Consider the humble handshake…
Dating back to approximately the 5th century BCE and popularized in the 17th century by Quakers looking for a more egalitarian gesture than bowing or tipping one’s hat, the handshake has become the defacto greeting used in international business situations. To some degree, it has also replaced many traditional forms of personal acknowledgment once used in various cultures around our planet.
Greek goddesses Hera (Queen of the Gods and the wife and sister of Zeus) and Athena (goddess of wisdom, war and the crafts, among other things) handshaking, late 5th century BCE, Acropolis Museum, Athens. Photo: Henry Lewis courtesy of the Acropolis Museum, Athens.
A handshake: Donald and Me (or I, uh?)
While searching through news articles this week, I discovered that I have something in common with Donald Trump. [You, dear reader, may be surprised, but imagine how I felt!] It seems that it’s a well-established fact – as opposed to an alternative fact – that Trump is a germaphobe and will often go to great lengths to prevent exposure to coughs, sneezes, and yes, even the common handshake. He reportedly once wrote that the practice of shaking hands was “barbaric”
The infamous 2017 handshake between President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron. Macron is showing Trump who has the strongest grip! Photo: Courtesy of Bloomberg Politics https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VOf9FqsLfA8
I admit that I too have occasionally been known to recoil in horror (at least internally) when meeting new people and feeling the pressure to swap sweaty palms. It’s not that I dislike being touched. On the contrary, I think human touch is essential to an individual’s well-being. Part of my reluctance to press hand flesh with a stranger is because of my childhood upbringing.
Even though our factual truth is never completely free of interpretation or personal perspective, this situation cannot serve as an argument against the existence of reality and facts, nor can it justify blurring the dividing lines between fact, opinion, and interpretation. The outcome of such blurring is a confused public that cannot differentiate between fact, fabrication, and opinion.
-Philosopher Hannah Arendt
The mid-20th century writings of Arendt seem prophetic in today’s post-truth world where maintaining political advantage often outweighs the common good. In such an era, what happens when a confused public is faced with contradictory information relating to a topic as important as public health? A comparable scenario was created this week by the Trump administration while discussing the level of risk the US population may face from the current world-wide corona virus (COVID-19) epidemic.
The stage was set by acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney who accused the media of stoking virus fears to “bring down the President.” Mulvaney’s comments were purely political and had no basis in fact, and indeed, ignored the seriousness of the worldwide COVID-19 epidemic. They also fly in the face of health experts worldwide.
In an interview with the BBC, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) director of health emergencies, Mike Ryan, noted the advice posted on the official WHO website on Friday, February 28. “We have now increased our assessment of the risk of spread and the risk of impact of COVID-19 to very high.” This is the WHO’s highest level of warning.
The WHO warning calls for “all countries to educate their populations, to expand surveillance, to find, isolate and care for every case, to trace every contact, and to take an all-of-government and all-of-society approach.” According to the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC), “the potential public health threat posed by COVID-19 is high, both globally and to the United States.”
Tom Toles – Washington Post
The impeachment of Donald Trump has turned what was already an editorial cartoonist’s dream administration into a full-on party. The rich cast of characters legislating our lives from their Capitol Hill offices in Washington, DC can always be depended upon to create the kind of drama that can best be summed up in a cartoon.
Political commentators have been busy recently drawing comparisons between the on-going formal proceedings involving Donald Trump and those of Richard Nixon in 1974 and Bill Clinton in 1998. Due to overwhelming evidence of his knowledge of the Watergate break-in, Nixon actually resigned before being formally impeached by a full House vote, while Clinton was impeached by the House in late 1998 but acquitted in the Senate early in 1999 after a trial that lasted just over a month.
While we may think partisan politics is a recent phenomenon, a look back at some political cartoons produced during the impeachment inquiries into Nixon and Clinton tell a different story. It seems that in the past party loyalty has been prioritized over moral and ethical principles just as it often is today.
In this post, I’m presenting a curated selection of cartoons that illustrate and compare the political will and public mood in all three of these periods during which the strength of American democracy has been tested. Mind you, Trump’s political fortunes – and those of his GOP supporters – are yet to be determined as history continues marching on…
In this cartoon, Richard Nixon is depicted as a man about to be hanged – Wild West style – by the Democratic House Judiciary Committee. Artist: Carl Hubenthal (07/21/1974) LA Herald-Examiner and The Opper Project, Ohio State University Cartoon Research Library.
Bill Clinton being chastised for his sexual history. For those who weren’t around at that time, Clinton was impeached for lying under oath about having a sexual affair with a White House intern and for obstruction of justice during the investigation which followed. Artist: Steve Sack – Minneapolis Star Tribune.
This week, following the Trump Administration’s betrayal of a long-time Middle East ally, I received a message containing these words from one of my former students in Iraq’s northern Kurdistan Region.
We as “Kurds have no friends but the mountains“ history repeats itself!
Over the past 100 years, the Kurdish people–whose territory includes northern Iraq, northern Syria, southeastern Turkey and northwestern Iran–have been repeatedly lied to, stabbed in the back, gassed and violently murdered by successive regimes from both the West and the Middle East.
The US Government has called on the Kurdish people repeatedly for help and these loyal allies have at all times capitulated to Washington’s requests. In 1972, they were asked by the CIA and US-placed Shah of Iran to rise up against the Ba’athist Party-led government in Iraq. The Kurds were used and then left alone to suffer the wrath of the Iraqi military when Iran’s Shah make a back-door deal with the Iraqi government.
