The Art of Hypocrisy

FOLIO VOICES
story by SEAN T. SMITH

The Carl Vinson carrier strike group is poised to unleash hell. President Trump has promised that if China cannot reign in North Korea, the United States will handle the “problem.” In past weeks, the U.S. sent 59 cruise missiles into a Syrian airbase, closing it down for about six hours. Our forces also dropped the MOAB, aka the “mother of all bombs,” on a mountainside in Afghanistan. Cable news media fawned over the “beauty” of our firepower. In recent years, our military has conducted drone strikes throughout the Middle East, and has waged prolonged wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet as a nation, we cling to the belief that we have the moral high ground and the United States is a shining paragon of virtue and morality.
In short, we have refined hypocrisy to an art form. Our nationalism blinds us to history, our ignorance compels us to blind faith, and our faith binds us to destruction. Our leaders reflect these beliefs, and our commander-in-chief exemplifies the nation’s staggering propensity for self-righteousness. We reap the consequences of our collective hypocrisy globally and nationally every day, and as the world hurtles toward the abyss of nuclear war, it is worth examining our faith.
MORAL HIGH GROUND?

In April, the Iraq Body Count project (IBC) reported civilian deaths from violence are 173,686–193,965 from the second Iraq war. A National Geographic article published in October 2016 puts the number of deaths considerably higher, at almost a half-million.
Airwars reports that this March alone, 1,200 civilian casualties occurred in Syria as a result of coalition air strikes.
The U.S. is the only nation in the world to deploy nuclear weapons in war. Conservative estimates place the cumulative death toll in Hiroshima and Nagasaki at 225,000. The narrative is that these bombs were necessary to end World War II, and save American lives. This may be true, but the fact remains that those bombs resulted in nearly a quarter-million civilian deaths.
The U.S. also boasts more people in prison, by far, than any other nation on the planet.
According to the CIA, 56 countries have lower infant mortality rates than the U.S. Some of these countries include Bosnia, Cuba and Latvia.
Today, 46 million Americans live in poverty; the poverty rate in the United States is the highest in the developed world.
Do these statistics sound like a nation that has the moral high ground?
NUCLEAR STANDOFF

President Trump has discovered that his ratings go up when bombs fall, a fact that gives Americans a good reason to pack a bug-out bag and stockpile seeds and dried food. North Korea has nuclear weapons, and its fearless leader seems almost as anxious to play with his toys as ours does. Unlike Jack Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev, who took the world to the brink of nuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis and who were each careful and calculating, we now have Donald Trump and Kim-Jong-Un, two man-babies playing a game of chicken with nuclear warheads.
Whether it’s Iran, Syria or North Korea, what gives the United States the right to make a preemptive strike, including a nuclear one? The argument can be made that it’s in our national best interest. That is not a moral argument, however, and selling such an action to the American people always involves moral superiority. The enemy is “evil.”
If war breaks out in North Korea, hundreds of thousands of civilians will die. North Korean artillery will shell Seoul, and there is no way for coalition forces to stop the ensuing slaughter.
If we start wars that result in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of women and children, how can we still claim to be virtuous?
GOD MUST BE AN AMERICAN

Without the evangelical vote, Donald J. Trump could not have won the Electoral College. Christian fundamentalists, who profess to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ, largely supported him because he stated that he’s pro-life. Many were single-issue voters who ignored his statements on other issues, and who also decided to overlook his public statements and lifestyle choices.
Many of the same people who voted for Trump because he claims to be anti-abortion don’t seem to mind rushing to war and killing innocents. They also overlook the bodies of immigrant children washing up on shores both foreign and domestic.
The pro-war, pro-gun, anti-safety-net group defines itself as “pro-life.” Yet they voted for a narcissist billionaire who wants to cut programs for the poor. How is this possible? After all, Jesus said, “If you wish to be complete, sell all of your possessions and give to the poor and you will have treasures in heaven; then come follow me.”
The same folks who howl about government intrusion are perfectly willing to insert the government into our bedrooms and women’s wombs. Protestors carrying signs and bibles shout that All Lives Matter, yet somehow the Black Lives Matter movement is wrong.
We have collectively become so inured to hypocrisy that we no longer even recognize it. Unless we take the time to examine our beliefs and our actions as a nation, we can no longer call America the leader of the free world.
We must lead by example. We must show, rather than tell; act rather than pontificate.

