Trumpocalypse 2017: At least we’re not Turkey

When things feel like they are going bad in the U.S., what I like to do to make me feel better is look around the world to find a country that is having worse problems than we are.

Trust me, there are plenty.

Last time I did this, I talked about the power struggle in The Gambia, where the nation’s outgoing president refused to step down after he was democratically voted out of office. It was an episode that required military intervention from neighboring countries, and fortunately ended peacefully.

Today I’d like to discuss a country that’s northern half is part of Europe, and bottom half is part of Asia, and yet, neither continent probably wants any of it: Turkey.

Outside observers have long concluded that Turkey has been experiencing a democratic backslide under the rule of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who served as prime minister from 2003 to 2014, and president after that.

The average person likely doesn’t know who Erdogan is. But you may have heard his name in a bizarre story that went viral in 2014 that underscores his perceived authoritarian rule. That involved a Turkish man who was arrested in 2014 after he compared Erdogan to Gollum on social media. Last year, the man was slapped with a one-year prison sentence.

Imagine that happening in America. If we locked up everyone who badmouthed Trump on social media, the only people left standing would be Sean Hannity and the entire state of Kentucky. And I would be in Guantanamo.

But those are the type of things that happen in Turkey. The country has been largely criticized in recent years for its tendency to turn a blind eye to ISIS fighters traveling through the country to get to other European nations.

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That being said, it certainly doesn’t diminish the fact that Turkey has also been victimized by deadly attacks from terrorists.

Erdogan’s regime has become even more oppressive since a surprise coup attempt last July, when members of the military organized overnight to – unsuccessfully – overthrow his regime.

Since then, his regime has suspended or fired more than 12,000 government employees, and arrested some 50,000 soldiers, police officers, teachers, judges, academics and lawmakers suspected of being dissidents.

Turkey also jailed more journalists than any other country in 2016, a number estimated to have reached greater than 150.

And it’s only getting worse. Earlier this year, the Turkish Parliament voted to allow a referendum that would give the president of the country – who happens to be Erdogan – greater power and authority. Historically in the country, the prime minister is the government chief and president is mostly a ceremonial role.

The vote in parliament was so contentious that one opposition lawmaker was sent to the hospital after having her prosthetic arm ripped off in a fistfight on the Parliament floor.

The referendum on the new Constitution is in April, and it’s actually led to international diplomatic disputes as Turkey has been seeking to campaign in countries where Turkish citizens live abroad.

But after Germany and the Netherlands refused to let Turkish officials in their country to do so, the Turkish government called the two countries “Nazis” and “fascists.”

So, as you can see, things are going awfully swell in Turkey.

Now this isn’t to say that we should observe the chaos happening abroad and consequently shrug off the problems happening here as trivial matters, but it does help to offer a little perspective.

Today, House Republicans postponed the vote on the new health care bill once they realized they didn’t have enough votes to approve it. But don’t celebrate … they will be back, and whatever they bring with them will not be good for lower-class Americans.

And with each passing day, the links between Trump associates and Russian officials continues to grow.

So things aren’t quite peachy here either.

But hey, at least we live in a country where I get to call our president Gollum, Sauron, Voldemort, Darth Vader, King Joffrey, Scar from the Lion King, the Wicked Witch, Cruella de Vil, Dr. Evil, Walter White, the Boogie Man and Donald Trump combined.

That’s right, I’m making a bold prediction that in 20 years from now, we’ll unanimously consider Donald Trump synonymous to a cartoon fictional villain.

Until then, we’ll keep trying him out as the top executive of the most powerful nation in the world.

Should go well.

Who knew Austrians would be the voice of reason?

We are living in an increasingly uncertain time in this world.

Residents in nation after nation, unhappy with the stagnancy of their own life in the post-recession era and the perception that their government is more concerned with their own role in the global economy rather than the well-being of their citizens, are lashing out in the most pragmatic way they can — elections.

The result has been a populist wave.

First it was Brexit. Then Trump. Then France’s leftist prime minister, hampered by dismal approval ratings, announced he won’t run for re-election next year.

