The beginning-of-the-year article is always slightly tough for me to write. We’re meant to look back on the last 12 months, take stock of what has happened, and ask questions of ourselves about the future. So let me start with this, then: Why is US President Donald Trump like Wonder Woman? The answer is that they both do what they want, and don’t care if others disagree with them.
When Trump took office in January 2017, he arrived having won the election despite getting a minority of votes, and is now building a version of the United States based on division and suspicion.
Most recently, he has done his best to find peace in the Middle East by being at odds with just about the rest of the world.
It’s worthwhile to spend some time looking into the president’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. It might surprise you to learn that he is following the law, specifically a US law called the “Jerusalem Embassy Act” that was passed in 1994 which mandates that the US Embassy in Israel be moved to Jerusalem. This would legitimise Israel’s claim over the much contested holy city.
So why has Trump been the first – the only – American president to adhere to this obscure law? Because the law has a provision that allows the president to postpone implementation for six months if “such suspension is necessary to protect the national security interests of the United States”. Since its enactment, Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush (who is a Republican, like Trump) and Barack Obama have all postponed the embassy move every six months for 22 years because of how it would affect the rest of the Middle East. As President Clinton said at the time, “A step such as this could hinder the peace process”.
So what made Trump take such a bold step? It’s a decision that both his Secretary of State and Defense Secretary disagree with.
For some insight on what the US President was thinking, we now turn to something he wrote on Twitter (a sentence worthy of an entire article of its own): “I fulfilled my campaign promise – others didn’t”.
Keeping promises is indeed a good thing to do. But perhaps not at the cost of increased tensions in the Middle East. The embassy move set the stage for an attempt at condemnation by the UN Security Council (which was only struck down because the United States used its veto), and then another one was prepared for the General Assembly.
Despite it being a non-binding resolution that was largely symbolic in nature, the US decided to double down and wave a stick.
“They take hundreds of millions of dollars and even billions of dollars, and then they vote against us,” Trump said. “We’re not going to be taken advantage of any longer.”
These words were echoed by US ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, who warned, “We are taking names”.
The stick wasn’t as big as the American president had hoped. Bolivian UN ambassador Sacha Sergio Llorenty Soliz bluntly responded to Haley’s threat by saying, “The first name that she should write down is Bolivia”. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu added, “No honourable, dignified country would bow down to this pressure”.
In all this, the obvious thought that crossed my mind was, what would Wonder Woman have done?
You see, I just watched a review of the film by critic Mikey Mikey Neumann and he compared Wonder Woman with other DC superhero films like Man Of Steel and Superman Vs Batman. He pointed out that in those films, the director had tried to deconstruct what it meant to be a hero, laying bare the flaws. Unfortunately, the resulting films were grim introspections rather than optimistic insights.
On the other hand, director Patty Jenkins based Wonder Woman on the simple premise that her hero is a person who wants to do good, whatever the circumstances.
Throughout the film, Diana (Wonder Woman’s real name) is told she can’t learn how to fight, she can’t go to the battlefront, she can’t jeopardise the mission for a side quest. But in the end, Diana does what she has to do simply because it’s the right thing to do.
The scene where she decides to face enemy machine guns in No Man’s Land in France to save a village – even though she has a bigger mission to complete elsewhere – was originally criticised by the studio, which felt it was extraneous to the plot. It would normally be where the hero has her first encounter with the big bad guy. But the point Jenkins was trying to make was simply this: This is the scene – see main image above – where Wonder Woman is born. She becomes a hero because she wants to do good and help people, not because she wants to beat up the bad guy.
So when President Trump says, if you don’t vote with us, we might cut your funding, ask yourself, “Who is the bad guy here?”
During World War II, US President Franklin D. Roosevelt was asked by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill for help. Britain wanted armaments and supplies but had no money. Many in the United States were against the idea of delayed payments. To counter the sentiment, the analogy Roosevelt used was that if a neighbour’s house was on fire, you would lend them the hosepipe. If the hosepipe got damaged, then the neighbour should replace it. But the important thing was to put out the fire.
Compare it to what President Trump did. “Here, I’m giving you this hosepipe. So you should vote the same way we do at the council meeting.” Which makes no sense at all.
I would like to think that if Wonder Woman was in charge, she would say, if people are suffering, then we should help them – even if we disagree sometimes. To me that feels like the good thing to do.
Of course, Wonder Woman is fictional and she doesn’t have to play politics or make compromises. But stories are at times meant to be inspirational, to remind us of our better selves, even if it is just out of reach.
So this year, we have a story of a woman who crossed No Man’s Land to help people, and a man who is crossing lines in Jerusalem and saying he won’t help those who disagree. Make your own resolutions from this.
Logic is the antithesis of emotion but mathematician-turned-scriptwriter Dzof Azmi’s theory is that people need both to make sense of life’s vagaries and contradictions. Write to Dzof at firstname.lastname@example.org.