One of the side effects of President Trump’s relentless attacks on the news media is a press that continually strikes back. Today, The Los Angels Times published a devastatingly brutal editorial written by Ariel Dorfman, a professor of literature and Latin American Studies at North Carolina’s Duke University and titled “America still hasn’t reckoned with the election of a reckless con man as president.”
Dorfman, an author and human rights activist as well as an academic, was a cultural advisor to the Chilean government when Socialist President Salvador Allende was overthrown in a CIA-supported coup, so he’s lived through difficult political situations before.
Professor Dorfman begins his editorial by saying that he’s tired of hearing about Russian collusion in the U.S. elections last year, not because it wasn’t important, but because, as he says:
“The psychic, intellectual and emotional energy expended on this issue would be better employed, I believe, by addressing a more fundamental concern: What was it, what is it, in our American soul that allowed the Russians to be successful?”
Dorfman uses his experiences after the overthrow of the democratically-elected socialist regime in Chile as a lodestone to explore the type of soul-searching that he feels America needs in the wake of Trump’s electoral victory and subsequent presidency. Just as the left in Chile eventually needed to cease attributing the blame for the right wing takeover by the dictator General Augusto Pinochet to the United States and pivot to a self-analysis of the conditions amongst the Chilean people that allowed the coup to take place, Dorfman posits that America needs to do the same with Trump and the Russian interference.
“As an immigrant who has embraced America as his home, I would hope that my compatriots here might be inspired by the way Chile went about healing its wounds. Our confusion and angst forced us to look deep inside our despair, and deeper still into the enigmas and abyss of history in search of a response to the Pinochet tragedy. The fundamental ethical work went beyond politics and intellectual theories to more personal, more intimate, more piercing territory. Chileans had to think ourselves out of our crisis.”
He decries the fact that no “common national narrative” has been yet reached that would explain Trump’s victory and begs America to look inward.
“Now, every desperate American must gaze in the mirror and interrogate the puzzled face and puzzling fate that stares back: What did I do or not do that made the cataclysm possible? Did I ignore past transgressions that corrode today’s society: the discrimination, the sexism, the violence, the authoritarianism, the intolerance, the imperial ambitions, the slavery and greed and persecutions that have darkened America’s story? Did I overestimate the strength of our democracy and underestimate the decency of my neighbors? Was I too fearful, too complacent, too impatient, too angry? Whom did I not talk to, whom did I not persuade? What privilege and comforts, what overwork and debts, kept me from giving my all? What injustice or humiliation or bigoted remark did I witness and let pass? How can I help to recover our country, make it once more recognizable, make it luminous and forgiving?”
“We must vigorously protest the president’s craven actions, but above all we need to acknowledge that what ultimately matters is not what a foreign power did to America, but what America did to itself. The crucial question of what is wrong with our country, what could have driven us to this edge of catastrophe, cannot be resolved by a special counsel or a Democratic takeover of the House of Representatives or spectacular revelations about Russia’s interference.”
Dorfman wraps up his essay with an invitation to look at our current situation as “an opportunity rather than an obstacle” and quotes Revolutionary War patriot Thomas Paine, who said as the incipient American Revolution was in danger of floundering:
“Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.”
As Dorman says in his concluding lines:
I cannot guess whether we will be spirited enough to find the consolatory answers to our crisis. What I do not doubt, as America cries out for a second and much needed revolution, is that a long night of searching lies ahead of us.
Get to work America. Search away as fast as you can.