Vladimir Putin’s miscalculation in the Crimea is a blunder of incalculable proportions and in time will be seen for exactly what it is, an overzealous power grab orchestrated with all the deftness of a pre-adolescent temper tantrum. The only thing that can elevate it to crisis is a similar overreaction on the part of the West.
To those chickenhawk neoconservatives ever so willing to rattle sabers at the mere mention of a confrontation and thirsty to draw blood from the president before daylight chases them back to their dark places, the wisest course of action is to avoid escalating violence and hence strengthening Putin’s hand.
I know there is a growing infatuation with some on the very, very far right, you know the puppet masters who are currently dictating policy in the Republican Party with the “strength” and “manliness” exhibited by the shirtless Mongrel from Moscow, but this too shall pass. We have witnessed a revolution in extremist ideological thought in this country that has either consciously or unconsciously coincided with the election of the first black President and it has surely tested and sometimes bested his natural instincts.
Ultra-conservative orthodoxy and its deep penetration into our political system have weakened the country more than any perceived Obama “weakness.” People around the world do not hate us for our freedom; they scoff at us for our hypocrisy. The sole remaining superpower lacks the moral authority to lead on many fronts, and that starts with the home front. Obstructionist tactics have greatly damaged the nation’s ability to project the values we proclaim to cherish and have rendered us the equivalent of Rodney Dangerfield on the world stage, the one who famously intones, “I can’t get no respect.”
But it is difficult to engender respect when you are simultaneously disrespecting others. We disrespect our veterans by not taking care of their needs when they complete their duty, we disrespect our immigrants, regardless of whether they are here illegally or merely their children, we disrespect the environment by obnoxiously pursuing fossil fuels at any cost, we disrespect a rapidly shrinking middle class through policies which exacerbate growing income inequality, we disrespect our children by placing education beyond their reach, we disrespect the most vulnerable in society by disparaging their plight while providing little opportunity for them to escape a cycle of dependency, we disrespect thousands of families who tragically mourn those killed by drone strikes, we disrespect the intellect of our own people by engaging in war on false pretenses, we disrespect a generation of youth who have never known a time when we were not involved in perpetual wars, we disrespect the Constitution by promoting efforts to restrict voter participation through voter suppression efforts, and we disrespect democracy by allowing the promulgation of a political system held captive to the corrupting influence of money.
I say these things not because I am part of the blame-America crowd; I say these things because I love my country and I feel an obligation to bring attention to our faults in order to fix them and make us better, stronger, and importantly restore the moral authority we project to the world through provision of a system to emulate not to have forced upon them. Our current situation did not magically appear after the election of 2008 — it has been building for many decades, but it has been made worse by those who promote dysfunction and chaos. It is worsened by the disappearance of civility, the outsized influence of special interests instead over the public interest, the corruption of money, denigration of the role of government and the value of public service, and public reward for short-term thinking and penalty for long-term thinking.
Unless and until we respect ourselves we cannot expect others to respect us. And right now we have a massive rebuilding job that requires us to look inwards and become all that we, all of us collectively, want us to be. Dissent is healthy, debate is critical, discussion is required, deliberation is needed, and decision is paramount. So do it!