Trump in asylum

The official letter comes from the Foreign Office:

“Dear Mr Trump, your current troubles are a cause of concern, and so the British Government will offer you political asylum in the United Kingdom. I asked the Permanent Secretary where we would hope to see  you: he replied “asylum”, so we will offer just that.

Being guilty as hell has never been a bar to the grant of refuge here. And if sacking the American Capitol were considered a shocking act, we would have to tear down a number of stautes to our heroes of 1814.

Your forthcoming trip to London, ostensibly to attend the High Court, is a good cover.

(I should warn you about what to expect in the High Court. A dispute between two Americans over an American contract for an event in Moscow is not unusual, but may raise eyebrows. It is understood though that the world brings its disputes to London as its courts insist on impartial justice and will not allow the lawyers to behave as if they were overacting in a low-grade Hollywood movie.  You will find that quite a contrast with the courts you have been spending all your time in.)

You are entitled to take up British citizenship when you arrive, as your late mother was a British subject. There is, I understand, a small cottage where she was born, and you would be welcome to take up residence there, in the Outer Hebrides – indeed we would be glad if you do.

According to the polls, you are likely to be beat Sleepy Joe easily and be elected as President of the United States next year. At that time you will still be  a wanted criminal in several states and so will need to stay in Britain. You need not worry – the American Embassy to Battersea  was  completely fitted out to function as a replacement White House for when a president is displaced by foreign or domestic enemies.  All we would ask is that you do not use this to imply British support for anything you do, and that you do not check too carefully in the flowerpots by your desk or behind the covfefe machine.

You may still speak to your supporters from Cyberia – until we get a Labour government, in which case expect frequent power cuts.

On your arrival I will personally ensure your safe conduct to the asylum system.

May there be abundant peace

Nothing can be said that does not sound inadequate. The words that came to me were those of a solemn prayer, a Kaddish, which, as it is not my culture, as a gentile Christian, I repeat with trepidation, but sincerity:

May there be abundant peace from heaven,
Life, satisfaction, help, comfort, refuge,
Healing, redemption, forgiveness, atonement,
Relief and salvation
Upon us and upon all Israel; and say, Amen.
May He who makes peace in His high places
Grant in his mercy peace upon us
And upon all Israel; and say, Amen.

The evil which bursts forth from the heart of man is mankind itself. In the Holy Land there has been no peace for over a hundred years, nor in the State of Israel since its creation, despite the blessed relief of a cessation over years, for it has been said often enough that:

 For WARRE, consisteth not in Battell onely, or the act of fighting; but in a tract of time, wherein the Will to contend by Battell is sufficiently known: and therefore the notion of Time, is to be considered in the nature of Warre; as it is in the nature of Weather. For as the nature of Foule weather, lyeth not in a showre or two of rain; but in an inclination thereto of many dayes together: So the nature of War, consisteth not in actuall fighting; but in the known disposition thereto, during all the time there is no assurance to the contrary.

I long for the day, in Israel and amongst the nations when Micah’s prophecy is fulfilled “But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid: for the mouth of the Lord of hosts hath spoken it.”  It is a prayer prayed against the knowledge of the wickedness of mankind.

The Psalmist wrote:

Let them curse, but bless thou: when they arise, let them be ashamed; but let thy servant rejoice.
Let mine adversaries be clothed with shame, and let them cover themselves with their own confusion, as with a mantle.
I will greatly praise the LORD with my mouth; yea, I will praise him among the multitude.
For he shall stand at the right hand of the poor, to save him from those that condemn his soul.

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I will remember the Armenians

When the world had its back turned, an old evil burst on an ancient people. The mountain valleys of Karabakh were seized by those who tried to annihilate the Armenian people from them, within living memory.

It is more than a hundred years since the Armenian Genocide: while Europe was distracted by the Great War, the Ottoman Turks set out systematically to murder their Armenian population. The photographs we have of fields strewn with bones, of rotting bodies, of weeping mothers and widows, would be too distressing to include here – you have the internet, so go and look if you have the stomach for it. Two countries alone in the world actively deny the history:  Turkey and Azerbaijan – and now Azerbaijan has descended with deadly force on the Armenians of the mountains. And the world looked away.

