I was thinking this week about the movie “The Ten Commandments,” particularly the scene in which Ramses, played by Yul Brynner, exclaims of Moses, a bearded Charlton Heston, “His God, is God.”
Third-party verification is important in most religious doctrines — Not only did Moses say it, but even his enemy admitted it!
Really, third-party verification is important in most ideological doctrine in general.
This is why historically the leaders of defeated armies and nations were made to kneel, surrender their swords, or otherwise publicly acquiesce — Let the record show, not only did we know we were right, but even our enemies knew it, as signified by their eventual humble acquiescence.
Some might suggest it is why the United States holds the type of questionably democratic elections that it does. I sometimes feel voting is akin to positioning oneself as a historical Yul Brynner — legitimacy confirmed.
But I was thinking about “The Ten Commandments” this week because of the comments of two men.
The first was Turkish President Erdogan, a man accused of genocide and other war crimes, of electoral fraud, a man who imprisons journalists and removes opponents. He offered his commentary on the state of American democracy after some of his goons were indicted by a U.S. grand jury, saying “They say the United States is the cradle of democracy. This can’t be true. This can’t be democracy,” and following up with, “I will not say this is a civilized country.”
Elsewhere, former President George W. Bush, a man with an extremely liberal definition of the powers of the President while in office (pun intended), and a pioneer in the field of Constitution-busting and other anti-democratic areas, wandered out from his seclusion to give a speech on the state of the country. In it, he asserted “The health of the democratic spirit itself is at issue. And the renewal of that spirit is the urgent task at hand,” before launching into a tirade against nativism, isolationism, bigotry, and, somewhat oddly, socialism.
The way the commentaries of each of these men was presented by most mainstream media was as third-party verification. As in: the situation has gotten so bad under Trump that even anti-democratic luminaries like Dubya and Erdogan feel compelled to defend democracy.
Perhaps this is true, but I experienced it differently. To me, it sounded like two men saying to Trump, “stop ruining it for the rest of us!”
Consider Turkey, which for years has been one of the top purchasers of weapons from the United States, a country in which U.S. nuclear weapons are housed, and which has been used as a launching point for U.S. military excursions in the Middle East and Africa. All of these things are very lucrative for Turkey, and it is likely President Erdogan does not want the U.S. President stirring up anti-war sentiment by threatening nuclear holocaust on Twitter.
Speaking of U.S. military excursions, this week, the story of four marines killed in Niger came to light. This was because rather than quietly and respectfully consoling the families of the soldiers, President Trump waited 12 days, then made a ludicrous and unsubstantiated claim about President Obama, pushing the story to the top of the news cycle.
The story, of course, was fundamentally about U.S. soldiers fighting and dying in combat in a country I don’t believe the United States is officially at war with.
At first, the mainstream media focused, as usual, on Trump’s boorishness and almost helpless lying. However, eventually some stories did start to trickle out asking why exactly U.S. marines were in Niger in the first place.
Even if the answers to “why” being provided to the mainstream media’s rare instances of journalistic vigorousness were shallow at best and diversionary at worst, the fact that the question had entered the mainstream narrative and public consciousness at all is important.
“Why” is exactly the question people like Erdogan, and the leaders of Saudi Arabia, Israel, and other nations built and maintained on a foundation of the American military machine, are hoping the U.S. population is not asking about the military-industrial complex.
As for George W. Bush, the rotten system which Trump is exposing through his buffoonery is the rotten system in which he and his family built and maintain their empire.
I don’t think it would be all that surprising to see Jeb(!) make one more run in 2020, presenting himself as the moderate and sane conservative alternative to Trump.
Hmm … we may get our Clinton v. Bush matchup yet.
But Jeb, George, and the rest of the family and their cronies certainly do not want the levers of tyranny exposed and perhaps opposed before they can get their hands on them again.
If you think that the state of the U.S. is so bad that even W. Bush and Erdogan are defending democracy, then I would agree with you, at least, on the condition the country is in.
But I do not hear benevolence in their words. I hear fear, desperation.
No wonder; people like Erdogan and Dubya are usually first to the guillotine.