Should the World be Worried About Trump?

A commentary on the actions of Trump’s first week in office.

8409107_origJanuary 27th was International Holocaust Remembrance Day.  This is a day in which the victims of the Holocaust are to be remembered. The Holocaust was a genocide (the methodical killing of a large group of people) that resulted in the death of an estimated 6 million Jewish people, 200,000 Romani people, 250,000 mentally and physically disabled people, and 9,000 homosexual men by the Nazi regime during the 1930s and 1940s. As a social studies teacher, I taught my students about this event and emphasized the importance of remembering such events so that such atrocities would never happen again. Now I have to wonder if history is about to repeat itself.

My New Year’s resolution this year was to watch less news which I’ve been successfully doing for the most part, but on January 27th, everyone that I met or connected with on social media was talking about Trump’s travel ban.  Mr. Trump signed an executive order implementing a travel ban of people from seven majority Muslim countries for 90-days. The seven countries are Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Syria, Sudan, Libya and Yemen. This order also suspends all refugee admissions for 120 days with “case-by-case” exceptions and suspends entry of Syrian refugees indefinitely. This caused confusion as permanent residents and green card holders didn’t know if they could enter the country due to conflicting advice sent to airlines by the White House. It also sparked outrage in the form of protests across the United States (see Protests Held). The President claims he is “Protecting the nation from foreign terrorist entry into the United States”.

According to the Huffington Post, from 1975 to 2015, foreign nationals from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen killed exactly zero Americans on U.S. soil. The article sites an analysis of terror attacks by the Cato Institute.  In 2016 alone, 188 people were killed on U.S. soil in mass shootings not involving Muslim American extremists, the report says. Meanwhile, there have been 230,000 murders in the U.S. since 9/11. These are Americans shooting Americans.

The White House stated “Numerous foreign-born individuals have been convicted or implicated in terrorism-related crimes since September 11, 2001,” when it issued the order. What is interesting to note is on Sept. 11, 2001, 19 militants hijacked four commercial airlines to carry out terrorist attacks on the U.S. that killed 2,996 people and wounded more than 6,000 others. The 19 men were associated with al-Qaeda, led by Osama bin Laden. Of the 19 hijackers, 15 were from Saudi Arabia, two from the United Arab Emirates, one from Egypt and one from Lebanon. None of these countries are on the ban list. People from those three countries are still welcome to apply for U.S. visas and travel permits. This made no sense in my mind. The question is why? According to the Daily News,  Trump’s business empire holds multi-million dollar licensing and development deals in all of those countries raising alarming questions over what actually went into the decision process behind the executive order.

On Facebook, a video went viral of an Irish Senator, Aodhán Riordáin, reacting to the victory of Donald Trump. I encourage you to have a look. (see Trump is a Fascist). What struck me is that the senator referred to Trump as a fascist. During the U. S. Primaries last year my son sent a text me and referred to candidate Trump as a “modern day Hitler”. I’m now beginning to wonder if there might be some truth in his assessment of the man. There are several definitions of fascism but I like the definition on businessdictionary.com. It defines fascism as a

“Political ideology that imposes strict social and economic measures as a method of empowering the government and stripping citizens of rights. This authoritative system of government is usually headed by an absolute dictator who keeps citizens suppressed via acts of violence and strict laws that govern the people. The most noted form of fascism was implemented under Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler, who both stripped citizens of their rights and maintained strict regimes that resulted in the deaths of thousands of humans. Some of the defining characteristics of fascism are: (1) racism, (2) militarism, (3) dictatorship, and (4) destructive nationalistic policies”.

rtx1gzco (1)Now if we look at the entire definition, we cannot say with conviction that the Trump administration is a fascist government. The key part of the definition that would dispute this is “headed by an absolute dictator who keeps citizens suppressed via acts of violence.” Mr. Trump was elected democratically, has not carried out acts of violence to my knowledge and is not an absolute (as in his word is final) dictator although signing executive orders is sort of dictatorial since it hasn’t been approved by the Senate or House of Representatives.

