Sting: I’m an alien, I’m a legal alien. I’m an Englishman in New York
The Philosophical Assault on Trumpism
Establishment Republicans have tried five ways to defeat or control Donald Trump, and they have all failed. Jeb Bush tried to outlast Trump, and let him destroy himself. That failed. Marco Rubio and others tried to denounceTrump by attacking his character. That failed. Reince Priebus tried to co-opt Trump to make him a more normal Republican. That failed.
Paul Ryan tried to use Trump; Congress would pass Republican legislation and Trump would just sign it. That failed. Mitch McConnell tried to outmaneuver Trump and Trumpism by containing his power and reach. In the Senate race in Alabama last week and everywhere else, that has failed.
.. The Bob Corkers of the party are leaving while the Roy Moores are ascending.
.. The only way to beat Trump is to beat him philosophically. Right now the populists have a story to tell the country about what’s gone wrong. It’s a coherent story, which they tell with great conviction. The regular Republicans have no story, no conviction and no argument.
.. The Trump story is that good honest Americans are being screwed by aliens. Regular Americans are being oppressed by a snobbish elite that rigs the game in its favor. White Americans are being invaded by immigrants who take their wealth and divide their culture. Normal Americans are threatened by an Islamic radicalism that murders their children.
This is a tribal story. The tribe needs a strong warrior in a hostile world. We need to build walls to keep out illegals, erect barriers to hold off foreign threats, wage endless war on the globalist elites.
.. Somebody is going to have to arise to point out that this is a deeply wrong and un-American story. The whole point of America is that we are not a tribe. We are a universal nation, founded on universal principles
.. The core American idea is not the fortress, it’s the frontier. First, we thrived by exploring a physical frontier during the migration west, and now we explore technological, scientific, social and human frontiers.
.. From Jonathan Edwards to Benjamin Franklin, Abraham Lincoln to Frederick Douglass, Americans have always admired those who made themselves anew. They have generally welcomed immigrants who live this script and fortify this dynamism.
.. The original Republicans were not for or against government, they were for government that sparked mobility; they were against government that enervated ambition.
.. Today, the main enemy is not aliens; it’s division — between rich and poor, white and black, educated and less educated, right and left.
.. Trumpist populists want to widen the divisions and rearrange the fences. They want to turn us into an old, settled and fearful nation.
.. with entitlement reform that spends less on the affluent elderly and more on the enterprising young families
.. this striving American dream is still lurking in every heart. It’s waiting for somebody who has the guts to say
- no to tribe, yes to universal nation,
- no to fences, yes to the frontier,
- no to closed, and yes to the open future,
- no to the fear-driven homogeneity of the old continent and yes to the diverse hopefulness of the new one.
What is behind the violence in Myanmar?
Francis Wade, author of “Myanmar’s Enemy Within” explains the deep roots of the violence, and the long-term persecution of the Rohingya people.
This devastating violence follows several waves of Buddhist-on-Muslim violence to have hit Myanmar since its democratic transition began in 2011.
Aung San Suu Kyi has been criticised for her refusal to condemn the military’s campaign, which has emptied more than 170 Rohingya villages of their inhabitants.
.. Myanmar had always been depicted by observers in quite binary terms—
- of an oppressive military junta ruling over a
- stoic, peaceful, largely Buddhist population.
In the decade or so prior to the start of the democratic transition in 2011 the country only really made international headlines when journalists reported on the monk-led protests, or embedded with ethnic armies fighting wars of resistance against the military in the borderlands. So it was set up as “bad junta” versus “good society”, and the frictions within each camp, particularly the latter, hadn’t had much of a nuanced reading.
.. violence, largely communal in its expression, broke out in the west of the country in June 2012. Over four days Buddhist and Muslim mobs attacked one another in fits of frenzied violence.
.. Much of the violence was being perpetrated by Buddhists, goaded on by monks, and this greatly confounded observers.
.. The denial of citizenship to Rohingya means they lack state protections
.. Soldiers are seemingly free to execute civilians and raze entire villages without fear of legal recrimination. Once you’re legally cast as a pariah group it feeds local perceptions of you as an alien entity, of threatening intent—
- you must have been made stateless because to allow you to be a citizen would imperil our security.
- You cannot have the rights that would grant you greater political power, because that would be used to pursue whatever cause your group has set out to achieve—in the case of the Rohingya, the theft of resources, the Islamisation of Myanmar, and so on.