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Yes, the World is Going To Hell in a Handbasket

When the wolf really is at the gates

One of my favorite children’s tales is The Boy Who Cried Wolf; my  boys understand it well. Parent’s know how frustrating it is when kids exaggerate or fabricate danger, provoking a response from us that is out of porportion to reality. The moral, of course, is that when the danger is real, help never arrives.

A good friend of mine, a staunch conservative, is fond of saying “Sean, people have been saying that the world is going to hell for as long as there have been people.” He’s right about that. Humans have always found reasons to fear the future, whether justified or not. The biblical flood is a part of mankind’s collective memory, with varying versions found on most continents. Furthermore, some form of Armageddon or the Apocalypse is also a part of most major religions.

Jesus said he was coming back soon, and the early apostles took that to mean within decades, looking to the heavens for signs of the return of the king. Since those days, Christians have proclaimed that the end times are upon us with regularity, and pointed to the alignment of prophecy and circumstance to justify the dire predictions.

In the U.S. an entire subculture has evolved around the idea of “being prepared,” and folks with varyng degrees of committment and motivations go to great pains to monitor the news while stockpiling food, weapons, water, and medical supplies to ride out The Fall while providing security and a future for their families. A lot of these folks are highly intelligent, skilled people with military backgrounds.

There is a certain tendency  in mainstream media to write off the preppers as crazy “tin-foil -hat” people. I write post-apocalyptic fiction and military thrillers, and I’m afraid these folks are right. The trouble is, no one is listening. I’m about to purchase a firearm for the first time in twenty years, and I’ve got a bug-out plan and a go-bag.

Why now?

The world has always been a dangerous place, and evil men are relentless in their quest to weild power over others. Our capacity for goodness, self-sacrifice, cooperation and innovation is in a constant state of war with our innate propensity for violence, destruction and atrocity. The religions of the world understand this ongoing battle between light and darkness.

For the first time in human history, mankind has the ability to eradicate himself in multiple ways. Nuclear winter, biological warfare, climate change, and Artifical Intelligence are all pathways to destruction. The doomsday clock is ticking, and the fate of the world hangs on the brink of a yawning abyss.  With the rise of nationalism, a resurgant Russia, and immigration problems that are doomed to grow worse, I fear for our future. The causes of danger and the methods of our self-destruction are tangled together.

Nationalism

Trump’s ascent to power is not an anomoly common only to the United States. The United Kingdom voted yesterday to exit the EU, bolstered by a populace reeling from and outraged by the infux of immigrants and the perception that they have lost autonomy and surrendered sovergeinty to the European Union. France’s far-right intends to call for a similar refferendum, as does Sweeden. Scotland will likely leave the U.K. in favor of joining the rest of Europe. The union itself took a huge hit, loosing 1/6 of its economy. There is enough momentum building that could propel the E.U. right off a cliff, taking the rest of the world with it.

The recent surge in nationalism around the world is inextricably bound to other factors. First, there is the anti-intellectual movement, which propagates the idea that experts are not experts, scientists are not scientists, and Facebook memes and snappy twitter characters hold the real knowledge. This age of unreason came to the United States with Sarah Palin as its poster child, and has come of age in the last months with Donald Trump now representing the party of Lincoln. Just about every country in the world has some version of Trump at the moment, from neo-nazis in Germany, to the South Pacific, and even South America.

Nationalism itself relies upon fear of others. It is the creed of walls and war, and history remembers this while men forget at their own peril. The last two world wars were the result of nationalism run amuck, and at the height of the cold war the Soviet Union and the U.S. took the world right up to the bitter edge of extincition. Bombers in the air, ICBM missiles awaiting launch codes, submarines stationed off coasts silent and deadly. While the far right in European countries beats its collective chest, Vladimir Putin is licking his chops. When Trump calls for abandoning our founding principles and wipes his ass with the Constitution, China sees opportunity.

Immigration and the refugee crisis

The rise of nationalism thorughout the west is tied directly to the refugee crisis, immigration, and the financial collapse that occured at the end of the Bush presidency. It’s an adverse reaction to globalization, and a longing for the dream of simpler times that were never simple nor true.