Are citizens being stripped of their rights?  The January 21 Women’s March was held because woman, believed women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, racial equality, freedom of religion, and workers’ rights were all threatened under a Trump presidency.  The Independent reports that Donald Trump’s travel ban has been denounced by the UN as “mean-spirited” and illegal under international human rights law. Discrimination on nationality alone is forbidden under human rights law. Essentially, this ban is removing human rights on the basis of nationality and religion. There is little doubt that citizen’s rights are being infringed upon. That smacks of fascism to me.

The above definition says, “some of the defining characteristics of fascism are: (1) racism, (2) militarism, (3) dictatorship, and (4) destructive nationalistic policies”. Are these characteristics of the Trump administration?

Racism:  According to dictionary.com, a definition of racism is “intolerance of another race”.  The travel ban targets Muslim majority nations, and one could argue the Muslim religion, since no terrorist acts on US soil have been carried out by people from these seven countries. How does this protect Americans? Sounds like intolerance to me. The only logical explanation is racism. So is the Trump administration racist? Looks that way to me.

Militarism: Is Trump militaristic? He just signed an executive order to rebuild the military. You be the judge.

Dictatorship: Is Trump a dictator? He has signed several executive orders. These orders were not investigated by legal, policy, or political staff to ensure acceptability. An executive order is an official statement from the president about how the federal agencies he oversees are to use their resources. The president’s executive orders are recorded in the Federal Register and are considered binding, but they are subject to legal review. What this means is Trump is governing by decree; as if he had been elected dictator. One definition of a dictator is undemocratic rule. Close enough for me.

Destructive Nationalistic Policies: Is Trump putting into place destructive nationalistic policies? The travel ban sounds destructive to me or at the very least divisive, and is certainly a nationalistic policy since it is a policy based in fear. Nationalism is the policy of asserting the interests of one’s own nation separate from the interests of other nations or the common interests of all nations. According to that definition, all of Trump’s actions are nationalistic. Sounds eerily like fascism to me.

donaldtrumpadolfhitler
from .breakingnews.ie

I think it is fair to say that some of the things Trump is doing draws parallels to the Nazis. Hitler was able to tap into the Germans’ frustration by blaming the Jews. He claimed the Jews were taking over the country by stealing high-paying jobs. He was able to animate the uneducated by saying that Jews were destroying Germany. Now compare that to what is happening now. The Trump “movement” claims that the Mexicans are stealing jobs and are responsible for much of their crime. He is also perpetrating the idea that Muslims are terrorists. Most of his support appears to come from the uneducated. The Vox article, Election Results 2016, reports, Trump won “on the basis of overwhelming support in rural areas, particularly among non-college-educated whites” 

Now there are two ways to look at this mess. We could all be fearful and think the worst convincing ourselves that the beginnings of WWIII are happening. I refuse to believe that. It excites me that the actions of Trump appear to be “waking” the American people up. Perhaps this will force the United States to decide what type of a society they truly desire. Do they want a society based in fear, isolationism, individualism, and nationalism; a society that seems to have lost the of values “human dignity and respect.”  Or, do they want a society that cares about its citizens or even better all citizens; a society that values human dignity and a society that loves, cares and respects all people and not just their own. I like to think that Americans desire the latter and are waking up to the reality that Trump is creating the opposite of what American’s desire; a society built on fear, intolerance and perhaps even hate. The Huffington Post has an article called, The Inevitability of Impeachment, which states “Impeachment is gaining ground because it’s so horribly clear that Trump is unfit for office”. I sincerely hope they are right!

Is Science Fiction Really Fiction?

I used to think Star Trek was just fantasy, but is it?

STC_Enterprise-tI am a Star Trek addict. I admit it. There are many of us out there. I have watched Star Trek since my college days when most of the dorm community would watch the original Star Trek series before going for our evening meal. Ever since, I have continued to watch the various series such as Star Trek: The Next Generation, Voyager, Star Trek: Enterprise and even Deep Space Nine. I anxiously await the new series premiering in 2017. What attracted me to Star Trek, even though I understood that it is science fiction, is the technologies used on the voyages and ideas put forth by the various episodes seem possible. I have always been intrigued by such ideas as transporters, which convert a person or object into an energy pattern and then “beams” it to a target, where it is reconverted into matter. Especially intriguing to me are the concepts of time travel, the space-time continuum, and the idea that multiple dimensions or universes exist. What I find especially fascinating is that science, especially quantum physics, is now providing credible evidence that notions such as time travel and multiple universes may actually exist.

