America Between A Rock and A Hard Place

Monday, October 9, 2017 - 12:45pm
John Kushma

America Between A Rock and A Hard Place


The Rock is our American history, its triumphs and failures.  The Hard Place is America’s future, its resolve.  The Between is President Donald J. Trump and the pivotal backwash of confusion that lay in his wake.


(Moron: A stupid person.  Stupid: lacking intelligence or common sense.)


Is Trump a moron?  His Secretary of State seems to think so.  When has it ever been so publicly crazy at the White House?  When has America ever be in such jeopardy?  It feels like either no one is driving the bus, or there’s a lunatic at the wheel.    


Is Trump stupid?  By definition, no ...well, maybe yes, on some things.


As president, if someone on staff calls you a moron, or anybody calls their boss a moron, especially, a Secretary of State, and it was publicized, or even not, you’d think there would be no other recourse than to fire that person. 


Rex Tillerson is heavy hitter, recently chairman and CEO of ExxonMobil worldwide, a no-nonsense guy, diametrically opposed to his boss, Donald Trump, recently a hotel and casino entrepreneur who appears to be a total-nonsense guy.  I don’t think Tillerson will be around much longer, he’ll either quit or be fired.  How can he possibly stand the nonsense?      


President Obama fired General Stanley McChrystal for something similar.  McChrystal was the Army general in charge of forces in Afghanistan in the mid-2000s who was betrayed by Michael Hastings, a reporter on assignment for Rolling Stone magazine.  McChrystal made the mistake of allowing Hastings to his inner circle, traveling with his elite team staff and exposing much of their insubordinate operational behavior.  Their hope was a story in Rolling Stone that would glamorize the general and his team into rock star status.  Hastings’s story, ”The Runaway General”, did just the opposite.  It famously portrayed McChrystal and his staff as anti-heros, a bunch of overzealous pirates, citing derogatory comments by McChrystal about then Vice President, Joe Biden and other officials. 


Obama summoned McChrystal to the White House and summarily fired him on the spot.  In this case, however, it would make more sense that Tillerson fires Trump, but in the national game show called "America" we voted for The Donald, our American "idle".    


Just to follow on with the story ...Hastings was killed in what many have called a suspicious car accident a few years later when his Mercedes C250 Coupe traveling at maximum speed ran into a palm tree at 4:25 AM in the Hancock Park neighborhood of Los Angeles.  Witnesses saw sparks coming from Hastings’s car before it hit the tree.  The car’s engine was ejected sixty yards from the scene, Hastings’s body was burned beyond recognition.  U.S. intelligence agents said afterwards that the accident was “consistent with a cyber car attack”.  


So, it’s rough out there, and you don’t want to mess with the wrong people.  You don’t want to say the wrong things.  


When, in defense of Russian President Vladimir Putin for being called a “killer”, Trump asked the interviewer, “You think our country is so innocent?”  I guess this is the kind of thing he meant, and he was probably right.


So, is Trump stupid?  Definitely, no.


But our president has said so many “stupid” irresponsible things, un-presidential things.  It’s something new every day.  Sophomorically Calling Kim Jong-un “Rocket Man” ..kind of funny but incendiary.  The name calling of his opponents during the campaign, his famous Access Hollywood bus comment about grabbing women, his comments about Puerto Rico draining the budget regarding Hurricane Harvey.  Sometimes his comments are funny, most times they are eye-rolling and infuriating, but they always seem to be just plain stupid and unmitigatedly thoughtless for a grown man, no less a U.S. President.  He recently referred to living in the White House as like living in a Venezuelan prison, a mindlessly disrespectful, off the cuff comment.  


He doesn’t seem to have respect for himself, or others, and appears to be willing to humiliate himself in front of the world, daily.     


The most recent comment, however, which has the news media and White House staff reeling is his now famous “calm before the storm” remark.  Everyone is dizzy trying to figure what he means by that.  Personally, I think it’s just television talk for, “We’ll be right back after a short break, stay tuned, don’t go away.”


This has been all fun and games, not much harm done so far, just good TV, but Trump’s soft underbelly is now exposed to both we Americans and the rest of the world, and he’s become predictable in his unpredictability.  I can see the danger looming.  And he’s just in his first year.  


I am starting to wax philosophical about all this, and maybe you should too.  Here’s why.  When you get to be a certain age and there are more years behind you than ahead of you, you start to think about your worth.  Not wealth, but worth.  What do you want to leave behind you, what legacy ...for your family, spouse, kids ..their kids ..everyone and everyone’s kids ..your homeland ..planet?  


To my mind, the most worthwhile thing you can leave behind is safety and security.  Not just personal family finances and a home, which are definitely important, but past that, the kind of a country, the kind of world to which you have contributed to assure a general security and well-being to all who will follow.  It may sound idealistic even kitschy, especially to a younger person, even a middle age person preoccupied with climbing that corporate ladder, going for the gold.  But to an older person with enough brain cells left and the facilities to think things through, some life experience, a sense of history, and who has been a good observer, this rapidly becomes evident as the one most important thing you can do, that you need to do. 


So, the Between in the ‘between a rock and a hard place’ may well be the confusion in which we are currently drowning.  Confusion about who you are, we are, what this game show we call America is or should be, and who to turn to when the sh*t hits the fan.  


The president?  The Constitution?  Our unexceptional law makers?  Our laws?  


How about the original laws.  The original ten that Moses told us about, as the story goes, all pretty good tips, actually.  


Maybe America should pass laws against stupidity, obesity, greed, not being informed, not being curious, not paying attention.  We don’t have a “right” to know, we have a responsibility and obligation to find out, to pay attention.


You may have missed that General McChrystral / Michael Hastings story in the news, but you probably caught the NFL kneeling protesters story on television, and probably have an opinion about it.


Here’s the thing ...the Las Vegas shooting, all the mass shootings and tragedies ...the racial inequality, social injustices, bigotry, misogyny, greed in our country ...these are not national tragedies, they are personal tragedies.  The victims, the perpetrators, we television viewers ...we need to stop wrapping ourselves in the American flag and our other national symbols, or hiding behind them, and start looking to one another for accountability.  “America” isn’t responsible or accountable for these actions by individuals, the individuals are.  “America” can’t help you past making and enforcing its laws.  


Personal responsibility is required.


JFK had the right idea both regarding America and life generally, ”...ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”


So, don’t ask what your friend and neighbors, your church, your family, your community and neighborhood can do for you, ask what you can do for them.  


Or we’ll be stuck between this rock and hard place forever.  



John Kushma is a communication consultant and lives in Logan, Utah.