Thought of the Day: America First

I get the whole America First thing. Especially for politicians, because we elect them (or, in some cases, the Electoral College elects them, despite the actual vote of the people) to represent us, and our needs.

But my loyalty, first and foremost, is to the human race. I may have been born in America, but I was also born on Earth, which makes me just as much a citizen of the world. And while I appreciate the need to take care of and support my fellow countrymen here in the United States, my ultimate loyalty is to my greater community, that of humanity.

To better understand the America First mindset, let’s take a moment to follow the logic of placing the interests of your country above the interests of mankind. Why do people believe in putting the interests of America before those of the rest of the world? Because they feel like they have more in common with their fellow countrymen than they do with people from afar, which is only natural.

However, by that logic, shouldn’t they then be putting the interests of their state or province above the interests of the nation as a whole, because they have even more in common with them than they do with people in other states? In fact, we have already seen this to some degree, with the Republican effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act (though they are quickly learning the folly of their own thinking).

Of course, the logical progression would then dictate that they should put the interests of their local city or town above the interests of their state. After all, these are their neighbors, their local community, people with whom they are likely to have the most in common, people they may know and care about.

Fundamentally, what this line of thinking comes down to is putting their own personal interests above everyone else’s. For America Firsters, their home – like their nation – must come first, so they put their interests above even their neighbors’ interests. Ultimately, America First is nothing more than “Me First.” Which is why it’s no surprise that Trump is the posterchild for this sort of selfish thinking, bolstered by a base of people who use false patriotism to mask their self-serving worldview.

These people claim to care about America, but they really only care about themselves…their own little version of what they think America should be. You see it time and time again. They refuse to make a small sacrifice even if it will benefit the greater good, whether helping fellow Americans or everyone around the world.

Climate change is a great example. America is a leader in energy consumption, waste production, and pollution emissions. Yet we also have the means to significantly reduce all of those things but cannot achieve a consensus to do so. Why? Because our nation is filled with people (enough to put Trump in the White House) who are too lazy or too selfish to use less energy, eat less red meat, recycle, etc. despite the fact that such small steps, when done collectively, can have a massive impact – creating a safer, healthier, and wealthier world for everyone’s children, including their own.

And what really galls me is that so many of these America First types call themselves Christians. Would Jesus build walls to protect his disciples while the rest of humanity struggles and suffers outside? No, he was more of an Earth First sort of guy, quite famously putting the interests of all mankind ahead of his own personal interests. Perhaps we should all try to be a little more like him.

Personally, even though I am an atheist, I am an Earth First sort of guy, just like Jesus. And, again, I have never understood why more people, especially those who call themselves Christians, don’t follow his Earth First example. According to your holy scriptures, he died for our sins (not just the sins of Nazarenes, Galileans, or Judeans – but everyone’s sins). And yet, again, you won’t even separate your recyclables? You won’t reduce your carbon footprint, conserve energy, minimize pollution, make the world a better place for your children…and the rest of mankind? For those of us blessed with the opportunity to live in America, these are fairly small sacrifices to make compared to what Jesus would do for you.

And, yes, I understand the whole concept of the nation state, and it certainly made more sense when the world seemed a little smaller. But as I have noted in an earlier post, so many of today’s problems are problems that we all face together, as a species, regardless of our artificial borders and barriers.

For example, there’s the aforementioned challenge of climate change. Oh, wait, you America Firsters are pretending that global warming doesn’t exist because the politicians you support have their pockets stuffed with petroleum-soaked cash from Big Oil lobbyists. OK, fair enough. But the money you think you are saving by not addressing this challenge is a mere drop in the gradually warming ocean compared to what you are going to end up (and already are) spending to combat the growing impacts of climate change, such as the melting of the polar ice, rising sea levels, intensifying storms, failing crops, etc. (not to mention the money you are leaving on the table by not investing in becoming the global leader in green technology, which would surely have enriched the American economy for decades to come).

There’s also the energy crisis, with the eventual exhaustion of fossil fuels, all of which contribute to global warming – and many of which are produced by nations that use the profits to support terrorism. Oh, I forgot, those special interest groups own your politicians, so you have to conveniently look the other way…again. Keep driving that smoke-belching, gas-guzzling Mercedes G-class while your neighbor’s kids are shipped off to defend someone else’s oil fields.

What about social and economic inequities, as the population of have-nots exponentially outgrows the haves, who happen to be getting exponentially richer? You may be able to ignore that for now, but the walls you build today won’t be able to protect your children.

What about overpopulation, which is set to make food security and access to clean water two of the greatest challenges of this century? Again, you can’t build walls high enough to escape those consequences.

And what about health concerns, whether we are talking about plagues that don’t respect borders or simply the need for new antibiotics? Yeah, now you are getting a little worried, aren’t you?

Finally, your favorite…terrorism. If there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that this is a global threat that isolationist policies cannot prevent, right?

These, of course, are precisely the kinds of challenges the United Nations is working to address. And whether or not you choose to acknowledge all or any of them because they don’t jive with your political or religious beliefs doesn’t make them any less of a threat.

Like it or not, the one thing we all have in common – everyone on the planet – is that we are all citizens of the world. So, rather than just focusing on what’s best for America (and be honest, we’re really talking about what’s best for ourselves), we should also be focusing on what’s best for mankind. Because, with challenges like these, we’re all in this together. If we don’t tackle these global problems together, there won’t be any borders to defend – or anyone left to defend them.

