by Kate Harveston
Some folks defend President Donald Trump because they want a seat at the table in this new world order. Think Paul Ryan and Mike Pence. Others defend him because they simply don’t know any better. Give a warm welcome to Mr. Toby Keith, everybody.
By now, it’s well-known that on May 20th, Keith joined Trump in Saudi Arabia for a men-only concert. Until this event, I didn’t think there was a self-respecting country singer who’d play a concert his momma couldn’t come to. While America’s leader sold more than $100 billion in powerful weapons to a country with direct links to terrorism, Keith serenaded the country — at least its men. Let’s say that again, slightly differently:
Donald Trump, who last year accused Saudi Arabia of funding and arming terrorist groups, flew there as president, bowed to their leaders, unloaded tons of high-powered weapons and somehow encouraged Toby Keith to not merely join him there but perform for a 100% male audience in the very last country in the world that doesn’t allow its women to drive.
The whole thing is grotesque. For those that haven’t fully considered all of the hidden and outward implications of an event like this yet, let’s delve into the situation a little further.
What Saudi Arabia Is All About
The entire country knows by now that Trump has, to say the least, a troubled history where women are concerned. Indeed, it’s unlikely any U.S. president has been accused of sexually assaulting as many women as Trump has. It’s certain that no U.S. president has bragged about sexually assaulting as many women as Trump has. It’s for these reasons that he should feel right at home among the princes of Saudi Arabia.
This middle-eastern country has one of the worst records on human rights the developed world has ever seen.
In addition to keeping their women from driving, Saudi Arabia also cracks down on dissent from the status quo by levying inhuman punishments including lashings, amputations and public beheadings, jailing activists and journalists, arbitrarily arresting and torturing detainees, forcibly deporting migrant workers and generally engaging in institutionalized religious intolerance and hatred for women.
So what the hell was the “leader of the free world” doing, bowing to these people?
Why, he’s continuing the grand American tradition of fueling perpetual warfare. Lest we forget, the Obama administration sold three times as many weapons to this brutal, medieval regime as George W. Bush did during his own tenure. Conservatives will use this fact to defend Trump, but they’re not likely to score any points — all they’re proving is he is not demonstrably worse than previous U.S. leaders. Trump is simply more of the same.
Enter Toby Keith
If this whole situation was already beyond confusing and appalling, there’s one last element to throw into the mix: the man who got famous singing songs like “Drunk Americans” and “Whiskey Girl.” Yup — while Trump was hand-delivering weapons to the Saudis, Toby Keith was putting on a show for Saudi men over the age of 21. The show was free to attend, but attendees were expected to honor a dress code.
It’s not the first time Keith has rushed to Mr. Trump’s side. He also played before the 2017 inauguration at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial. Even after many other musical artists politely declined the opportunity to serenade a would-be fascist, Keith decided he knew better and performed anyway. Evidently, integrity does not necessarily accompany fame.
Interestingly, the concert is a bit of a watershed moment for Saudi Arabia. While their most hideous laws are still very much on the books and hopelessly entwined with the country’s culture, a recent alteration to a particular law once again allowed public music performances in the capital city of Riyadh. That’s progress, I guess?
Nevertheless, real social change in Saudi Arabia is extremely rare. While Trump and Keith were cozying up to murderers and warmongers, the Saudi-led war on the Yemeni Houthis — a religious group active in Yemen that Saudi Arabia considers an ally of Iran — continues apace. Saudi Arabia has been bombing Yemen for years and continues to do so, and therefore continues to generate an ongoing humanitarian crisis.
Thousands of Yemeni civilians have lost their lives, and many of the ones who weren’t killed outright later perished from exposure, starvation or a lack of basic human needs. Every 10 minutes in Yemen, a child dies of preventable causes — all because some folks worship a specific god or live on a particular side of a line drawn in the sand.
The World Needs a Real Leader — Not More Profitmongers
Forget about Trump’s and America’s sad domestic squabbles, which basically pale in comparison to the scope of the atrocities happening in Saudi Arabia and nearby. This is a country where wealth and opportunity are guarded even more jealously than they are in America.
Trump and his abettors in Washington are committing atrocities domestically, but one of their biggest sins so far is bending their knee to a country as objectively evil as Saudi Arabia — and divesting ourselves of high-powered weapons while we’re there — all while children starve to death right in front of our eyes.
Trump claims selling weapons to people he called enemies in 2016 will create American jobs — and defense stocks are already soaring, so that might even be true — but we all need to be collectively horrified that the president has quite obviously never asked himself two very simple questions: “At what cost do we come by these jobs?” and “Can the strength of a nation not be measured by the intensity of its compassion, rather than merely by its firepower?”
Right now, Saudi Arabia needs a good role model — they need a nation with the integrity to stand up to them and push for an end to their regional religious wars, not one that wishes to profit from it. It’s a full-blown global tragedy that the only things Trump and Keith could think of exporting to Saudi Arabia were weapons of mass destruction and terrible music.
You can follow Kate on twitter here.