Former US National Security Advisor John Bolton has finally published his book, The Room Where It Happened. He is offering an explanation to the public on every TV show possible for why he did not testify at the impeachment hearings and trial of President Donald Trump. It is clear to honest viewers of the situation that had he testified, what he offered would have been the equivalent of the Whitehouse tapes that forced the resignation of President Richard Nixon. Trump would have been removed from office. He would not have been in a position to suppress efforts to respond to the coronavirus pandemic that would soon follow, something he has done from the very beginning to this present day. Arguably thousands of American would not have died as a consequence. Mr. Bolton says he refused to testify because he felt the Democrats were not doing the hearing correctly, were not looking “broadly enough,” were treating the Republicans in the House improperly, with not enough respect, that putting it all in a book for the American pubic to read [when it was too late] was the correct choice to make.
I do not believe for a millisecond that he believes his own explanation. I believe it is a premeditated or post-hoc explanation for his calculated desire to make a great deal of money by publication of a book.
But let’s assume for the sake of argument and illustration that he does, in fact, believe what he is saying. That the rationale he offers now is what he really was thinking as he decided to refuse to testify. That he was not at all concerned about money, only doing his patriotic duty to the best of his ability. If so, it would stand as a monumental, classic example of the human capacity to rationalize, often subconsciously, in order to justify what it is we want to do, and still think of ourselves as a “good person.”
Rationalization is how Republican Senators failed to convict Donald Trump and remove a man who was and is a danger to the Republic. The evidence for conviction, even without Bolton’s testimony was sufficient. Only one of them did the right thing, the patriotic thing, the moral thing. The Mormon Senator from Utah. And it must be noted that his vote to convict was made easy. His job as Senator from Utah, a strongly Mormon state, was in no way at risk.
These are dark days for the United States. Just today a court has ordered ICE, an arm of the Trump administration, to release from custody hundreds of children who parents brought them to the US seeking asylum. These children are confined in close quarters as the covid pandemic rages, risking becoming ill with a disease that ravages all of the body’s organs. Very possibly doing permanent physical damage. What will Donald Trump do about this? Whatever her does, John Bolton is in significant part responsible. And all of the Republican Senators who refused to convict also share in the guilt…which is enabled by the seemingly limitless human capacity for rationalization. Rationalization—the capacity for self-deception—has the power to strangle our innate moral compass. Even our good sense. How else to explain the trashing of this planet? Rationalization may ultimately prove to be a human existentially fatal flaw.
When posting on FaceBook during this stressful year I often mention the importance of empowering women if we want to move human history into a better future. The response I get overwhelmingly, especially from otherwise well-meaning men FB friends, is that women do or would govern as good as or as bad as men. The implication of this view of course is that empowering women would make no difference. That getting to a better future depends on other things, things that men can/could do equally well. This is NOT CORRECT. It is an underlying paradigm that influences and undergirds all patriarchies. It is a deeply entrenched assumption/view/belief/paradigm that will forever hold back major improvement if it is not eventually abandoned. Women WOULD bring a different perspective and approach to governing. That is the subject of my book War and Sex and Human Destiny, the full text of which is on this website.
Nations that cling to the view that subjugating women or restricting women to only the domestic sphere of our lives will remain patriarchies indefinitely. They will share many of the worse characteristic of patriarchies, arguably the worst of which is war. But there is also slavery, human trafficking, barbaric policing and other ills that the Enlightenment and the introduction of the concept of human rights introduced. Patriarchies around the globe are threatened, and even in liberal democracies, authoritarian patriarchs are fighting to retain control not only of nations but of human history.
Here's a post I put on my FaceBook wall today:
"The world we see around us, the world we have created thus far for better or worse, is a product of patriarchy for millennia. So that there is no misunderstanding, when I say in any of my posts that the empowerment of women is critical to the survival of the idea of liberal democracy as opposed to the continuation of patriarchy (patriarchies being defined as fundamentally all-male governing) I don’t mean just having a woman as the head of government. Or even a few women in a nation’s legislative body.
The exact percentage of women in leadership that can change the nature of a country so it switches from being patriarchal in character to something else is not an exact number. Studies indicate that for example when a governing body reaches somewhere between 25 and 35% women its orientations and decision choices begin to reflect a more female perspective (e.g. greater concern for community good and children’s well-being than concern for power and control).
In a fully mature liberal democracy, women would be sharing in governing at approximately a 50-50 ratio at all levels, local state and national. Furthermore, in a fully mature liberal democracy all racial and ethnic groups in the society would be sharing in governing.
