Dragon City Journal features contemporary cultural essays & graphics, on a variety of subjects, but mostly dealing with politics and government, film, cities and urban life, religion and metaphysics, and travel. It is a monthly or bi-monthly publication. There are also occasional book and film reviews as well as some fictional pieces. “Subscribers” are notified by email of the posting of new essays, and are encouraged to add comments express their thoughts and opinions.
This morning I listened to Steve Inskeep perform journalistic fellatio on retired Admiral James Stavridis, former supreme allied commander for NATO, about his new book: Sea Power: The History and Geopolitics of the World’s Oceans. Inskeep’s obsequiousness might only be exceeded by the love affair he has with his own voice that managed not a single probing question.
You can listen yourself as they harmonize on the necessity of American naval power and find threat to it in anybody who much as sails a paper boat on a pond. Of course, those threatening Chinese came in for special treatment. And so, in the aftermath of this joke journalism I lay there reflecting on my own admittedly limited experience with the subject.
Sixteen years ago, when I was a Fulbright Scholar in Hong Kong I was taking the ferry from Tun Mun in the New Territories to Hong Kong Island. It was morning and the harbor was foggy as we passed the flank of a huge ship that was like a wall of steel shrouded with mist. Later, I checked out on the Internet and learned that it was the U.S. carrier John C. Stennis (CV74, we like to name ships after racist politicians). There it was, an American warship, anchored in a Chinese harbor (Hong Kong had returned to the PRC three years earlier).
I wondered why I never see Chinese warships in San Diego harbor*, which I can see from my balcony at home. In fact, one never hears of any Chinese warship anywhere near our coasts, because Americans would have collective shit fit. Americans, who love to engage in false equivalencies, judiciously eschew any equivalency in this matter.
Owing to my Fulbright I was subsequently invited to attend a party aboard the USS Blue Ridge, which was also moored in Hong Kong harbor. I was ferried out in a launch from Fenwick Pier and treated to a lavish buffet and beverages (payed for with my tax dollars, of course), but what I really wanted to do is ask one of the African-American seamen or women how they might feel about serving on the John C. Stennis.
But Hong Kong is not the only Asian harbor I have been in. I’ve been in Yokohama (where the Blueridge is home ported), at Inchon in South Korea (where there are also 30,000 American troops), and Guam, which has a huge American air base, and let’s not forget that we have re-opened a base in the Philippines. I have not been to our base in Okinawa. Suffice it to say that America has China practically surrounded with hundreds of ships, thousands of planes and who knows how many troops. And not one goddamn Chinese ship in an American harbor, or even off the coast of LA.
Inskeep and Stavridis co-bitched about those nasty Chinese building a new base on an atoll in the East China Sea, while American naval task forces are sailing in the same waters, and looking for a fight off of North Korea.
Gone are the days when American gunboats were plying Chinese rivers (the Sand Pebbles was just one of them) to protect American trading interests, and American ships were engaged in the opium trade in treaty ports forced open by Western powers. Although today one can see American warships a short cruise missile ride from Shanghai, Quemoy, Qingdao, or Tientsin in the East China Sea. Imagine a Chinese gunboat going up the Mississippi to force St. Louis to give them some land to establish a “concession” that would be under Chinese law (now there’s a freakin’ equivalency!).
You’re probably never going to see that. That’s because America is the “Bully of the Seas,” with many of its 800 bases around the world as naval bases. And with faux journalists like Inskeep fawning over American power and any admiral with gold braid on his jockstrap it gets a nice smooch from our media. This is why Americans are so uninformed, historically, or with honest, critical analysis. It is why we are so goddamned hypocritical, arrogant and bellicose. Since the imperialism of Teddy Roosevelt we have regarded the Pacific as America’s mare nostrum. I certainly don’t blame China, and can understand North Korea for wanting to say “Screw you, Yankee dogs, get out of our pool.” They might be autocratic regimes with awful human rights records—but that only makes them more like us (we just do it the American way).
The strange thing is that I have often seen the American flag on a naval ship in my travels and the first emotional reflex is one of pride, of comfort in the familiarity. Then my mind kicks in and the emotion that I realize was formed even with the help of NPR subsides, and I understand that ship and flag are there because war, or the threat of it, is to protect American business, that war is business, our biggest business.
*I had e subsequently been corrected by a couple of readers. It seems that three Chinese frigates actually visited San Diego for four days, and another visited somewhere in Florida. So? good beaches are a path to peaceful relations.
Current Journal Post
From the beginning of his campaign a lot has been made of Donald Trump’s stupidity. Some might say “stupid like a fox” but there is no doubt the man is an ignoramus as are most people who can’t see or think outside their own ego. Trump is however blessed with instincts of a natural con man. He knows a con when he sees one (easy with his moral compass), and he knows a sucker when he sees one (or even 63 million). Most of his so-called business success is a result of cons.
