There is a GIF circulating the internet of Prime Minister Abe (of Japan) rolling his eyes and leaning away after this president shook his hand. Which the president did for a long time. I joined in the merriment, but then I thought more about it, and it’s such a classic bully thing to do. This president does that macho bullshit of crushing people’s hands when he shakes them, and he really did not want to let go of Prime Minister Abe’s hand. It’s a dominance thing in which the so-called alpha male shows he literally has the upper hand, and Prime Minister Abe’s discomfort was clearly evident. Then, the news that PM Abe’s wife was not accompanied by Melania Trump on her tour of DC broke, and I was stunned by the lack of etiquette. No, it’s not Mrs. Abe’s first trip to DC, and, no, she wasn’t completely alone, but still. She’s the wife of a very prominent foreign dignitary. You make it your priority to accompany her on her tour of your fucking city.*
This isn’t even Politics 101; it’s just common courtesy. You do not let an honor and esteemed guest wander about your city without being there. You. Just. Don’t. I’m not the biggest fan of mindless traditional behavior, but I do think there’s a base level of decency that we must extend to each other, especially if you’re the President of the Fucking United States. It’s embarrassing to watch this president interact with the heads of foreign countries, especially Asian ones. Asians are very big on face and showing utmost respect to others in public. There is an elaborate ritualistic dance you must perform, and anyone who doesn’t is viewed with askance. I’m not saying it’s a great thing in general, but I do think having a rudimentary knowledge of other cultures is important as president. Prime Minister Abe and his wife may never mention these indignities, but they will not forget them–I can guarantee you that.
Now, let’s talk about China. This president pissed them off from the very start by talking to the president of Taiwan because of the delicate and complicated relationship between China and Taiwan. Now, as a Taiwanese person who is pro-independent Taiwan, I think it’s ridiculous and frustrating that the US doesn’t recognize Taiwan as a separate country. In fact, we basically ignore Taiwan except to take all the manufactured goods they can send us (even that is being taken over by China because of egregious working conditions that leads to dirt cheap labor). However, there is a way to go about changing those dynamics in a subtle and fruitful way, which is not this president’s forte. At all. Fast-forward a month, and China’s president, Xi Jinping refused to talk to this president until the latter confirmed the ‘One China’ policy. Predictably, this president caved, and, now, China knows this president is a paper tiger–their phrase, not mine, although, also mine, whom they can bend to their will.
It’s funny in a sad way how as much of a bully as this president is, he’s also so easily manipulated. As an aside, a tip to the leaders of other countries. If our president goes in for the crusher handshake, extend your pointer finger into the indentation of his wrist and press. I learned that in taiji (not in relation to the president), but I never thought it’d be something that should be used against the President of the United States. Two ways to deal with this president–either out-bully him as China did or flatter him to get what you want, which is what Steve Bannon probably does. This president is nothing more than a puppet, albeit a dangerous, explosive one. I can see him starting a war by accident, which is terrifying, just because he’s so bad at nuance.
I keep thinking I can’t be shocked by his behavior any longer, and I keep getting proved wrong. Shock isn’t quite the right word, but it’s close. It’s more like, “What the fuck is going on here?” in a very disbelieving tone, but I can’t pinpoint it much better than that. He’s exposed how much of the presidency is based on assumed behavior. “Of course the president will do this because that’s what presidents do. Well, when they’re not narcissistic, childish assholes who have to prove they are dominant all the time. This president is almost making me nostalgic for W., and that’s a very sad state of affairs. The reason we’re all constantly face-palming is because there is a reasonable assumption that a president should know basic things like you can’t benefit from the office, but this president only thinks about things from the viewpoint of what he can get from it, so of course it doesn’t occur to him that he shouldn’t be chastising Nordstrom for dropping Ivanka on Twitter.
I know one reason his supporters love him, supposedly, is because he’s not a politician, which is mind-boggling to me. I’ve ranted about this before, but when did Americans become so anti-expertise? I understand there are problems with lifetime politicians and corruption and the establishment, but the answer is not to install someone who has absolutely no political experience and who does not care to learn. Any time I see his face, he’s miserable. I read that he hates the job, and, of course he does. He never wanted to be president. At first, it was just a publicity stunt, and then, he just wanted to prove the losers wrong and to win. I don’t think it ever entered his mind that he actually had to be president if he won because he doesn’t think more than five minutes into the future.
