Sovereignty For Us, But Not Others

The Trump Administration may be most infamous for its “America First” doctrine. Nationalism rules. Globalists like Obama and Biden and their ilk are despicable elites who’d just as soon sell out US manufacturing jobs to foreign countries as they would sacrifice our sovereignty to international organizations like the United Nations and the World Trade Organization.

The rest of the world be damned. Especially China. At least until they check their Individual Retirement Account balances, most Americans are sympathetic to the argument that it’s time to get tough on China in order to create some semblance of a trade balance and to stem intellectual property theft and cyber espionage against US businesses.

But there’s one central flaw in the administration’s economic and foreign policies that prevents me from enlisting full stop in the China Trade War and that’s the rhetoric spewed by Steve Bannon and others about the ultimate objective. . . destroying China’s “state sponsored capitalism” (see this documentary). This goal is based upon the simplistic and wrong-headed notion that when it comes to economic systems, it’s a winner take all contest.

Bannon says our version of free-market capitalism and China’s state-sponsored capitalism cannot co-exist even though they have been for decades. News flash Bannon—every national economy in the world exists on a continuum between laissez-faire free market capitalism and state-sponsored, command economics. Besides the obvious examples of North Korea, Cuba, and Venezuela, Canada and many Western and Northern European countries prefer the center of the continuum. Amazingly, different approaches work for different people in different places.

How would Bannon, Trump, and the other nationalists in the administration react if another country tried to impose its economic system on us? They’re always harping about our national sovereignty while simultaneously trying to destabilize China’s economy and replace Venezuela’s government.

The moral bankruptcy of this hypocrisy is growing more and more apparent, but the Trump Nationalists continue to get aways with it. Here’s hoping the electorate wakes up by November 3, 2020.


Today’s best bumper sticker. . . Make America Grateful Again.

Multilingualism Enriches Us

This is embarrassing to admit, but I spent last Saturday night watching the Republican Presidential Primary debate.

Romney said he’d get tough with the Chinese and tell them in no uncertain terms to quit floating their currency. Very funny stuff. A person with his supposed business acumen clueless about who has the leverage. Huntsman got so riled up he replied in Mandarin. The crowd sat in stunned silence. I’d bet my beautiful Chinese peasant painting that it hurt him with the Republican base.

I regularly skim the LA Times online. I recently noticed a feature at the bottom of the website, “Hoy,” or “Today” for the one or two of you more linguistically challenged than me. Under the “Hoy” link there are nine or ten articles in Spanish.

Here’s guessing the Republican base doesn’t like the “Spanish creep” on the LA Times website either.

Language facility is not a zero-sum game if you’re internationally-minded and multilingualism is enriching if you think cultural diversity is an asset. It’s threatening if you’re first and foremost a nationalist who worries that your nation’s superiority is waning. Especially if you think that superiority is exclusively the result of English speaking peeps.

Bonus link for the polyglots. Double bonus link for those wanting to learn German.

We’re all Tiger Woods Now

Remember how the 1992 “Dream Team” waltzed through the Olympic basketball competition on their way to their gold medal? Fast forward to 2004 when the US lost three times and settled for bronze. Fast forward some more to today. A Sports Illustrated mock NBA draft shows five of the first eight teams taking international players.

What about golf? There are four U.S. players among the top ten, and with Woods dropping fast, that will probably be three soon.

Tennis? The top U.S. player, Mardy Fish, is ranked #10, Roddick is #11, and then you have to scroll down to #26 before finding another American.

Soccer? FIFA has the U.S. ranked 22nd in the world.

The marathon? The first 14 are East African and 65 of the top 100 are Kenyan.

Long distance triathlon? Linsey Corbin, from Montana, is ranked 7th, the only American woman in the top 10. Timothy O’Donnell is tied for tenth among the men.

The most recent international test scores (NAEP) were recently published. In math and reading, U.S. students are in the middle of the pack among students from OECD countries. In science, back of the pack.

People suffering from acute “greatestcountryintheworldhysteria” will look hard to find different competitions we’re winning (personal debt, football by default since hardly anyone else plays it, health care inflation, gun ownership, fossil fuel usage, military spending). While their parochial heads are buried in the sand, more and more of the world supersedes us in classrooms and on athletic fields.

We’re all Tiger Woods now. The rest of the world isn’t the least bit intimidated. All young international students and athletes want is the opportunity to go toe-to-toe with us.

Winning the Future?

Gotta hand it to the President for at least having a memorable, recurring theme in his State of the Union speech last Tuesday. We can win the future. Among other things, he used the notion of out-competing other nations to inspire young people to choose teaching as their career.

It shouldn’t be surprising that nationalism and zero-sum economic competition inform his administration’s priorities. At the same time, when he took office I held out a glimmer of hope that he would be a different kind of politician, one who would inspire us to make tangible and intangible improvements in ours and other people’s lives.

His emphasis on nationalism is problematic because national identity is both too small and too large an organizing principle.

It’s too small because our well-being is intricately linked with other countries’ well-being including Mexico’s, Canada’s, China’s, and India’s. And it’s too large because teachers-to-be are not inspired by the “global economic race” metaphor. The idea of global competition might inspire people to enlist in the military, but teachers-to-be are motivated by personal, intangible, humanitarian, community-based reasons. They don’t want to beat other nations, they want to make a positive difference in young people’s lives and their small corner of the world.

An emphasis on nationalism and zero-sum economic competition leads to a narrow math and science-based curriculum. We’ll be okay if we just produce more engineers, nevermind the universal questions posed by literature, the insight provide by historical perspective, the creativity engendered by the arts, and the struggles we have living and working peacefully together.

To earn the respect of teachers the President should have said the era of top-down federal government policy making is over. The “Race to the Top” program he described is more of the same with governors bypassing teacher leaders and pressuring school officials to adopt the reforms Arne Duncan has said will be funded. Reforms similar to the ones promoted by the previous administration.

Also, apart from a two-year freeze for federal workers, I was disappointed that the President didn’t call on us to make concrete challenging sacrifices to “win the future”. Absent calls of sacrifice, the good ideas felt disingenuous, especially in the context of the out-of-control deficit. I wish President Obama had tweaked his theme this way. Secure the future—for yourself, your family, your community, and others.

Last week, in a Florida grocery store mother-dear and I were on a mission for some non-frosted shredded wheat. There must have been ten different boxes of shredded wheat, but alas, almost all frosted. Running out of patience, she said, “There should only be two choices of each cereal.” Exaggerating, she added, “We’d all be better off if in life there were only two choices.”

When it comes to political parties, I wish there were three.