And this week, a vote on a constitutional amendment in Italy that essentially turned into a referendum on the leadership of Democratic Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, ended with him announcing he would resign.

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So what happens now? Do we just accept that this is the way of the future? That developed nations are rejecting globalism and want to revert back to preserving their own national identity?

Do we want to tighten borders, limit trade and promote isolationism?

Because that seems to be the way people are leaning, when given the choice. And it may influence the outcome in elections next year in France, Germany and the Netherlands.

What nation will put a stop to this? What country will step up to the plate, and reject demagoguery and say yes to globalization?

Enter Austria, the birthplace of Adolf Hitler.

In an election on Sunday to determine its next president, Austrian voters rejected a far-right candidate, Norbert Hofer, whose Freedom Party was actually founded in the 1950s by Nazis, in favor of Green Party candidate Alexander Van der Bellen.

It’s too small of a sample size to know if this truly is a turning point. But it is refreshing to see that, somewhere, people are not giving into fear.

Austria, the place that 95 percent of Americans would not know existed if it wasn’t for Arnold Schwarzenegger. The place that whenever you write it or say it aloud you wish you were talking about Australia instead.

And the place that may have just shown the world that politicians can still campaign on a platform of unity and reason.

Now I’m not saying that all populist parties are bad. But this year has shown us that fringe parties and candidates — like a Donald Trump — can capitalize on people’s fears and anxieties like never before. If the trend were to continue, well, I don’t think it’d be too far-fetched to say that we’d possibly risk entering a global environment not too far off from where we were preceding the World Wars.

So it’s nice to have that one little domino that bends, but doesn’t break, and potentially stops the momentum of a populist free fall.

But hey, if things don’t change, we can always send Arnold Schwarzenegger back in time to change the past, right?

The migrant crisis: the biggest disaster America won’t care about since Ebola

If you ask the average American if they remember Ebola, most would probably guess that it’s the name of Kanye West and Kim Kardashian’s most recent child, rather than a deadly disease that has killed more than 10,000 people in West Africa since 2013.

People like to say that there is a white privilege in this country, and while they’re almost certainly right, I think there is also such a thing as American privilege. Because we are such an economic and military powerhouse, viewed as the land of opportunity, and share a border with such few countries, we don’t really have to concern ourselves too much with what’s going on in the rest of the world.

I mean, we definitely should. But most Americans do not. Hence American privilege.

The World Health Organization just declared Liberia Ebola-free, by the way.

Migrant crisisBesides island countries, citizens of other nations have no choice but to be deeply attentive to nearby countries. Greece’s recession, for example, has had a profound impact on the entire economy and currency of every country in the European Union. Puerto Rico, meanwhile, is an island territory of the U.S. also amid a recession, but nobody cares.

Anyway, so it comes as no surprise that when Europe finds itself facing its biggest humanitarian problem since World War II, a migrant crisis, it’s still not enough to capture America’s attention.

The closest we get in the U.S. to the topic of migration is Donald Trump accusing all Mexicans of being rapists.

The crisis certainly got the attention of the rest of the world last week, when a photo of a Syrian infant boy lying face-down, dead on a beach was widely circulated on the Internet. Or when Czech officials began marking the hands of migrants upon entry, reminiscent of the Nazis’ procedures during the Holocaust. Or when Hungary built a fence to keep them out after chaos broke out at a train station when migrants were told they were being trained to Austria but instead were sent to refugee centers.

They’re coming from mainly Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, escaping civil war and the advance of terrorist groups, searching for better days in prosperous European countries. And leaders of those countries have no idea what to do.

But hey, we’re more than 4,000 miles away from all of this, so let’s rock out to the new Justin Bieber jam instead! That hook in the chorus that Skrillex added is sick, yo!

Americans aren’t bad people. We’re just blissfully ignorant because we can be.

But in a way, that is the American Dream. The same dream these migrants are seeking, that we very much take for granted: to live a carefree life in a comfortable home in a country where we are welcome.

And yet, Justin Bieber, that Canadian slimebucket, still can’t take a hint.

Go home, Justin. Go home.