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  • Writer's pictureBrendan Szendrő

Four Mini-Essays About The News

In lieu of my usual walls of text, here’s some scattershot thoughts.

- World War III isn't happening, guys. Russia knows better than to start a war with us. Assad will continue attacking his own people because at this point he doesn't have much to lose. Bolton will continue whispering crazy shit in Trump's ear, Trump will continue announcing semi-coherent policy decisions on twitter and Mattis will continue translating them into what he considers a workable doctrine. Trump will continue escalating foreign tensions whenever negative coverage of his presidency mounts and the Democrats will continue waiting for an impeachment that will never happen as long as the Republicans control government. Admittedly, I don't trust Trump to escalate safely but I do trust Putin to know when to back down. He'll compensate for the humiliation by expanding into Eastern Europe some more and messing with some elections and no one will care because that's kinda what Russia always does. Life will go on as normal for everyone except the people of Syria.

- Yes, Hamas sends Palestinian civilians to die. Israel still takes the bait. One of the first things you learn as a kid is that two wrongs don’t make a right. Israel has the tendency to approach its actions legalistically, arguing that they follow technically “correct” procedures and while they may not violate the exact letter of the law, what they do is just not sustainable. The fact that Hamas intentionally sets up its own people to die doesn’t change the fact that Israel’s aggressive indifference is what kills them. When Israel supplies a technically sufficient amount of food, electricity and building materials to support the Gaza Strip in the blockade, knowing that Hamas is going to appropriate most of it, they are still absolutely taking the bulk of the blame. Even if you don’t care about the Palestinians - and you should - you should at least care that it’s just bad policy. It makes Israel look pretty bad to the world. If you care about having a Jewish state with the ability to defend itself - which I do - you should at least be aggravated when it does something that endangers its long-term survival in favor of short-term indignation.

- Of course Hungary voted with an authoritarian populist. There's really not much of a tradition of democracy there. In fact, there's hardly a tradition of self government - before 1989, Hungary had only been sovereign for 12 of the past 400 years. In that time, they were occupied by Ottomans, Austrians, Germans and Russians on a pretty regular basis. It's to the point that my family members over there are convinced it's only a matter of time before they get conquered again. It's a small and insular country and an authoritarian leader makes them feel safe. Of course, like every country that feels vulnerable, they take it out on migrants. That's a constant. George Soros is also a useful villain, since he's a Jewish guy with money. The tragedy of Hungarian politics is that a good portion of Hungarians - basically, those old enough to remember the Communist regime - aren't accustomed enough to autonomy to really support democracy.

- Countless studies have shown that people pick their political opinions the way they pick sports teams, and they never change their views unless a cataclysmic event - say, a generation destroyed by war or economic depression - befalls them. In other words, it doesn’t matter if you’re a good a smart person, if you happen to pick the wrong side by accident you’ll always convince yourself that it’s the right side. And even if you did pick the right side, it’s not necessarily because of your intelligence or morals such as the luck of a coin toss. Usually, though, it comes out okay because we don’t have political actors who force people to take undemocratic stances to justify their support. Our leaders have always converged on the center instead of pushing people to extremes. That’s what makes Trump so dangerous - trying to convince Trump supporters that they’re wrong is only going to antagonize them, and with the FBI ramping up its attacks those supporters are going to be calling for a purge of government - we’re stepping into a point of no return here. Half this country will support fascism, and there's not really anything anyone can do about it.

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