Had the United States not invaded Iraq, we wouldn’t be here yet. That war created a vacuum, which led directly to ISIS, which wants to kill the world and is spurring the influx of refugees throughout Europe. Failing economies make ideal breeding grounds for fear and xenophobia, and when there are legitmate concerns over terror attacks like Brussels, Paris, and Orlando immigration becomes a hot-button issue. Close the borders and let them drown, comes the battle cry. Already hurting economies are struggling to cope with people who aren’t assimilating quickly enough. It’s a global powder-keg.

Global Warming

As climate changes lead to more severe storms, droughts, and shifting weather patterns, the immigration crisis is going to get worse.

Mass migrations and displaced populations will continue to put pressure on the developed nations. Unfortunately, in this age of unreason, many politicians and voters believe that the experts have it all wrong. Global warming, my ass! It’s snowing outside. Never mind that the iceshelves are melting at rates that confound even the most aggressive models, the oceans are growing more acidic, the bees are dying off, and water shortages and wildfires are commonplace even in the West.

The combined effect of global warming and nationalism will inevitably lead to wars. Remember the fall of rome? Goths,  Visigoths and Vandals, displaced populations, sacked the capital more than once. The Huns came roaring across the planes.

  
The people who deny climate change are either doing so because they have a vested intrest in doing away with envornmental restrictions, or are just plain duped by the propaganda campaign funded by the first group. Either way, the result is that nothing gets done in time to stop what’s coming, let alone prepare for it. Because that is going to take cooperation, and with the rise of nationalism, cooperation is turning into a bad thing, for we musn’t work with the enemy. Build a Wall!!!

WAR

Despite reductions in nuclear arsenals, men have more than enough warheads ready to launch and trigger a nuclear winter. There are multiple flaspoints.

  
1. The Middle-East

Whether it’s ISIS, Iran, or Israel, the Mid-East has long been a bomb waiting to go off. In addtion the the sectarian violence betwen Shia, Sunni, and Kurds, there is also the universal hatred for Israel. A war there could start in many ways and quickly escalate. Israel has nuclear weapons and those nukes are key to its defense doctrine. They will use them if attacked by Iran, and Iran  seems intent upon wiping Israel from the map.

2. Russia

Russia annexed Crimea, and is actively engaged in the Ukrainne under the guise of humanitarian aid. The fact is, many residents of Eastern Ukraine support a stronger relationship with Russia, so the country itself is divided, making this civil war vulnerable to Russian intervention. As Russia militartizes the artic, this also opens a pandora’s box. Canada and the U.S. are vying control of resources below the melting ice and for the sea lanes which are opening up due to global warming. Russia rages against the sanctions placed on it, and resents the expansion of NATO into it’s traditional sphere of influence. Putin can’t wait to see a weakened Europe, a distracted U.S.

3. China

China is building airstrips on islands manufactured out of coral reefs in waters contested by Japan and the Phillippenes. Last week, Chinese aircraft came dangerously close to U.S. warships in the region,  and flybys are becoming a common occurance. How long before someone makes a mistake? One with international, and perhaps catastrophic consequences. Furthermore, China and Russia are working to improve their relationship, planning huge infrastructure projects together and developing trade relations in an effort to cut the United States and Europe out of the loop.

4. The United States

  

  
If Trump wins the Presidential election, God help us all. This guy has advocated giving nuclear weapons to the Saudis, expressed admiration for Putin, and is one word away from declaring war on an entire religion of more than a billion people. He believes his own hype, and this is incredibly dangerous, thinking that international relations are nothing more than business deals he can bullshit and bully his way through.

If Trump doesn’t win, then all that outrage that got him this far is going to be seeking an outlet. We may end up destroying ourselves in the end. And where the U.S. goes, so goes the fate of the world. 

Given the current state of affairs, that’s a scary truth.

The party of Lincoln: Tears of Abraham

  
Lincoln is easily my favorite president, for without him the United States of America would not exist, and the world would be a vastly different place. We’d probably be speaking Russian and waiting in bread lines. Lincoln’s essential goodness propelled the nation to great heights. He was willing to shed blood to truly take America back. He freed the slaves with the Emancipation Proclimation and believed that our greatness lay in our unity.
Lincoln weeps among the stars as he watches Trump pander to the worst in us. Fear. Rage. Suspicion. 

Trump is unwilling to condemn David Duke, former Grand Wizzard of the KKK, and The Donald wants to outlaw an entire religion. The more offensive his is, the higher his ratings go. He is putting the Republican Party out of business. And conservatives know this.

