“We write symphonies,” said President Trump today in Poland. Some headlines said he was “defending Western values.” He began his “defense” of Western values by saying he was proud that so many Polish-Americans have enriched the United States and voted for him in 2016. He named “radical Islamic terrorism” as a threat, as well as the “destabilizing activities” of Russia in Ukraine and elsewhere (is he afraid to just come out and say the Russians invaded Ukraine? why not have the courage to call things by their right names, Mr. Trump?). He noted the “new forms of aggression, including propaganda, financial crimes, and cyberwarfare.” All true enough, and one can only hope Trump has paid attention to his aides when they tried to prepare him for his meeting with Putin. The survival of Western civilization certainly depends partly on willpower, as Trump asserted, but maybe as much or more on the hard work of planning, the diligence it takes to study one’s adversaries as well as understand and promote values broader and deeper than one’s own advantage. Western values, contra Trump, are not just the values of Thrasymachus in Plato’s Republic.
According to Mr. Trump, “Americans, Poles, and the nations of Europe value individual freedom and sovereignty.” That might sound like boilerplate, but if you think about it for a few seconds there is an unresolved puzzle–what is in between individual freedom and sovereignty? In classical terms, there is a “one and many” problem that I fear Trump, in his innermost tyrannical being, doesn’t really get. Western values and Western civilization have an uncertain future, for sure; and they have a complicated history. How do the “few” (our representatives) mediate between the one (monarch or executive) and the many (“the people”)? Tough questions! Back to Trump’s speech: “If we don’t forget who we are, we just can’t be beaten. Americans will never forget…. We are the fastest and the greatest community. There is nothing like our community of nations. The world has never known anything like our community of nations. We write symphonies…We celebrate our ancient heroes…We reward brilliance…We empower women as pillars of our society and of our success…And we debate everything. We challenge everything.”
He may be onto something. In fact I would be happier if Mr. Trump would devote himself to writing a symphony. I would very strongly consider paying to download his first, second, and third symphonies, which will almost certainly take lots of time and undivided attention to write. Mr. Trump, you possess the brilliance to write the greatest symphonies ever, symphonies that will defend Western civilization more than anything else you could possibly do. I really mean that, believe me. Do not let any Russian tricks and maskirovka fool you into doing anything else for the next three and a half years. The time is gonna fly by.