We’re in a strange new world — of fantasists (see Kellyanne Conway’s terrorist “massacre” in Bowling Green, Kentucky), delusionaries (see Sean Spicer’s account of the “Iranians” who attacked an “American” naval vessel), and dreamers (if having a nightmare is your idea of dreaming). Only the other day, for instance, at the National Prayer Breakfast, President Trump said definitively, “We’re taken advantage of by every nation in the world, virtually. It’s not going to happen anymore.” Honestly, you have to wonder what planet the former reality show host has been on these last decades.
And all of this has, in a couple of short weeks, started to change our world. Just ask Kjell Magne Bondevik, the former prime minister of Norway, who was stopped at Dulles International Airport on his way to that same prayer breakfast, held and questioned (even when it was clear that he had indeed been the prime minister of an allied country) because he had traveled to Iran three years earlier. Of course, looked at another way, he had also been the head of one of the many freeloading nations on the planet who, as President Trump now points out, have taken our country for a ride, so he undoubtedly got what he deserved. After all, in 2008, pressured by a “multi-departmental American lobbying effort,” Norway caved and agreed to buy the most expensive, cost-overrun-prone weapons system in history, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, rather than a perfectly reasonable Swedish plane. (If they hadn’t, it might have adversely affected sales to other U.S. allies ready to take us for a ride.) And nine years later, in 2017, despite endless delays and soaring costs, the Norwegians are still buying the planes — 52 in all at an estimated price tag of $40 billion. What a crew of moochers!
Admittedly, it’s been a one-way planet for one hell of a long time, but Donald J. Trump is finally readying himself to reverse that and turn it into… well, possibly a hell on earth. At least, European leaders (Britain’s excepted) seem to think so, as they find themselves packed into more or less the same unfriendly basket of deplorables as Iran. I had a friend years ago who told me that I’d know I was on a different planet when European powers — Charles De Gaulle’s long-gone France aside — started to say no to Washington. We may now officially be on that altered world, one where even Australia, America’s most faithful ally, might start uttering a no or two to a president who considers hanging up on its prime minister good form. (I assume by now that somewhere in the Forbidden City, the Chinese leadership is dancing in the streets, knowing that on Donald Trump’s planet their country is likely to look like the only reasonable imperial power around.)
These days, you may hear a similar chorus of “No’s” coming out of the U.S. government where federal employees are beginning to form support groups and take courses “on workers’ rights and how they can express civil disobedience.” Consider this my way of saying that, in the Trump era, you’re going to have to buy a scorecard to figure out what “team” the various players on this increasingly confused world of ours belong to, creating endless complications for those of us already thinking about how to make it into the post-Trump years. Fortunately, TomDispatch regular Rebecca Gordon, author of American Nuremberg, has been thinking about friendship, alliances, and how to figure out who’s who in a world in which, even with that scorecard, it may be difficult to sort the players and the teams out.