In the Star Trek: The Next Generation series there is an episode called Parallels where the Enterprise returns to the location of the fissure, attempting to return Worf to his original universe. A Bajoran ship, which causes the fissure to destabilize and the various realities to merge, then attacks the Enterprise resulting in over 285,000 Enterprises appearing in the same area of space. The android, Data determines that the way to restore the realities is to send Worf by shuttlecraft to the Enterprise of his universe, passing through the fissure and using the shuttlecraft’s engines to close it. Worf safely passes through the fissure, finding himself back in normality with a single Enterprise in front of him. After boarding, Worf finds that no time has passed since he initially entered the fissure. When he returns to his room expecting a surprise party, he finds only Troi, the ships counsellor, waiting with the knowing that the two are married in many alternate universes.

According to the article, Will we ever have a Theory of Everything, on bbc.com’s Earth page, our universe is one of many. This huge collection of universes is referred to as the “multiverse”. The article describes it this way.

“At the beginning of time, the multiverse was like ‘a great foam of bubbles’, all slightly different shapes and sizes. Each bubble then expanded into its own universe. We’re in just one of those bubbles,” says Barrow of the University of Cambridge in the UK. As the bubbles expand, other bubbles can arise inside them, each one a new universe. “It’s making the geography of the universe really complicated.” Within each bubble universe, the same physical laws will apply. That’s why everything in our universe seems to behave the same. But the rules will be different in other universes. “The laws we see in our universe are just like bylaws,” says Barrow. “They govern our bit, but not all of the universes”…There are trillions of other universes, each one unique.

It seems that many theorize that multiple universes or dimensions, like the one put forth in the Star Trek episode, Parallels, may indeed be reality. Who knew?

Without getting into the detailed plots, there are two Star Trek movies built on the theme of time travel. The first is the movie Star Trek IV, the crew of the Enterprise must travel back in time to get whales in order to save the future of Earth. In the movie Star Trek: First Contact, the Borg make a second attempt to conquer the Federation. Captain Picard and the crew of the USS Enterprise follow the Borg three hundred years into the past when Zefram Cochrane is preparing to launch Humanity’s first warp-capable engine.

What is fascinating is the world of quantum physics, specifically the Quantum Entanglement theory, strongly proposes that time is an illusion; that time does not exist. Time in reality is a human creation. Experiments have been done where two particles (photons or electrons) A and B are paired, then separated, and placed in different locations. When particle A is stimulated, particle B reacts without any time delay. That means that both particles act at the same moment in time regardless of distance. This provides evidence that time does not exist, at the fundamental level. Our concept of time as a linear passage of events is perhaps wrong. All there is, is now. Everything exists in an ever-present moment.

Albert Einstein, known for his brilliant mind in science, wrote a letter to his close friend’s family, that is, Michele Besso’s family, saying that although Besso had preceded him in death it was of no consequence, “…for us physicists believe the separation between past, present, and future is only an illusion, although a convincing one.” Even Stephen Hawking, one of the most brilliant minds alive today, is now saying time travel is possible. In a lecture titled, Space and Time Warps, he says, “The conclusion of this lecture is that rapid space-travel, or travel back in time, can’t be ruled out, according to our present understanding.” So it seems that science is suggesting that time travel may be possible.

star-trek-1966-01-gEven transporters may be possible, according to Quantum Physics. In May of 2014, The New York Times reported that scientists have achieved Quantum teleportation. This involves transferring so-called quantum information, or what is known as the spin state of an electron, from one place to another without moving the physical matter to which the information is attached.

Now this is a long way from transport machines on star ships, but it does lend itself to the possibility that it may one day be reality. There is no question that some of the things quantum physics are doing is mind blowing. In fact Niels Bohr who received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1922 once said, “If quantum mechanics hasn’t profoundly shocked you, you haven’t understood it yet. Everything we call real is made of things that cannot be regarded as real.” I must say some of the things that are being discovered in quantum physics does shock me, and I don’t pretend to fully understand it.

