Monthly Archives: November 2019

Impeachment and the Status of the US

Five Ways This Impeachment Isn’t Good Enough

How to Get a Grip, Get Real, and Think Critically About What This Moment Means to History, the World, and Us

Written and Published by Umair Haque in Medium, 11/15/2019

Impeachment frenzy!! Maybe, like many people I know, you’re caught up in it. You feel a sense of relief and strength and safety, for a change. Or maybe, like some others, you’re just yawning at it. It’s bizarre twists and turns.

(Now, I have to warn you, if you’re not ready to think critically about impeachment, don’t read this essay. I mean that. Go bask in those good feelings for a few days, and maybe come back if you want. Go right ahead and get that impeachment high. Your feelings are more important than your thoughts, yes really. It’s important not to feel…the way we’ve all felt…for the last few years. If, on the other hand, you do want to think a little bit harder about it, then read on.)

Now. I get the frenzy. Americans have felt powerless for a long, long time. Woo-hoo!! Get this horrific orange jackass out of office! Can we have our country back now? Yup, indeed. But I think a little critical distance in in order. Reading the papers and the tweets and the columns, what struck me most was a total inability to think well, critically, seriously about this impeachment. Sure, we should support it. But in what way, precisely? Happily? Or maybe a little more warily, carefully, reluctantly?

There’s massive support for impeachment. See that pic above. But there are many things to impeach for, many kinds of impeachments. We have chosen a particular impeachment. Not all are created equal. Especially in their aftereffects and consequences. So is this one the right one? The best one? Is this impeachment — the what and why of it — the one we need and deserve?

This particular impeachment says certain things to the world, and to history. And they are not good ones, if we think about them even a little bit. I have lived through many social collapses. And here is what I know. Right about now, we’re riding the wave of a drug-like high. Once the high passes, the crash back to earth is going to say some of the following things. You won’t like them.

I’m going to keep it short and blunt. You can judge for yourself if I’m just indulging in pointless, petty, perfectionism — I invite you to, because I hate it when people do that — or whether my words carry any water worth drinking.

Here’s number one.

America can’t do justice to fascism and authoritarianism. Let’s put all the cards on the table. The President is being impeached for a scandal that involved removing an ambassador to trade influence for military aid. What the President is not being impeached for is any of the following: building camps, putting kids in them, tearing families apart, inciting violence, dehumanizing vulnerable people, and so forth.

(You might say: “but none of that’s breaking the law!” That’s besides the point: Congress can define a “high crime” how it likes. And if putting kids in a camp isn’t a high crime, then…the fascists have won.)

What this impeachment says to the world and to history is that America can’t do justice to fascism…because it’s not actually doing it. Either because it’s scared and intimidated, or because it’s indifferent, or because it actually secretly kind of likes it. One of those things must be true. In that way, this impeachment is a Pyrrhic victory. Sure, we might impeach the Prez. We probably will. But not for the truly terrible things — the things which have torn lives apart. Just for petty infractions of office.

American institutions are broken, and it’s history has poisoned its democracy. The point of doing justice to fascism is to deter it. That was why the International Criminal Court was set up. It’s why the Nuremberg Trials happened. But a society that can’t do justice to fascism also has no real hope of deterring it. You must hold the bad guys accountable if you want to create a reason for there not to be bad guys in the future.

lokInstitutions must have priorities, and so must societies. That applies to justice perhaps most of all. A fascist is a greater threat to a society than a common criminal because the fascist wants to destabilize society and annihilate whole peoples. A fascist in power is perhaps the greatest threat to a society there can be. For that reason, doing justice to fascism is one of the most basic functions of a democracy. It is why, for example, Europe pursues hate speech cases and hate crimes with such vigor and aggressiveness. But America seems not to understand this. And impeachment is the biggest example yet — trying a monster for the least bad things he’s done? What the?

American history is different, though. America was a segregated nation until the 1970s, and Trumpism has fed on that. But none of that has been brought to justice, has it? The hate and violence and rage and dehumanization of the Trumpist movement? It is not a part of this impeachment at all. It is simply politely ignored. But the world sees us trying to ignore history — and history sees us trying to ignore it, too. And they both laugh at us — for still not having learned a thing.

So you, the good American, might see a noble battle for impeachment. But the world sees a society with institutions so broken they can’t perform society’s most basic functions, a society with a history of violence so deep it’s left it unable to even see true evil when it’s staring it right in the face. Seeing fascists, rejecting fascists, holding fascists accountable, punishing them. All those things have been failed at.

“True evil…who cares?!”, America seems to be saying. The world is shocked. Because to the world, that makes America a failed society — barely even worth being a laughingstock. And it does to history, too. Because when we don’t hold true evil to account, we legitimize and normalize it. But what does that say about us?

American society is morally weak, and can’t distinguish true evil from petty infraction. What do you think the world sees when it looks at Americans…in a frenzy over corruption…but perfectly OK with concentration camps and kids in cages in them? I’ll tell you what it thinks, in hard terms. It is revolted. It is horrified. And it laughs. The world has long thought of Americans as dumb and violent and brutal people. And now it has been proven right.

America is a morally weak society — what greater proof can there be than a society which thinks overt, violent, fascism replete with concentration camps…is worth less scorn than garden-league corruption? That normalizes and legitimizes fascism in the truest way, pretending it never existed at all? The world is amused by Americans not being able to fight their very own fascists…because America has been the world’s bully for a very long time. And you know what they say about bullies, don’t you?

