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Robert Azzi: ‘Bad for the world – and bad for us’

  • President Donald Trump addresses the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters on Tuesday. AP



For the Monitor
Sunday, September 30, 2018

Donald Trump was elected, he believes, to end “this American carnage,” “drain the swamp” and “build a wall.”

On Sept. 25, the wall got a few more bricks.

At the United Nations that Tuesday, President Donald J.Trump, representing the American people, boasted that his administration had accomplished more over two years than “almost any administration” in American history.

Laughter.

“Didn’t expect that reaction,” Trump responded, “but that’s okay.”

No, it’s not okay.

On that Tuesday our emperor-manqué wore no clothes.

Standing at the General Assembly podium – addressing more than 130 heads of state – Trump strutted before the world and declared that America was done with them, done with globalism, done with historical alliances, peace-keeping efforts and that it was abdicating its historical role not only as the world’s most powerful nation but as an inspiration to others – the shining city set on a hill.

“I’ve spoken of the Shining City all my political life,” Ronald Reagan said in his farewell address. “In my mind it was a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, windswept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity. And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That’s how I saw it, and see it still.”

Sadly, that’s not how Trump, Steve Miller, John Bolton, Secretary Pompeo and others see America.

Together, they’re hunkering down and pulling up the ladders, bricking up the doors, and shutting down the ports to those with heart and will.

“America is governed by Americans,” Trump said. “We reject the ideology of globalism, and we embrace the doctrine of patriotism. Inside everyone in this great chamber today, and everyone listening all around the globe, there is the heart of a patriot that feels the same powerful love for your nation, the same intense loyalty to your homeland.”

Trump’s argument is that of greed, selfish ambition and vain conceit.

Loyalty to your nation does not mean turning your back on injustice; patriotism does not mean turning your back to the world; loving your nation does not mean turning your back on huddled masses yearning to breathe free.

In a peevish, bullying diatribe against a world he doesn’t know, doesn’t understand and doesn’t care about – a world he believes is made up of too many “shithole” countries and not enough Norwegians – Trump declared that American “sovereignty” trumps the interest of all other nations.

He has it backward.

“In the absence of justice,” Saint Augustine wrote, “what is sovereignty but organized robbery?”

Our sovereignty – each nation’s sovereignty – can only be assured within a internationally respected alliance of mutual interests and capacities based on trade, security alliances, and mutual respect and dignity.

“And devour not one another’s possessions wrongfully, and neither employ legal artifices with a view to devouring sinfully, and knowingly, anything that by right belongs to others” (Quran 2:188).

Blind to the atrocities, crimes against humanity, oppression, occupation, and exploitation of marginalized and disenfranchised peoples being committed around the globe by both enemies and allies, Trump asserted that America should “honor the right of every nation in this room to pursue its own customs, beliefs and traditions.”

While such as assertion appears noble – indeed is desirable under most circumstances – such honor is not unlimited and is not to be interpreted to mean that tyrants, dictators and human rights violators get a free pass.

Trump’s speech, Trump’s values, reflect those of right-wing nationalists with whom he ideologically aligns himself whether in Europe, in Asia, in Russia, in Israel, and with many Middle East dictators.

Today, witness the deleterious effects of America withdrawing from the world.

Witness, after America’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear accords the five other major power signatories – Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China – agreeing to work together to continue the accord by creating a “special purpose vehicle” to circumvent American sanctions.

Witness Trump’s failure to come to an agreement with our major trade partner Canada, with whom we share a long strategic border.

Witness that as we withdraw from international agreements and obligations the ascendancy of countries like China, which is responding to Trump’s imposition of trade tariffs in a tit-for-tat fashion.

Witness that while Trump has praised North Korea’s Kim Jong-un as being “open” and “terrific” and praised Kim for his “courage,” nothing of substance, nothing that can’t be reversed, has been accomplished. Indeed, only last month Trump canceled a scheduled trip by Secretary of State Pompeo to Pyongyang because of lack of progress on denuclearization talks.

Witness that as the United States withdraws from strategic alliances and agreements – from climate accords, from the Trans Pacific Partnership, from supporting aid for Palestinian refugees, and as it sheds its historically-assumed mantle of inspiration and leadership – we are made weaker, not stronger; America becomes less respected, less feared, more mocked.

That is bad for the world – and bad for us.

Tuesday, Donald Trump, was mocked; Tuesday, America was mocked.

Laughter –America became a punchline.

In August 2014, Donald Trump tweeted: “We need a President who isn’t a laughing stock to the entire World. We need a truly great leader, a genius at strategy and winning. Respect!”

Respect, indeed.

(Robert Azzi is a photographer and writer who lives in Exeter. He can be reached at theother.azzi@gmail.com. His columns are archived at theotherazzi.wordpress.com.)