

Let’s dig deeper into the starkest gun violence statistic. Black Americans are disproportionately more likely to be killed by a gun with the most vulnerable ages 25-45. According to the CDC, 6,600 were shot dead in this category or at an astonishing 54.43 per 100,000 people. Blacks aged 10-24 years did not fare well either at 4,347 killed or 48.80 per 100,000. By comparison, white people came in at 1,918 or 3.91 per 100,000 in the older group and 653 or 1.97 per 100,000 in the younger bracket.

Clearly, black on black violence is a huge problem that is not being addressed or focused on by the media or political leaders. On the heels of the media coverage and President Biden’s repeated mass shooting comments to ban guns following the terrible mass shootings at the Wal-Mart in Virginia leaving six people dead and five people dead three days earlier in a shooting rampage at a nightclub in Colorado, there were 31 people shot and 6 killed across Chicago the following Thanksgiving weekend. These combined shootings amount to mass shootings taking place every weekend in dystopian-like enclaves in Detroit, St. Louis, Baltimore, and New York to name a few. Where is the media coverage and why are these predominately black neighborhoods allowed to fall into tyranny?

To make the case for Republican bipartisanship support to work towards reducing guns in the wrong hands, the Democrats will need to reciprocate on the most glaring killer facing America. According to the CDC, fentanyl is now the leading cause of death among US adults (ages 18-45); more than Covid-19. Fentanyl, the cheap to produce and easy to transport killer that is 100 times stronger than morphine, has seen deaths nearly double in two years from 32,754 in 2019 to 64,178 in 2021.

The cartels in Mexico producing the candy-colored drug in super labs purchase the ingredients and chemicals from China. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) say they are combating the problem; however, their actions are profoundly incompetent with the substance crossing a porous border with Mexico. It is unconscionable that the Biden Administration does not use every tool to pressure China to stop the exports to the cartels and it is a crime by China who can lock down a population of over a billion people over Covid yet fail to prevent these shipments. China is an accomplice to mass killings in the US.

According to the FAA, there is an average of 64.4 passengers per domestic flights in the US. The number of fentanyl deaths would be equivalent to three passenger aircraft going down with all onboard perishing in the crash. Would American politicians not call for the immediate grounding of all flights until there were assurances that no further loss of life was at peril. Should the human mules coming across the southern border not also be halted with the same sense of urgency to save over 190 lives every day from fentanyl?

No one person has the answers to nation-wide epidemics of gun violence and the fentanyl crisis. First, it begins with leadership to turn off what seems to be an incurable pathology to assign blame. The unfounded white supremacy is divisive rhetoric while claiming the 2nd Amendment to bear arms is at risk. It is simply untrue. Progress will have a greater chance of success if the small but loud voices are sidelined, contributions from influential lobbies are refused, and the media covers the big picture.  

Politician can no longer wait to act on the comprehensive measures. Just ask black Americans if they want to defund police and see active enforcement and protection in their neighborhoods. There needs to be a focus on cultural and social factors, guidance counseling and education that focuses on responsibility in the family and community. Gun shops need to uphold current laws when selling firearms, and gun ownership should require at minimum to attend and pass a course on firearm safety that could prevent a deranged shooter from purchasing a gun prior to carrying out a mass shooting. Finally, if the Mexico government is not going to do the job, the DEA needs to forcibly remove fentanyl super labs making the killer poison. Time to get to work.

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Joe Vogler and the Alaskan Independence Party: The Last Secession Attempt in the United States

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The political system in the U.S is characterized by a bipolar system of division between the Democratic and the Republican Party. As a result, independent parties are hardly noticed and barely manage to scrap votes in the elections. However, independent parties in the U.S have been around since the creation of the nation and some of their leaders have gone as far as pursuing to secede from the federal government of the U.S. Joe Vogler was an Alaskan politician that rallied a major nationalistic movement in Alaska for the state to secede from the U.S. Although his actions did not bear any fruits, his creation of the Alaskan Independence Party opened the door to interesting questions and political theories. Is it possible for an independent party to hold major power in the U.S, and how much influence do the independent parties have in one of the most politically divided countries in the world?

Joe Vogler: An Alaskan nationalist from Kansas

Joe Vogler was born on April 24, 1913, in Kansas, U.S. In 1942, he moved to Alaska where he worked as a civilian employee of the U.S Army Corps of Engineers in Fairbanks. Although he graduated with a law degree from the University of Kansas, his move to Alaska demonstrated his humble beginnings and love for a more traditional lifestyle away from the metropolises of America. Besides working construction in military bases, Vogler was involved in the development of real estate and mining in Alaska.

