Welcome to the first blog post of “Living in the Era of Trump”. There are a lot of blogs out there so what will, I hope, make this one unique? First, it will try and explain different perspectives. I am not a fan of President Trump but I do think that trying to explain why he does this or doesn’t do that will allow us to see some of the nation’s underlying political dynamics.
There is a rule I use in my political science classes I call “Mike’s first rule of politics”. It is, “It is not useful to consider your opponent evil or stupid.” The corollary to the rule is that your opponent may, indeed, be evil or stupid but it isn’t useful, from a strategic point of view, to think so. I will talk more about this later.
In explaining the premise of this blog, it is also important to note it’s unique audience. In addition to students in my American Politics thru Film class I am inviting the over 1000 Civic Initiative Alumni to read along and submit articles to me for posting and to comment. This will allow all of us to catch up to what the world (in reality many world’s) is saying. Of course there is no country in the world where agreement is the rule so even capturing their disagreements will be useful for all of us.
Attempts at “neutrality” in controversial times are almost always doomed to failure. But that doesn’t mean you have to be caught in the debate of the day as it is currently defined. After the election I decided to not pay much attention to the news for a while and instead read some of my favorite authors who lived through difficult political times and were, in one way or another, engaged with their time. One of those authors, Montaigne, was an active diplomat and mayor during the French wars of religion. For most of his live France was torn between Protestant and Catholic. There was no compromise offered and little mercy accorded to an enemy. It was an era where “sincerity” of belief” was not considered a belief. What was important was that your enemy shared your belief, not that she sincerely believed in something else. Caught between these warring factions arose a group that referred to themselves as the “Politiques”. The Politiques wanted to find a way to compromise and bring France peace in the guise of political compromise no matter what someone’s religious faith. Montaigne was part of this group and he readily acknowledges that they were universally mistrusted by both sides. Reading a Hemingway biography recently I cam across this in one of Hemingway’s letters. “Hemingway’s message was clear. Neutral, middle ground was no longer viable, no longer on the map; those who would not choose would be branded sympathetic to the cause they most resembled. Hemingway, after years of insisting upon his political disinterest, was now publicly committed to anti-fascism, if not to communism itself.
So to begin the first of what I hope are many comments, the opening question is; “What, in the current age, should we do?” What is our level of commitment? What are we committed to? Is there any middle ground and what is the space for action? Is it better to sit it out and pursue our own private affairs and entertainment or is a new age of political engagement being forced upon us? In the next post I explore a few of the current issues in the news and ask some more questions regarding commitment. Before leaving, I can’t resist one more quote, this one, I think, from Leon Trotsky; “You may not be interested in politics, but politics is interested in you.”