A con man also has to have a sense of the context in which he is operating, and here Trump was blessed by the political zetigeist. There is much dimension to that, but central was that the people hated Congress if not government in general They are the “establishment,” the “swamp” that is so much reviled. Alo part of the zeitgeist is that American racism is alive and well and Obama gave it a face that stood for Blacks, Muslims and Hispanics who were seen as a demographic tsunami that would turn American tawny, liberal, and less Christian. And there was a festering pustule of extreme right-wing Republicanism ready for the lancing and releasing the great White unwashed, un-educated, intolerant, self-entitled who now saw themselves as “victims.” It just needed a tough-guy voice and glaring visage with reptilian eyes and jutting jaw. Another piece of luck was that Trump’s competition was a joke. Their names are enough: Bush, Cruz, Perry, Rubio, Kasik, Carson (stop laughing), and Fiorino (who provided a pre-test that you could bitch-slap a woman on national TV and come away a winner—good practice for Hillary), there were more but they were all assholes like the rest.
So if you believe in God you might wonder why he would lean down and smooch this arrogant, narcissistic asshole on the butt, also why he would do it on both cheeks. Because Trump also had the complicity of the flaccid Democratic Party, except for Bernie Sanders, who also read the zeitgeist, and ignited a sensible response to it, enough to be a viable candidate from the Left. But Bernie wasn’t the DCC’s chosen one and they screwed him over and outraged an entire eager demographic. Instead the Dems pushed forward the pant-suited princess who was both Washington and Wall Street establishment with flavorings of stupid stuff like her emails. She offered Obama 2.0, a version of a defunct half-assed package of domestic and foreign policies. Neither Obama nor the DCC paid much attention to the years of Republican takeover of the states and gerrymandering of congressional districts. Obama’s “legacy” was entirely concerned with Obama (no wonder it is proving so easy to obliterate). Still more good luck for Trump there. Thank you God (I’m sure you godlies really mean that).
Trump was willing to say, or tweet, anything, anything. He has two measures—the buck, and whether or not you like him. The truth means nothing for him and he lies and exaggerates at will an with surprising little question or contradiction from slavering and adoring base that he plays like a credulous carnival crowd. While the country stood stunned that American politics could sink to that of a banana republic this arrogant, greed-driven, narcissist snuck in the back door of a stupid electoral system (and with a little help from Russia and our own FBI Director) to become President. That’s how a so-called American “democracy” shows itself for the joke it actually is and why people get the government they deserve, and that is proving t be something that is frighteningly close to fascism.
The political planets aligned beautifully for Trump; there is no other way an ignorant, sleazy huckster could have conned his way into the White House. An suddenly we are confronted with all three branches of Federal government in the tiny hands ho literally you would not buy a use car from. Worrisome as that is already proving to be, it is reflective of a structural corruption to American “democracy.” Corporate/Wall Street and the National defense establishment and the Christian/Racist culture have already secured their sovereignty over the political system. They are the donor class and “own” Congress. The Right slso controls kost bof the gov ernorships ajd state bhounses. They now control America from topl to bottom. They define the political agenda, mainly through fear, and define its solutions, mainly through blame and scapegoats. It is a politics ideally designed for suckers.
The Democrats, or the Left (if there is any such thing in the US) is incapable of countervailing this structural wall. Obama proved that; he played wall Street’s and DOD’s game with bails out and wars, barely missing beat from his predecessor’s game. He became the “deporter-in-chief” and didn’t appear to miss a Congressional Prayer Breakfast or a “God Bless America.” They have become as enmeshed in the structural corruption as their opposition. They might have got in bed with the right-ringers for the night, but in the morning the Dems were told to “put the money on the dresser and get the fuck out.” Hillary found that out with her Wall Street “friends.”
So, what is there to do? March? Demonstrate? Protest? Whatever? Write pieces like this? None of them will likely be of effect. The Democrats can’t even force this guy to show his taxes; he just laughs at them.
In the end what brings down most fascist states is overreach; it must be Trump who brings down Trump. And therein lies a degree of hope: the conned must figure out they have been conned.
In the end, when he fails, the fascist narcissist dictator usually ends up blaming his base, the very people who idolized him and brought him into power, as being undeserving of his sacrifices for them. They will be especially unworthy of him, of his greatness. He never did like them; they were only useful idiots w ho brought their hoples and bigotries to his carnival show.
And so it will be when Trump comes down, which his idolaters finally empiricise his false promises, when their health care is not the greatest, when their jobs do not return, when the immigrants don’t all go home, when America will not be “great again” but worse than it ever was before, except for Trump, his family and the rich—when they realize that there is no red queen in the three card monte, when they realize they have been sold an illusion, that they have been conned.
Will it end with impeachment? Assassination, but one of his own betrayed? By resignation? By failed reelection? Will Trump end up pissed on and strung up in a gas station, like Mussolini? A satisfying thought, but likely. With a self-inflicted gun shot in a basement room, like Hitler? Not likely. Will America finally learn from this horrible mistake, from the fatal flaw in its history and character—that I is not great because it is White, Christian and capitalistic, but those are the reasons it never was, nor ever will be, great.
©2017, James A. Clapp (UrbisMedia Ltd. Pub. 05.11.2017)