Described by his admirers as a stand-up, no-nonsense man, Vogler started his early nationalist views of an independent Alaska in the early 1970s, where he frequently wrote letters to editors in newspapers, calling for Alaska to secede from the federal government of the U.S. In 1973, he founded the Alaskans for Independence organization to label his petition drive to secede from America. In 1984, he founded the Alaskan Independence Party (AIP), which he led for almost a decade until his sudden disappearance and death in 1993.

The Alaskan Independence Party: Libertarian conservatism at its finest

The Alaskan Independence Party (AIP) gained momentum in the early 1980s when Joe Vogler founded the party with a clear focus on the independence of Alaska from the United States. The ideology of the party is a mix of Alaskan nationalism and libertarian conservatism. It is easy to see where Alaskan nationalism comes from and why it was advocated. As one of the largest states in the U.S, Alaska has immense mineral and oil wealth, with the oil and gas industries being the largest component in the state. Almost 85% of the state budget is supplied by oil revenues. Not to mention that Alaska has an important geopolitical position, being isolated from the continental U.S and sharing a maritime border with the Russian Federation.

The position of Alaska on the world map is a very strategic one and a major advantage in trading, fishing, and mining. Marie Francis, a writer from Southcentral Alaska and a registered member of AIP shares the same views as many Alaskans who advocate for the independence of their state. In her own words as posted in the Anchorage Daily News she describes how beneficial would be the actual secession of Alaska for the people that live there, who many times feel abandoned by the federal government due to their small population. “As the U.S. engages in trade wars, an independent Alaska would make international trade agreements on our terms. Our geographic position at the top of the Pacific grants us access to Asian and North American markets, and as Arctic shipping lanes open in the decades to come, European markets. Currently, we are relegated to the position of a dejected American outpost, yet almost all air cargo being transported between the United States and Asia flows through Ted Stevens Intl. Airport. Alaska’s economic potential is much greater than what the U.S. allows” (Anchorage Daily News, Marie Francis).

The last sentence by Marie Francis reveals the nature of the U.S government taking full advantage of the position and natural resources of Alaska while at the same time disregarding the voices of the Alaskan population simply because of their low population compared to the other 49 states of America. When people of a particular geographical area feel isolated from their government in a metaphorical and literal sense and find unity under the same cause, isn’t that a classic recipe for a nationalistic independence movement?

Regarding the philosophical ideology of the party, we can see many similarities with other political parties in the U.S, like the Libertarian Party and the Republican Party. The primary ideology is based on traditional American values such as the right to bear arms, privatization away from the sphere of public sectors, and of course limited government interference. These particular American values are mixed with a libertarian conservatism philosophy that advocates among many things, the maximum economic liberty for the people, combined with the minimum government regulation of economic and social life. Although on many occasions this political and social philosophy is mirroring classical liberalism, what distinguishes it is the focus on American values and a sense of morality and duty toward the idea of free and independent people from any form of government regulations.

Margaret Randall, an American writer and academic describes the notion of libertarian conservatism as an expression of personal freedom and individualism, the same ideology that can be found in the early works of Henry David Thoreau. Thoreau was an American naturalist and philosopher, mostly known for his advocation of individualism and limitation of the power that the American government had at that time. His book Civil Disobedience (1849), argues that any form of progress comes from the ingenuity of the people not from the government, and as a result, the best thing for any government to do is to let the people govern themselves and flourish. He concludes that the best government is one that does not govern at all. It is easy to connect the ideological position of the AIP with the notion of Alaskan nationalism, as both the ideology and the practical implementation of its positions reveal a mix of liberalism, conservatism, libertarianism, naturalism, and a strong apathy for any form of government that wishes to control the individuality of its local population.

Joe Vogler’s controversial views and sudden disappearance

Joe Vogler made a couple of unsuccessful bids for public office, with the first one being back in 1974, when he ran for governor of Alaska, only to lose by a large margin to Jay Hammond who represented the Republican Party. After that, in 1978, he tried to run as a lieutenant governor alongside Don Wright, only to lose again to Jay Hammond. He made two last attempts to run as a governor in 1982 and 1986, but his efforts did not result in a positive outcome. Although none of his efforts resulted in a victory, Vogler still had quite a few thousand supporters that rallied behind his nationalistic cause. His libertarian rhetoric appealed to many Alaskans that felt that indeed they are being exploited and overlooked by the U.S government. He was extremely un-American in a political sense and a harsh critic of all the government institutions that he felt had no place in the state that he envisioned.

