I remain just one thing, and one thing only, and that is a clown. It places me on a far higher plane than any politician.
Charlie Chaplin

Politicians and diapers must be changed often, and for the same reason.
Mark Twain

The desire to be a politician should bar you for life from ever being one.
Billy Connolly

Trumping America

We live in a unipolar world. A world dominated by American politics and culture, which is maintained by American military supremacy and economic power. We live in a world that values the globalization of markets versus the globalization of human rights. We have become accustomed to seeing hope and wealth vanish from the majority, for the minority. We were told that globalization, economic liberalism and openness was going to improve the quality of life at home, as well as abroad.  We believed it to be true as Communism ended and the iron curtain fell. We believed it to be true as Eastern Europe opened up its markets and joined the game. We believed it to be true because Eastern European countries were joining the European Union, but we forgot about the bigger umbrella over their heads. NATO (North American Treaty Organization) is led by the US military, which never really liked the European Union in the first place.  Latin America believed it too, as they trusted the promises of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. We believed democratization to be true when the war in Iraq was waged against a dictator with the unfounded excuse of possessing weapons of mass destruction killing millions and paving the way for division masqueraded as religious extremism. We believed in the ideals of the Arab spring, which were supposed to bring about much-needed change and justice, but saw the crushing of peaceful resistance, as yet another move on the global chessboard of power politics.  We have been taught that western civilization, represented and headed by the United States of America, is a bastion of democracy and freedom. Is it though?

So much comes to mind for millions of people around the world -millions indeed, especially to those that are not white, Christian, American Democrats or Republicans - about what is going on in the United States, and how in the world it was possible for a man like Donald Trump, defined by those who opposed him, as a racist, sexist, homophobic individual, to actually become the 45th President of the United States of America.  A man that had said he would send investigators to Hawaii in the hopes of proving that Barack Obama was not born in the United States, and for fear that the Muslim African-American Barack Hussein Obama might have become President.

Trump is a man that repeatedly claimed that the media did not matter, because all that mattered was to have a beautiful and young woman by his side. A man that said many times that he would build a huge wall, as huge as can be, at the southern US border with Mexico and make the Mexicans pay for it. Mexicans coming into the US who were not good because they were most probably criminals and bringing drugs, as well as being rapists, although some might have been good. He directly blamed President Obama, the African-American, for not being able to stop the African-American thugs in Baltimore and called people demeaning names, and ridiculed and mocked a disabled reporter, and told others that they deserved to be cheated on. He said that it was natural for women to flirt with him, but admitted that his beauty resides in the fact that he is rich. He also declared not to be concerned with global warming because it snows in New York and it is cold, implying that global warming is a much needed and desired effect, demonstrating his disregard for the environment.

Trump stated that if Ivanka had not been his daughter, he would have dated her; a primitive, incestuous perversion, that further exposed the way he sees women.  Donald Trump might not be the only President or politician that makes sexist and chauvinistic comments, although nobody went as far as he did. There was a time when Silvio Berlusconi of Italy was Europe’s laughingstock and the Americans were patronizing and outraged as they told Italy and the Italians that the USA would never elect such a man, a man that treated women like sex toys. However, one should admit that there is no real comparison between Trump and the former Prime Minister Berlusconi, who is more like a Winston Churchill or a Charles de Gaulle by comparison.  Why? Because he did not insult his neighbors, mock foreign powers, or threaten his own people. He never said he would build a wall to keep the immigrants out or made hateful speeches about them.  The biggest difference of all is that the Italian culture that voted for Berlusconi has nothing to do with the American culture that voted for Trump. American foreign policy analyst Robert Kagan admitted in his book Paradise and Power that Europeans are from Venus and the American are from Mars. Europeans broadly believe in international law and cooperation, and desire perpetual peace, while the Americans believe in power politics and in a dangerous and conflictual world with man living a brutish, nasty and short life.  