Do you know how if you tell anyone across the world you’re American, they kind of roll their eyes? Expect a lot more of that. The world isn’t going to have much respect for people who can’t take on their monsters. Who can’t distinguish true evil from minor infractions of rules. The world knows that if you can’t tell what true evil is, you have lost your moral compass entirely, You are in the desert. And history knows it, too.

America will never regain its self-respect. Wait — what about you and me? What about our self-respect? What about feeling like the kinds of people who can hold monsters to true account?

You see, this impeachment will give us a mania, a frenzy, for a moment or two. But it will not give us back the self-respect we need. To feel that we have power our overselves morally, as true moral agents. That we are capable of saying: “never again!”, or “this cannot happen here!”, or “not in my name!”…and really mean it.

Once the mania and the frenzy is over, what then? When the rush passes, and the adrenaline recedes? Then we will still feel ashamed of ourselves. We will still feel weak. And we will be right to feel those things. Because we are weak, and we are shamed. We will always have to know, deep down, how impotent we really were. We had to get the fascist for corruption. But we could not bring him to justice for his true horrors. All those kids in those cages. Who will speak for them? Nobody. That sense of impotence, of powerlessness, will haunt us. It will corrode us inside, just like it does to every powerless person.

But for us, that reckoning will be truer. We’ll know something terrible about ourselves. When we were faced with true evil…nothing much happened. We are the kinds of people who gave evil a free pass, while cheering on the prosecution of the least bad thing.

What does that make us — in our own eyes? What do people who let evil happen feel? They hurt themselves, because they feel guilty. They abuse themselves, because they feel weak and feeble and powerless. Not worthy of self-respect and dignity. Americans have felt like that for a long time. So it’s no surprise there’s a kind of frenzy over impeachment. But impeaching a monster for infractions is not going to give us back a sense of power, of self-directedness, of self-worth. Once the mania passes, we are going to feel deflated, empty, and hollow. Full of regret and remorse for what we weren’t capable of. And our self-respect will forever suffer for it.

America isn’t worth befriending, and it is worth attacking. You might imagine that impeaching a Prez for a foreign corruption scandal teaches the world that America is strong and you better not mess with us. You’d be wrong.

What do you think the world is going to think of a country — a hyperpower — that can’t do justice to fascism? It’s going to lose respect for it. It’s going to know that such a country is weak, morally and institutionally. That it doesn’t have much fight left in it. And so you can kiss the old America goodbye — the one that was a true hyperpower. The attacks from all angles — Russia, North Korea, etc — will only intensify. Because it is laughable. It does say that you can interfere with us, all you like. The most we’ll ever do is hold weak impeachment hearings a few years after the fact, which give monsters a slap on the wrist.

But it’s not just attacks that will intensify. So will the loss of American friends and allies.

You see, the rest of the world knows how important it is to do justice to fascism. Europe knows it. Asia knows it. Africa knows it, too. Only America doesn’t seem to. But the world also knows that a nation that can’t hold it’s fascists accountable is one that is easy to take advantage of. One that has little dignity. One that has little real power, in the end. And they are right to think so.

Do you think many nations will want to be friends with a country that can’t brings its fascists to justice? Don’t you think they will be forever a little disgusted — and also a little wary? Don’t you think they will find ways around an America that broken, and treat it with the contempt it rightly deserves? I do, and I guarantee you they will too. Now, the way out of that conundrum was to impeach Trump for his true horrors, not just his minor infractions. But nobody much was interested in that.

How much respect do you think Europe will have for an America that gave fascism a free pass? How about Canada? What about Asia? You’re kidding yourself if you think those societies are going to respect us more after impeachment. They are going to respect us less, because they see what we are not doing, what we are incapable of.

I’m sorry to be blunt. You’re welcome to disagree with me. But I’ve lived through fascist collapses — have you? And here is what I see.

We are trying for a President to be tried for the least bad thing he’s done — not his true evilsAmong a long, long list of truly terrible and horrific evils to choose from. We might feel a sense of strength and power now — but that is just mania, just frenzy, a high. What trying a monster for the least bad thing he has done tells history and the world how weak the society which tries him really is. The trial indicts the prosecution. The verdict indicts the jury. Many trials are like that. Miscarriages of justice. This impeachment is one.

America will not be respected again. At least not in our lifetimes. Its friends will abandon it, its enemies will laugh at it. And in its own eyes, too, it will lose self-respect. That much is deserved for those who give evil a free pass. Isn’t it? But isn’t that we are doing? Maybe even what you are doing? Think about it. I’m not judging you or shaming you or blaming you. Nobody’s listening. Except you, to yourself.

This impeachment — this weak, forlorn thing — reveals the weaknesses at the heart of American collapse: true evil is forgotten, brushed under the rug, while Americans are told to settle for what they can get. Isn’t that exactly…how we got here? So It is an ill omen for the future. Sure, we should “support” it. But ambivalently. Remembering that real justice for true evil was never done. Never even aspired to. And a society that can’t do justice to its monsters is one that is still collapsing — only sometimes it doesn’t quite know it.

