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Donald Trump and a bleak vision of the future

He spoke of conflict and nations going to hell, and inside the world’s most self-important forum, his UN speech drew murmurs and muted applause
US President Donald Trump speaking at the 72nd General Assembly at the UN Headquarters in New York City, New York, September 19, 2017. (Photo via EuropaNewswire/Gado/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump speaking at the 72nd General Assembly at the UN Headquarters in New York City, New York, September 19, 2017. (Photo via EuropaNewswire/Gado/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump speaking at the 72nd General Assembly at the UN Headquarters in New York City, N.Y., Sept. 19, 2017. (Photo via EuropaNewswire/Gado/Getty Images)

“The United Nations was not created to take the world to heaven, but to save humanity from hell,” declared Dag Hammerskjold, its third Secretary-General, but on Tuesday morning, Donald Trump warned the planet’s great hall of blather that some of its members already may be too far down the road to Hades to save themselves from therapeutic obliteration.

Speaking in his typically muscular verbiage to an audience that murmured, gasped, hissed, lower-case twittered, and infrequently and mutedly applauded his most bellicose and dystopian Trumpisms, the U.S. President notified the 72nd General Assembly of the United Nations that there were “terrorists, extremists, and rogue regimes” among them, urged them to seek “the fullness of the life intended by God,” and threatened to reduce the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to atoms if it didn’t renounce its thermonuclear madness.

“Major portions of the world are in conflict,” Trump reported, “and some in fact are going to hell.” At this sharp rhetoric, many of the delegates sniggered, yet they had remained mute when, only a few minutes earlier, the UN’s ninth Secretary-General, Portugal’s Antonio Guterres, had told them that “We are a world in pieces; we need to be a world at peace.”

Trump mentioned Russia and China by name only in congratulations, never once used the word “me” or “Hillary Clinton,” insisted that “we do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone,” and singled out the governments of Venezuela and Iran for especial condemnation. He spoke in the first person only to welcome to New York the thousands of delegates who clog the streets with their damned diplomatic immunity, and then bragged with impunity of America’s ability to vaporize a suicidal Rocket Man.

As far as a Maclean’s correspondent in the first row of the balcony could discern, only the Cubans walked out. Even though Trump’s oration went nearly half an hour over each speaker’s nominal 15-minute limit, there were no audible protests, and the Sovietskis kept their shoes on.

“We do not expect diverse countries to share the same cultures, traditions, or even systems of government,” Trump said, hitting second in the All-Star batting order behind a Brazilian president who has been charged with bribery and—sound familiar?—reputedly has been implicated in the obstruction of justice, and whose public-approval rating in one poll bottomed out at two per cent, a number that makes Trump’s 30 per cent seem like unanimous idolatry.

“To put it simply,” Trump elucidated, “we meet at a time of both immense promise and great peril. It is entirely up to us whether we lift the world to new heights or let it fall into a valley of disrepair. We have it in our power, should we so choose, to lift millions from poverty, to help our citizens realize their dreams, and to ensure that new generations of children are raised free from violence, hatred and fear.”

As for a diplomatic solution to Kim Jong-Un’s stated aim of achieving a level mutually-assured destruction with the United States of America, Trump shrugged that “That’s what the United Nations is all about; that’s what the United Nations is for.  Let’s see how they do.”

If they don’t, he promised, “we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.”

In many ways, the president’s maiden UN address echoed earlier themes, as when, in 2016, he told an audience at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington that “the age of nation-building is over” and that “my foreign policy will always put the interests of the American people and American security above all else. It has to be first. Has to be.”

“Our foreign policy is a complete and total disaster,” Trump said that day, late in Barack Obama’s second term. “No vision. No purpose. No direction. No strategy . . . I’m the only one—believe me, I know them all, I’m the only one who knows how to fix it.”

On Tuesday, Trump painted a bleak landscape of what he labelled, at his nomination acceptance speech in Cleveland, as “death, destruction, terrorism and weakness,” but he did not finger Crooked Hillary for its creation, as he did then. And he trumpeted a $700-billion military budget as proof that the fourth of those apocalyptic horsemen, at least, had been vanquished.

“As president of the United States,” he said, “I will always put America first, just like you, as the leaders of your countries will always, and should always, put your countries first.”

This line drew the loudest applause of the morning, though if truth be told, it wasn’t very loud.

(The most audible hoots came when Trump blamed the agonies of Venezuela on his surmise that “not that socialism has been poorly implemented but that socialism has been faithfully implemented.”)

“I was elected not to take power, but to give power to the American people, where it belongs,” Trump said, though this may or may not have convinced the members of the world’s most self-important forum that he is anything but a self-obsessed strongman bent on overturning the natural order of ecumenical conferences, First Class travel and condescending noblesse oblige.

(Indeed, an hour later, Trump, Guterres, and multiple other Excellencies would lunch on wagyu beef tenderloin, roasted chanterelles, and Yukon Gold fondant spuds, but the teetotaller President merely raised a glass of 2013 Starmont Napa Valley Cabernet to his lips and didn’t chug it.)

“Let this be our mission,” Trump urged the delegates, “and let this be our message to the world:  We will fight together, sacrifice together, and stand together for peace, for freedom, for justice, for family, for humanity, and for the almighty God who made us all.”

Five minutes later, the president of the Republic of Guinea walked to the same rostrum that Trump had abandoned, and expressed his pleasure at being able to address what he called “the crucible of multilateralism.”

The Guinean took up the case of North Korea, while the sand in Trump’s hourglass slowly slid down toward oblivion and war.

“We urge all parties to restraint,” the African said, but by then the great hall was empty.