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Russian and Greedy Individual Threats to American Democracy
in the news: Twenty times in his forty-two minute long first speech to the United Nations on September 19th USA President Donald Trump referred to the concept of sovereignty. As an article written by Simon Shuster in the October 2nd issue of Time magazine reported, "Sovereignty...defines the way his Administration sees the world and the U.S. role within it." And in response to his "I will always put America first" self-interest based stance, it noted "Many European statesmen expressed alarm over Trump's disregard for the idea of shared responsibility in dealing with the world's most pressing problems." The article, pointing out that in the past leaders of countries like "Russia, China, or North Korea...have cited sovereignty in their defense," called Trump's speech "something of a contradiction." No sooner had this magazine appeared on newsstands when it was joined by the October 2017 issue of Smithsonian, with a cover story :"What Ever Happened to the Russian Revolution?" by Ian Frazier. Toward the end of this thirty page article, Frazier recalls his recent encounter with a Russian woman in Yekaterinburg who calls out to him and his son: "Americans...Trump Won! We Chose Him!" Frazier goes on to quote former FBI Director James Comey's related testimony before Congress in June: "We're talking about a foreign government that, using technical intrusion, lots of other methods, tried to shape the way we think, we vote, we act. That is a big deal." And a huge assault on American national sovereignty--which David Rothkopf writing in The Washington Post pointed out in noting that--astonishingly--Trump failed to mention at all in his UN speech.
commentary and analysis (by Stephen P. Cook, founder and manager, project Worldview, www.projectworldview.org): Dictionary definitions of sovereignty include phrases like "supremacy of authority or rule," "complete independence," and "self government." Fundamental to characterizing a democratic nation's sovereignty is the idea that authority to rule is ultimately vested in its citizens through their voting to choose leaders. If there is one worldview theme that project Worldview--despite its neutrality pledge--promotes as fundamental to what it's about it is Education for Democracy (theme #31). I'd say that if Americans are largely basing their votes on misinformation, lies, and fake news--whether provided by websites like Infowars, the Russians, or whomever--then our system will eventually collapse under this assault on its integrity. The Smithsonian article ends by pointing out that--despite the fall of communism and the Soviet Union--"Lenin's tactics enjoy excellent health today." And that, in 2013 Breitbart News head (and later Trump advisor) Steve Bannon told a reporter, "I'm a Leninist" -- meaning that he shared the Soviet Union founder's view of the world as divided into his allies and enemies and that uncompromising methods where the end justifies use of any means are called for "to bring everything crashing down, and destroy today's establishment" (Bannon's words).
Rather than respecting an individual's quest to educate himself or herself with facts / truth, and putting faith in "the collective wisdom and resourcefulness of the people" (this from Populism (theme #21A)), I'd say that Leninists and those who spread misinformation, lies, and fake news to win power are elitists manipulating and fooling the public, who doesn't see their paternalistic "I Know What's Best For You" (worldview theme #2B) true colors. It seems this recent treatment of USA citizen voters like sheep to be guided or children who haven't learned to think for themselves, also involves selling them on unthinking nationalism and patriotism (see The Proud Identification (worldview theme #37A) ) Of course this is not something new--the last eighty years of American history has seen the isolationist political right adopt "America First," "America, Love It or Leave It" and similar slogans.
The threat to American sovereignty and democracy posed by hostile foreign powers--as illustrated by Russian meddling in the 2016 election-- is obvious. After statements like Comey's and Facebook's recent (grudgingly?) providing documentation of Russian 2016 activity aimed at swaying American public opinion, perhaps only the hardest of hard core Trump supporters will accept his characterization of this foreign power meddling story as "a hoax" ?
Much less obvious is the related threat to America's public schools posed by those who wish to profit from school voucher programs that siphon off taxpayer dollars from them. Consider the situation in my home state of Arizona, where the state legislature has passed laws that funnel millions of dollars to private (including profit-making) and religious schools in the last two decades. Along with Trump supporter past (Jan Brewer) and current (Doug Ducey) governors, Arizona has been led by State Senate President Steve Yarbrough. According to Arizona Republic columnist Laurie Roberts, "Yarbrough's the guy behind most of the bills to expand Arizona's tax credits for private school tuition. He's also the director of one of the state's largest school tuition organizations--non-profits that collect tax credit donations then dole them out as private school tuition scholarships. Yarbrough's Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization has siphoned more than $127 million from the state via individual tax credit donations since 1998, according to the non-profit's latest IRS filing in 2015."
The Education for Democracy theme idealistically and unabashedly promotes the education that well supported public schools can provide (especially if hard-working excellent teachers are well paid!). I end by quoting from part of the description of this theme: "... well educated citizens are, as Jefferson put it, 'the ultimate guardians of their own liberty.' Such education should provide all students with equal opportunity to find their place in society based on their own interests and ability. It should give them tools to learn more efficiently, help them learn to get along with others, better understand the human experience / accumulated knowledge, select their own moral and political values, and ultimately to select good government leaders." Against this idealistic backdrop, hearing about greedy (recall Seeking Wealth and Power (worldview theme #43)) men like Steve Yarbrough and about a Russian woman taunting "Trump won! We chose him!" is especially galling!
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