November 2019

Focus of Impeachment

Why I’m Underwhelmed By Impeachment — And I Bet You Are Too

Impeaching a President For Corruption But Not, Say, Concentration Camps Isn’t Justice. It’s a Travesty of It. And Americans Know It.

by Umair Haque in Medium, November 14, 2019

The long awaited spectacle of impeachment finally began. And the nation emitted a collective yawn. The pundits were outraged. How dare people be…bored…with impeaching this President! My God!

And yet I think the reason is eminently obvious. Let’s begin with the Trumpists. They are bonded to their father figure like wounded children to a protector. Their bond is unbreakable. That’s somewhere between 30 to 40 percent of Americans. They’ve cheered on everything from concentration camps, to ethnic bans, to kids in cages in those camps, to “family separation” aka genocide, to the abuse of power for personal gain, to purges, to demonization and dehumanization.

In other words, this group of Americans is something very much like Weimar Germans — so furious with collapse, they are easily seduced by fascism’s glittering temptations. To them, the “problem” is immigrants, gays, women, refugees, Mexicans, Muslims — those impure and filthy subhumans are why these “real” Americans find themselves in fresh poverty, in decline, not living the comfortable middle class lives they expected. They reflect America’s long, sordid history of slavery, hate, racism, and violence. That, combined with fresh poverty has always been a recipe for fascism — and in America’s case, that was never truer. Because that list above — camps, raids, bans, etc — is bona fide fascism.

Then there are the rest. The other 60 or 70 percent of Americans. What about them? Well, they might be exploited — but they are not stupid. They aren’t so easily misled. They might not often say it, but they know it. This man, their President is a fascist. He is an alleged sexual predator. He is an abuser. He is a mafia lieutenant in a bad suit. He is everything a monster in a human being can be. He snatches children away at night. He tears babes from mothers’ arms. He demeans and devalues the intrinsic worth of people as animals and vermin. Just how un-American is all that?

This group of Americans is disgusted by the President. Not just at a political level — because he’s corrupt and venal and dictatorial. But at a human level. Because he is rancid and spoiled and repellent and vulgar and grotesque, as a human being. Because he is everything that he projects onto the vulnerable and powerless: he is the aggressor, the criminal, the violent one, the hateful one. He is the infection in our society, poisoning it.

This group of Americans rejects not just the President’s politics — a kickback here, a favour there — but everything that he is. His values. His aspirations. HIs ideals. If they can even be said to be such things. They find his taste in home decor tacky for a very good reason — because it reflects a man not just without taste, but who seeks aggression and power over. But that isn’t all they’re repelled by. They reject him as a human being.

This group of Americans — the majority — find the things this President has done deeply and profoundly troubling. Not just, again, at a political level — but an existential one. The long, long checklist of fascism accomplished under this administration makes this group of Americans shake their heads, baffled, and ask genuine existential questions, laced with despair, fury, and rage. Is this really who we are? Is this what we have become? The kinds of people who snatch children, put them in cages, and then torture them?

Is this really us?

Now. Consider impeachment in the light of all that. What is “impeachment”, really? Well, it’s a long, long series of questions about…none of the above. It has nothing to do with the true horrors this administration has committed in any way whatsoever. Instead, it has to do — endlessly — with a…scandal about favours-for-money. Sure, we should be thankful that at least that much is considered a crime. It should be. But how thankful should we really be? Should we prostrate ourselves at the Democrats’ feet for…the lowest possible bar?

I don’t think Americans boo their President at baseball games — what could be a more American symbol than that — because he’s a minor league corrupt politician. They boo him at baseball games because they think that, at a human level, he is a monster. He is not the kind of person an American should be.

And yet the Dems are impeaching a fascist, a kleptocrat, a thug, a monster, for…corruption, not concentration camps. For minor-league personal gain and influence-peddling — not for crimes against humanity. Not for crimes against history, futurity, society. Not for violating the long-cherished ideals of America, the Constitution in the truest way, the sense that every life has inalienable rights — in way so horrific, they’ve taken the world’s breath away. So sure, many of us “support” impeachment — while rolling our eyes at how feeble this level of justice really is.

Because remember. Congress has the power to define “high crimes” however it likes. Why is it that employing a bona fide white nationalist — or numbers of them — isn’t a “high crime”? Wait — why isn’t putting kids camps a “high crime”? What about tearing them away from their families? Why doesn’t all that matter? After all, the last living Nuremberg Prosecutor says it does: he says those are the precise definitions of crimes against humanity.

But our Congress is not up to that task. Of trying a fascist for fascism, a kleptocrat for kleptocracy, a monster for horror and atrocity. It is only capable of trying a President for…minor-league corruption. And that is all our media can cheer on, too — and then cry foul when we all roll our eyes at it. Hence, we the people are ambivalent. We “support” what little justice we can get — while we know we deserve far better. And we feel a kind of anger and disappointment at that.

All that tells us something very crucial about the priorities of DC insiders — and how they differ from those of Americans. The DC insiders cheering on impeachment really don’t think of the truest horrors this administration to be worth consideration at all. They don’t care about them at all. What they care about is insider baseball. It’s not horrific to DC insiders that American has concentration camps, or that it has put close to 100,000 people in them, or that many of them are children without parents. It only matters that the President doesn’t get rich in ways the establishment doesn’t approve of.

