Trump’s America: land of the tweet, home of the craven


The contest this November is between fear and hope.

Those who are fearful of the world, the future, the unfamiliar, of change and of Others have given up on our democracy. They feel (often rightfully so) that they’ve been lied to, cheated and used. They see no security in their futures and don’t believe they can exert any influence over the forces that control their fates.

The hopeful also feel they’ve been lied to, cheated and used, but haven’t given up. They see change as an opportunity instead of a threat, a chance to reinvent themselves and maybe the country for the better. They aren’t looking for scapegoats. They’re willing to take the risks of tolerance and to give up some security to forge a path into the unknown.

One group sees democracy as a zero-sum game whose rules are rigged against them. They think they’re falling behind because Others are getting ahead.

The other group thinks that if everyone follows the rules, nobody will fall too far behind and everybody has a shot at winning.

People in these two groups have one thing in common: they’re all angry with each other. The fearful view the hopeful as dupes who will only bring on more of the same. They want reassurance that somebody powerful will seize control to protect them, and they’re willing to let that person blow the whole country to hell because they believe the system can’t be fixed. They confuse bluster with bravery, bullying with strength and compromise with betrayal.

The hopeful will have to drag the fearful, kicking and screaming, into the future of an imperfect democracy. In this country, we dare to venture forth instead of hunker down, we value liberty over security and we strive to overcome fear with courage.





Protesters in Hong Kong rally for press freedom. Photo from

Protesters in Hong Kong rally for press freedom. Photo from



It’s a clash that’s been coming since the British marched out of Hong Kong on July 1, 1997. Despite promises from Beijing and wishful thinking in Hong Kong, surely its people knew that China’s dictators someday would move to snuff out their freedom.

It may be inevitable.

The anniversary of the day Great Britain handed Hong Kong to China always sparks protest. Tomorrow’s anniversary will be especially tense. China’s state-controlled news media have been blasting Hong Kongers over their ceaseless clamor for democracy.

“If they overplay their hand – just like the folks did in 1989 in Tiananmen Square – the state comes down on them,” said a leading pollster in the city.

But as Martin Luther King Jr. and Mao Tse-tung knew, only by “overplaying their hand” can people successfully challenge power.

Perhaps the fear that ham-fisted repression could hurt profits from the country’s most prosperous city will keep Beijing from clamping down. It’s also possible that forceful and prolonged pressure from international powers could prevent Chinese tanks and guns from rolling into Hong Kong. Without outside aid, that little island is destined to be subsumed into a giant dictatorship where free speech is prosecuted as subversion and calls for democracy treated as treason.

And with the example of Tiananmen, there’s no way international leaders can claim they didn’t see this coming.





Liu Xiaobo, a human rights activist in China serving 11 years for subversion, won the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize while imprisoned.

Activists of the world, unite – put your heads together, talk to each other and imagine what it would take for the Chinese to successfully revolt against the dictatorship of their one-party government.

Here is what China’s democracy advocates have to work with and struggle against:

1.  More than 1 billion citizens, many of them impoverished, all of them oppressed (except for officials and the newly rich) and very few able to imagine how much better things could be;

2.  A pervasive security apparatus of enforcers, spies and flunkies organized right down to the level of apartment buildings, and surveillance of every form of communication;

3.  A population infuriated by corruption, unfairness and injustice, and frustrated by a lack of any legal rights or means to fix problems;

4.  A culture whose greatest strength may be endurance of hardship without complaint, and whose greatest disadvantage may be the same;

5.  Fear of speaking up, standing out or taking action;

6.  Punishments for speaking up, standing out or taking action that include job loss, blacklisting, beatings, house arrest, imprisonment and execution.

7.  Widespread use of mobile phones and computers but extremely limited access to websites outside of China;

8.  Very few people who have a good grasp of spoken or written English.

 As Chinese leaders celebrate the 90th anniversary of their Communist Party’s founding, let’s reflect on the fact that their subjects – roughly one-fifth of the Earth’s people – have no political or legal rights. What can be done about this? Post your answers in the comments section.