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Madrid, Spain © Catarina Belova

June 19, 2019 19:20 EDT

In today’s Spain, there is a palpable sense of balance that opens the immediate moment to hopeful possibilities. While there, Larry Beck learned a lot about America.

Imagine a place where people seem to enjoy meeting in cafes, bars and restaurants to talk with each other, connecting with other human beings to enjoy the moment. Imagine casual eye contact like it used to be. Imagine Spain. I recently got back from a month-long solo journey to that country. I traveled by car for three weeks along the eastern coast of Spain and up into the Pyrenees. Then, I enjoyed spectacular Madrid for a week.

I have been to Spain many times before, and speak Spanish fairly well. Each time that I have been there, I have come away with the impression that Spain is a place where the human condition is about as good as it gets. I say this having traveled extensively in the United States and around the world and having worked and lived in multiple countries overseas. There is simply more positive human engagement in Spain than I have seen elsewhere, combined with the institutional infrastructure necessary for a people to thrive.

Spain has not always been like this, but I was never there before 1975 when Francisco Franco finally died. And, for sure, today’s Spain has many political, social and economic challenges to meet. Separatist movements in Catalonia and the Basque Region have riven the country’s core for decades. Today, the Catalans are divided about a new independence push, and the rest of Spain is divided over the appropriate response. The unemployment rate is too high and rising tides of immigration are causing deep social divisions.

But then, walk down the street, go into a shop or café, or order tapas and a beer on a terrace just about anywhere I was and there is a palpable sense of balance that opens the immediate moment to hopeful possibilities. As everywhere, cellphones are everywhere, but there seems to be a hesitation before touching it just because it is there. It is hard to say “hola” if you have a phone in your face. So go to Spain if you want to see and feel how decency and social connection can enrich the human spirit and improve the quality of life. Take along a smile and few words of Spanish and enjoy.


I could go on with more of a travelogue, but I want others to experience Spain for themselves, and I want to get back to doing my small part to end the plague that is Trump. When I last posted on Hard Left Turn just before I left for Spain, I urged the Democrats in Congress to get on with impeachment because it was constitutionally-mandated and the only right thing to do.  I believed then, and I believe now, that Trump has already earned his place in the pantheon of impeached US presidents. In fact, in this pantheon, the would-be king would be king, and probably forever.

Since I speak Spanish and could watch and understand daily news coverage in Spain, including a 24-hour news station with a format similar to that of CNN, it struck me how little anyone cared about Trump. There was minimal coverage of his visit to Britain and his continued interest in dehumanizing immigrants. But beyond that he was an afterthought. Of US news, the mass shooting in Virginia Beach got the most coverage during my month in Spain. When commentary mentioned Trump, it was always with disdain.

While there is a lot about the Spanish news coverage or lack thereof relating to Trump that might be instructive to American journalists, their world spins free of the daily diet of Trump lies, deceit and corruption that dominates news coverage in the US. While this makes some sense since it is our problem not Spain’s problem, it occurred to me that taking a break from Trump saturation to focus on real public issues would not only benefit the public discourse, but return reporters to the job of reporting about events and issues that matter.

Think about how many people you know who watch less news coverage than before and simply avoid reading print coverage of Trump’s latest assault on ethics, morality and presidential norms. This is not because Trump shouldn’t be exposed, it is because he is so transparently ignorant and venal that his daily rants provide no palpable content. But tuning out can have a societal cost. Those who care will also miss the minimal coverage of issues of import. And that is what Trump’s handlers and apologists most appreciate about him.

Trump is the clownish but effective diverter-in-chief. After yet another mass shooting at a school, church or shopping center, gun nuts need not worry. Trump will momentarily skip right over the thoughts and prayers and head straight to war with Iran or tariffs on Mexican avocados. And a now “conditioned” press corps will blindly follow Trump, while leaving the National Rifle Association to fashion its madness in darkness. And guess what, no war with Iran and guacamole for all.

The conundrum that faces American journalism is real. Just as Trump will do and say anything to avoid confronting the demon of his illegitimate victory, the press will seemingly do anything to avoid taking any responsibility for creating that victory. Now, in the absence of critical introspection and media ethical standards, the beat goes on. But maybe the audience is beginning to lose interest. Maybe climate change and gun violence and access to meaningful health care should dominate the news for a while. Trump has nothing of import to say on any of these issues.

And, by the way, it just might be that his ignorance and narcissism are finally losing their commercial appeal.

*[A version of this article was cross-posted on the author’s blog, Hard Left Turn.]

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.

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