So impeaching this President for corruption only really reveals a deeper layer of corruption in DC. Not just political corruption — but moral corruption. What kind of people don’t consider concentration camps a truer crime and greater horror than minor-league corruption? DC insiders, apparently. And that reveals that they don’t care that power isn’t abused in profoundly disgusting and horrific ways. They only care about who has power, really — and whether it’s one of them. It’s ironic — corruption, revealed by the pursuit of corruption. But it’s also tragic. That DC insiders — from Democrats to pundits to pollsters — don’t care one tiny bit about the true moral and existential crimes and depravities of the last few years. That isn’t just a shame. It’s worthy of contempt.

That’s what what I feel when I see these impeachment hearings. Disgust. Anger. Rage. Disappointment. And a searing sense of contempt. Not just at the President — but also at the opposition. Who didn’t care enough to even think about the question: “what are the real high crimes here? If the last Nuremberg Prosecutor says crimes against humanity have been committed — don’t those count as ‘high crimes’? Wait — why aren’t we impeaching a fascist for fascism and an authoritarian for authoritarianism and a monster for preying on children? What the hell is wrong with us?”

And I suspect that a whole lot — a whole lot — of my fellow Americans feel just the same way. It’s not just that impeachment bores them — endless questions by men about a byzantine scandal that you’d need a degree in just to keep track of. It’s also that that scandal is the least monstrous thing this administration has done, by a very, very long way. Next to camps, raids, purges, dehumanization, and cheering on violence…minor-league corruption is like trying to get Hitler or Mussolini or Stalin for not stealing a little money. Sure — you might even succeed. But you’ve only really defeated yourself even if you do.

Because then what you’ve really said is that the true horrors don’t matter to you as much as the lowest-hanging fruit. What you’ve really said is that you can’t protect your society, then, from predators and fascists. You are too weak and too frightened. All that you can produce is a travesty of justice — not justice. You can try a monster for his misdemeanours — but not his felonies.

All that is what this impeachment really is. Sure, we should all thank the Dems for holding the President to account, and “support” it. But we should also hold them accountable, too, in a larger and deeper way. Why couldn’t they impeach this President for the things that mattered far, far more? For those oldest and noblest American values — equality and freedom — under threat? For the felonies of fascism and authoritarianism and hate, not just the misdemeanors of corruption?

You see, the day that we began putting children into concentration camps, we put America in those camps too — those American values began to die right there with those kids. It’s true those values have always — always — been exercised imperfectly. But they have never been as abused as they were in the last three years — at least not since the end of slavery and segregation. Even I question the fundamental American values of truth and justice and freedom and equality, whether America’s really been committed to them. But I have no doubt those values are noble things. And so I have to have contempt for an opposition party that doesn’t seem to care about them being torn apart in the truest ways.

You see, we need a catharsis for these feelings. Of shame and fury and despair and rage that have engulfed as a society. Of being the kind of people who have genuinely monstrous things done by their leaders. But this impeachment doesn’t give us that catharsis. It doesn’t give us a reckoning emotionally or morally, with the true weight we’re carrying. It doesn’t let those feelings that we have done unspeakable and horrific things come shuddering out. They stay right where they are. And so we roll our eyes. The details of the scandal roll and on and on. Some nights, we see those kids in those cages in our sleep. Who have we become?

Let me put all that this way.

Those truest American values. Those old and noble things, which we Americans think shine a beacon to the world. New Gestapos, who check papers in public. Concentration camps full of kids in cages. Raids in towns and cities and offices. An atmosphere of intimidation, in which hate crimes have surged. People dehumanized as animals and vermin. The celebration of violence against the vulnerable. America’s values — what is left of them — are ripped apart to their last shreds by these things. But a minor-league corruption scandal? Sure, it threatens those values — a tiny little bit. But let’s have the priorities of sane, morally and emotionally mature adults.

Corruption is a crime, yes. But concentration camps and kids and rages and hate? They are existential threats to whatever’s left of America’s value. They are the kinds of things monsters are made of. Nazis who laugh at genocides. They are the highest of crimes a society can possibly have. They are of a degree so different from corruption, they make it look like a misdemeanour.

Sane Americans, I think, understand that: we are trying a President for his misdemeanours — corruption, not his felonies — fascism. They are the majority. The silent majority — true. But the majority nonetheless. And so when they see a fascist being impeached for garden-variety corruption, but not for the unimaginable violation of concentration camps in a democracy…I’d bet they feel a lot like me. Mostly, it’s unbearable, because it sanitizes away the true crimes, erases them. It’s horrific, because it legitimizes all the terrible things this administration has done, as not worthy of a genuine challenge and indictment. And it’s eye rollingly pathetic, to see an opposition so weak that they choose to politely ignore crimes against humanity.

I think decent people feel ashamed and disgraced by what this impeachment doesn’t do — but should have: trying a President for his relative misdemeanours, not his felonies, his highest crimes of all. So it’s not just “boring” — as the DC insiders are suddenly lethally concerned about. It is something much worse than that. It is shameful and disgraceful and demeaning — to us, to America, to the world, to the future, to try a President for his lowest crimes, not his highest ones.

My fellow Americans, I think, feel that, on a human level. Just looking at this corpulent, violent, bigoted, hateful man who somehow became President. They reject him as a human being, not just a politician. They loathe everything that he is wants, needs, says, does — because it is all inhuman and all fetid with the stink of a man who loves himself above all things. They scorn his absolute moral weakness, his cowardice, his cruelty, the breathtaking vanity of a man who preens at abusing little children. They have nothing but contempt for his utter lack even the most basic virtue — not just his incompetence at playing by DC’s rules. They despise him at the truest level a human being can: existentially — for the monster he is — not just for violating the rules of DC insider politics. They know that whatever mistakes we have made in our past — we must be better than this pustulent sickness of a man, because he is the lowest thing that a human being can be.