 

How Dumb Is Donny Trump?

Donald Trump stood before representatives of the entire world at the United Nations last week and confirmed what everyone had already suspected…that the man is a complete moron.

Trump tried to make four main points in his speech before the UN General Assembly: 1) The United States is strong and successful; 2) America cares about America first and foremost; 3) Therefore we no longer care what form of government other countries have because ultimately we respect the sovereignty of each and every nation; and 4) The United Nations and all the “good” countries around the world need to help the United States to change or at least control the governments in charge of the “bad” countries around the world…namely Cuba, Iran, North Korea, and Venezuela.

Let me address each of these individually. First of all, regarding the power and status of the United States, there is no news here. America has been the richest and most dominant nation on the planet since before Donald Trump was even born…with a silver spoon embedded deep in his quivering rectum. Of course, the reason he led off with this is because he would like to take credit for all of it. But one thing Donny never learned over the years is that no one respects or admires the rich and powerful who constantly remind everyone else how rich and powerful they are. That’s just dickish.

As for this America first stuff, that’s also a bit silly. Yes, the people who lead countries tend to act in the best interest of their country. Or at least what they think is in the best interest of their country (or, in Trump’s case, simply in their own personal interest). Like America’s affluence, this also goes without saying. Yet, coming out and saying it – and doing so before the UN General Assembly, a body created to protect the interests of all people, regardless of their nationality – was tantamount to telling the rest of the world that it’s now every nation for itself. And telling the rest of the world that they’re now on their own not only encourages nations like China to try and fill the void in global leadership ceded by Trump on behalf of the United States, but it also encourages the rest of the world to turn to nations like China for leadership and support now that they no longer can count on the United States.

It’s particularly interesting that Trump has opted to go this America first route so forcefully. Sure, it plays well with his base, but he may be the first President of the United States who doesn’t actually believe it…or at least practice it. Since he took office, the man has continually placed his own personal interests ahead of our nation’s, just as he has throughout his entire career. His biography should have been called Trump First, because that’s how he’s lived his life. And it should be obvious by now that he only became President to enhance his own personal brand and endless ego, not the welfare and interests of his fellow Americans.

But the real news is Trump’s claim that America now respects the sovereignty of other nations, regardless of what type of government they have. That’s in stark contrast to American foreign policy going all the way back to the end of the 19th century, with the Spanish-American and Philippine-American Wars and the Boxer Rebellion. Rightly or wrongly, we have always taken an active interest in what form of government other nations have, often ignoring matters of sovereignty simply to ensure that the nation and its resources are available to serve our interests. In fact, we didn’t care if some of them shunned democratic values or neglected human rights, as long as they served our interests (just ask Manuel Noriega, Ferdinand Marcos, or the Shah of Iran). And this stance also contradicts the doctrine that led us into the Cold War, with the domino theory that one nation embracing a communist or socialist government anywhere in the world posed a direct threat to the safety and security of the United States.

Of course, this all flies in direct opposition to the final point Trump tried to make. If we now respect the sovereignty, the right to self-government, of all nations, then how can we oppose the sovereignty and right to self-government of certain nations, such as Cuba, Iran, North Korea, and Venezuela? Like so much of what comes out of Trump’s mouth, it makes no sense.

Furthermore, after telling everyone at the United Nations that America’s priority is America, and basically saying that every other nation is on its own, to look after their own interests first and foremost, Trump then called for the leaders of other nations to join him in a cooperative effort to make the world a safer, better place. Specifically, he asked other nations to help the United States and its allies deal with potential threats from nations like Iran and North Korea. If China takes Trump’s advice and thinks of China’s interests above all else, then they certainly aren’t going to help reign in North Korea. Which must have left the Chinese delegation wondering not only what the hell Trump was talking about, but what exactly the United States wants from them.

Unfortunately, this isn’t just about Trump making an ass of himself on the global stage, and thereby making America look uncharacteristically stupid. His ignorance and ineptitude could very likely have real and painful consequences for our nation, and the world as a whole.

Looking at the big picture, many of the problems we currently face are global in nature, such as climate change, energy, overpopulation, terrorism, the need for new antibiotics, etc. If every nation were to listen to Trump and focus on the needs of their own nation, then that weakens the opportunity for humanity to collectively work together to solve the myriad of challenges we face now and in the future.

Trump and his supporters clearly aren’t big picture thinkers, though. Yet his stupidity will also likely have some direct consequences that even they, despite their inability to see the big picture, should be able to comprehend. For example, with Trump openly denouncing the deal to freeze Iran’s nuclear program during his UN speech, why would North Korea trust America in any sort of agreement regarding its own nuclear ambitions? In fact, Trump has sent a clear signal to the North Koreans that a diplomatic agreement with the United States is no longer worth the paper it is printed on. And not only may that keep the North Koreans away from the bargaining table and busy building a nuclear arsenal, but – if Trump does indeed welsh on the Iran deal – then it wouldn’t take much imagination to envision the North Koreans selling their nuclear secrets to the Iranians. After all, if Trump destroys that deal, Iran will be free to pursue a nuclear arsenal, and North Korea certainly could use the money given the stranglehold we’ve placed on them with this latest round of sanctions. Besides, as Trump said, it’s every nation for itself these days. Including Nambia.