The Sad Game of Pawns: a variation on traditional chess

The Sad Game of Pawns: a variation on traditional chess

I have never been fond of president elect Trump although I only met him on one occasion, a charity event, a cancer benefit shortly after he published the Art of the Deal. He was cooking for potential donors, something that should have inspired admiration but which for me did not. That may say more about me than it did about Mr. Trump but, whether or not justified, my perception was that he was a braggart, doused in hubris with the eloquence of a bright eighth grader. My perception was probably colored by articles concerning his rise to fame published in the New York Times during my youth, articles that even then denigrated his ability and emphasized the silver spoon that accompanied his birth. They led me to infer that it was not talent or creativity or intelligence or hard work that had been responsible for his success, but rather, political favors and opportunism and luck. That may not have been fair but what we read from sources we trust impacts us, sometimes long after we’ve lost our faith in such institutions. On a more frivolous note, perhaps my attitude towards Mr. Trump may have been impacted by the fact that we graduated in the same year from rival New York State military academies, but I doubt that. In the long term, that should have united us, although I found it despicable that when his alma mater needed him and asked for his help, he apparently turned a blind eye.

I mention the foregoing because of the manner in which Mr. Trump has been treated by the media for daring to challenge and then defeat the insipient Clinton presidential dynasty, a strategy that has instead led to a public backlash in favor of Mr. Trump and has led me to reconsider my own attitude. During the presidential campaign I commented to a well-connected acquaintance that Mr. Trump’s apparent lack of eloquence led me to reaffirm the conclusions I’d had for so long concerning his intellectual incapacities, a contention with which, to my surprise, he very much disagreed, replying that Mr. Trump’s “strange” use of the English language was something he used to get opponents to underestimate him when, in fact, he has a highly developed capacity to read people, individually and collectively, and the ability to quickly analyze facts and reach decisions. Recent events (i.e., his surprise election) seem to make that a distinct possibility.

Mr. Trump is an enigma, either because he is either fickle, changeable and without a philosophical or ethical base or because he is suis generis and thus does not fit within the sociopolitical, cultural or economic parameters I am used to. Like others who are pondering the same question, I fear (in a Russian roulettish sense) that it’s the former but hope it’s the latter. Brilliance, even genius, can be benevolent, neutral or malevolent. His opponents are desperately trying to manipulate public opinion against him and to manipulate him into disastrously wrong decisions. They are not succeeding with reference to the former, just reinforcing perceptions already formed by all sides, but the latter involves a very dangerous, perhaps deadly game, where the loser could be not only the United States but perhaps the world. It is a terrible game of pawns, a variation on traditional chess, where the most likely result is a loss on all sides.

This was made clear to me by an article I read in this morning’s Los Angeles Times dealing with a possible modification in Mr. Trump’s campaign posture concerning the segment of undocumented immigrants that the media has dubbed “Dreamers” (December. 7, 2016, 3:56 P.M. “Trump promises relief for ‘Dreamers,’ but immigrant advocates are taking no chances”). Purported advocates of immigrant rights, apparently unaware that advocates of harsh treatment for undocumented immigrants currently control both houses of Congress, rather than attempting to convince Mr. Trump to adopt a more humane, benign, reasonable and enlightened attitude towards undocumented immigrants appear to want, under the leadership of the current president, to assume a conflictive posture by introducing legislation seeking to limit the president elect’s options, even though that legislation is doomed to fail. Again, undocumented immigrants are apparently seen as no more than potentially useful political tools for a future election. Tools again, like women and religious conservatives on issues like abortion, public religious observances, and so many others. As though our race to perdition requires more speed.

Republican Congressmen during the Obama presidency have, in large part, been a disgrace, more concerned with power than with the common welfare and Democrats, not to be outdone, are set on being at least as obstructionist now. Calumny has replaced news, at least among major sections of the mainstream media. It reminds me of the Democrat controlled Congress during the 1970’s after the brief implementation of the Paris Peace accords that purported to end the Vietnam War. There, my recollection of my perception is that Democrats and their media allies could not bring themselves to permit the president they most hated to achieve a positive resolution to that terrible chapter in our history and pulled defeat from the jaws of victory by denying funding for the ammunition our erstwhile allies required to fend off the massive North Vietnamese violation of the peace accords. Like so many Americans, I had grown to oppose the war, I’d lost too many treasured classmates there, perhaps the very best among us, but I was not so naïve as to fail to grasp exactly what had happened, and why. After all, it had been the Democrats who had mired us in that war.

Then as now, the People be damned so long as our political parties get to continue to play their terrible game of Pawns.
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© Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2016; all rights reserved

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