Having an enemy helps a government stay in business. A good enemy can provide a focal point, a distraction, a source of fear (always useful for keeping the population in line) or, if we are feeling cynical today, a way to transfer tax revenue into the hands of the military-industrial complex. The first thing necessary is to get the public to believe in the enemy. If there is no real enemy at hand, simply make one up.
This is easier and more common than one might think. In Giordano’s opera *Andrea Chénier* (1896), we have:
Nemico della Patria?!
È vecchia fiaba che beatamente
ancor la beve il popolo.
In our own era, we have two feature films, *Wag the Dog* and *Canadian Bacon* that deal with exactly this sort of political inventiveness.
Very often, a suitable “enemy” can be found already lying around disused in the political closet. Take Russia, for example. From the murder of the Czar’s family onwards, through the Stalinist era, through the Cold War, Russia has been a practically unique candidate. Who better to blame for trying to “influence” the 2016 USA elections? Never mind that, apart from possibly hacking into Democratic National Committee computers, no one has yet been able to say precisely what use may have been made of any information harvested in such hacking or what else the Russians may have done to interfere with or influence our electoral process or anything else. They’re *Russians*, for Pete’s sake (whoever Pete was anyway – or was he Pyotr?), they surely must have done something!!!
Curious, that, because, if the Russians were ill disposed toward us, it would seem more to their own advantage to secure the election of Mrs. Clinton, who never could have handled President Putin. The Only President We’ve Got could, on the other hand, end up becoming good friends with his Russian counterpart (limited perhaps only by Putin’s apparent lack of interest in golf and Trump’s apparent lack of interest in fishing or wrestling bears naked in the woods) and resolving any real differences privately and rationally, as friends may do.
Still more curious that the presence of real enemies (ISIS and, if his latest threat is to be believed, the Exquisite Leader of North Korea) has done nothing to dilute the fervor of those wishing to prove a Trump-Russia connection that is somehow bad for all the rest of us in the US of A. You see, our Congress and the general public also need an enemy and, once sufficient momentum is built up in the direction of a particular target, it’s not easily given up.
Full disclosure-wise, although I do not support or condone all of Trump’s actions, Tweets and other foamings at the mouth, I see in him at least some redeeming social value and am a very long way away from calling for his impeachment. Also, I had a Russian uncle, whose father, as Surgeon General of the Czar’s army, thought it prudent to leave his homeland 1917-ish. Apart from having an accent you could cut with a knife and working for an American insurance company (oh, how I hate insurance companies!), said uncle was never, to the best of my knowledge, in any way opposed to our democratic process or in any way un-American. Also also, I quite like a great deal of Russian music and literature.
BUT if anyone can tell me what the Russians have done against us to occasion the current witch hunt (provable facts only, please), I’d be delighted to learn whether they are indeed Public Enemy # 1 or may safely be bypassed for a closer look at those others mentioned above.