The tale of Nagorno-Karabakh has been with me since I first heard Baroness Cox speak.  When many years later I ran into her she invited me to travel there, I was sorely tempted to (though my wife was less keen). I have kept a watch for the few grudging mentions the media has afforded. They are really not interested.

The unplanned dissolution of the old Soviet state which showed up the messy state of the Transcaucasus, and boundaries set at a whim by Stalin suddenly became international frontiers, and hundreds of thousands of Armenians on the wrong side of it were faced with rule by a new, nationalist tyranny which showed its face soon enough. The euphemism ‘Ethnic cleansing’ was first used by the Azeris who poured in to renew the Armenian Genocide. The land has indeed been ‘internationally recognised’ as part of Azerbaijan, but has not been in fact ever part of that state as it broke away in war at the moment Armenia and Azerbaijan broke from the Soviet Union, so what reality is there in recognition?

One would think that a state based on ethnicity would not want within its borders another population and would separate it, just as Singapore was expelled from Malaysia, but nationalism does not work like that.

Why though, with all the horror in the world, should the fate of that one community cut so deeply? It is because the Armenians have barely survived their neighbours’ murderous hate. They are an ancient nation, unique in language and culture, once mighty across north-eastern Anatolia and forming a strong community in Turkey and Persia. Their kingdom was ancient when Alexander rolled over these hills and they were a power to greet the Romans in later ages. Theirs was the first state to adopt Christianity as their official religion, and for all this, their distinctiveness and success, wedged between Turkish-speaking, Muslim nations, made them a target for jealous when  industrial warfare made their elimination a practical proposition.

The genocide began with local attacks. Before the war, the Armenians were eliminated from their second homeland in Cilicia, which had been an Armenian kingdom during the Crusades. Those who are left after the genocide are a precious people. In the Great War, millions were systematically slaughtered and exiled.

Now the world turns its eyes away as Azeri Turks turn on Armenians.

It is said that the Austrian Housepainter, as he prepared his own genocide, mockingly said ‘Who now remembers the Armenians?’  We should all remember the Armenians.  I will.

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One may smile, and smile, and be a villain

The hold that the worst of tyrants may have over his victim people is ever a fascination. Looking from afar at the rulers of Venezuela or Zimbabwe or Turkey or South Africa, a Briton, lapped in the benevolence, even if benevolent incompetence, that is the wont of government to us, we may be outraged that a tyrant may not only rule, but that so many of the people love them.  We know that Robert Mugabe never won an honest election in his life but elections there were, and millions voted for him and his party.

Presentation is all, for the greater part of the people will believe outward beauty is goodness and ugliness is evil, as Hobbes observes:

The Latine Tongue has two words, whose significations approach to those of Good and Evill; but are not precisely the same; And those are Pulchrum and Turpe. Whereof the former signifies that, which by some apparent signes promiseth Good; and the later, that, which promiseth evill.

But in our Tongue we have not so generall names to expresse them by. But for Pulchrum, we say in some things, Fayre; in other Beautifull, or Handsome, or Gallant, or Honourable, or Comely, or Amiable; and for Turpe, Foule, Deformed, Ugly, Base, Nauseous, and the like, as the subject shall require; All which words, in their proper places signifie nothing els, but the Mine, or Countenance, that promiseth Good and evill.

So that of Good there be three kinds; Good in the Promise, that is Pulchrum; Good in Effect, as the end desired, which is called Jucundum, Delightfull; and Good as the Means, which is called Utile, Profitable; and as many of evill: For evill, in Promise, is that they call Turpe; evill in Effect, and End, is Molestum, Unpleasant, Troublesome; and evill in the Means, Inutile, Unprofitable, Hurtfull.

In this frame of mind, the failings of a ruler seen as strong and better still if he is a handsome man, will mask any number of actual failings – until the police arrive at your own door.

In 1 Samuel 16, the seer is rebuked: “Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.” All that said, five verses later the chosen king, David, is described “Now he was ruddy, and withal of a beautiful countenance, and goodly to look to.” Perhaps his healthy, outdoorsman appearance reflected his healthy outlook.  In any case the people of Israel were more likely to follow a king who would inspire by his very appearance.

