Curtain Raiser

The Age of Flawed Presidents, Colltalers

There’s America, the myth. The land of the free, a country built by immigrants, founded on values of equality and justice for all. Even as it has hardly realized in full the dreams on which it was found, this is the America-in-progress that’s still attainable.
Then there’s present day U.S.A., still the world’s richest nation but now also quickly becoming the cradle of inequality. A place where over a hundred million simply gave up and don’t even vote, led by a president who’s a constant source of embarrassment.
Take the G-20 in Argentina, for instance. Another high-level world-leaders meeting, another series of photo-ops displaying Trump as the ugly American at its worst. In just a few hours, he’s managed to insult the host, get cozy with Putin, and brag about a deal.
By now, the 18 nations plus the European Union that make up the bloc are not just acquainted with him, but rather act like enablers to his diatribes. They’re falling under his braggadocio, and won’t confront him even over an universal issue such as climate change.
The former reality TV star turned leader of the free world had at the G20, another less than great moment on camera, adding to an already long list: he walked away from Argentina’s Mauricio Macri, who was left standing, arm still stretched, on the stage. Then, despite denials, he met with the Russian president. And lastly, he boasted about an accord with China that, in fact, changes little.
It’s not that other participants didn’t have their own awkward, and revealing, weak moments. There was Germany’s Angela Merkel, who got plane troubles and arrived in Buenos Aires via commercial flight. And France’s Emmanuel Macron, caught on camera pleading, ‘you never listen to me,’ to suspect murderous Saudi Arabian crown prince Muhammed bin Salman. Truly cringe worthy.
Macron, whose new taxation on gas has ignited violent protests by French union workers, never looked more unfit to the crucial leadership role that may be reserved to France, in case Germany turns into a far-right regime, following Merkel’s announced exit.
After all, he was speaking on an intimate tone with someone who the world’s intelligence community is convinced has ordered the murder and dismemberment of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at a Saudi consulate. Someone who Macron must help bring to justice, and deserves not whispers that sound like lovers talk, but the harsh admonition due to a rogue leader in need of reckoning.
As for trade tariffs, and the accord with China that Trump bragged about, it sounds a lot like what we’ve heard

when he went to North Korea or met Putin: since there’s no sign of an enforceable piece of paper to prove it, it’s very likely that he’s lying. Again.
Besides, as stated, the president seems clueless about how trade works. All this much ado about tariffs is not only distracting but amounts to a big nothing, since it doesn’t address China’s biggest violation of international laws: intellectual property rights.
That’s the present day U.S., which looks so distant from that American dream, lauded in song and dance. By even conservative figures, America has a higher poverty level than many of the G20 nations, with over 43 million a paycheck away from total destitution. Relatedly, it’s also seventh in literacy rates. It’s the shinning leader, however, in defense spending and people in jail.
From ‘bringing me your poor,’ we’re now the nation that puts immigrant infants in cages, or spray them all with tear gas. Where unarmed black people are routinely shot by the police, often with impunity, and mass shootings have become so frequent to hardly last a day of headlines. More seriously, a country whose president is under suspicion of treason and still lashes at judges and press.
A president who makes past presidents actually look OK, even if they started a greed-driven war, killing thousands of Americans troops and innocent civilians, like George W. Bush, or his dad, George H.W. Bush, whose passing is being mourned by the country.
Americans may be unaware of his role in the Iran-Contra affair, or his sinister actions in Latin America, as director of the CIA. But he was the last war hero president, and a rare one at that: leading a coalition of nations, he actually ended the 1991 intervention in Iraq.
In other presidential news, a veteran left wing politician, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, took the oath of office in Mexico. For our troubled neighbors, here’s hoping that this time, they got it right. May the new Presidente usher the bright future Mexicans deserve.
‘Real change never takes place from the top down, or in the living rooms of wealthy campaign contributors. It always occurs from the bottom on up – when tens of millions of people say ‘enough is enough’ and become engaged in the fight for justice.’ That was Senator Bernie Sanders, speaking to activists and progressive leaderships, who gathered over the weekend in Burlington, Vermont.
There’s the land of the free we all dream about, and there’s the hard work that needs to be done to turn it into reality. No president can prevent people from fulfilling their destiny; they either help along, or get out of the way. America’s still a work in progress, and its democracy is under threat. May that turning point be just around the corner, even if grief and disappointment will still abound.
It’ll certainly take passion, and due diligence, and an unflinching love for this Earth. For whatever we’re doing today, it’ll impact our immediate and long-term survival. Being alive, though, is all it takes to make a positive mark. Keep your chin up, compadres. WC


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