What is going on with our federal government? Two answers:
1) I don't understand, and 2) I'm appalled, shocked and scared.
Last week I did some reading and C-SPAN watching. I consciously tried to triangulate by picking sources with different implicit biases. The first, The New York Review of Books, liberal; the second, "Twilight Warriors" by James Kitfield (via C-SPAN2 “Book TV,” counter-terrorism establishment; the third, The Economist, conservative.
My synthesis is that Donald Trump et al. are really mixing things up, defying expectations and norms; that many sub-groups of the community in and around the federal government are seeking and exploiting opportunities; and that our society could be in great peril. Also, there must be some positive opportunities, both national and local, amidst the breaking apart of foundational structures.
I believe we have cause for alarm, but allowing emotions — fear, anger, frustration — to take over is a guilty pleasure we must forego.
The NYRB article details the counter-intuitive way Trump operates, plus the effects it has in our government and society in general, and provides theories about what motivates him. We may feel contempt, but we have to recognize that, consciously or intuitively, his practice of continually upsetting the conventional apple cart keeps people upon whom we depend on their heels, reacting.
The C-SPAN2 interview lays out a new consortium of U.S. intelligence/interrogation/assassination/technology groups designed to fight an ongoing war with Muslim-based extremist terrorism — a consortium which also, it seems to me, could be used to suppress domestic dissent, especially in The Donald’s hands.
The Economist article describes Russia's alleged interference on behalf of the winner(s) in presidential and congressional elections, and then points out that the CEO of ExxonMobil, the current leading candidate for secretary of state, recently received one of Russia's highest honors.
Why am I delving into this miasma?
First, I believe we need to share information and analysis within our community as we dope out what is happening nationally. I'm going to set up a thread on Open City Hall for this purpose, to which you are invited to contribute (go to www.ashland.or.us).
Second, there have been many calls from citizens for city leadership to respond to “what's going on.” Pam Marsh and I discussed the need to do so and the difficulties the situation presents. The following statement, which goes to the City Council for consideration Dec. 20, is an attempt to keep our poise while expressing deeply held community values. (Pam composed this amalgamation, which draws from multiple sources.)
STATEMENT TO THE COMMUNITY
The year 2016 has been challenging for many. On the national level, dissension has emphasized our differences and undermined our confidence in common values. Within our own city, we’ve struggled with direct and unconscious acts that have generated fear, fomented conflict and caused us to assess the standards that underlie our community.
Democratic government is dependent on adherence to fundamental principles. Therefore, as we look toward the new year, the City Council and mayor of the city of Ashland affirm:
- Our commitment to defend the civil and human rights of every person regardless of race, country of origin, religion, gender or sexuality.
- Our condemnation of hate speech and or crimes targeted at individuals or a class of people.
- Our commitment to maintain and defend the city’s status as a sanctuary city.
- Our determination to pursue a policy agenda that ensures individuals can turn to government for protection without fear of recrimination.
- Our belief in the founding principle of religious freedom and every individual’s inalienable right to practice his/her own faith.
- Our commitment to foster a community predicated on inclusion rather than division.
As individuals and as an elected body, we pledge to work to make Ashland a city that reflects these values in word and deed in the months and years ahead.
(This statement can be found on the city website at www.ashland.or.us. Comments are invited.)
— John Stromberg is mayor of Ashland.