Poverty, induced famine, violent repression, the end of everyday liberties, all are simple to blame upon others. People are not stupid in general, but prefer to believe comfortable, neat fictions rather than hard, complicated truths, and those who do not understand the actual causes that drive away prosperity, cannot place the blame other than where the tyrant’s words place it.

Ignorance of naturall causes disposeth a man to Credulity, so as to believe many times impossibilities: for such know nothing to the contrary, but that they may be true; being unable to detect the Impossibility. And Credulity, because men love to be hearkened unto in company, disposeth them to lying: so that Ignorance it selfe without Malice, is able to make a man bothe to believe lyes, and tell them; and sometimes also to invent them.

We have now a multitude of sources which can inform, but only if we listen and if they are in the right language, and only if they are controlled by those with a care for freedom and prosperity, which is rare these days. Liberty has been a watchword for centuries in the English-speaking world but not all nations will have the same understanding. If their rulers cry out ‘Liberty’ it is liberty for themselves, like the word ‘Libertas’ carved on the turrets of Lucca and on the shackles that held the city’s galley-slaves. Reason then is not to be relied upon to moderate or to throw down tyrants. It is enough that they should smile, and smile, and be a villain, if they portray an outward appearance to win hearts, and wily enough to shed blame elsewhere.

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Constitutionally guaranteed despotism

Americans are proud of their Constitution protecting liberties, but it leaves Americans much less free than other nations.  They are the least free of the Anglosphere (Trudeauean Canada excepted). This blog recently praised John Stuart Mill’s insights, but on America he was naïve in his optimism: they have tied themselves into a habit of despotism. The Constitution is a conspirator in this.

Mill wrote with rather too much hope than sense that:

let them be left with out a government, every body of Americans is able to improvise one, and to carry on that or any other public business with a sufficient amount of intelligence, order, and decision…. No bureaucracy can hope to make such a people as this do or undergo anything that they do not like.

In practice, this means that there are, in the United States, endless layers of government, each with its own bureaucracy, each making new rules to pile on top of rules. While the British legislature is one Parliament that has to cover the manifold needs of the whole realm, from which it is burdened, barely ever able to act swiftly, America has endless little parliaments, each one a village Napoleon, demanding obedience to the alleged will of the people.

Even in the Stepford-Wives streets, much of America has Home Owners’ Associations, with private rules unburdened by the Constitution, commanding eve the very length of grass in a front yard and the position to the inch at which a car may be parked.

If there is no relief from the layers or lawmakers trying to flex their powers, it can be no wonder that American are burdened by more laws that any other English-speaking nation.

It goes deeper though. The Constitution lays down limits beyond which government may not go.  The limits are broad: they do not prescribe every action. A shard of government may be tempted t determine that if the Constitution does not forbid, then there can be no objection to any outrage. That is wrong. On this side of the ocean, Parliament is free to trample on any liberty, but is restrained more effectively by protest from the back-benches than by any laws.

(There is also the other consideration:  one liberty not permitted to our people is a liberty to carry guns, as a result of which Britons can walk freely in the streets without fear.)

The Americans have many advantages unavailable to our islands – they have almost unlimited land, which is therefore cheap , and with it the ability for enterprise to flourish. A gigafactory can be plonked into the desert – here we have to scour the land to find anywhere big enough and desperate enough. In this, Americans will always be freer.

Land though, while a blessing, is also under a curse.

A frequent outrage we read about in America is the light way they have with private property.  Those who were drafting a Declaration of Independence first includes as the trio of basic rights ‘life, liberty and property’, but withdrew the latter at the last minute, as it might prevent necessary forced acquisition for roads – and now every petty layer of government freely indulges in ’eminent domain’ to seize whatever they want.  In Britain, compulsory purchase is a burdensome, slow process and so rarely used – thank goodness for that. It may slow down every major infrastructure project, but better that than to lose our homes and fields and businesses to the whim of a passing council official. Our liberty of property is understood: we consider these right to be so self-evident there is no point writing them down. If we did write them down, they would be weakened rendered as mere paper, with an edge, not a principle written upon the very understanding.

I would love to see America becoming actually the land of the free they sing of. It will take though a major change of outlook and unwonted restraint by may layers of eager politicians, or by voters.  There is no sign of it now. That is a pity.

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