Why is it that so many of President Trump’s critics seem to have trouble comprehending that the real world does not operate or conform to abstract ideological principles?
Perhaps, as James Day Hodgson observes in American Senryu, what is fundamentally at issue is the inability of the innocent to understand evil:
Ignored evil —
The price too often paid for
Purity of heart.
“Absence of guile achieved by wearing mental blinders is a dubious virtue. The late British humorist Malcolm Muggeridge was deadly serious when he reminded us that purity of heart has a dangerous two-dimensional shallowness unless accompanied by penetrating perception. An uncorrupted heart must be coupled with a ruthless eye.”
I would add that those presidents with the most successful foreign policy achievements – Theodore Roosevelt, Richard Nixon, and Ronald Reagan among them – understood that one must deal with the world as it is, not how he wishes it to be. An uncorrupted heart is far less valuable an asset in diplomacy than a relentless pragmatism.
Per EThompson’s recommendation in the comments to my last post, I will share James Day Hodgdon’s verse on Machiavellianism and diplomacy from American Senryu:
Cynics first dictum: For persuasion to succeed, Conceal the intent.
“Polls show that the title ‘diplomat’ draws a reaction of great respect among the public. How puzzling! From the time of Machiavelli through Metternich and beyond, diplomacy has been associated with duplicity. Can it be that the triumph of the diplomat lies in his ability to use tools associated with duplicity to fashion a humane result? Possibly.”
Like Ronald Reagan with the fall of the Soviet Bloc a generation earlier, Donald Trump has made great progress toward a goal once thought impossible: peace on the Korean Peninsula. Trump’s success is a direct result of spurning the conventional wisdom and hidebound ideologies of both the left and right.
That observation is just as applicable on the domestic front. Buckleyite conservatism is the political equivalent of prevent defense in American football: ceding ground to the opponent for the purpose of achieving victory. Such an approach has not worked and will never work. One cannot win by continuously retreating. Any ideology that advocates such must be rejected outright.
In American Senryu, James Day Hodgson ruminates on the subject of enemies with the following verse:
The capacity To gain the right enemies Is part of genius.
“No man in his right mind deliberately sets out to make enemies. But few men of character and virility of thought can escape gaining some. In public life, a man is often respected as much for the disrepute of his enemies as for the worth of his friends. What holds true for men, holds true for nations.”
Although this verse was written nearly a quarter century before the rise of Donald Trump to the presidency, it is more than applicable. An astounding number of the president’s political opponents come off as inveterate social climbers, moral poseurs, and silver-tongued pillocks. That is no coincidence.
As some of you all know, I lived in Japan as a young child. During the mid-to-late 1970s, my father was a U.S. Customs representative assigned to the embassy in Tokyo and my mother taught Spanish at an all-girls Catholic school. My dad’s first boss during his tenure was Ambassador James Day Hodgson, who before being appointed to that position by Gerald Ford, had served as Secretary of Labor under Richard Nixon.
In 1992, Hodgson published a book titled American Senryu: Verses by a Former Ambassador. I purchased a copy in 1993 on a visit to Tokyo, and the tome remains one of my most valued possessions, for the wisdom contained therein is timeless.
For those unfamiliar with the Japanese literary art form of senryu, click here.
Apropos of recent events elsewhere, I was reminded of the good ambassador’s verse about pettiness, found on page 53 of his book:
A melange of evil Swims noisily in the small mind Before subsiding.
“About all that can be said on behalf of the mean-spirited is that their fulminations are rarely rewarded. Most of their spiteful scheming sputters and peters out in pathetic ineptitude.”
A few nights ago, I watched the latest iteration of the Godzilla film franchise from the Toho Company: Shin Godzilla, released in 2016. A reboot of the franchise rather than a sequel and set in the present day, Shin Godzilla tells the story of the mighty monster’s rise from the perspective of the Japanese prime minister and his cabinet.
When Godzilla first emerges out of Tokyo Bay in larval form and then begins charging through the city itself, the government is overwhelmed. Given the constitutional limits placed on the Japanese Self-Defense Forces, they are not sure if a military response is even a viable option. By the time they figure out how to untie that legal Gordian Knot, Godzilla has mutated into its full adult form and has become nearly invincible. The use of nuclear weaponry seems the only option left, but can another solution be found before visiting the same fate upon Tokyo as Hiroshima and Nagasaki seven decades earlier?
Overall, Shin Godzilla is a fine film, and I especially enjoyed Japanese actress Satomi Ishihara playing the role of U.S. envoy Kayoko Ann Patterson, even if her English left much to be desired. And the behind-the-scenes political intrigue portrayed amongst Japan’s political leadership was fascinating to this former Capitol Hill denizen. Check it out.