I think most good and decent Americans feel that deep in their bones, even if they can’t or don’t know quite how to say it. So how do you think people…who feel like that about a man…feel watching that man not be tried, be held to account…for the very things…they loathe and despise and scorn most about him? I bet that they feel many things — not just “boredom.” They feel disappointed. They feel sick and disgusted. They feel angry and ashamed. And above all, I think they feel disgraced.

This impeachment is a travesty of justice. It doesn’t do the justice a broken America needs to recover its sense of humanity, dignity, and self-respect. To tell the world: we are not the kind of monsters this man is. He is not one of us. We are not like him. We reject him at the most profound level a society can: as a human being. It fails to do that justice to any of that — and settles, instead, for what meagre justice it supposes it can get. Wait — wasn’t one of those old American virtues bravery?

And that, my friends, is why though sane Americans may be thankful that this impeachment taking place, they’re also…underwhelmed. Why they’re rolling their eyes at it. Not because it shouldn’t happen. But because much more should have. Because they are seeing a man tried for misdemeanors, when he has committed felonies so large they disgrace us all. So they are disappointed, and disgusted by what it deliberately, politely ignores, leaves out, and omits. They know that impeaching a fascist for corruption is a little bit like trying a monster for stealing a cookie — while ignoring the fact that he snatches children at night, when nobody is looking, and their mothers wake up screaming forever, and we will all have to watch that go on…while remembering justice for all that was never done. Even the self-entitled, ugly American the world rolls their eyes at…isn’t OK with that. History will remember this impeachment not as justice, but as a travesty of it.

The Struggle for Global Consciousness

Why the Battle of Now is Capitalism Imploding Into Fascism Versus a World Waiting to be Born

by Umair Haque in Medium 11/4/2019

umair haque

When I look at the world these days, I see a kind of unnamed struggle erupting. It asks a central question. The struggle is between global consciousness, and global fascism. And the question is: will humanity develop a global consciousness before it’s too late?

Let me explain, backwards.

By now, you should be able to see neo fascism, ripping through the world like a black tide. From America to Brazil to Europe to Turkey and beyond. Why fascism? Why now? When it’s understood what fascism is, the answer becomes obvious.

Fascism is a defense mechanism against the end of the world. Or the end of a world. It says that these things only belong to the pure, who the strong, who are the virtuous. Everyone else is impure, and therefore weak, and therefore sinful, hateful, and deserving of either annihilation, enslavement, or extermination.

What are “these things” that fascism says only belong to the pure? Everything. From the most superficial — land, money, jobs, incomes — to the less visible — like dignity and belonging and esteem and trust and respect — to the true foundation of it all: personhood itself.

Fascism is a defense mechanism against the end of the world, which says that the pure are the only ones who deserve a share of a society’s dwindling resources. The pure deserve them because they are the industrious, the intelligent, the courageous, and the brave.

Now. That is also almost a perfect description of capitalism. The only way in which capitalism differs from the above definition is the word “dwindling” — and fascism’s ascription of weakness to biogenetics. Otherwise, the two are precisely the same.

That should give us a clue as to why fascism is erupting across the globe. It is arising in the wake of capitalism’s failure to provide people with lives rich in all those ways — whether materially, with money and belongings, or psychologically, with belonging and respect, or humanistically, with personhood and dignity.

The paradox is that capitalism’s predatory logic teaches people to rip those things away from others. It’s moral logic is simple — and eminently fascist — the weak perish, the strong survive, and all that is what is fair. Therefore, the point of all existence becomes to annihilate the weak, and therefore to prove you are strong. The only difference, really, between the fascist and the capitalist is that the violence is more explicit and organized.

Fascism is erupting in the wake of American capitalism’s profound and total failure to create good lives for the globe. But that should only have been logical. American capitalism didn’t even create good lives for Americans. What was it ever going to do for the Indian or the Chinese that it exploited — except teach them to become little Americans, seeking to exploit in turn?

So capitalism imploding into fascism created a world where people have become little predators, like Americans — desperately seeking things to exploit, abuse, and damage, in order to prove that they are strong, not weak, and therefore don’t deserve to perish.

In that sense, fascism is a defense mechanism against the end of the world. Because when a world is ending, my friends, that contest to prove you are strong, and the rest are weak, has never mattered more.

And yet the end of the world doesn’t care very much about these foolish matters of pride. When a world ends, it ends. Our world is ending in a very real sense. Climate change is reaching a critical point. Mass extinction is accelerating. Inequality is skyrocketing. Capitalism failing has produced fascism as a defense.

Now, these are all global problems. They can’t be fixed the way that Western liberals think they can — with rich white people deciding to eat less hamburgers, or cycling to work. That makes absolutely no difference whatsoever — because, again, these are global problems.

To solve these problems therefore requires a global consciousness. And that struggle has just begun to be born. It is less advanced yet than even fascism. Extinction Rebellion shutting down cities is the birth of a global consciousness. Greta scolding the UN General Assembly is the birth of a global consciousness. Malala teaching a world to educate every child is the birth of a global consciousness.

