Clyde: Howard Beale’s Fourth of July
While we all chill out for the Fourth of July barbecue, world events continue. An airport bombing in Istanbul, at an airport busier than Brussels, was news for about 12 hours, and then we moved on. Apparently terrorist attacks in Turkey don’t matter, though the dead people might see that differently. But it was in Turkey, and you have to expect such things there. By the way, Turkey is part of NATO, and in theory, an act of war against any NATO member is an act of war against the U.S. Do we have any of the good mustard for those hotdogs?
Also this week, Iraqi forces with an undefined level of U.S. backing re-took the city of Fallujah from ISIS, and think they will soon be able to retake Mosul. Didn’t we already take Fallujah a couple of times? I saw the article on Fallujah in the Salt Lake Tribune. It was on the second page in one of those boxes of one-paragraph stories that ranged from the war to flooding to dogs finding their owners after long separations. If we’re going to have a war, we ought to care enough to put it on the front page. We’re 15 years into the Iraq-Afghanistan-Yemen-Pakistan-and-anyplace-else-we-feel-like-bombing war. Congress won’t even discuss it. Nobody can describe what our goal is, or how we would recognize a victory if it hit us in the face.
But we continue to send U.S. troops there, serving in ill-defined missions. They’re not quite in combat positions, but are suffering real combat consequences. They are getting maimed and killed, and it’s reported on page 2 in a format that looks like the comics. There’s something really wrong about that. Do you want ice cream with your apple pie?
Europe is reeling from the vote in the United Kingdom to leave the European Union. For geographically challenged Americans, the U.K. is England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland (not Ireland). The EU is comprised of most of Europe and functions under a set of uniform trading and economic standards. It’s not quite a United States of Europe, and functions about as efficiently as 26 independent nations trying to agree on standards for food labels can.
In a close vote, the U.K. voted to leave. They called it the “Brexit.” The urban financial centers and Scottish manufacturing areas voted to stay in. The British equivalent of the American rust belt voted overwhelmingly to leave. The establishment politicians seem stunned. Even some of those who voted to leave didn’t really want to; they said they just wanted to send a message that they were mad as hell and weren’t going to take it anymore.
The world is having its Howard Beale moment. Howard Beale is the fictional news anchor who went crazy in the movie “Network.” He threatened to commit suicide on air to improve ratings, and the network encouraged it. It’s an old movie that is so current it could have been made yesterday.
There are parallels between the rise of Donald Trump and the Brexit vote. Both seem to come from a deep-seated anger among a large group of people who have been ignored in the political process for a generation. It’s partly their own fault for not actively participating and voting. But in the end, a generation ago a family could live comfortably on the income from one decent job. They are now struggling to make it with both parents working, sometimes with multiple jobs. They blame it on globalism, free trade, immigrants, big banks, Wall Street shenanigans, technology and a dozen other things. It all contributes, but in the end, the working class appears to be having their lives averaged with those in Bangladesh. And while the rest of us can feel good about lifting people in Bangladesh out of squalor (slightly), it’s come at a cost to others who are justifiably angry.
So while the pundits on TV seem to be stunned by the vote in the U.K., it doesn’t seem all that stunning. It’s a little bit like a bar fight. There was nothing that really started it. Somebody was just deeply pissed off at the world in general, and chose to punch the first nose that presented itself. And the brawl is on.
I hear the Democrats talking about the Trump campaign being under-staffed, under-financed, disorganized, and as chaotic as the candidate himself. They confidently compare that to Clinton’s well-funded and smoothly running machine. By that logic, Clinton should be way ahead in the polls. She isn’t. The same anger factor that has plunged Europe into chaos could show up to vote here. We really need to be paying attention.
But that said, I’ll have another helping of potato salad and maybe just one more hotdog. It’s the Fourth of July.
Tom Clyde practiced law in Park City for many years. He lives on a working ranch in Woodland and has been writing this column since 1986.
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