So what is my point? What science seems to be telling us is that our world and our universe is much more complicated than what we’ve been taught. We humans like to get comfortable in our “little boxes” where we’ve been programmed to believe that things are a certain way. We resist any ideas or thoughts that oppose our conceptions of reality. We humans even go to great extremes to defend our beliefs about reality. It amazes me that there are still people who believe and set out to prove that the earth is flat. If you don’t believe, check out the Flat Earth Society website.

Maybe it’s time to open up our minds to the possibility that things may not be the way we think. One thing I’ve learned in my many years of life is that things are never as they seem. Actually, the poet W. H. Auden, says it better. “There’s always another story. There’s more than meets the eye.” There is always much more going on than we like to admit or even desire to know. Maybe science fiction is not so fiction after all.

What a difference eight years can make!

A commentary comparing the inauguration of President Trump to that of former President Obama.

FILE - In this July 5, 2016 photo, President Barack Obama waves as he walks across the South Lawn of the White House, in Washington, as he returns from Charlotte, N.C. where he participated in a campaign event with Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Obama is interrupting his summer vacation to do some campaigning for Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee. Obama is slated to headline a Democratic Party reception Monday, Aug. 15, 2016, on Martha's Vineyard, the tony Massachusetts island where he's been vacationing with his family. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)
. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

I remember inauguration day eight years ago when Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th president of the United States. It truly felt like history was made. “A New Birth of Freedom” served as the inaugural theme and there was a larger than usual celebrity attendance. In his inaugural speech President Obama talked about renewal, continuity and national unity. There was so much optimism and hope that day. The world rejoiced as the first African American president took office.

Now compare that to the inauguration of Donald Trump in 2017. There were only five notable celebrities who attended the Trump inauguration. Instead, many of the same celebrities who criticized Trump during his campaign attacked him on social media during his inauguration  The Atlantic described the inaugural address as “unusually dark and political, delivered in a forum where new presidents have tended to reach for a language of unity, positivity, and non-partisanship”. There lacked enthusiasm and a feeling of hope. Instead, many people appeared to have a cautious wait and see attitude. I personally felt some trepidation for the future when the 45th president was sworn in.

Let’s compare the two men; the one coming into office and the one leaving. Earlier this month, veteran news anchor, Tom Brokaw, said this about former President Barack Obama. (see Tom Brokaw praises Obama)

“He’s been scandal-free, frankly, in the White House. We haven’t had that what for a while. There have been some issues around his campaign, but they’ve not settled on him.”

I agree wholeheartedly with Mr. Brokaw. Obama’s presidency has been relatively scandal free. There were no wars fought during the eight years of the Obama administration. There were no marital affairs or scandalous words said by Mr. Obama. He tried to make life better for ordinary Americans with his Obamacare. There certainly were no personal scandals like those of Nixon or Clinton. When you Google scandals involving President Obama, all you find is controversies surrounding decisions made by his administration. These were controversies such as Benghazi, a terror attack in Benghazi, Libya which resulted in four Americans dying. The criticism is that help could have been sent, but wasn’t. It is argued that requests for security prior to the attack were repeatedly denied.  Then there was “Operation Fast and Furious” in which the Obama administration is accused of arming drug cartels south of the border as a means to undermine the Second Amendment. It doesn’t matter which president in history you look at you will find these kinds of scandals.

09-donald-trump-bully.w536.h357.2xNow let’s compare the now President Donald Trump, who has only been president for a few days. The Atlantic provides a list of numerous scandals surrounding Donald Trump. There are numerous sexual-assault allegations with the most famous being the 2005 video, exposed during the campaign, in which the now president boasted about sexually assaulting women. On the infamous tape Trump brags about groping at women’s genitals. He says to Billy Bush of Access Hollywood, “And when you’re a star they let you do it.” There are scandals involving beauty pageants, racial discrimination allegations, the Trump University fiasco and even allegations of Mafia ties. The list of scandals goes on and on. It is unfair to put these two men into the same category.