Trump is surfing a wave of outrage, a tsunami of destruction and paranioa crashing into the country and smashing the nation. He won’t win the election. But he isn’t nearly as dangerous as the incoming wall of poision he’s riding. Because those waters won’t recede any time soon.

What happens after Trump looses the general election? Well, I wrote a book about that. Tears of Abraham releases March 22 2016. The first Civil War was bloody. The next one will be worse.

http://www.amazon.com/Tears-Abraham-Sean-T-Smith/dp/1618688197

America Divided: “We, the sheeple…”

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I mourn for my country as it tears itself apart. We are better than this, and seem to have forgotten. Not since the Civil War has the United States been so torn, and it’s along similar geographic lines. In the wake of the California, Paris, and Planned Parenthood shootings, the vitriolic rhetoric is nastier than ever.

We are under attack

America is under attack from enemies foreign and domestic. ISIS is no joke, no J.V. team, and they are not contained, despite what President Obama has said.  The war on terror, and ISIS in particular needs to be swift and brutal and waged without mercy. Before it’s over, there will be thousands of troops on the ground again because airstrikes will not stop ISIS. Unfortunately, this is only a temporary solution to a problem with roots more than a thousand years old.

The only way to truly stop ISIS and other violent, nasty terror groups long-term is for the Arab nations, and the Imams that dictate religious policy decisions in particular, to put an end to the cries for Jihad and reign in the fundamentalist interpretations of the Koran. Because while there are violent verses, there is also a message of peace in the mix. It’s a question of what people choose to focus on and believe.

Violent fundamentalism is a cancer, and it is spreading. Unfortunately, the U.S. plays into ISIS’s hands by turning a war on terror into a war on Islam. It’s what they want, both by making recruitment easier, and by undermining our collective values as a nation.  That’s how terrorists win.

The threat within

Our own citizens are far more likely to kill us than someone who sneaks into this country. Worse, they are more likely to destroy us as a nation.

Social media makes this worse. Reporting so slanted that it cannot rightfully be called news pours gasoline on the fire. Misinformation and lies abound, with memes designed to incite hatred and violence. People are inspired by fear, and fear sometimes leads to action. The fact that the leading GOP candidates are completely insane illustrates this.

Donald Trump Speaks To GOP Women's Groups

LAS VEGAS, NV – APRIL 28: Chairman and President of the Trump Organization Donald Trump yells ‘you’re fired’ after speaking to several GOP women’s group at the Treasure Island Hotel & Casino April 28, 2011 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Trump has been testing the waters with stops across the nation in recent weeks and has created media waves by questioning whether President Barack Obama was born in the United States. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)

Trump is woefully incompetent to lead the nation, his main attraction that he is willing to say anything, whether it is true or not, in order to get media attention. He seems bulletproof, in that he can get away with spouting absurdities and insults; people like this about him. “He says what we’re thinking, but afraid to say.” He is a dick, and people actually respect that about him.

It’s not just Trump, obviously, but his astonishing popularity is indicative of the greater problem: we’ve turned into a hateful people. There is virtually no reasoned discourse, no ability to look at issues from both sides. Whether it’s the Second Amendment, women’s rights, the war on terror, immigration, or health care, each issue is framed in black and white by the media. And people eat it up.

Gun control

I’m a strong supporter of the 2nd Amendment. That said, the word “regulated” is right there. I fail to see how supporting thorough back ground checks or better enforcement of existing laws is an infringement of this right. No one is coming to get our guns. That’s fear-based paranoia, and it works out well for the multi-billion dollar industry that manufactures firearms and ammunition. Every time there is a mass-shooting, stocks and profits see a huge spike.

This is an American issue, not one of left or right. Yet it’s framed in such a way that the very idea of restrictions on firearms becomes jackboots and Nazis confiscating our guns. Gun restrictions have not led to dramatic drops in gun violence, that’s true. But, the areas with the most guns have the most gun violence. Something needs to be done beyond more people walking around armed.

The looming Civil War

I routinely see people calling for a revolution or secession on social media. My next book, Tears of Abraham, which releases from Post Hill Press in March, is about this very thing. People call themselves patriots with one breath, and demand a revolution with the next. It’s despicable, unpatriotic, and in the end, evil.

The first page of Tears of Abraham:

Often, that which is done cannot be undone. Sometimes a pebble unleashes a landslide; a small object becomes unstoppable, smashing and sliding and gathering momentum until chaos pulverizes everything. When the dust settles, there is a new landscape, crushed and snapped and desolate, which surely the pebble did not intend. The illusion of control can be more destructive than nature itself, when hubris convinces men to believe the lies they tell themselves.