On May 30, 1993, Joe Vogler suddenly disappeared, just a couple of weeks before he addressed the United Nations on the issue of Alaskan independence. A close friend called the authorities after not hearing from him for a couple of days. An investigation took place to find him. After a couple of months of unsuccessful attempts to find Vogler, a man called the authorities informing them that a suspicious truck with a bullet hole at the back was seen at Fairbanks at the same time that Vogler disappeared. The man driving the truck was identified and was taken into custody. Manfried West immediately confessed to the murder of Joe Vogler. He claimed that Vogler wanted to buy plastic explosives from him, and when the deal went wrong he shot Vogler and buried him. After almost a year, an anonymous tip revealed the location of Vogler’s body. He was buried in a shallow grave outside Fairbanks. West was convicted of 80 years of prison time and currently serves his time at the Palmer Correctional Facility in Sutton.

Joe Vogler’s sudden disappearance and murder did not sit well with a lot of people affiliated with AIP, who felt that his death was an execution and that Manfried West was hired to do the job. These speculations seem to fit the narrative that Vogler’s death was not just a  deal that went wrong. It is important to mention that Vogler managed to gain the support of Iran to sponsor his speech at the U.N. At that time, relations between the two states had deteriorated right after the Persian Gulf War when Iran was accused of trying to replace Iraq as the most dominant power in the Gulf. By 1992, under the Bush Administration, Congress had passed the Iran-Iraq Nonproliferation Act, sanctioning specific materials that could be used for the development of advanced weaponry. As a result, Iran’s support to Joe Vogler would have been an embarrassment for the U.S if he managed to speak at the podium at the U.N.

In addition, Vogler, throughout his political career had made a lot of enemies and powerful people back in Washington D.C did not see his intentions as just an effort to secede from the U.S. By the time his political career started, the Cold War was still at its peak and the competition with the Soviet Union was the most serious matter that affected the whole globe. Vogler was accused by many, of being a socialist, and people in D.C were worried that his views may find support back in Moscow, who could seek to find an opportunity to have closer relations with an independent Alaska. We might never find the truth about Vogler’s death and the people responsible for it, but we can only speculate that powerful people in the political arena of the U.S would not have been happy if Vogler was allowed to speak at the United Nations.

The Alaskan Independence Party today and the future of independent parties in the U.S

Although Joe Vogler himself was unsuccessful in holding a public office in Alaska, that doesn’t mean that the AIP was also unsuccessful. In 1990, as Vogler was serving as a chair to the party, he supported Wally Hickel, a businessman and a member of the AIP who managed to get elected as the governor of Alaska on the Independence Party ticket, making the AIP one of the few third parties that had managed to hold public office in the U.S. However, after the death of Vogler, the party lost some of its power and will to continue fighting for an independent Alaska.

Today the Alaskan Independence Party remains the third most powerful party in the state of Alaska. According to its official website, AIP now has almost 19.000 registered members, nearly 25% of the size of the Democratic Party in Alaska. Remaining true to their goals until this day, members of AIP continue to challenge the authorities in D.C and demand that their voices be heard. As Marie Francis mentions in her opinion piece for the Anchorage Daily News: “We are receiving fewer favors from the federal government, and I firmly believe an independent Alaskan government would manage a better budget that would provide for all. As civil welfare programs are cut, the federal defense budget has been fluffed. We are being exploited by a government thousands of miles away for military purposes. The dignity of autonomy is not granted to more than 700,000 people. Secession would grant Alaskans the freedom to determine their destiny without federal oversight. I encourage my fellow Alaskans to discuss the endless possibilities and consider the Alaskan Independence Party”.

Independent political parties in the U.S have a long history of engagement in U.S politics. Although they are not always successful their presence is still visible in local and nationwide elections. Apart from the Alaskan Independence Party, other political parties across the U.S have made their presence calling for independence or greater autonomy. For example, there is the Independent Party Of Delaware, the third largest party in the state with almost 10.000 people registered with it. Also, the Aloha ʻĀina Party in Hawaii advocates for the independence of Hawaii from the U.S and a greater focus on traditional Hawaiian cultural values. The list goes on and on with political parties and movements across the U.S, in California, Texas, Florida, Vermont, Montana, Minnesota, etc.

According to the Pew Research Center, nearly four-in-ten U.S. adults (38%) identify as politically independent, but most “lean” toward one of the two major parties. This goes to show that although the presence of third parties is still active, people are not very keen on voting for them. Is it because their stance on certain issues is not appealing, or is it because the media is so focused on dividing the country between red and blue that any chance of reviewing or analyzing any other party’s position would be immediately suppressed? Joe Vogler used to say the same phrase whenever asked about his ideological stance: “I’m an Alaskan, not an American. I’ve got no use for America or her damned institutions”. How possible would it be for more politicians to come out and say I am a Californian, not an American, or I am a Texan and I’ve got no use for America or her damned institutions?

