It has been a turbulent two years after Donald Trump became the 45th president of the United States of America. In the past decades the world has seen the emergence of world leaders with worrisome traits such as sympathy towards autocracy, phobic right-wing beliefs, and are brazenly misogynistic.
This troubling trend didn’t start with Donald Trump alone: his fellow strongmen Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Vladimir Putin, Bashar Al-Assad, Rodrigo Duterte, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Benjamin Netanyahu, and most recently Jair Bolsonaro have taken power either by force, nepotism, or a farce democratic process. These men aren’t just dangerous for their respective nation’s democracy and protection of human rights, they also display a bleak prospect for the international legal and political order.
Our people’s history is stained with oppression and suffering. As a people considered too weak to protect itself from power-hungry empires seeking territory and fortune, we haven’t had any great power after the collapse of our empires BC. Now we are a people close to extinction, almost forgotten and barely acknowledged or supported by our host countries in the diaspora. We are fighting for our survival as a people as well as for our identity in a new globalised world, led by realpolitik and geopolitical interests. It seems depressing, but we are not able to sustain as an isolated people. Instead, we have to rely on being supported by big power players representing our demands and necessities to keep our culture and heritage alive. However, what many of us, in particular in the political and church leadership have blatantly ignored, is the fact that we are just a pawn on the chess board of the global power players fighting their battles for influence and resources outside of their own territory, in the countries that have barely recovered from the damages of colonial times.
Our indigenous homeland is no different from the rest of the world, it has been the site of several colonial and empiric incursions starting with the Assyrian and Babylonian Empires to the Roman, the various Islamic Caliphates, the Mongols, to the British, French, and Americans. Arguably, the latter three caused the most acute damage whose effects are felt even in the present. I cannot comprehend how we prefer to search for support and recognition by the very states who were responsible for the present chaos in the first place. Rather than acknowledge that its Western intervention was responsible for our most devastating exodus from our homelands of Iraq and Syria, we fill our hearts with joy and appreciation when a xenophobic chauvinist in America pledges to support Christians in Iraq (while simultaneously closing the door to refugees of different faiths). We are struggling and suffering in the Homeland as well as in the Diaspora, but instead of finding allies among our own Middle Eastern neighbours, we end up playing along the games by countries who wouldn’t spend a second considering our safety over their power.
An extreme example is of course the support of the Syrian dictator Bashar Al-Assad. Often the narrative permeated by his propaganda machinery claims to be the last secular bastion in the political stage of Syria. However, Syria never had any political diversity, therefore not allowing the emergence and development of other political thoughts including those that could have included secularism as part of their ideology.
Finally, it is time to discuss the big, orange elephant in the room. Donald Trump is the misogynistic, racist, unstable, and utterly incompetent president of one of the most powerful states in the world. Not only does his country have economic, nuclear, and military strength on the global stage, it also has a powerful diplomatic tool, the right to veto (together with the other four permanent members) any United Nations Security Council resolution. The fact that many Assyrian-Americans voted for him and blindly defend his sick worldview such that it offers them some comfort in their decision is not only worrisome, but also extremely pathetic. Let me say it in one very clear, slightly aggressive sentence: Donald Trump doesn’t care about us.
He might claim to have an interest in protecting the Christians in the Middle East, but at the same time his utterly racist and legally dubious Muslim travel ban actually affects both Christians and Muslims alike in the Middle East.
He has offered to fight ISIS and recently signed an executive order to continue aid for religious minorities such as Christians and Yezidis in Syria and Iraq, but in the same week announced to withdraw all his troops from the North Eastern Kurdish region of Syria, offering the entire population to the non-existent mercy of the Turkish state, which has already announced “to bury all the Kurdish militants in ditches”. I hope our people are finally waking up and realising that we will be just as much affected by arbitrary air shelling and violence as the Kurds and the other ethnicities in the region will. This begs the question, if Trump does this to allies who have helped the U.S. fight ISIS, what could he possibly do to Assyrians the minute we are no longer of use to him?
Now let’s consider why our people has this tendency of glorifying and supporting these strongmen. The answer is simple, not only is our patriarchal thinking engraved in our church history, in our social and family lives, but also in our political views. The same way that our political leadership to some extent displays “toxic masculinity” in regard to delicate topics, it seems to also feel attracted to this toxic masculinity in a much stronger and much broader extent for world politics. The way that stereotypes of strong boys are permeated in our own society, makes it evident why we seem to look for the same outdated stereotypes in strongmen politicians who buy in to the notion that might makes right. Regardless of how we stand to suffer at the hands of these strongmen and their flighty, unstable, categorically undemocratic tendencies, we continue to support them.
If the views expressed in this article have somehow offended, do accept my apologies. I will now share with you some comforting and restorative statements by the above-mentioned great leaders.
“You can do anything. Grab them by the pu**y” (Donald Trump)
“I would never rape you, because you don’t deserve it.” (Jair Bolsonaro)
“Tell the soldiers. ‘There’s a new order coming from the mayor. We won’t kill you. We will just shoot your vagina,” (Rodrigo Duterte)
“What a mighty man [Katsav] turns out to be! He raped 10 women. We all envy him.” (Vladimir Putin)