These are all embryonic things — if even that. They are barely pulses of life in the womb of time. But they are stirrings of a heartbeat nonetheless.

Let me put these two movements, ways of thinking, ways of being in the world, in opposition, to make their battle crystal clear. Fascism says that these things only belong to the pure. In America, the pure are the white Trumpists. In India, they’re HIndus, perhaps of a certain caste or creed. In Turkey, they’re “true” Turks. In Europe, they’re a mishmash of ancient blood that claims to be “real” European. In China, they’re ethically pure Chinese.

And so forth. Do you see how funny it all is? In every society now, there is a movement that says these things only belong to the pure — but the pure are different in every society. So who are the true ubermen? The white Trumpists? The pure Hindus? The faithful Muslims? The Han Chinese? Perhaps you see how comical it is, the idea of a “global fascism.” LOL — the pure, indeed.

But also see how lethal the point is. In every society, there are now movements that say these things only belong to the pure. But “these things” — healthcare, retirement, education, rights, dignity, belonging, personhood — add up to life itself. So in every society, there are movements that say life itself only belongs to the pure.

Now think of a Malala. When she travels the world, her message is that education belongs to every human life. That every single child on planet earth should receive the benefit of history’s wisdom, knowledge, and learning — and that we as a world must invest in it. If, that is, we want to prosper and endure as a civilization.

Now think of a Greta Thunberg. When she scolds the UN General Assembly, she is saying that life belongs to every being. She is saying that no one should really own a tree, forest, river, ocean, mountain, or sky. But that those things deserve self-determination and self-governance and dignity and respect in the same way that every human life does. Do you see how that message is even more expansive than Malala’s?

Now think of an Extinction Rebellion. When they shut down a city, and you, the good middle class burgher groan in exasperation, they are trying to say to you: life is every being, and every being deserves rights, privileges — fundamentally, the right to live in freedom, and reach one’s potential. The potential of the tree is to touch the sky. The potential of the sky is to nourish the soil. The potential of the soil is to become the tree. To interfere with these things — to possess them, and rip them apart, as the capitalist does — isn’t just to commit a kind of folly, but also a kind of moral crime. To trespass on life itself.

Now. I’d bet that you don’t agree with that. And that is the point. Where do you fall, in this struggle between global fascism and global consciousness? Do you see the struggle yet? You should. On the one side — Trumps and Farages and Bannon and violent men of all races and creeds and nations, bellowing the same thing: “Life itself only belongs to the pure! The pure are the strong! And the strong must prey on the weak, abuse and exploit the weak — that is the moral law! Whether the weak are the rivers, oceans, forests, skies, animals, or the subhumans!!”

On the other, the Gretas and Malalas and Extinction Rebellions, who say: “Life belongs to all beings, to each being. Each being must live free, to realize itself, in the highest and truest way. The river is born to flow to the sea. The sea is made to become the sky. The sky was created to rain down into the soil. And soil was made to to be held by the sun. Life belongs to all beings. We have no right to exploit or abuse it. We must become its shepherds and guardians. We must become pilgrims walking towards it.”

Do you see the difference? For one side, the fascists, life is a thing to be exploited, according to the moral law of the strong annihilating the weak. For the other, life is a thing to be cherished, nourished, treasured, and protected — because weakness, like the sapling, like the stream, is the seed, the beginning, the instant of grace, the moment of truth.

Now, the question in this struggle is very much about you. I think that most people think they would like to fall towards the side of global consciousness. But few do. That is why globally, fascism is winning by leaps and bounds. I think that most people pay lip service to the Malalas and the Gretas — but when it comes down to it, secretly, they sneer, and support the Trumps and the Farages, in ways they wouldn’t like to admit. How else did we get here?

In other words, this struggle exists just as much in us as it does outside us. And that’s OK. Nobody is pure. The fascist is wrong. I will tell you that I am on the side of life, not death — the side of global consciousness, not fascism. But I eat my meat and wear my leather. I am a hypocrite of a terrible kind, perhaps. Or perhaps I am just not an extremist. Perhaps my line is children in concentration camps, and rainforests being ripped apart. The question is where your line is, my friend.

(Hypocrisy is one thing. Yet from what I can see, these days, too many of us don’t have a line, really. Take the average American. Quite happy with concentration camps — yet bitching about Trump daily on Twitter. That’s not a line, my friends — that’s an illusion. But I digress. I don’t think that I or anyone else aids the side of the light in this struggle by scolding or warning or criticizing you. We are blinded by the light only by looking deep into our own darkness.)

Will the world develop a global consciousness before it’s too late? Most days, my friends, I have my doubts. The world, in other words, must have a kind of awakening. If, at least, the question is the survival of the world as we know it. The question isn’t just how that awakening will come to be — but if it will come to be, at all.

So how do our minds, hearts, and souls expand, soar, transcend, unfurl? Well, facts and charts are useless in this battle. Everyone knows we have maybe a decade until climate change and mass extinction become catastrophic — and no one much really cares. We are fighting this battle in embryonic ways, still.

What I’ve learned about consciousness, by journeying to the edge of death and back, is that a mind, a heart, a soul unfurl there, in that moment of truth. When death reveals himself to you — not like a reaper, but like a brother. “I am here to free you from all this suffering,” he says, holding his arms out. “Come back to the place where all life begins.”