.. It is primarily fear, aided hugely by dehumanising propaganda and policies—tight restrictions on movement and access to healthcare; checkpoints at which Rohingya must show ID cards, and which reinforce this perception of them being a threat. That fear helps to justify the violence towards this community, and construe that violence as defensive. That’s how you sell a campaign of ethnic cleansing.
.. Hence a situation has arisen whereby those who criticise the military’s actions are rounded upon by the same people who for so long opposed the military. Now that it has ostensibly stepped back from power, a newer, even more menacing threat has emerged in the form of a Muslim group with apparently Islamising intentions.
.. Much of the present-day crisis has been stoked by the self-serving interests of nationalist leaders who dredge up historical conflicts in order to justify the exclusionary policies they support.
.. During British rule of Myanmar between 1824 and 1948 it imported vast numbers of Indian workers, as it did in colonies
This caused a sudden demographic change
But this demographic shake-up gave further wind to a budding anti-colonial movement spearheaded predominantly by Bamar Buddhists (Bamar is the majority ethnic group, and Buddhism the dominant religion)
those two identities became the pivot around which a national identity was forged against British rule. Indians came to be seen as stooges of British rule, given they’d often been privileged in professional hierarchies.
Nationalist groups accused them of diluting the “bloodline” by forcing Buddhist women to convert when they married.
.. after the military took power in 1962 it vigorously promoted Buddhism as the national religion (although that was never enshrined in law), and Bamar as effectively the master race. Later it decided, with no evidence provided, that precisely 135 ethnic groups existed in the country. British censuses don’t record any mention of a Rohingya ethnic group, although Rohingya claim a presence in the country going back several centuries and were recognised by the government after independence. Not being considered among the 135 indigenous groups, they gradually became a pariah community, denied citizenship and stripped of political rights.
. It goes way back to when the British took Myanmar in the early 19
century and imported its obsession with racial science. Colonial administrators set about carving up and codifying communities into distinct groups, and pinning attributes to them: some ethnic groups were gentle, others were wild, and so on.
It did this in its colonies across the world, and the results, as we know, have been toxic. What were fluid cultural differences between groups become sharp divides, and in Myanmar as elsewhere they have spawned competition and conflict—exacerbated greatly by a military that wanted control of every corner of the country—that seems intractable. This has become a permanent fixture in many post-colonial societies.
You’d be hard pressed to find any justification for violence in the scriptures of Theravada Buddhism, which is what the majority in Myanmar practice. But what’s always forgotten in these analyses of how certain religions are supposed to “be” is that people act primarily as human beings, with human fears and anxieties.
I was told that while Buddhism doesn’t support violence, those Buddhists who have perpetrated violence acted with the conviction that if Buddhism ceased to exist in Myanmar, the country would descend into anarchy. “If the Buddhist cultures vanish … there wouldn’t be the influence of peace and truth. There will be more discrimination and violence,” one person told me.
These may be Buddhists committing violence, but they’re also humans. I think its key to look beyond the religious element—it appears to me more an expression of nationalist-based anxieties, of which the fear of Buddhism’s demise is but one aspect.
.. they’ve been able to turn floating existential anxieties felt by many Buddhists into something more concrete by pointing to other former bastions of Buddhism—India, Malaysia and so on—where Islam is now predominant. Second, because a number of Buddhist nationalist movements have also functioned as providers of welfare to a population that has known only neglect. Monks carry huge social capital in Myanmar—for centuries and more they have served as the moral glue of society. Because they’re so venerated it’s difficult for those who don’t agree with their more recent expressions of xenophobia to challenge them.
.. There have been numbers of prominent figureheads of the pro-democracy movement who have issued inflammatory anti-Rohingya rhetoric. Again though, it shows a certain naivety on our part. We knew that they stood against military rule, and had used “democracy” as a powerful sign around which to mobilise a movement, but what exactly they stood for was less clear.
.. The Myanmar of today—and numbers of its pro-democracy luminaries-cum-chauvinists—proves how wrong it is to equate the concept of democracy with the principle of tolerance for all.
.. She seems to think it more constructive to keep the military onside than to leverage the moral influence she has to stop the cleansing.
The Captive Aliens Who Remain Our Shame
But he goes back to 1775, when the American Revolution turned into the Revolutionary War, to locate the origins of racial exclusion in the society that would become the United States of America. It was during these days, Parkinson says, that patriot leaders made a fateful choice. They embarked upon a specific and concerted plan to place blacks and Native Americans—no matter what their condition, whether they believed in the patriots’ ideals or not—firmly outside the boundaries of America’s experiment with democratic republicanism.