Pew Research Center studies trends in U.S. politics and policy, global attitudes, and numerous other trends. In June 2016, the Center published, As Obama Years Draw to Close…, in which they reported that across the ten EU nations polled, an average of 77% have confidence in Obama to do the right thing in world affairs.  When asked about Trump, just 9% of Europeans trust he’ll do the right thing in world affairs. That is a stark difference.

Pew Research Center reports the majorities in nine of 10 European countries surveyed express confidence in Obama’s ability to handle international issues whereas, overwhelming majorities in most of the countries surveyed have little or no confidence in Trump’s ability to handle international affairs. Again, that is a shocking difference. In 2008, the Pew Global Attitudes Project reported that the majorities in 19 of the 24 countries had little or no confidence in then President George W Bush. I think it is fair to say that Obama is the only president to have the confidence of much of the world community in recent years.

What about the world’s opinion of the United States? Research conducted by the  Pew Research Center in 2016 shows 13 out of 15 countries surveyed have positive views of the United States. In many of these countries, notably France, Poland, Spain, the UK and Japan, favourable views of the U.S. have endured since 2009, when President Barack Obama first took office. The Los Angeles Times reports that in early 2007, when George W Bush was president, a mere 29% of those polled in 18 countries viewed the U.S. mainly as a force for good in the world. It seems former President Barack Obama did more for the reputation of the United States than his predecessor and based on world opinions of his successor, Donald Trump, it’s unlikely that that positive international reputation will remain.

Now let’s go back to the January 20, 2017 inauguration day. According to the article, Trump’s Inauguration.., about 250,000 people came out for Donald Trump inauguration. By comparison, 1.8 million people came out for Obama in 2009. There were no protests during Obama’s 2009 inauguration. Contrast that to the numerous protests which occurred in Washington DC, as well as other American cities, during Trump’s inauguration. Some of these protests turned violent causing police to use tear gas, water cannons, and pepper spray. Protests not only occurred in the United States, but around the world. According to The Guardian, protests occurred in London, Tokyo, Berlin, in the West Bank, the Philippians, Rome and even Russia. The Canadian Press reported protests in Montreal and Toronto. When I learn of these kinds world events, it does not give me confidence in this new president. I fear turbulent times may be ahead for our southern neighbours and perhaps the world.

The article, A nation of dissent, reports that demonstrations were held during George W Bush’s inauguration in 2001. Four years later, for Bush’s second inauguration, more than 1,000 protested the Iraq war. A difference is, these protests did not involve violence. There haven’t been violent protests during an inauguration since Richard Nixon. Burning miniature flags and stones were hurled at police during the inauguration of Richard Nixon in 1969 to protest the Vietnam War. We all know what happened to Nixon. In 1974, the House Judiciary Committee recommended Articles of Impeachment to the House of Representatives, but Nixon resigned before the House voted on the Articles. Could this be an omen for President Donald Trump?

My New Years Resolution – No More News

new-year-clipart-best-free-happy-new-year-borders-clip-artOn January 6, 2017, my wife and I along with our three wonderful children flew back from Mexico after spending Christmas and New Years at a resort. It was paradise with its long ocean beaches, good food, 25 degree Celsius or better temperatures and quality family time. There was time to relax, reflect and forget about everything. I didn’t check my phone once which meant I was totally out of touch with world events.

When we arrived back home, I thought I should check the news to see what is happening in the world. When I did I saw headlines such as;

  • At least 5 dead, 8 hospitalized after shooting at Ft. Lauderdale airport
  • U.S. allies warn of “new level of threat” from North Korea
  • Hundreds arrested, police officer killed in Mexico gas price protests
  • Brazil gang kills 31, many hacked to death, as prison violence explodes
  • Rapes and violence continue in Germany in first week of 2017

What a “downer” it was to read these headlines after spending two weeks in paradise away from reality.

New Year’s Eve was wonderful at our resort. The Mexicans know how to throw a good New Year’s Eve party. The hundreds of people attending the party were festive, cheerful and the room had a wonderful energy; an energy I would describe as optimism and hope.

Whenever a new year concludes people start to tell you about their new year’s resolutions. Now I have to admit, in the past I haven’t been much into the new year’s resolution hullabaloo. When I practiced partaking in new year’s resolutions, like most people, I would start off the year doing my best to honour my new year’s resolution but by the end of January I’d “throw it out the window”.  Resolutions were just too much effort. I would ultimately come to the conclusion that New Year’s resolutions were just a ridiculous ritual.

