The United States of America has always been a polarising world player and millions argue that her foreign policy has been so duplicitous, self-serving and deeply destructive to millions of those who lay behind ‘enemy’ lines or was an inconvenient collateral damage to their pursuit for more power and control. There is also popular anger about American culture which is perceived as being hypocritical in its self-righteousness, and guilty of crossing the blurry line between patriotism and just delusional self-aggrandization. I see the merit in these arguments though I don’t necessarily find these traits as unusual for powerful empires, it is realpolitik that for every generation, the superpower of the day attempts to dominate and expand their spheres of influence in the belief that they are one of truth’s trailblazers even at the cost of serious harm to others. And in calling out on the USA’s many shortcomings, we should also be truthful about the shortcomings of other states, to each other and to their own population. Most of all however, we should also be able to celebrate her incredible successes, achievements and beauty, without whitewashing her many follies.
So I digress from the intentions of my original post which was about one of my present addictions – American political soundbites through the lens of CNN, MNBC, Stephen Colbert and The Daily Show. From time to time I tune in to congressional hearings and debates if I want to really be gripped by a show of truth to power. While there are some national/ cultural characteristics I am not a fan of, there are also many that I admire and I am always an admirer of societies that aspire to speak truthfully. Despite (or actually because of) the daily freak show of the present White House never have I been as captivated by the free land’s Freedom of Expression as the present time. Let’s be fair, we all carry with us our own leanings and affinities and we can’t claim that either Fox or CNN are entirely free from this affliction. Being more inclined to CNN however (this is a new discovery, pre-Trump CNN used to be too ‘right’ for my liking) I obviously find their coverage as more well researched (I mean can we really make an equivalence between Sean Hannity and Chris Cuomo?) and there is a consistent attempt to fight towards objectivity (even when it sometimes hurts them). No doubt they are absolutely mental about Trump and who can blame them. But these are some of my discoveries from a daily Youtube diet of US news broadcasts and late night satire:-
I’m beginning to wonder if the countries which has monetised cinema and the dramatic arts into billion dollar industries are those which inherently have drama in their cultural DNA. I thought this was a pretty scene stealing monologue by Democrat Senator Corey Booker during the ‘Africa-shithouse-Norway-good’ debacle. Watch his impassioned speech here. Those against Corey would call it grand-standing, but I thought it was articulate and very informative. Race, one of the most inflammatory topics in political narratives all over the world, seems even more visceral in American politics. I suppose this is because of its’ extreme journey from hundreds of years of slavery right till the historical 2008 presidential elections of Barack Hossein Obama combined with their ability to discuss, dissect and thrash out their past and present in a collective public discourse.
Closely linked to the above or maybe even the same thing, I was spellbound by former FBI agent Peter Strzok being grilled by Republican members of congress about the allegations of bias. The room was electrifying in its verbal warfare by all sides of the aisle. Irrespective of whether you agree or disagree with him, I thought he put up a good fight in pushing back. I feel some type of solidarity with Strzok as in some aspects I work in an industry where I may have personal positive or negative feelings about those whom I work for but am ultimately obliged to make professional decisions based on the tangibles. Watch here to catch the sparks.
Like my sentiments towards Strzok, I also feel a sort of solidarity towards ex-FBI Director James Comey. I would have assumed most normal decent human beings would but was rudely awakened when I caught a few interviews with Americans who believe him to be weak, manipulative and unfit to lead. I caught Comey’s book interview (A Higher Loyalty: Truth Lies and Leadership) with the more left leaning news outlets and enjoyed his personality. Yes for sure a bit of a goody-goody (but isn’t that exactly what you would want from a national head of law enforcement?) but ultimately seemed like an earnest person who was trying to do his best and make hard calls in tough times, with a healthy dose of humility, morality and self-reflection. This interview by Anderson Cooper though, was surprisingly tough. Anderson really digs deep into the icky issues and takes us through the crevices of what leaking means to the general public (releasing internal information) and to an FBI agent (‘unauthorised disclosure of protected information’). I’m still not super clear but am guessing the word ‘protected’ here is vital. See here for the critical part of the interview. The full interview is more than an hour and can be found on Youtube.
I think this interview is a great example of power holders being held to a deep and detailed account of their decisions when in power and I really found Comey to be able to stand his ground. Even if you don’t agree with him, you can respect his ability to articulate what motivated his decisions without needing to undermine those who do not share his views.
I thought this was a semi-crazy interview between Chris Cuomo and Kellyanne Conway. I don’t know how else to describe it. It’s bit more than half an hour so you may not have the patience to sit through it. For those who are allergic to the present government of the USA, you may either feel hopeless or laugh your head off by this interview. My husband says Kellyanne gives him a headache with all her spinning so he hasn’t watched it but I was riveted and found myself laughing out loud in some aspects. The first question was about getting Kellyanne to admit that President Trump was lying about the whole Cohen-payment-finance campaigning etc and when she refused Chris pretty much trapped her in a boxing match. I think Kellyanne’s modus operandi is usually to coil ropes and knots around your entire face and body till you get confused about the question but this time Chris just refused to let her do that even if it meant he had to talk over her half the time. It’s like watching a wild cat fight a boa constrictor. Catch it here.
I kind of enjoy Cuomo’s Court sessions, especially when he has self described civil libertarian Professor Dershowitz on the show. The latest ones I saw was about whether the latest claim by Michael Cohen (that he was directed by President Trump to use campaign financing to pay off the silence of women the President had affairs with) constituted a crime, you can watch it here. The thing about this Professor is how he has managed to be very persuasive in his arguments which I do not like, but definitely learn from and makes me ask myself some questions about my bias. The Professor’s spiel is always about him having no dog in the fight and he is just about civil liberties. I don’t always agree with his views, no matter how well presented and I was amused to read about how his own left leaning social circle has abandoned him owing to his public opinions, but I appreciate what his argument brings to the table.
To be fair it’s hard to pick a favourite from the late night satire. But this one by Stephen Colbert still gives me a good giggle till today… it was during the period when Rudy Guilani’s style of ‘defence’ first started to get unleashed on to the American public.
Ultimately I don’t believe that any one country or culture on this planet can claim moral superiority over the other and when it comes to war there are no good guys or bad guys, just victims. But what no one can take away from the USA is their passion for free speech and fulfil the people’s thirst for accountability. Whether they fail or succeed in creating a free and equal society is up for debate but the robust efforts being played out is entertaining and gives me a sense of inspiration and humility.
Note: Featured Image is sourced from Pexel.