In a weird sort of way, he’s the shadow side of American culture. He is the grotesque caricature of every negative American stereotype. Rude, loud, bullying, greedy, incurious about the world around him with the unearned but uninviolable belief that he is in the right all the time. In fact, I’m sure many of his supporters revel in the idea that he’s showing the world who’s boss by blustering loudly about nothing in particular. He’s the reason we’re all going to have to pretend we’re Canadian again when we travel abroad** except for his supporters who probably would enjoy lording their Americanness in foreigners’ faces. One of the repeated things I heard from his supporters was how delighted they were to stick it in the face of libtards, though they could never quite articulate what exactly ‘it’ was.
Many of them feel like outcasts in a world that is rapidly outpacing them. They’re already fearful of anything that is different–it’s how communities work in general. It’s the us vs. them mentality taken to the extreme, which is something I was talking about with my taiji teacher today. One of the things some liberals were saying after the election was over was how liberals had to go into rural areas and reach out to the (supposedly) conservative people who live there. It’s not a bad idea in and of itself, but the practicality of it is low. People who live in closed communities are extremely resistant to newcomers and outsiders who represent change. If I were to go into that community, it’s possible I could make a change, but it would take years and be at great cost to myself. That’s the thing that the liberals who are blithely suggestion this option don’t realize–if a person who is a minority reaches out, it will take a heavy emotional toll on the person doing the outreach. I’m not saying they shouldn’t do it, but it should be a personal choice and not something they’re pushed into doing it.
I don’t know how to talk to these people in a way that won’t cause them to go immediately on the defensive, and it humbles me to say this. Normally, I can at least proffer a theory as to how to go about opening a dialogue, but here, I am flummoxed. Anything I say to someone like that will be immediately suspect because I’m an Asian bisexual woman with tats. The fact that I don’t believe in most traditions makes me even more suspect. In other words, I can’t even pass (not that I would want to). I think it would take someone who has grown up in the environment and understands the point of view, even if they don’t agree with it. It would take time and patience, the latter not being one of my strong points. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I think there is a portion of the country that we just have to write off because we will never be able to find common ground. I’m spit-balling here, but I think it’s roughly twenty percent of the population. The Republicans understand that which is why they will never even attempt to speak to me or people like me. We liberals need to do the same. I think there’s about thirty percent of the population we can reach, but we have to do it in a way that’s different than any of the ways we’ve tried before.
Back to the embarrassment that is this president. I have a hard time not cringing whenever I hear about his newest bullshit. I didn’t agree with PBO about everything, but I never felt trepidation that he would embarrass himself or our country when he visited with foreign dignitaries. I knew he would read up on the country he was visiting and would have a rudimentary knowledge of what he should and shouldn’t do. This president? I have no such confidence. In fact, I would be very surprised if he showed any interest in which country he was visiting or which foreign dignitary he was welcoming on any given day. I know he simply doesn’t care, which is what makes him particularly dangerous. There is no way to rein him in by using the simple strictures that would work on anyone else. You can’t tell him–well, you really can’t tell him anything. Anyone who does have his ear is telling him exactly what he wants to hear. I don’t know what the answer is, and that’s a very uncomfortable feeling.
The optimistic part of me believes that this president isn’t going to last two years, let alone four, but that means President Pence, which is just as bad, if not worse. That’s the sobering realization in this situation–it’s not just this president we have to worry about–it’s the entire Republican party. The House Republicans just introduced a bill that would eliminate the EPA. I can’t. I just can’t.
My plea to the Democratic party and to Democrats is that we put our issues with each other aside and focus on taking down the Republicans. We should have sent them into the wilderness this last election, but we didn’t. Once we do that, then we can go back to tearing each other apart. Deal? Deal.
*Yes, I know Melania isn’t living in the White House, but she’s still the first lady, damn it. For her not to be there, no matter the reason they gave, is inexcusable.
**Well, you white people. I can just pretend to be Asian-Asian.