Where did the idea of New Year’s resolutions even come from? Is it practiced in all countries? I was curious so I looked it up. According to Wikipedia, a New Year’s resolution is when a person resolves to change an undesired trait or behaviour. It is a tradition that is most common in the Western Hemisphere but also found in the Eastern Hemisphere. It is believed to have started with the ancient Babylonians some 4,000 years ago. They were also the first to hold recorded celebrations in honour of the New Year, however for them the year began not in January but in mid-March when the crops were planted.

This year I feel different. This year I am taking on a new year’s resolution. That resolution is to watch less news. I’m not convinced I can stop “cold turkey”.  Why you ask? The answer is simple. The news is depressing. The news media for the most part report the stories of tragedy and sorrow; news stories that cause anxiety.  Now I’ve been told (I don’t remember who) that the mind is like a computer. What goes in is what comes out. So, if that is true and we are constantly filling our minds with tragedy and sorrow, then we become more and more anxious and fearful.

fight-or-flightAccording to Wikipedia, when we start to feel excessive anxiety we’re in trouble. Our bodies never turn off our fight, flight or freeze response. As a former biology teacher, I can tell you that chronic stress, or when the body is in flight or fight mode over a prolonged period of time, can contribute to long-term problems for heart and blood vessels. Specifically, a raised heart rate causes hypertension (high blood pressure) which puts you at higher risk of having a stroke or heart attack. Maybe this is why according to the America Heart Association one of every three deaths in the U.S. in 2013 were from heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases. According to the Government of Canada cardiovascular disease  is the second leading cause of death in Canada.

Napoleon Hill was an American new thought author who is well known for his book, Think and Grow Rich. Mr. Hill once said,

“Our minds become magnetized with the dominating thoughts we hold in our minds and these magnets attract to us the forces, the people, the circumstances of life which harmonize with the nature of our dominating thoughts.”

Napoleon Hill would likely say that if you’re watching stories that causes your thoughts to be negative and fearful, then that is what becomes your dominating thoughts.   Karen Marie Moning, an American author, seems to agree as she says:

“Who and what we surround ourselves with is who and what we become. In the midst of good people, it is easy to be good. in the midst of bad people, it is easy to be bad.”

If we surround ourselves with “negative news” then we become negative, anxious and fearful. So for me, if watching less negative news makes me feel more positive, optimistic and joyful, then it is worth it. It is so easy to get caught up in the negativity in the world that our minds start to tell us that the world is falling apart; that the world is going to hell; that the world is a “bad” place. I’ve never believed that the world is a horrible place to be. I’ve written about that in previous posts. Anytime I’ve travelled, I’ve met wonderful people who are happy. Our recent trip to Mexico reminded me of that once again. The Mexicans we met were wonderful people. They were joyful, helpful, kind and generous.

The Huffington Post has a news story called, Former Reporter Poses The question we must all ask ourselves about negative news. The story is about Michelle Gielan who was working as a local and national news reporter who covered numerous heartbreaking stories. In all her years as a television journalist, one particular story stuck out and made her question everything about how tragedy is covered in the media. Gielan was assigned to cover the funeral of a young girl who had been an innocent bystander caught up in deadly gang violence in Chicago. A week later, Gielan was covering the young girl’s funeral. That is when the reporter had an epiphany. “It was just beautiful,” she says. “We could talk about the fact that there’s pain and tragedy here, but there’s also hope and optimism and resilience… One story leaves us activated. The other leaves us paralyzed.” It is the elevation of positive news stories and hope, she continues, that holds true power. “What would happen if we talked about that stuff on the news?” Gielan asks. “How would that transform the community? How would that transform the world?” I would encourage you to read the story. Michelle Gielan has since left her job as a reporter and is now a positive psychology researcher.

If the media is going to continue to report on “pain and tragedy” then I choose to no longer watch it. If enough of us make that choice, then maybe, just maybe the news media will change their approach. They can still cover the same stories, but focus on “hope and the optimism”. It’s just a different way of looking at the story. Until then, it very little news for me.