Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Values, Have They Changed?

In 1986 I was working as a clerk in a small liquor store. On April 15th of that year the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps dropped or fired 60 tons of munitions on Libya. It was a retaliatory attack for a terrorist bomb exploding in a nightclub in Germany. At the time it seemed like another shot in an endless, inconsistent war, that wasn't really a war, but still got people shot, blown up, or killed at an alarming rate. A cold war that heated up, and immolated thousands of people.

On the Saturday following the Tuesday bombing raids a man came into the store. He was the parent of some students at the Catholic High school I had attended. He was very active in the church, and a successful businessman. I was a lousy student, nondescript, almost invisible so I never knew if he had any idea who I was.

We talked a little as he was buying a six pack of beer. Eventually he looked at the television, the news was on, and Ronald Reagan was on screen. The man turned to me, and said passionately "I can't believe they bombed in the Holy Land so close to Easter." There were tears in his eyes. He was upset. There was no doubt where he stood, what his values were. Bombing was not so bad, but the time and place were unforgivable. I admired his strong beliefs.

I have been a liberal, a democrat, for as long as I have identified with either party. I don't really believe there is much difference, but mostly the lies democrats tell are more comforting. However, even in the times of republican leadership I have always felt the government was true to American values, at least their version of American values.

Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, all had a vision, A sort of misguided, callous Pax Americana dream. They felt the country was so wonderful everybody should have something similar, and they would invade everywhere and kick everybody's ass if that is what it took. It didn't work out very well, and many places are still paying the fee, but they thought they were doing the right thing. And they stood up to the critics, and took the heat for their actions.

With Trump it is so hard to say. Maybe he has strong values, but it is so hard to tell. His words keep changing. His strength is not in his unflagging resolve. It is in his chameleon approach to justifying his actions. He changes his reasoning as quickly as he signs executive orders. Is he just trying to do the right thing and doesn't quite know how to convey the message? Or is he hiding something? When a lie is exposed does he express remorse, and promise to invest more heavily in reality? No, he doubles down, and launches an investigation, and does his best to suppress the facts, crushing any dissent, any opposition.

Are these the new American values? Do we really want to stop immigration? Are we really so afraid of helping people? I remember when Reagan, and I wasn't really a fan, said, "Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate, Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall." Have we moved this far from those values in such a short time? I hope not.