By Richard Edmondson
Recently Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov made an interesting comment. He described the time we are living in as a “post-truth” era. It’s a very apt, on-target description.
Lavrov made the comment at the Munich Security Conference, held February 17-19 in Munich, Germany. In his remarks at the gathering he spoke of the need for nations to seek harmony by advancing justice and also by practicing “modesty,” as he termed it. It’s hard to find fault with such a proposal.
“If everyone adopts that approach,” said Lavrov, “we could overcome the period of post-truth fast and resist information wars imposed on the international community.”
“Information wars” in a “post-truth” era–this of course is what we are experiencing now.
Lavrov also said that the expansion of NATO “has led to an unprecedented level of tension over the last 30 years in Europe,” and yet Russia now nonetheless seeks a relationship with the US based upon “pragmatism, mutual respect, and an understanding of special responsibility for global stability.”
Compare Lavrov’s remarks to those of Vice President Mike Pence, who represented America at the conference. Pence alluded to President Trump’s desire for better relations with Russia, but at the same time he also adopted a belligerent tone, calling for Russia to be held “accountable” for events in Ukraine.
“In regard to Ukraine we must hold Russia accountable and demand that they honor the Minsk agreements, beginning by deescalating the violence in eastern Ukraine,” Pence said.
He also spoke of “Russia’s efforts to redraw international borders by force,” an apparent reference to the alleged “forced annexation” of Crimea. Despite claims perpetually made by the media in this post-truth era, Crimea was not annexed by force. A referendum was held there on March 16, 2014 in which more than 96 percent of the people voted to join Russia. The referendum took place after the US had sponsored a coup in Kiev, overthrowing the legitimate, democratically-elected government.
One wonders: does Pence believe the US should be held “accountable” for organizing the coup which triggered the Ukrainian conflict in the first place? Apparently he does not.
Another US speaker at the conference in Munich was Sen. John McCain, who discussed what he views as the indispensable role that America and the rest of the West have played in advancing “truth,” and in advancing the current global order as well as the “prosperity” that the West now supposedly enjoys.
“We must take our own side in this fight,” said McCain. “We must be vigilant. We must persevere. And through it all, we must never, never cease to believe in the moral superiority of our own values—that we stand for truth against falsehood, freedom against tyranny, right against injustice, hope against despair.”
McCain made no mention of America’s shameful support for terrorists in Syria, and it defies logic of course to describe the US, whose mainstream media are widely recognized as the number one purveyors of fake news, as standing “for truth against falsehood” in today’s world.
The Arizona senator also described the West as having ushered in an “unprecedented period of security and prosperity that we have enjoyed for the past seven decades”–and of course for the wealthiest one percent, we are, no doubt about it, in an “unprecedented” period of prosperity. But the unemployment rolls and the numbers of homeless people on the streets of America would suggest that the “prosperity” has not been enjoyed by all. McCain may not be “certified,” as such, but he does appear to be a fully-fledged lunatic.
The unprecedented period of security and prosperity that we have enjoyed for the past seven decades did not happen by accident. It happened not only because of the appeal of our values, but because we backed them with our power and persevered in their defense. Our predecessors did not believe in the end of history—or that it bends, inevitably, toward justice. That is up to us. That requires our persistent, painstaking effort. And that is why we come to Munich, year after year after year.
McCain objectified his laudatory comments in terms of “the West,” for of course he was speaking at a conference held in the EU. But in his use of the words “we” and “us,” what he really meant was America. America is the “indispensable” and “exceptional” nation–this is the ideology relentlessly, one might even say fanatically, adhered to by US leaders and the mainstream media.
So it seems that while we get truth out of a Russian official like Lavrov, we get delusions, reverie, fantasy, and outright lies from our own leaders. Americans, I would say for the most part, are good, decent people. How did we end up in this fix?
Perhaps worth recalling are the words of Jesus: “The last will be first, and the first will be last.” If that principle applies to nations as well as to individuals, then the implications for America are not good.
By the way, those words–about the last becoming first and the first becoming last–appear in one form or another in Matthew 19:30 and again in 20:16, as well as in Mark 10:31 and Luke 13:30. Additionally, in Luke 9:48 we have Jesus telling his disciples that, “the one who is least among all of you is the one who is the greatest,” this after overhearing them arguing about which one was to become the “greatest.”
And let us not forget also the episode related in the Gospel of John of Jesus washing his disciple’s feet. What we can conclude, then, is that the practicing of humility was a central tenet of Jesus’ teachings. Perhaps little wonder that Jesus was not terribly popular with his fellow Jews. Jewish “exceptionalism” (or more specifically “chosenness”) was, and still is, a central component of Judaic belief.
And yes, what we have in America are leaders who, rather than practice humility, spout boastful words like McCain’s. Thus it should come as no surprise we now find ourselves in a “post-truth” era. After all, boasting and lying are two human traits which go very much hand in hand.
I often wonder when, if ever, we will have a leader who will make Americans proud to be Americans again. Sadly it has been a very long time since we had one.