It’s Thanksgiving tomorrow, and I will join millions across the country in giving sincere thanks for all that I have.
The country has been built up over generations as people both immigrant and native-born worked to advance themselves, their families, their communities and their nation. Our ancestors earned for us a fabulous bounty. We will honor them, and the religious among us will thank God for our blessings.
One person who will not be thankful tomorrow is Jamal Khashoggi, who was murdered and dismembered in a Saudi embassy a few weeks ago. Khashoggi was a foreign citizen who was a legal resident of the United States, with all of the protections promised to any person legally living and working in the country.
Those protections were declared void yesterday by the President of the United States, who made two things clear in his official statement: murdering a person protected by the United States will bring no significant penalty, and any threat uttered by Donald J. Trump is meaningless for any person who can buy him off or threaten him in reciprocity.
This is a loss for the United States. Beyond any weakness it shows on the stage of international diplomacy, it demonstrates that the United States is no longer an actor in good faith upon its basic principles.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
Nowhere in that passage is there a stipulation that the United States is to be the world’s policeman. But it does recognize the fundamental values of life and liberty, and the United States has come to represent the primary defender of those values throughout the world. By abandoning Khashoggi, we signal a disinterest in those values. We are actively rejecting what our forefathers provided for us. Another loss.
Lest anyone believe this is an isolated incident, I point to the recent comment from President Trump about the cleric Fethullah Gullen, legally resident in the United States but sought for extradition by Turkey. From CNN:
“No, it’s not under consideration,” Trump told reporters at the White House when asked about the cleric, Fethullah Gulen. “We are looking, always looking, and whatever we can do for Turkey and, frankly, countries that we can get along with very well. We’re having a very good moment with Turkey.”
Trump said he gets along “very, very well” with Erdogan and called him a “friend of mine.”
“Whatever we can do, we’ll do,” Trump added. “But that is something that we’re always looking at. But at this point, no.”
It’s not restricted to non-citizens. Trump also considered turning over a former U.S. Ambassador, a citizen born and raised in the United States, to Vladimir Putin for questioning.
Amidst it all, he has maintained the firm support of his base, who find reasons to defend every move he makes. This is where the Republican party abandons its prior stances in favor of law enforcement over foreign governments, which joins with abandoning its defense of basic morality, its demands to not federally fund abortion, its fiscal prudence and its support of free markets. Also, where it attacks military personnel because they dare to disagree with the actions of their leader… no matter how ineffective or illegal those actions might be. Even as the party has lost its mooring, many of us have lost our party.
Not just our party, our terminology. “Conservative” means nothing in the Trump era. Those who believe this can easily be reversed after Trump is out of office are delusional. By allowing the punditry and polticians to repeatedly frame Trump as conservative, they have corrupted the word irrevocably. Thanks to Trump, conservative is now imprecisely synonymous with nationalist.
Most of this is obvious. Slightly less obvious are the losses by association.
For example, the stimulative effect of tax cuts; by passing the tax cuts and heralding them as the driving factor behind economic growth, the GOP set the stage for future losses as being associated to that tax policy. Trump’s tariffs, if they continue to damage the market, will receive some of their deserved blame, but the rest will be unfairly diverted to the changes in tax law.
We’ve had so much losing, I’m tired of losing. Losing the appearance of validity in argumentative points, losing the party, losing decency, losing what is the fundamental principle of the country.
So, what is there to be thankful for?
The usual things. What our ancestors did for us. Friends and family, both present and passed. The bounty provided. And the knowledge, engendered by people like those who visit here, that there are many who insist on retaining roots in decency and sanity independent of what political teams and team leaders may demand.
In recognition of that: Thank you.