Historically the world community has been slowly moving over the past several hundred years toward becoming more democratic, even liberal democratic, but I don’t think we yet have any fully mature liberal democracies. The Nordic countries and Iceland come close, although they do not have to deal with huge racial and religious differences. It’s those differences that make the United States experiment in democracy so unique and also such a challenge.
At this time patriarchal interests on the far right around the globe appear to be making a last ditch attempt to retain patriarchal control and orientation toward life and the environment in many of even the most developed liberal democracies. Trumpism is just the most frightening example because he is the leader of one of the richest and most influential democracies in the world. It will be a great triumph for liberal democracy if he is removed from office in a landslide. And a great tragedy if he is not.'
An historical social inflection point?
This true story has a heroine, a victim, and a villain. On May 25, 2020 the lives of three people intersected in tragedy. A seventeen-year-old black girl, Darnella Frazier, our heroine, accompanied her young niece to a grocery store in Minneapolis, Minnesota. To her horror, they came upon a scene where a forty-six year old black man, George Floyd, was lying on the street. Our victim.
What shocked Darnella was that Mr. Floyd was lying on his stomach, his hands were handcuffed behind his back while a white police officer, Derek Chauvin, our villain, was pinning Mr. Floyd, face to the ground, with a knee pressing on his neck. Darnella, a teen equipped with her cell phone, had presence of mind. She whipped out her phone, turned on camera, turned on video, and began documenting for the entire world to see the killing of George Floyd at the hands of the police. She stood her ground, hand steady. 8 minutes and 46 seconds. Try sitting quietly for that long. It’s a very long time.
As subsequent investigation revealed, three other officers aided in bringing about this death. What had Mr. Floyd done? At this time in the U.S. counterfeit twenty-dollar bills circulate widely. You yourself may have been given one and purchased something with it. An employee at the grocery store felt Mr. Floyd had used a counterfeit bill to purchase cigarettes and called the police. Tragedy was set in motion. If only the store owner had been there. Mr. Floyd was known to him. But he wasn’t there. He would perhaps not have made that call. But the call was made and two rookie officers arrived. They began the attempt to make an arrest. Soon, officer Chavin arrived, a man with numerous complaints on his police record. He took over, and by the time Darnella and her niece arrive and Darnella began filming, Mr. Floyd was down.
He repeatedly said, “I can’t breathe,” “Mama,” and “please.” At one point he said, “I’m about to die.” Bystanders repeatedly told the police officer, to no avail, that he was killing the man.
The video went viral and peaceful protests began, organized by the international human rights movement Black Lives Matter, founded by three black women: Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi. The protests spread, guided by the experience in the living memory of many in the black community of civil rights peaceful protests inspired by Martin Luther King, Jr. and his followers that resulted in major legislation. Peaceful protests spread from coast to coast in the U.S., highlighting for a nation founded on belief in “justice for all” that systemic racism still cripples the nation, blemishes it. But racism and bigotry is not just a U.S. flaw, it’s a human flaw that bedevils us wherever it thrives. Protests have sprouted here and there around the world, wherever humanity’s “better angels” are willing to face up to it.
Sadly, there has been rioting and vandalism as well. That is another human flaw: there are always a few, almost always the majority being men, who are disaffected and criminal who seize on any opportunity to express the urge to destroy by using public physical violence.
But in the fourteen days since Mr. Floyd’s brutal death, the following have happened as the result of peaceful protests, large and small. These suggest that to the extent that significant changes flow from the protests, his death may very well be a profound inflection point for the better for human history.
Within 10 days of sustained protests:
You Can Also Follow Me on Facebook
If you'd like to read my take on current affairs, or get a sense of what amuses me or I find educational or beautiful, do a search and follow me, Judith Hand, on Facebook.
Dr. Judith Hand writes historical fiction, contemporary action/adventure, and screenplays. Hand earned her Ph.D. in biology from UCLA. Her studies included animal behavior and primatology. After completing a Smithsonian Post-doctoral Fellowship at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., she returned to UCLA as a research associate and lecturer. Her undergraduate major was in cultural anthropology. She worked as a technician in neurophysiology laboratories at UCLA and the Max Planck Institute, in Munich, Germany. As a student of animal communication, she has written scientific papers on the subject of social conflict resolution.
Astronomy image credit: NASA: Full Hemisphere Views of Earth at Night.