It began with a few powerful men, tinkering and arrogant, manipulating and prodding. Wealth and power, unfettered by wisdom and conscience, smashed the United States of America. History now remembers the conflict as the second American Civil War, although there were many citizens who then fervently believed they were fighting a Revolution.

The first Civil War cost the lives of more than 600,000 people, and was the bloodiest conflict in our country’s history. The second war was worse.

We, the people, are too easily led by fear and hate. We need to talk to each other, not at one another. Listen, and work together to fix what has become broken.  I shudder at the world my children will inherit, and can only pray that we find a way beyond the consuming darkness

.http://www.amazon.com/Tears-Abraham-Sean-T-Smith/dp/1618688197

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The Trumping of America

Donald Trump saying "YOUR FIRED" NBC Upfront for 2005-2006 Fall Line up, at Radio City Music Hall, New Tork City. May 16, 2005. John Spellman / Retna Ltd.

Donald Trump saying “YOUR FIRED”
NBC Upfront for 2005-2006 Fall Line up, at Radio City Music Hall, New Tork City. May 16, 2005.
John Spellman / Retna Ltd.

When Trump threw his toupee into the ring back in June, I dismissed him, like most Americans did, as a pretender grandstanding to satisfy his ego. The latest polls have him more than ten points ahead of the closest Republican contender, and giving Hillary Clinton a serious run for her money in the national general election. How is this possible?

Trump the “straight shooter”

Trump seems to have no filter, and this resonates with Americans sick of politicians speaking from both sides of their mouths. Folks are willing to overlook his faux pas and blunt insults because it appears to be honest, and that’s preferable to business as usual from the beltway. I totally get being disgusted with lying, cheating politicians.

What I don’t understand is how Trump supporters can’t see his bullshit for what it is. He is one of the greatest salesmen in the world, and perhaps that’s why when he makes things up, people swallow the hook. He’s lied about his own draft record, claiming he had a high draft number, when actually he had multiple student deferments, and recently insulted John McCain for being a POW.  He lied about his net worth, claiming that it exceeded TEN BILLION DOLLARS (caps from The Donald) when his net worth is actually 2.9 billion, according to a recent Bloomberg investigation.

He has called global warming a hoax, insulted Mexican immigrants, though he is sure that “some of them are good people,” and laughed off sexual assaults within the U.S. military. He claims that he invented his campaign slogan, when he adopted Regan’s.

Trump the tough guy

Trump presents himself as a tough guy. He’s going to take America back from China. He’s going to stand up to Putin, and challenge him to a knife fight in front of the White House, one shirtless ego against another. He’s going to go to war with Iran, because, well, Iran. He will put boots on the ground to stop ISIS, and the tide of radical Islam will flee before his mighty shadow.

Right.

He says these things, and people believe him because he seems to believe it himself, transmuting his own cognitive dissonance to the rest of a nation hungry to believe.

And that is deadly, end-of-the-world stuff. Saying a thing is true doesn’t make it so. We need a president who is level-headed and has a firm grasp upon geopolitics. Someone who speaks softly, and carries a big stick. Trump is the opposite. He shouts, rather than speaks, drowning out anyone who dares to contradict him.

Smashing the field

He has gutted his fellow Republican contenders, relishing in the insults and meanness, pandering to the cameras. The other politicians don’t seem to know how to fight Trump, and they’re getting kicked in the head while he gloats over them like the puffed up school yard bully that he is. The scary thing is that people like this.

Anyone who consistently refers to themselves in the third person is unfit to lead a nation.

Muddy and Vague

His platform on a wide range of important issues, from immigration to the economy is vague. He makes great claims without the means to back them up, which is typical of politicians, but particularly ironic coming from a man running as an anti-politician.

The 2016 election

Don’t underestimate Trump. He might win. What seems more likely, though, is that he will deliver the election to Hillary. That’s probably why Bill Clinton called the Donald on the phone, encouraging him to run.

Trump’s negative ratings among voters remain high. He’s not polling well among women, and has all but lost the crucial Latino vote. In the vital swing states of Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio, he trails both Clinton in a match up. Since 1960, the road to the Oval Office goes through these states.

Republicans have good reason to worry. So does the rest of the  world.

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