Can we see it from here?

Ekaterinburg, Russia’s fourth largest city, lies astride the Europe-Asia border, east of the Ural mountains, about 1,000 miles east of Moscow. It is home to Ural State University, which was founded in 1920 by writer and dramatist Maxim Gorky. Shortly after arriving there on a faculty exchange visit in 1996, I asked my university hosts if we were in Siberia. Laughs all around, then one remarked, “Not quite, but we can see if from here.”

I am reminded of the comment as I witness the spectacle of a Donald Trump presidency. In a blog post more than a year ago, I questioned whether we were experiencing fascism in the White House. Not yet, I wrote, and thought, “but we can see it from here.” Fascism is a governmental system with complete power, suppressing opposition and criticism. It tends to emphasize nationalism and racism. Are we there yet? Can we see it from here?

Since he took office, Trump’s relationship with Vladimir Putin has fascinated and worried Americans who believe that the leader of a nation probably shouldn’t be so friendly with its enemies, particularly this one.

Yet Trump consistently places a priority on Russia’s strategic interests and demonstrates that he trusts Putin more than his own experts. Critics joke about a love affair between the two leaders. I don’t know about you, but I’m not laughing.

Now comes word that Putin’s people have been placing a bounty on the heads of American troops serving in Afghanistan. We will pay you to kill an American, the Taliban was told. Reliable sources report that Trump has known about this but has failed to offer any resistance. He has spoken with his friend Putin on the phone, however, several times, we are told. What did they say to each other?

At what point does Trump’s behavior toward an aggressive enemy rise to treason? The U.S. constitution defines treason as “levying war against the United States, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort.”

It’s a serious charge. Julius and Ethel Rosenberg famously were executed in 1953 for their role in passing atomic secrets to the Soviets during and after World War II.  We don’t know what Donald and Vladimir talk about when they chat in person or on the phone. It’s our business as American citizens, but Trump won’t tell us.

On the day he took office, Trump swore that he “will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the constitution of the United States.”

Our president isn’t actively levying war against Russia, far from it. Is he adhering to our enemy? Is he offering our enemy aid and comfort? Are we witnessing treason?

Maybe. Can we see it from here?


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