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The Arrogance of Power

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Garen Yegparian

Garen Yegparian


This piece’s title may sound trite since you’ve probably heard the phrase before, so I apologize for that, but recent days’ events have delivered powerful examples of the phenomenon. I also apologize for the couple of inescapable digressions that may distract from the main theme.

Examples abound of the arrogance that is associated with and people in power and often, likely, bred by the power they are in. Many, if not most, heads of state come/came off as arrogant, especially those in olden times. It’s odd, and hard to comprehend, that even in democratic societies, many citizens yearn for some cocky leader, with a capital “L”… This is even more true in societies living through difficult times.

The two glaring examples of our day are Erdoğan and Trump. Both are presidents, both head up societies that are in turmoil and possibly transition from a status quo to something new (though not necessarily better), and both are as arrogant, thin skinned, and as instinctively dictatorial as they come. Fortunately, checks on their power have constrained some of their worst instincts.

Erdoğan has been in power much longer than Trump and his resume (dossier?) of anti-democratic, brutal, corrupt, despicable, hypersensitive, power-mongering, smug, and just generally unbelievable acts and attitudes is far thicker. Reciting that litany to this audience would consume space needlessly. Let’s focus on the most recent example – the brutalization of legitimate, peaceful, protesters by his thugs (so-called security detail) and other Turks, likely residents of the D.C. area, judging by the attire – some in suits, others very casual. Everyone has seen the videos that abound on YouTube of the brutal beating and kicking suffered by a couple of dozen people picketing outside the U.S. Turkish ambassador’s residence earlier in the week. They were battered so badly, with one woman initially unable to even stand, that some of the were hospitalized. It’s easy to see the parallel between these abusers and their three-generations-ago predecessors implementing the tortures of the Genocide. This was not the first time such an event occurred. A The National Review article cites a number of examples, to which I would add last February’s incident in Ecuador when women protesting Erdoğan’s visit were brutally beset by his bodyguards. Couple these with The Daily Caller’s analysis of Erdoğan giving orders to attack while sitting in his limo. The pattern is clear. If he didn’t sanction such activity, it would not have happened again and again and again… This is a very powerful example of his arrogance. Imagine, visiting another country and having your entourage brutalize that country’s people! This just bears out the saying about “power corrupts…” and in this case, breeds arrogance, too.

Senator John McCain, in calling for the expulsion of the Turkish ambassador, got it right. I would add that the whole Turkish embassy should be closed down and its operatives sent home for an appropriate period of time. We know that McCain is coming from a place of propriety as a former military man, senator, and citizen, since it’s not because he has been a strong supporter of Armenian issues.

Moving on to Trump. He wants to jail journalists (in this he’s probably jealous of Erdoğan). He tried to pressure now-fired Director Jim Comey to stop the FBI from investigating Michael Flynn, Trump’s disgraced, short-lived, National Security Advisor (and lobbyist for Turkey). He refuses to release his tax returns. He treats the presidency as if it was his private business, including wasteful, off-the-charts, travel spending. He is far behind in making appointments to important government positions which would support and strengthen his ability to govern, having prematurely dismissed many Obama appointees. When he speaks, he oozes condescension. All this comes from and is tied in with his career, money, and now – election to the presidency. He is arrogance incarnate, like Erdoğan, rooted in power that has gone to his head.

Of course other examples abound. I’ll keep the Hillary-haters happy by noting that they (and in fairness some others, too) see much presumption in her behavior. They argue that she felt “entitled” to the presidency. To the extent that this is true, it, too, is a product of being in the circles of power for a long time and becoming arrogant along the way while forgetting your roots. We can see the same phenomenon in the Brexit vote. The leadership of those who opposed Britain’s leaving the European Union seem to have arrogantly assumed that because they were “right” and staying in was the “best” economic policy, and given their experience in government and financial circles, they knew better and ought to be heeded. Once again, you can see the arrogance and contempt for “lesser” citizens. Perhaps the most odious example is that of the banksters. After these corrupt, self-serving, conniving, titans of finance wrecked the (world) economy a decade ago, they were bailed out by the very same people they sneer at – ALL OF US, the 99%. Then, they proceeded to continue their destructive practices. They also opposed, and continue to oppose, legislation that would rein in their habit of gambling with other people’s (our) money.

Finally, on a smaller and local scale, is the Los Angeles Turkey Business Forum scheduled for May 25, 1 p.m., in the Bank of America Room of the LA Chamber of Commerce, 350 S. Bixel St. The other sponsors of the event are LA’s Mayor Eric Garcetti, the Turkey-U.S. Business Council, and the Foreign Economic Relations Board (of Turkey). The arrogance and contempt is manifested by the fact that this event is being held in LA – the “Armenian” capital of the U.S. and enjoying the support of a mayor who is otherwise supportive of Armenian issues. Evidently, when inquiries were made, the response was “let Armenia ask, and we’ll do a program with them, too.” Imagine the nerve of these people!

We should be making lots of noise, about the LA event, Erdoğan’s goons, and Trump’s increasingly inappropriate behavior.

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