Still willing to trust the Americans, the Kurds in northern Iraq once again rose up against the Baghdad-based government of Saddam Huessein at the urging of George H. W. Bush’s administration during the Gulf War in Kuwait in 1991. While the Kurds did eventually receive US support in setting up a no-fly zone over their northern territory, other promises of oil wealth sharing and possible independence were not kept. Establishing border security was left to the Kurd’s very capable military, known as the Peshmerga, which created a safe haven in an otherwise extremely dangerous and chaotic country.
While the Trump era has provided endless opportunities for journalists to come up with fresh ways to report on domestic and international affairs, I think the real treasure trove of creative golden nuggets has been laid at the feet of political cartoonists.
In an era when truth is often elusive and fantasy thrives, cartoons seem to represent the most effective means of contextualizing the outrageous behavior taking place in Washington, D.C. and it’s always-on 24-hour cycle of institutional destruction.
Signe Wilkinson – Washington Post Writers Group and Cartoonist Group
Michael de Adder – Counterpoint
A brilliant post by North Carolina minister John Pavlovitz from his blog Stuff That Needs to Be Said.
Tampa, Florida, a city where Donald Trump has held some of his most infamous rallies, will receive disproportionately negative climate change impacts if scientists’ predictions hold true.
In a recent study published in the journal Science, “Estimating economic damage from climate change in the United States,” researchers have projected which states will likely be dealing with the most harmful effects of global warming and its associated negative impacts by the end of this century. These negative impacts include coastal flooding, storm damage, agricultural losses, curtailments in job creation and lower values in production of goods and services (GDP).
What makes this study different is that the researchers involved used county-level data to predict localized impacts. As the author’s noted, “Standard approaches to valuing climate damage describe average impacts for large regions (e.g., North America) or the entire globe as a whole. Yet examining county-level impacts reveals major redistributive impacts of climate change on some sectors that are not captured by regional or global averages.”
Indeed, looking at the charts presenting this more localized data in visual form is quite an eye-opening experience. They reveal just how unevenly distributed these negative impacts will be, with states in the South and Midwest bearing the brunt of the most serious economic impacts while states in the country’s Northeast and Northwest may actually receive benefits from atmospheric warming that lead to more vibrant economies.
Based on this map, it certainly looks like some of those jobs that moved to the Sunbelt States over the last 3 decades may be moving back north. It would be very interesting to see Canadian data added here. More jobs on the northern side of the US border ‘eh! Note: Red = economic damage. Dark Green = economic benefits.
Ask people in other countries what they admire and respect most about America and they will mention, without hesitation, cutting-edge technology and scientific investigation (linked with higher education), specialist medical care, environmental safeguards, freedom of the press as well as religion and America’s amazing National Park System and other ‘protected’ areas.
Aren’t those also things Americans should care about? Do these positive quality of life factors really have to be obliterated in order to create decent paying jobs as Trump purports? Wouldn’t investing in science and technology–especially in the creation of technologies to produce carbon neutral sources of energy–not create more jobs for the future rather than using those investment dollars as direct payments to long-established major corporations whose only goal is to increase profits in the short term for their shareholders?
Trump’s Egotism Knows No Bounds
At a rally in Duluth, Minnesota this week, President Trump claimed that’s he’s smarter and richer than the elite. By the elite, I assume he means the same generalized ‘liberals’ to which he often makes reference in his speeches. I hate to be the one to break the news to him, but Americans who might label themselves as ‘liberals’ and ‘progressives’ span the full socio-economic spectrum in America. But I won’t be waiting for him to clarify that point. The last thing I expect to come out of Trump’s White House is clarity.
I had a dream this week–one of those part whimsical, part terrifying nocturnal romps through the subconscious mind. I’ll warn you, the dreams that I remember the morning after are in vivid color and peppered with detail.
In my dream, I found myself standing in a crowd that had gathered along the fence facing the North Lawn of the White house. Between the fountain and the north portico of the building stood Donald Trump, dressed in full-on matador costume complete with a glowing red cape he held aloft in his tiny right hand.
The North Lawn of the White House with the sidewalk along Pennsylvania Avenue at bottom–the setting for my dream. Photo Credit: Wikipedia
This is not an article arguing the pros and cons of the State of Israel’s right to defend itself against outside enemies that might want to do it or its people harm. Nor am I writing this to plead for or against the US Government’s decision to recognize the whole city of Jerusalem as the legitimate capital of Israel. And, I’m certainly not going to pontificate that I have a solution to problems of coexistence in that region of the Middle East that date back millennia.
This is, however, a plea for the American people to speak out and demand that the US Government continue providing humanitarian aid for the neediest Palestinians at a time when the world is definitely paying attention and questioning almost every aspect of American leadership.
In case you haven’t heard or read about it, here’s what I’m referring to:
The US Government is withholding humanitarian aid to more than 5 million Palestinians across the Middle East as leverage to force the Palestinian Authority into a new round of peace talks.
The aid money–$355 million in 2017—is for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), one of the largest organizations providing funds for services and infrastructure to Palestinian refugee camps in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
While sitting opposite Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week, US President Trump proclaimed, “That money is on the table and that money’s not going to them unless they sit down and negotiate peace.”