Thomas L. Friedman: American democracy built on truth in free press & trust in fair elections. Russians hack news; Pres lies. Terrible combination
Category Archives: Random
Seen at Earth Day / Science march
We all know what it’s like to be frustrated, speaking very slowly and clearly to someone with only a rudimentary mastery of English, only to realize that you aren’t going to get the help you needed in the first place. And that’s only after listening to a pitch or instructions you don’t need or annoying music, and then punching buttons on a phone menu, one after another, only to end up being told (by a robot) to go to the website for answers to a problem not covered by the menu.
[Tip: I have found a shortcut that often works: either I speak either gibberish or rapid-fire insulting comments like, “Of course you don’t understand. You’re a machine! I want to speak to a human being!” etc. Or “Representative. Agent.” over and over. After a few robotic responses (“I’m sorry, I don’t understand”) I usually am redirected to a person who may or may not have the resources to answer my query.]
How delightful it was this afternoon to have my call immediately answered by a real person, one who spoke flawlessly and understood the problem after I described it just once. She appeared to be genuinely friendly, because I could tell (as one always can) that she was smiling on the other end.
This is an unabashed plug for sureflap.com, the maker of the Surefeed Microchip Pet Feeder. The device is ingenious and effective: it allows only one, specific, microchipped pet to eat from it, closes when that pet withdraws and refuses to open for any other animal. (Very handy when one pet is on a special diet and the other one wolfs down everything in sight). After 14 months of continuous use, however, it began to fail until a few weeks later it stopped working altogether. The device is very expensive for a pet feeder, and I expected it to last much longer. Ergo, the phone call to the number posted on the Sureflap website.
And here’s the kicker: not only was the representative responsive and friendly, she verified that I was a customer, via Amazon, and immediately ordered another to be delivered to me. That’s service the way it should be!
In the Age of Trump, many of the people who couldn’t imagine him president now fear for the survival of American democracy. Far from making America great, Trump is undermining and attacking the institutions that made America great. He has railed against the independent judiciary, firing the acting attorney general and impugning judges who thwarted his attempt to impose a discriminatory travel ban. The ban took the form of an executive order that violated the Constitution in various ways, including the contravention of freedom of religion. Trump has declared war on the press, whose freedom is guaranteed by the First Amendment, for the reason that it is playing its essential role in a democracy. Trump and his family are profiting from his position. The press is investigating illegal and suspicious acts and attempts to cover them up by the members of Trumpworld. Fake news! cries Trump with each new leak.
Every day brings new revelations of conversations and relationships between Trump and members of his administration with Russians connected to the Russian government or Putin himself. U.S. intelligence services have irrefutable proof that Russia attempted to influence the election in favor of Trump. It is becoming apparent that Trump and an increasing number of his associates have relationships with Russia that they have tried to conceal, even under oath, as Jeff Sessions did during his confirmation hearing for the post of attorney general.
If all the contacts with Russia that are surfacing are innocuous, why lie about them? Why is Trump so dismissive of the Russian tentacles winding around him and reaching deep into his administration? After it was clear that Michael Flynn had not only undercut then-President Obama by improperly divulging information to the Russians but denied having done so, why did it take more than two weeks for Trump to decide Flynn couldn’t continue as national security adviser? In view of Russia’s meddling in the election, why are most Republicans still supportive of Trump and his tarnished cohort and reluctant to appoint a special counsel? Many questions to be asked and answered.
I have sketched only the barest account of the subversion of democracy that we are witnessing today. Long before any indication of Russian influence and possible collusion, the attempted censoring of the press and the Muslim ban, I worried very much about Trump’s despotic ability to mesmerize a crowd, his erratic nature, his ignorance about the fundamentals of government, his cluelessness about economics and foreign affairs and especially his totalitarian admiration for authority. Long ago I recognized the peril in Trump’s unlikely but steady ascendancy. Democracy is fragile, I thought. I kept thinking of the complacency of the German Jews who believed “it can’t happen here.” But it is happening here. This time has no precedent and this presidency is like no other, I read time and time again. I am not at all happy to see my prescience being confirmed.
But, after all the hand-wringing, a comforting thought came to me. Democracy is still functioning as it should. The judiciary stood up to Trump. Citizens rebelled. First they flooded the airports to protest the holding of people for hours without being charged or tried. At every airport lawyers volunteered to represent immigrants and their families who were bewildered at best and tortured at worst,. U.S. attorneys filed suits against Trump’s order and with a temporary victory, they obtained a lull in the proceedings that allowed the courts to establish some order.
Beginning with the Women’s March the day after Trump’s inauguration, people are exercising their right to assemble peacefully and petition the government. The continuing protests, unprecedented in number and size, are in every town of every state. Citizens demand town halls with their congressmen/women where they demonstrate their anger and call for action. They know who represents them in Washington and they call to register their opinions. More people than ever before are deciding to run for office.
The free press now comprises all the media. Newspaper journalism is augmented by television, cable, radio and social media. Reporters are vying with each other to investigate and publish the truth behind the prevarications of the Trump administration.
But this is a race against time. Trump will be filling judicial vacancies with his own appointees, and it will become increasingly difficult to resist his policies and expose the lies and misdirection.
In the immediate hours after the election, I was reeling and I wrote something I regret. I realize it’s not true:
It’s over now. It’s over for Hillary and for many of her contemporaries who fought so hard for civil and women’s rights and were finally closing in on the unattainable prize. That cohort may not live to see a woman in the White House.
It’s never over. Hillary won’t be president, but she’s not going to stay home and bake cookies. She never has. I am confident she will continue to serve.
As for her contemporaries, they’re not staying on the sidelines either. It’s time to plan for the next election. Elizabeth Warren, where are you?
As for the rest, be active and get involved! That’s how you make a difference.