In that moment, when you see death, as clear and true as summer’s first day, then you also begin to know the pain, the suffering, that you have left behind you in this world. You being to see, with terrible clarity, all the hurt that you have done, even to those you have said you have loved. So what about those you haven’t?

Fascism is a defense mechanism against death. The death of a society, the death of a world, the death of an age. But because consciousness only expands in the sight of — in the arms, perhaps, of — death, fascism, of course, is a reduction in global consciousness. It is a way to say: “I am not responsible for any of this dying!! Dying is just and noble — the weak deserve to perish!!”

Fascism is so, so seductive because we live in an age of collapse my friends. Who wants to experience all that pain, all that suffering, all that torment — of a collapsing world? Who wants to imagine a rainforest, dying? Who wants to empathize with a refugee, who’s travelled the world just for bread, shuddering from the abuse? How much easier it is to rage at them, imagining you are the strong one. How thrilling that is. What a kind of orgasmic pleasure there is in the violence of the fascist mind. It’s like a fix of pure heroin, in a collapsing world — the pleasure of rising atop the rubble.

So fascism attracts the weak-minded, not just with the pleasure of superiority, the thrill of violence — but also by defending against any moral reckoning with all the things collapsing around us. The fascist never has to feel the pain of a collapsing world.

The battle for global consciousness will be a difficult one. It hinges on this question. How do we teach people to feel all that pain? Can we? Can it be done? Can the human spirit accept the terrible grief and suffering and torment of a dying ocean, of the extinct species, of a planet with third-degree burns? How do we teach people to accept and hold all that pain? Who wants that discomfort, that burden? How do we teach each other that death holds the beauty and truth and grace of each and every life in his hands — and it’s up to us to hold it back, not to smash it?

That is what a global consciousness really is. Every being has uncountable worth, not because you or I say so — but because death does. And therefore our job is to create a world where every life realizes itself — from the insect to the ocean to the blade of grass to the outcast. We are all one, we are all equal, from the smallest to the largest — and none have the right to take life from any other. Our obligation is to give life, to nourish it, to tend it, to celebrate it. That is death’s truest message — and greatest gift. But we are not at the place where we are ready to learn it. We are not even at the place where we know how to teach it.

So the middle class commuter sighs in exasperation at Extinction Rebellion. The American nods when Malala speaks — and then goes on hating their neighbour. Nobody much wants to bear the terrible pain of an age of collapse. Nobody knows how. Fascism goes on rising, across the globe. Thanatos rises, laughs, and leads us into the labyrinth where souls slumber.

And death is silent, watching. He grieves, for all the roads we have yet to walk.

November 2019

Trump and Ukraine

A presidential loathing for Ukraine is at the heart of the impeachment inquiry

President Trump listens as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks to the media during a meeting in New York on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly on Sept. 25, 2019. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)
President Trump listens as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks to the media during a meeting in New York on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly on Sept. 25, 2019. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

Written By Greg Jaffe and Josh Dawsey for the Washington Post November 2, 2019 at 3:45 p.m. EDT in the Washington Post

Three of President Trump’s top advisers met with him in the Oval Office in May, determined to convince him that the new Ukrainian leader was an ally deserving of U.S. support.

They had barely begun their pitch when Trump unloaded on them, according to current and former U.S. officials familiar with the meeting. In Trump’s mind, the officials said, Ukraine’s entire leadership had colluded with the Democrats to undermine his 2016 presidential campaign.

“They tried to take me down,” Trump railed.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry, the senior member of the group, assured Trump that the new Ukrainian president was different — a reformer in Trump’s mold who had even quoted President Ronald Reagan in his inaugural address, for which the three advisers had been present.But the harder they pushed in the Oval Office, the more Trump resisted.Trump’s bilateral meeting with Ukraine’s Zelensky, in 3 minutes President Trump met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Sept. 25 in New York, after the release of a rough transcript of their July call. (Joyce Lee/The Washington Post) 

“They are horrible, corrupt people,” Trump told them.

So far, a dozen witnesses have testified before House lawmakers since the closed-door impeachment inquiry began a month ago. One theme that runs through almost all of their accounts is Trump’s unyielding loathing of Ukraine, which dates to his earliest days in the White House.

“We could never quite understand it,” a former senior White House official said of Trump’s view of the former Soviet republic, also saying that much of it stemmed from the president’s embrace of conspiracy theories. “There were accusations that they had somehow worked with the Clinton campaign. There were accusations they’d hurt him. He just hated Ukraine.”Rudy Giuliani can’t stop talking Ukraine on TV Former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani took to the airwaves to defend President Trump — and it didn’t always go well. (Zach Purser Brown/The Washington Post)

Holding Ukraine hostage: How Trump and his aides, seeking 2020 ammunition, fanned a political storm

White House officials did not respond to requests for comment.

Trump’s animosity to Ukraine ran so deep and was so resistant to the typical foreign policy entreaties about the need to stand by allies that senior officials involved in Ukraine policy concluded that the only way to overcome it was to set up an Oval Office meeting with Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

“Once the two presidents actually sat down together, President Trump would quickly conclude that President Zelensky is . . . a charismatic politician who enjoys the support of his people and is worthy of U.S. support,” Kurt Volker, who subsequently resigned as the special adviser on Ukraine, told Congress.

