By Tom H. Hastings
“I never intend to adjust myself to the evils of segregation and the crippling effects of discrimination. I never intend to adjust myself to the tragic inequalities of an economic system which takes necessities from the masses to give luxuries to the classes. I never intend to become adjusted to the madness of militarism and the self-defeating method of physical violence. I call upon you to be maladjusted.” –Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., 1957
As we fumble along into the second half of a disastrous regime here in America, are we supposed to adjust to being gaslighted daily by a leader so corrupt he will say something in a speech that is recorded and then deny ever having said it?
Just last evening I was arguing in defense of some students at my university and an administration official made a misstatement. I corrected him. He then denied ever saying it. I instantly got a mental twinge, “Trump Effect Alert!”
That administrator may have practiced decent social norms pre-Trump, I’m not certain. But he tried a buck-naked gaslight on me, and I still wonder if the Trump Effect—the normalization of blatant lying—is working its way into layers of our culture, our society, our daily lives.
We all know there is a background rate of lying and cheating in our world, but we also think of some countries as corrupt. The Mexican bribe economy, the Afghanistan payoff scandals, etc. Since 1995, Transparency International has been ranking 180 of the nations around the world according to indices of corruption. They also correlate to democracy.
Freedom House launched in 1941 and has ranked the countries of the world by metrics of democracy every year since the 1950s.
When democracy is stronger, corruption declines. In the US, corruption is increasing and democracy is declining. Thanks to the Trump Effect, the US has fallen out of the top 20 in least corruption—“We’re 22!”–and has lost nearly 10 points in levels of democracy, sliding to 53rd place in the world, not even in the top quarter of the nations on Earth. “We’re 53! We’re 53!” Yeah, Make America Great Again. Everyone proud?
Are we adjusting to this? I hope not.
The truly sad larger picture is that the world at large is becoming more corrupt and less free, from the nationalistic parties growing in the European Union countries like Germany, France, the Netherlands and Sweden, to the slide to the right in Japan, the Philippines, and other Asian countries.
Probably the most profound irony is that the most free countries on Earth are democratic socialist and the right-wingers from Trump to La Pen (France) to Wilder (Netherlands) tend to conflate the bad old socialism (brought to nations by the gun in the Soviet Union and China) (or even more twisted National Socialism of Nazi Germany) with the democratic socialism brought in by the ballot in Denmark, Norway, Finland, etc., countries high on the freedom scale and low on the corruption scale.
So please stop allowing Trump and his gas lighters to say that AOC and other young (or old) politicians who call themselves democratic socialists are driving the US toward the basket case Venezuela model. No. They envision a US much more like the Norwegian or Danish model—more freedom and less corruption than we currently have.
I could adjust to that.