.. “Men like Jefferson, Adams, Franklin, and Washington,” Parkinson writes, “developed a myth about who was and was not a part of the Revolutionary movement; about who had an interest and who did not.” Other esteemed advocates of the Revolution, such as Thomas Paine and the Marquis de Lafayette, joined the effort. According to Parkinson, these men chose to prosecute the American war for independence in a way that put race at the heart of the matter. They used—actually helped foment—racial prejudice as the principal means of creating unity across the thirteen colonies in order to prepare Americans to do battle with Great Britain. The base sentiments they promoted for “political expediency” survived the fighting, and the “narrative” that dismissed blacks and Native peoples as alien to America—and conflated “white” and “citizen”—“lived at the heart of the republic it helped create for decades to come.”
.. Effective war stories were definitely required because despite the colonists’ complaints about tyranny and being reduced to—of all things—“slavery,” they were “the least taxed, most socially mobile, highest landowning, arguably most prosperous people in the western world.”
.. Eloquent words about abstract rights would not do. History has taught the sad lesson that fear and contempt are the most predictably powerful motivators for galvanizing one group to move against another.
.. They tied blacks and Indians and, for a time, Hessian mercenaries to George III, labeling them as his “proxies.” They were all to be considered “strangers,” even though blacks (enslaved and free) had lived among white Americans for years and, in spite of the many conflicts with Native peoples, whites and Indians did not only meet in battles.
.. British overtures to Indians and blacks were, according to Benjamin Franklin, enough to “dissolve all Allegiance” with the Mother Country.
.. Franklin made up stories about groups being used by the British—proxies—and worked with Lafayette to prepare a book (never published) with illustrations for “children and Posterity” detailing British abuses of Americans. Of the twenty-six proposed illustrations—we have Franklin’s suggested twenty and Lafayette’s six in their own hands—many revolve around proxies. Lafayette suggested an illustration showing “prisoners being ‘Roasted for a great festival where the Canadian Indians are eating American flesh.’” He also proposed a scene depicting “British officers” taking the “opportunity of corrupting Negroes and Engaging them to desert from the house, to Robb, and even to Murder they [sic] Masters.”
.. By “the summer of 1775,” the “majority” of the stories on the inside of colonial newspapers were about “the role African Americans and Indians might play in the burgeoning war.” While historians have focused much attention on George Washington’s going to Cambridge to head the Continental Army, the real story of 1775, Parkinson says, was the “hundreds of smaller messages” that were pushed through colonial newspapers about the threat that blacks and Indians, allegedly under the total control of the British, posed to patriot lives.
.. The offer of Lord Dunmore, governor of Virginia, to free men enslaved by patriots in return for their military service inflamed white colonists and brought scores of blacks to the British side. And some Native Americans, long accustomed to playing European power politics, sided with the British. Patriot leaders “worked assiduously to make this the foundation of why colonists should support resistance [to the British] and, eventually, independence.” They did so despite the fact that other blacks and Indians fought alongside white patriots, and more would have done so had the patriots been willing to put more of them in uniform.
.. Parkinson shows, however, that the newspapers did not circulate stories about black and Indian patriots:
Unless Americans watched the army march by, they had scarcely any idea that there were hundreds of African Americans and Indian soldiers serving under Washington’s command. Even though the Continental Army would be the most integrated army the United States would field until the Vietnam War, most Americans had little knowledge of their service in fighting for the common cause.
.. After Washington soundly defeated them at the Battle of Trenton, these white men were gradually transformed into sympathetic victims of the British. Eventually they were offered permanent places—land—in the new country they had tried to prevent from coming into being. There would be no redemption for their fellow “proxies.”
.. the patriots’ rhetoric of the common cause exploited fears about the “proxies” of George III, it is likely because of Jefferson’s recitation, at the end of the Declaration of Independence, of the monarch’s “long train of abuses.” These included “transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death,” inciting “domestic insurrections amongst us,” and endeavoring “to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages.” Parkinson sees that language, and the other grievances, as central to the patriots’ cause. In his view,
the Declaration was an effort to draw a line between friends and enemies, between “us” and “them”—or…between “we” [the Americans] and “he” [the King].
It is the “first assertion of an ‘American people.’”