[Vision2020] Trump's Perverse and Reactionary View of Western Civilization
ngier006 at gmail.com
Fri Jul 21 11:31:09 PDT 2017
Below is a slightly longer version of my Daily News column from yesterday.
The long version (attached) will appear in Pocatello's Idaho State Journal
on Sunday and 780 words in the Sandpoint Reader next Thursday.
Steve Bannon, Trump's Rasputin, was obviously behind the Poland speech.
*Trump’s Perverse and Reactionary View of Western Civilization*
Judaism, Christianity, and Islam have a common father in Abraham, so one
could argue that we have an Abrahamic, not just a Judeo-Christian,
religious culture. Adding the secular democratic contribution of Ancient
Greece, one could say that today we live in a Greco-Judeo-Christian-Islamic
St. Thomas Aquinas, the most respected Catholic theologian, was indebted to
an Spanish Arabic philosopher named Averroes. While Medieval Christians
lived in a cultural Dark Age, Muslim scholars preserved Greek culture
(Averroes read the Greek philosophers) and made contributions of their own
in science, especially math and astronomy.
In my own work, I have found that Aristotle, Confucius, and the Buddha
shared a common moral philosophy based in the cardinal virtues. Early
Buddhist monks had a democratic polity and near-by city states had a
republican form of government.
Before autocratic caliphs took over, early Muslim government was based on
elections, broad deliberation (including women), and the protection of
religious minorities. I submit that these are historical grounds for a
World Civilization based on common values.
In the U.S. Supreme Court there are statues of ancient law-givers, and one
each of Mohammed and Confucius stands with those of Moses and Solomon.
Muslims have lived in the U.S. even before Independence, and Islam, along
with Judaism and Hinduism, was recognized as a faith that should be
Thomas Jefferson undertook a serious study of the Qu’ran, and he may have
taken legal inspiration from it. Jefferson had Muslim slaves on his
plantation, and in 1805 he hosted an Iftar dinner at the White House to
break the Ramadan fast.
Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barach Obama resurrected the
White House Eid celebration, but the current occupant skipped the occasion
this year. He was obviously too busy trying to enforce his
unconstitutional Muslim ban.
In his recent speech in Poland Trump talked about threats from the “South”
and the “East,” the former presumably Mexicans of “Western” European
heritage and the latter “Middle Eastern” Muslims.
He praises these “Eastern European” Catholics, who are taking on an
authoritarianism like Putin’s Russia to the East (certainly more of a
threat than any number of Islamic militants), but he condemns more
democratic Catholics south of our border.
Steve Bannon—amateur intellectual, Alt-Right founder, and
Trump’s right-hand man—may be right to say that Middle Eastern refugees are
“not Jeffersonian democrats,” but, with his denial of church-state
separation, neither is he. Bannon is simply ignorant and bigoted when he
said that Mexicans with European heritage “are not people with thousands of
years of democracy in their DNA.”
During the Cold War the “West” was defined as the world’s liberal
democracies, which stood firmly against Soviet and Chinese totalitarianism.
The principal military alliance in this conflict was NATO, which Trump once
called “obsolete,” and he only recently affirmed Article 5, which calls for
unified action if any NATO country is threatened. The other bulwark against
the Soviet (now Russian) threat is the European Union, which Trump and his
allies have denigrated.
In his speech in Poland, Trump asked: “Do we have the desire and the
courage to preserve our civilization in the face of those who would subvert
and destroy it?” After presenting this challenge, Trump and Polish
President Andrzej Duda criticized press coverage of their respective
administrations and condemned “fake news,” a corrosive tactic that
threatens the foundations of liberal democracies everywhere. In addition to
reporters, this shameless duo has also criticized judges who rule against
their attacks on basic rights and freedoms.
Harvard professor Stephen Walt states that Trump’s “allies are not liberals
who prize tolerance, diversity, and an open society, but rather hard-core,
blood-and-soil nationalists who like walls, borders, strong leaders, and
the promotion of narrow cultural values.”
Trump’s and his allies—the French Marine Le Pen, the Dutch Geert Wilders,
the Austrian Norbert Hofer, the British Nigel Farage, and the Hungarian
president Viktor Orban—are the real threats to the Free World.
Against these reactionary forces, we must defend the universal values of
freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom of movement across
borders, freedom of trade, and the freedom to form multi-lateral
I predict that Trump will fail in getting “better deals” on side, and he
will isolate the US from the true torchbearers of World Civilization.
Nick Gier taught religion and philosophy at the University of Idaho for 31
A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they
shall never sit in.
“Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-imposed immaturity.
Immaturity is the inability to use one’s understanding without guidance
from another. This immaturity is self- imposed when its cause lies not in
lack of understanding, but in lack of resolve and courage to use it without
guidance from another. Sapere Aude! ‘Have courage to use your own
understand-ing!—that is the motto of enlightenment.
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