In politics nothing is unlikely and the possibility of these movements gaining more recognition and support may come sooner than we expect. With the incompetence of Joe Biden and the Democratic Party and the controversy around Donald Trump and the Republican Party, people in the U.S may realize that they need to look elsewhere for solutions. Maybe they will realize that the democratic system that they so much praise and demonstrate around the world, is just a fallacy of democracy with two parties representing the same goals with different colors.

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Americas

Canada’s Indo Pacific strategy

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Image source: saltwire.com

Canada’s Foreign Minister, Melanie Joly released the North American country’s vision for the Indo-Pacific on November 27, 2022.  Canada’s Indo Pacific strategy is 26 pages in length, and it has earmarked Canadian $ 2.6 billion (US $ 1.9 billion) for funding in the Indo-Pacific region. Through the strategy, Canada seeks to play its role of promoting peace and security in the Indo Pacific region by; investing in security and intelligence networks and cybersecurity infrastructure in the Indo Pacific, strengthening Canada’s trade with the region, building natural resource linkages between Canada and Indo-Pacific countries and to strengthen people to people links between Canadian citizens and those of Indo-Pacific countries.

The Canadian Foreign Minister, while unveiling the strategy highlighted the economic importance of the Indo-Pacific region while also stating that:

 “Every issue that matters to Canadians, our national security, our economic prosperity, democratic values, climate change or again human rights will be shaped by the relationship Canada has with Indo-Pacific countries.”

The strategy lays immense emphasis on enhancing trade ties with India, East Asia and Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries. To achieve the objective of greater trade with the region, Canada will appoint an Indo-Pacific trade representative (the vision also seeks to set up Canada’s first agricultural office in the region with the aim of increasing agricultural exports to the region).  In comparison to the vision of other western countries and Australia, there is a strong thrust in Canada’s Indo Pacific strategy on giving a boost to people-to-people linkages with the region. It would be pertinent to point out, that Canada is home to not just a large Indian expat community, but that Indian nationals account for the largest group within the international community (this point has been flagged in Canada’s Indo-Pacific strategy as well)

China factor

While Canada’s Indo-Pacific strategy cannot be linked to any one factor, but there is no doubt, that one of the key factors for Canada to focus on the Indo-Pacific is to reduce economic dependence upon China, and also find common ground with other countries becoming increasingly vary of Chinese expansionism. The 26page document released by Canada dubbed China a ‘disruptive power’, while also arguing that China seeks to ‘disregard’ norms and values by which it has risen. Says the strategy:

“China is looking to shape the international order into a more permissive environment for interests and values that increasingly depart from ours.”

In recent years, like many other western countries, Canada’s ties with China have gone downhill. Tensions began to emerge after Canadian police detained Meng Wanzhou Chief Financial officer of Huawei in 2018, while China retaliated by arresting two Canadian nationals of spying (all three individuals were released last year). In 2020, Canada had also shelved its trade deal with China. Then Canadian Foreign Minister, Francois-Philippe Champagne while commenting on differences with China had said:

“I do not see the conditions being present now for these discussions to continue at this time. The China of 2020 is not the China of 2016”.

Recently, Ottawa has also accused China of interfering in the domestic politics of Canada. Canada accuses China of providing financial support to 11 candidates in the North American nation’s federal elections of 2019. Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau had raised this issue with Xi Jinping during his meeting with the latter on the sidelines of the G20 Summit at Bali last month. Chinese President Xi Jinping had expressed his displeasure with Trudeau of leaking details of the meeting to the media.

Canada’s Indo Pacific strategy also seeks to prevent Chinese investments in areas linked to ‘national security’. The 26 page document stated that Canada would come up with legislation which would enable it to act:

‘decisively when investments from state-owned enterprises and other foreign entities threaten our national security including our critical mineral supply chains’

Canada had recently asked three Chinese companies to divest from the country’s mining companies citing security reasons.

The Canadian Foreign Minister, Melanie Joly said that while the strategy sought to safeguard Canada’s interest it was pragmatic. The strategy does refer to the need for cooperation with China on issues such as climate change, global health and nuclear proliferation.  In conclusion, Canada’s Indo Pacific strategy while focusing on economics, has a clear security component. Canada like the US, UK and Australia recognizes the need to reduce economic dependence upon China, and to keep a close watch on Beijing’s interference in Canada’s domestic affairs. The meeting between US President, Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping on the side-lines of the G20 Summit as well as Canada’s Indo-Pacific strategy do reiterate, that in spite of all the differences with China, western countries will seek to avoid the emergence of a ‘new cold war’ with China and to engage on issues such as climate change.

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