A disheveled, unkempt, unclean Steve Bannon finally emerged from his warren this week to claim outstanding success for this administration in its first month in office. Disheveled, unkempt, unclean is how Mr. Bannon always looks. The American Psychiatric Association Manual of disorders DSM-IV defines a mental disorder as a “clinically significant behavioral or psychological syndrome or pattern …”. Add Mr. Bannon’s paranoid fulminations on Breitbart and there is cause to worry.
Worry, especially because he has been named to the National Security Council by the President breaking precedent and setting a new dangerous one. This is the first time a political adviser has been appointed, a matter of grave concern because he can color the discourse from a political angle, varnishing bare truth for political goals. He could also be considered the President’s spy by other members causing them to hold back on frank opinion.
Thus Trump appointing a straight-shooting general, well-regarded in the military, as National Security Adviser and so Council chair was a huge relief for those expecting an ideologue. Lieutenant General H R McMaster is a PhD and a student of history. His doctoral dissertation and associative book “Dereliction of Duty” discuss the failure of top command to voice opinion forcefully in the Vietnam war. Will his be a voice of moderation? We have to wait and see.
For Trump’s supporters the ideal American is white and Christian. They were encouraged by Mr. Trump’s constant repetitions of dubious facts, and the result has been an upsurge of hate incidents. Among the 68 reported by Jewish community centers and synagogues, was the particularly heinous vandalism of a Jewish cemetery in St. Louis, Missouri. If there can be a silver lining in such an incident, it was a Muslim group raising money to repair the damage. Their goal was $30,000; they have raised over $120,000. Common human decency is universal.
Last Wednesday at 7:15 pm, two Indian engineers were shot at Austins Bar and Grill in Olathe, Kansas just south of Kansas City. The 51 year-old gunman, Adam W. Purinton, was heard hurling racial epithets and yelling ‘get out of my country’ before firing. Srinivas Kuchibhotla, 32, was killed and his colleague Alok Madasani, 32, wounded. They worked in aviation electronics for Garmin, a GPS navigation and communications device company. One can imagine the two shot could have been the CEOs of Microsoft and Google — they too are of Indian ethnicity and represent the remarkable contributions of immigrants in the high-tech industry. In this tragedy was a hero: Ian Grillot, 24, tried to wrest the gun away and was shot in the hand and chest. He is expected to survive.
Also this week a man and his female companion were removed from a Chicago to Houston flight. He kept spewing a volley of racist slurs directed at a Pakistani-Indian couple.
Shortly after Mr. Trump’s inauguration, the Islamic Center and mosque opposite the University of California at Davis was vandalized. Windows were broken and bacon wrapped around doorknobs. Like Jews, Muslims consider the pig unclean. It was just one of numerous incidents.
As is often so, the fires of bigotry and hatred are easier to ignite than extinguish. In that sense they are much like war. U.S. forces are back in Iraq and very recently have been assisting Iraqi forces in Mosul. And, despite Obama’s strenuous efforts, they are, after 15 years, still in Afghanistan.
One can but hope General McMaster realizes the limited successes of war as an instrument of policy. China is quietly and effectively demonstrating the rewards of patience and soft power across the globe.
Dr Arshad M Khan (http://ofthisandthat.org/index.html) is a former Professor whose comments over several decades have appeared in a wide-ranging array of print and electronic media. His work has been quoted in the U.S. Congress and published in the Congressional Record.