Trump’s opinions and position on the Middle East, and Israel and Palestine specifically, is a whole other chapter; and a quite frightening one some might say, as he has already declared that treaties and agreements under international law, including United Nations resolutions, mean nothing, and are simply scraps of paper. He appears to want to be the most pro-Israeli US President of all time, which is difficult to beat given that every American president thus far has acted the same, never being neutral in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict or in the supposed peace process.  Trump declared that support for Israel is an expression of Americanism, equaling Israel to America rather than just being close allies. This way he enables Israel to do as it pleases and backs their actions, allowing the occupying state to further their expansionist policies. It is no secret that American politics, elections and presidencies are funded by a lot of money. It is money that buys candidates and votes, and ultimately victory. Sheldon Adelson, the most well-known donor to the Republican Party, clearly stated that he would have donated large amounts of money if Trump had pleased him. Not to mention the support of the most powerful lobby of all, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), which is a launchpad for any American presidential candidate and which has been a pillar of Trump’s campaign.

While Israel just approved a controversial plan to legalize settlement building on Palestinian land, it appears as though Donald Trump would not consider these illegal settlements as an obstacle to the peace process, and with this, will be moving away from previous agreements and positions of past US administrations. Moving the US embassy from the current capital Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is another flash point that is now on the table, even though it would be a gross violation of international law and a major change to the status quo.  East Jerusalem is Palestinian occupied land, although Israel has under other US administrations been building settlements and de facto taking it by force. However, making it legal in words as well as on paper would be a whole other story, and that would inflame the Middle East more than it is now. Despite all this, a large segment of the American population condoned his words and voted for him. That brings us to the bottom of all this, to how the rest of the world views Trump and the implications of his presidency.

People forget history very quickly, and do not bother re-reading it or trying to understand it. It can also  be very difficult to make the connection between the past, the present and the future, but if we do not strive to understand where we are coming from, we will never understand where we are heading, but most importantly we need to know why we think the way we do. 

There is a large part of American society that supported Trump because they were simply un-informed, uneducated or superficial and indeed may have been distracted by day-to-day life.  They were influenced, unknowingly of course, by the media and its agenda. Something people cannot even begin to imagine when they think to be living in a free and democratic society, with free media and freedom of the press. Most Americans believe America is the world's best democracy, and that its ideals are an example for the world, and its policies for the safety of the world. They believe that America does good and that its role is to police and protect the planet, because the world has asked it to do so, and they were forced into it. People believe that the United States protects the world from perpetual violence and war, in the West at least, because that is all that matters in reality. They see America and its hegemony as a benevolent force in the world, while many others see it as a malevolent hegemon and a force promoting, imposing and securing its interests and empire. With the election of a man like Trump, America is condoning those values and spreading them to the West, while at the same time alienating the rest of the world. They only need to ask the rest of us how the US is seen from the outside.  

One might be informed and educated, but we all have a set of values that are coherent to us, that make perfect sense to us, that are representative of our worldview, and are the foundation of our value system, and what we believe in. There are those that are democratic in theory and in practice, and that see humanity as one, and believe that we all share basic common values: to be happy, healthy, and live in peace. In other words, there are those that believe in universalism, or cosmopolitanism and in a universal set of human values. This group feels empathy towards others and generally acts altruistically.  They would rally for equal opportunity, access to education and health care for all, and have a deep desire to live in a world of peace that repudiates war and human suffering. Cooperation and international law are key concepts for people that value peace and who hope to create a better world.

It might be an idealistic concept, if we think that history is filled with violence and war; but that does not mean, for those that share this view of the world, that they will not work towards changing that cycle, striving for it, and making sure that it does not become a recurring problem. In other words, the people that share this view of the world recognize the realities and politics of the world system, but they nonetheless dedicate themselves, their lives, and their principles to bring about that change. This same group of people, with these sets of values, will not accept or become part of the self-fulfilling prophecy that aims to convince them that this kind of world is not achievable or realistic.

