Putin and Trump: Kindred Spirits

I know — you’re about as interested in Vladimir Putin as you are the divorced Catholic controversy within the Church. But bear with me.

My “serious read” at the moment is The New Tsar: The Rise and Reign of Vladimir Putin by Steven Lee Myers. The book is non-fiction, although it reads like a Russian novel and I can hardly keep straight the names of all the players. Everything about Russia seems both large and forbidding, like the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg which is filled with treasures that you get lost trying to find. Interested in the Faberge egg exhibit? Down that long corridor, up the stairs — no, not that staircase, the one farther down the hall — turn left, go through three galleries then turn right, down another long hall, right, then left, then right again and there it is, where the biggest crowd is gathered. Want to go to the rest room on the way? Don’t even think about it. Rest rooms are in the basement, and you’ll never get back.

What I’m discovering, about 1/3 of the way through the book, is that Putin and Trump share a similar rise to power — although Putin is a far more personally disciplined version of the outsider who gains near absolute power. Both achieved their positions by blasting through convention and expectation, and blowing away people who seemed more qualified or more suitable.

The big difference lies in their tolerance for chaos. Putin has none; he fears chaos and disintegration and will do anything to suppress it. Trump thrives on chaos, and foments it. I think it’s going to be a big problem in their brewing bromance.

We’re about to test the American tolerance for chaos. I have gone under the assumption that most people lead fairly predictable lives, because we want to. We don’t want the world around us to be constantly shifting — mostly, because few have assets approaching billionaire status that can shield us against the dissolution of what we’ve come to count on. Billionaires don’t need public parks or rapid transit or public libraries that offer free computer use or public pensions: they can pay privately for all of those things. Most older Americans count on Medicare and Social Security. Most veterans count on the VA, not a privatized version. Most of us want abortion to be safe, legal and rare, not a witch hunt against poor women and their health care providers. Most of us have LGBT friends or family members, whom we love despite what our cherished religious or political ideologies might teach us.

All of that is now on the chopping block. Trump/Ryan/McConnell want to throw it all up into the air, the only difference of opinion being how fast to introduce chaos into all of our lives.

I actually hope they go for it, preferably before the 2018 elections, so we can have a serious re-think of what people actually voted for.

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