Even ducks could do better

It’s not enough to announce that we are fed up with our leaders, and then get on with our lives in a “I don’t want to think about it” mode. Democracies don’t work that way.

Donald Trump’s supporters got one thing right. If you want change, you have to work for it and vote for it. They wanted simple solutions to big problems, and were happy to blame everyone else for all that is wrong in the world.

Now they have the driver’s seat. Unfortunately, even the duck in my featured image could do better than the driver they elected.

We either act and vote for change when things go wrong in a democracy, or face the probable loss of the right to do so. History has proven this time and time again.

I’m not okay with losing. Which is why I am back to the topic of trumping; a phenomenon that is spreading all over the world.

For those of you who don’t remember: Originally the word trump (to trump) implied a deceptive form of victory involving cheating. Later the meaning evolved to be less about cheating and more about winning. Now the word is back to its origins. It implies a victory involving extreme mudslinging and alternative (trumped-up) facts.

You may say what you want about Alec Baldwin, but he does a great Trump impersonation. So great in fact that I thought he was at it again a few days ago. Then I  turned to look at the TV and saw that it was actually Trump doing Trump in China.

The resemblance to Baldwin’s original portrayal was uncanny. It highlighted the fact that the US presidency has been reduced to a parody of itself.

You have to hand it to the Chinese though. They know how to set a scene and create an illusion. Their strategy was flawless: an abundance of flattery and ceremonies, a bag full of loose promises. Ergo, no time or need to discuss North Korea in depth.

Trump says he thinks he handled China well. Well he would think so, wouldn’t he? Keep in mind that this is coming from a man who also believes that Putin really means it, when he says that he didn’t meddle in the US presidential elections.

Yes, ducks would definitely do less harm than a president who believes his country’s long time adversary over his own intelligence agencies (and the rest of the world).

As fun as it is to make fun of this trip, we should keep our eye on the ball.

Senator Jeff Flake took to the senate floor a few weeks ago to announce that he was quitting the US Senate. There was only so much trumping he could take.

I happened to be flying over the Atlantic, when the news of senator Flake’s speech broke. I was flipping through the entertainment offering, when I stumbled on the speech itself on live TV. To my astonishment I heard Flake declare:

I rise today with no small measure of regret. Regret because of the state of our disunion, regret because of the disrepair and destructiveness of our politics. Regret because of the indecency of our discourse. Regret because of the coarseness of our leadership. Regret for the compromise of our moral authority, and by our, I mean all of our complicity in this alarming and dangerous state of affairs. It is time for our complicity and our accommodation of the unacceptable to end.

At this point I decided to nudge my partner in life awake too. The moment felt historical, whatever it will prove to be in hindsight.

Both the media and the White House were quick to point out that senator Flake (R) would probably not have been re-elected, had he stood up for election in Arizona once more. As if this made his stated reasons for not standing for re-election null and void.

Some saw Flake’s speech in the Senate as a play for the presidency. Which it might be. Flake himself didn’t categorically rule out the possibility that he would run for president in 2020.

So was this a historic moment, or just part of a political campaign? Does it have to be one or the other? Could it be both?

Most of the things we do have an element of self-interest, however selfless we feel we are being. Is fighting a neighbourhood fire wrong, if we do so primarily out of concern for our own home?

Personally, I don’t care whether Flake had mixed motives. What he did was right. These words needed to be said on the Senate floor as clearly as they were, by someone with a record for letting the facts fight, instead of the people

Did Flake get the ball rolling? Could speaking up when the situation clearly calls for it become the norm, rather than the exception, in the GOP? That alone would be historic these days.

We can’t allow this “anything goes” to become the new normal. Not in governing, not in any other areas of life. Flake got it right:

The personal attacks, the threats against principles, freedoms, and institutions, and the flagrant disregard for truth and decency, the reckless provocations, most often for the pettiest and most personal reasons, reasons having nothing whatsoever to do with the fortunes of the people that we have been elected to serve. None of these appalling features of our current politics should ever be regarded as normal.

As Flake noted, the means we choose to use, or to quietly condone, matter. If you allow harassment and other wrongdoing to continue without interfering, you are partially to blame.

This goes for all parties, Republicans and Democrats alike. It’s true for life in general, not only governing.

Alabama’s Republican Senate candidate, Roy S. Moore, may or may not have made unwanted sexual overtures to a 14-year-old girl some decades ago. That remains to be proven.

Either way, his supporter, Alabama State Auditor Jim Zeigler had no problem with a man in his early 30’s making overtures to girls in their midteens. Just look at Jesus’ parents he explained: Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an older man too.

Trump, the compulsive tweeter, suddenly had no time to comment. Even Donald Duck could do better as a moral compass.

The wins scored by the Democrats in the governors races in Virginia and Jersey, and other elections from Maine to Washington State, are encouraging.

But in the end it’s not about Democrats winning over Republicans, it’s about common decency winning over trumping. Victories need to be scored within Trump’s own party too for that to happen.

The same is true in all the countries and parties where trumpers are raising their heads, Finland’s Finns Party included.

We have had a rude awakening to the frailty of our democracies. They can easily become their own worst enemies. The one thing no one can afford to do is to get used to the situation and just be grateful for small mercies.

Kudos to the ducks, but it’s time to set the bar a little higher.

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