Another perspective or second paradigm has a completely different set of values. People who hold these views are convinced of their ideas, because they are based on their own set of human values. This group, knowingly or not, embraces a set of ideals that include individualism, opportunism and selfishness at its core. This set of values includes the belief that the world is a dangerous place and that the consequence of that danger is conflict and war. People cannot be trusted and are not prone to cooperate with one another, because they will always be stuck in a security dilemma not knowing if the other is to be trusted or not. This point of view does not allow them to envision the creation of a more peaceful world. Many are not aware of the fact that this lies at the heart of their value system, and when exposed to a different viewpoint they feel cognitive dissonance, a mental stress or discomfort that pushes them to hold on to their contradictory beliefs and values and cling to what they believe to be true or what makes them feel comfortable, even if they perceive it as being confusing or inherently wrong. They will also discredit or ignore the facts that seem to contradict their views and values, as those would shake their inner being, and put their whole world into question.  Understanding our value system is key to understanding what lies at the bottom of our mental processes and decision-making as well. Pessimists simply do not trust others, they are cynical and that attitude holds true both in personal life and when projected in the international sphere and in relations between peoples and states.

This paradigm will always see other people as threats, whether military, economic or social. This group of people is usually not empathetic, and they have difficulty putting themselves in other people’s shoes. This person will not put him or herself in the shoes of the less fortunate African-American, Mexican-American or Muslim- American, as they simply do not see themselves sharing common ground. The universal and human values that make us one human race are alien to this perspective. They see the world in layers, and not in interdependent circles. There is an “us” and a “them”, and there is a constant fear of losing what is theirs or sharing it with others. One group of people sees the possibility of peace in the world, while the other does not; and both groups go about living their lives and viewing the world differently and perpetuating the world they believe to be true, making it a self-fulfilling prophecy for themselves. Although pessimism, cynicism, selfishness and greed, dominate politics these values, are not always shared by everyone in society across time and space.

These two views of the world, or the two paradigms -the Idealists and the Realists, those that share the values of Kant and Rousseau and those that share Thucydides’s Machiavelli’s or Hobbes’ -are representative of two distinct ways of living, and their paths never meet. Education does not necessarily change how we see the world because it is our deep-rooted values the ones that make us think the way we do -even if we are not aware of it -that determine our thoughts and actions.  Our values, the ones learned at home, from our friends, peers and society make us who we are and shape our view of the world. It is for this reason that history always repeats itself, and humanity pays the consequences.

It is not that we do not learn from history but these two ways of viewing the world have always existed, from the beginning of history to this day, from the ancient leaders of Greece and Rome, to Hitler, Gandhi and Nelson Mandela. While some people struggle to achieve and create one type of world based on certain values, others believe and act upon the exact opposite, helping perpetuate a world that the other half does not like or desire. These two sets of people have always existed, the good leaders and the bad ones, the just and the unjust, the peaceful ones and the violent ones, the kind and the cruel.

Americans have a tendency to trust their leaders and want to see them succeed and do well and patriotism is key to them. American culture is built around that. It is not that Italians are not patriotic, but to them, being honest with oneself is the highest form of patriotism, as the well-known Italian writer Luigi Barzini once wrote.  If one can look at oneself in the mirror and accept and embrace his or her values, then fair enough. But if not, it is time to switch paradigms and create a better society and world, because we help perpetuate the world we believe in.

Author - Rania Hammad

Rania Hammad was adjunct professor of International Relations at St. John's University from 2003 until 2010, amongst other things, she is the author of The Other Israeli Voices” and "Palestine in my Heart".

Over time, public servants have forgotten that as their name indicates, they are meant to represent the public. Their arrogance and greed in the face of a changing world has led to both the terrible Genocide in the Middle East and the destruction of ancient nations the world over. It has to be time for us to say no more, the people deserve leaders dedicated to peace, not war.

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