Five days ago President Trump tweeted how proud he was of “our great Country.” I’m not so proud. At least not this week, or last week, or the week before, when Puerto Rico was drowning and his energies were focused on slurring black football players taking a knee, then insulting a Latino mayor begging for help and doing the same to an entire American island of Hispanics for “busting” his budget before taking us down his rabbit hole to still more abominable levels when he thought proper to throw paper towels at the masses as he deigned grime a sole on a few square feet of Puerto Rican soil for the TV cameras.
We’ve seen these acts from tin-eared dictators of tinpot nations too desperate or poor or habitually repressed and molested by swinish power to know better. We’ve never seen it in this country, not even from governors (George Wallace was a one-hate wonder and Huey Long for all his racism and demagoguery at least did something for the poor) or senators, whose Theodore Bilbo-like roll of dishonor would outnumber that of Roman emperors but couldn’t outvulgar any cubic inch of Trump: dignity escapes him.
His aberrations coil against each other in a verbal preening that knows only so many words, as when he told Puerto Ricans they should be “proud” of their island’s death toll because it was no Katrina, then spoke of his pride in Vegas cops for stopping the latest of our endless mass shooters after he’d killed and injured 600. He had nothing to say about what made the massacre possible, what makes it possible only in this country. There should be no such thing in a nation that imagines itself civilized. Except in America, where men like these, and there will be more because it’s a growth industry, have the complicity of the National Rifle Association’s ideological terrorism, ensuring that such arsenals are legal, available, celebrated and defended in our trigger-mad legislatures. And not one word from the president about finding a saner way to live with guns rather than at the mercy of their fanatics–and I don’t mean just the shooters. But Trump has no sense of proportion. He’d have said the same thing whether 10 people had been victimized or 1,000. He’s warming up those same kinds words in his run-up to war with Korea, which he sees as just another intervention others will carry out. Others will suffer, others will pay.
Last week at the United Nations the United States cast a vote that speaks loads about where this country is going, and in whose company it feels comfortable. No, not Russia in this case, but China, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, the sort of countries whose governments think human dignity is something to spit at, as is becoming the case in our gnarlier republic. The vote took place in the Human Rights Council, and yes, it’s a joke that these countries are even part of that council. It shouldn’t be a joke that the United States is. But now it is.
The vote was on a resolution condemning the execution of people for their religious or personal beliefs, for their race or ethnic background, for changing their religion or blaspheming any religion (all of which leads to routine executions even in countries American soldiers continue to shed blood for, like Iraq and Afghanistan). But mostly the resolution was condemning executions of people for being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, what has become known as LGBT (for convenience but also so people who sympathize but still think in their eschatological universe that uttering the word “gay” may send them to hell).
It was the first time in the history of the United Nations that the world community had agreed more or less together that killing people for their sexual orientation is as fundamental a violation of human rights as murder. (Amazing that we would have to have a resolution to that effect: that there are people on earth, that there are people in this very town, probably on my street and yours, who think that it is not murder, but god’s will or some such, actual blasphemy.)
The resolution was not a call to end the death penalty, in which case you’d have expected some states, including the United States, to oppose it, since it is still legal in most American states. It was simply a resolution calling on preventing bias and arbitrariness in the application of the death penalty, especially when it targets religious or ethnic minorities and sexual orientation.
Yet the United States voted against it.
There was no explanation. Just a no vote, sending a message to backward countries that execute the innocent that we’re with you, we feel your sadism and bigotry, we condone your hatred. We approve. In fact, we execute, too, if by pretending that we do it more humanely, as if that were even possible. Just ask Florida, whose Gov. Rick Scott signs death warrants like a scythe signing autographs.
The LGBT community was shocked by the vote. The State Department then felt compelled to clarify. It claimed that while it “unequivocally” condemns killing gays, the concern was “with the resolution’s approach in condemning the death penalty in all circumstances.” But that’s precisely what the resolution did not do. And the vote stands. So does its message.
This is not the vote of a great country. It’s the vote of a small-minded, a mean and demeaning country. A country in the image of its president who then spoke of his pride in this country in serial tweets even as his every other pronouncement is a cleave, a slur, a boast, a lie or a disgrace. This, of course, is what he meant by “American carnage” in his inaugural address. You may be proud of it. I’m not.