U.S. and Ukrainian officials would spend months in pursuit of a Trump-Zelensky meeting. In their fruitless attempts to make it happen, Perry, Volker and Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, would encourage the Ukrainians to accede to demands by Trump and his personal attorney, Rudolph W. Giuliani, that they open investigations that would benefit Trump politically.

Ultimately, Trump, in a July 25 phone call, would press the Ukrainian president directly for dirt on former vice president Joe Biden.

“I would like for you to do us a favor,” Trump told Zelensky, according to a transcript of the call.

The roots of that request trace back to the earliest days of the Trump presidency, when Zelensky was still a Ukrainian sitcom actor and Trump’s top foreign policy advisers were trying to make sense of Trump’s distaste for Kyiv and map out a Ukraine policy.

In the fall of 2017, Trump was set to meet with then-Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko at the United Nations in New York. At the time, U.S. officials were working to convince Trump that Ukraine, locked in a long war with Russian-backed forces, was worthy of American support.

Then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told Volker that he would have about 45 seconds to brief Trump ahead of his meeting with Poroshenko. If Trump was interested in learning more, Tillerson said, the president would ask questions. Volker rushed through his pitch, according to former U.S. officials who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive diplomatic topics.Trump then peppered Volker with his negative views of Ukraine, suggesting that it wasn’t a “real country,” that it had always been a part of Russia, and that it was “totally corrupt.” 

Inside the administration, Trump’s top advisers debated the origins of his ill-feeling. Some argued that Trump saw Ukraine as an impediment to better U.S. relations with Russian President Vladi­mir Putin, who was angry about U.S. sanctions imposed on Moscow for its annexation of Crimea and for the Kremlin’s ongoing support of pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.

At the time of Trump’s U.N. meeting with Poroshenko, U.S. officials were debating whether to sell antitank weapons to the Ukrainians. In the previous administration, President Barack Obama had decided against the sale, worrying that it would make the conflict bloodier.

Trump’s entire national security Cabinet unanimously supported it. But Trump hesitated. “He kept saying it . . . wasn’t worth pissing off Russia and what a bad country Ukraine was,” said the former senior White House official.

Trump told his top advisers that “everyone” was telling him not to do it because it would anger Russia, the former official said. In fact, his entire team was advising the opposite. After months of delay, Trump approved the sale of the weapons in December 2017.

His skepticism and dislike of Ukraine, though, did not abate but, if anything, seemed to deepen over time, U.S. officials said.

Some advisers, such as Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who oversaw Ukraine policy on the National Security Council, told lawmakers that “outside influencers were promoting a false narrative of Ukraine” to Trump that was “harmful to U.S. government policy.” Others wondered whether the president’s disdain had to do with his well-known dislike of all U.S. foreign aid.White House official who listened to Trump call with Zelensky said he was told to keep quiet

Ukraine was weak, war-torn and desperate for U.S. support. It had little to offer Trump, whose foreign policy focus was reversing the U.S. trade deficit.

Sondland, a Trump campaign donor turned diplomat, blamed Giuliani, who had publicly accused Ukraine of corruption and interference in the 2016 election, for the hardening of Trump’s views. And he viewed Giuliani as key to reversing Trump’s hostility.

“It was apparent to all of us that the key to changing the president’s mind on Ukraine was Mr. Giuliani,” Sondland told lawmakers in October.

U.S. officials were also at odds over how best to convince Trump of Ukraine’s importance to U.S. policy. Ambassador William B. Taylor Jr., the acting chief U.S. diplomat in Kyiv, and many longtime foreign officials made an argument that was based on values and the principle of support for the international order. In testimony to House lawmakers, Taylor noted that by its assault on Ukraine’s sovereignty, Russia had “violated countless treaties” and “dismissed all the principles that have kept the peace and contributed to prosperity in Europe since World War II.”

In Congress, Republicans and Democrats cast support for Ukraine as a defense of American democratic principles. Ukraine was a fragile democracy battling both internal corruption and its powerful neighbor.

None of those lofty arguments worked with Trump. “Many Americans feel strongly about supporting Ukraine because it’s the little guy and is fighting for values we consider fundamentally American,” said Molly Montgomery, who served on Vice President Pence’s staff and now works for the Albright Stonebridge Group. “But it’s clear that Trump doesn’t share that empathy. He’s more attracted generally to the powerful party in any dispute.”

Since his first days in office, Trump has made clear that he has little patience for alliances or anything that commits the United States to defending a weaker ally. He has repeatedly questioned the utility of NATO and harangued Europeans for not contributing more to the common defense. U.S. officials describe Trump’s mind-set as short term and transactional. Instead of looking for allies, Trump is forever in search of a deal, they say.

This was the impulse that led him to see what he could squeeze out of the Ukrainians in exchange for an Oval Office meeting, officials said.

“The whole episode is sadly unsurprising,” said a senior U.S. official familiar with U.S. policy on Ukraine. “It’s the epitome of impulsive, self-serving decision-making at the top that has undermined American power.”

In the end, most U.S. officials agreed that Trump’s anger with Ukraine, like many of his grievances, was connected with the 2016 election and his feeling that Ukraine was responsible for the humiliating fall of Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman. Trump’s hatred, they concluded, was ingrained, irrational and possibly irreversible.

“Ukraine has always been problematic, from Day One,” Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), a close Trump ally and Russia hawk, said in an interview. “He’s heard a lot about Ukraine from a lot of people.”