Geopolitics: a study of the influence of such factors as geography, economics, and demography on the politics and especially the foreign policy of a state
Peter Frankopan admittedly was inspired to write his text based on the current state of geopolitics. He aims to challenge the paradigm of “our” western view of history, specifically to challenge assumptions about where we come from and what has shaped us. What he proposes is that the “centre of the world” is not Eurocentric, but “some way to the east, beyond Mesopotamia and the Caucasus, in Iran and the “stans”.” Frankopan’s approach is in direct opposition to western ethnocentrism, and especially to United States nationalism. “At an anxious moment in Western history, Frankopan encourages us to take a historical perspective, understanding how change happens in societies and how people typically react to it”
Frankopan believes that the west is fading in its ability to shape the world. In the United States, for example, citizens worry about migration, religion, terrorism, fundamentalism, the rise of different economies and globalism. Are these fears emotional reactions or do they have substance? In this season of growing nationalism (proposed and promoted by President Trump), the silk road countries Frankopan refers to are economically rising (especially China) while the west declines. In fact, the silk road countries are at their pinnacle economically and socially while the west is struggling. The nationalist rhetoric promotes the idea that “the habit of identifying oneself with a single nation or other unit, placing it beyond good and evil and recognizing no other duty than that of advancing its interests.” One of the many distorted beliefs in a nationalist mentality is that what happens on one side of the world does not have an impact on another. There is no way to deny that the world has morphed into a big global community, and there’s no way to stop the trajectory of change.
I want to believe that it’s not too late to change course from the push for nationalism. It doesn’t need to be all gloom and disaster. We are resilient and open in the west and we need to understand there are important lessons to learn from other countries. It’s important to be hopeful about the future! So, how do we push back? I look to Brene Brown’s new book, Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts for inspiration.
In evaluating President Trump’s narrative on the need for nationalism, Brene believes leaders can get masses of people behind them if they do two things – weaponize uncertainty and then give people someone to blame for their pain. If you accomplish these two things, you can do anything you want (such as convince people that Mexican immigrants are violent and drug lords, refugees/immigrants are terrorists, the crime rate in cities is outrageous, et. al.) “And no President has weaponized fear quite like Trump. He is an expert at playing to the public’s phobias. The America rendered in his speeches and tweets is a dystopian hellscape. He shapes public opinion by emphasizing dangers—both real and imaginary—that his policies purport to fix.” HOWEVER, fear has a short shelf life.
Let’s examine the idea that the United States was built on Christian values and the proposed idea that we need to close our borders to outsiders or threats to our wealth to keep us safe. I believe living in “light” requires us to be global – to welcome the foreigner – to care about human rights violations – to love those who wrong us – to engage in social justice. None of these are embraced by our current administration and it hurts my heart, but also fuels my righteous indignation. One point of light is that in May 2018 American clergy issued the “Reclaiming Jesus” manifesto, which “rejected Trump’s nationalist slogan of America First” as “a theological heresy for followers of Christ.” “The signatories included the Rev. Michael Curry, who preached at the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. In the “Reclaiming Jesus” statement, he and 22 other clergy reminded Americans: “Our churches and our nations are part of an international community whose interests always surpass national boundaries.” They went on to say, “We, in turn, should love and serve the world and all its inhabitants, rather than seek first narrow, nationalistic prerogatives.”
Jennifer Rubin, an opinion writer from a “center-right perspective” for the Washington Post, brilliantly proclaims “Nationalism is antithetical to America’s founding creed (“All men are…”) and contrary to the principles of a multiethnic, multiracial democracy. As with all radical, racially based dogmas, it countenances, indeed promotes, ends-justify-the-means politics, seeks to discredit the free press, and traffics in lies both big and small.” You know, it’s been said that glorious cultures are the most open. Do you believe?
If I could, I would challenge every pastor to prayerfully consider adopting this manifesto… but according to Brene Brown, stepping out with a difficult stance or conversation involves uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure. Are you prepared to stay in the hard conversation? Give hard feedback? Receive hard feedback? Leaders need to understand that clear is kind and unclear is unkind. “Stop avoiding tough conversations because you are being unkind.” Jesus was a master at being clear. John 12: 35-36 says “Then Jesus told them, “You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. Whoever walks in the dark does not know where they are going. Believe in the light while you have the light, so that you may become children of light.” When he had finished speaking, Jesus left and hid himself from them.”