Democratic candidates for president try to appeal to an ideological audience that pays attention to early campaigns, but will that hurt the candidates in the longer term?
President Donald Trump’s move in March to impose hefty tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum sparked fevered debates about the potential fallout of an international trade war.
Other kinds of war bring more certain dangers. A 2017 study estimated a nuclear war with North Korea could kill 2 million people in Seoul and Tokyo, if the North Korean regime detonated a nuclear missile over the massive cities.
Last fall, rumors of war escalated as North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un said the country had successfully tested a ballistic missile that could reach the continental United States. President Trump warned the United States would “totally destroy” North Korea if the regime forced America to defend itself or its allies.
The bellicose environment made a March announcement surprising: President Trump has accepted an invitation to meet with Kim Jong Un. Details on a date and location aren’t set, but if it happens, it would mark the first time a sitting American president has met with his North Korean counterpart.
Skeptics warn the presidential summit could serve to legitimize Kim Jong Un. They also wonder if Kim will offer some form of denuclearization in exchange for something the United States won’t give—like withdrawing troops from South Korea.
But attempting a conversation is usually more desirable than launching a war, and if Kim has been unnerved by Trump’s aggressive approach—or perhaps spooked at the prospect of dying in a targeted strike—it’s worth seeing where the discussion heads.
Wherever it goes, Kim is likely to focus squarely on protecting himself. The Kim ideology demands unswerving devotion from North Koreans who risk brutal punishment or death for any dissent.
Not provoking a nuclear strike by the United States could spare millions of North Koreans (and others) that terrible pain, but the population likely will continue to suffer from other forms of warfare: The Kim regime works to cut off North Koreans from the outside world and forbids any ideology that would compete with him—including news of a Savior who gave up His life to save people for their good. (For more on North Korea, see “War-gaming Korea,” in this issue.)
On the other side of the world, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro persists in trying to protect another disastrous ideology: a failed socialist system destroying his own nation.
An estimated 3 million people have left Venezuela since late President Hugo Chávez introduced a form of socialism that has collapsed over the last several years. Shortages of food and medicine are epic, and researchers say Venezuelans lost an average of 19 pounds in 2016 from lack of food.
More than 1 million Venezuelans left in the last two years, and many seek shelter in neighboring Colombia. It’s a turn of affairs for the two countries: Colombians used to flee to Venezuela seeking refuge from decades of guerrilla warfare.
Now, the country tries to absorb thousands of hungry Venezuelans with few resources. Reuters reported one line to cross the border into Colombia in February backed up at least 8 miles.
In March, David Beasley, the director of the UN World Food Programme (and former Republican governor of South Carolina) said Colombia desperately needs international assistance to help Venezuelans: “This could turn into an absolute disaster in unprecedented proportions for the Western hemisphere.”
Maduro seems unfazed. He forbids outside humanitarian aid, saying it’s a ruse by the United States to invade Venezuela. And he gains weight as his citizens starve. Late last year, during a televised national address, Maduro slipped an empanada from behind his desk and took a bite between remarks.
Protecting ideology isn’t just for nations. Closer to home, another destructive ideology gains ground: The medical journal Pediatrics published a study by the University of Minnesota saying far more teens identify as transgender than researchers previously thought. The study of ninth- and 11th-graders estimated 3 percent were “transgender or gender non-conforming.”
Daniel Shumer, a physician at the University of Michigan, said the study shows schools and physicians should abandon fixed ideas of gender: “Youth are rejecting this binary thinking and asking adults to keep up.”
But other studies have shown 80 percent of young people who express turmoil over their birth sex will grow past that conflict. Urging children or teens to use cross-sex hormones or surgery in a fruitless attempt to change their sex protects a popular ideology but harms vulnerable children in need of spiritual, physical, emotional, and mental help. (For more on transgenderism, see “Battle over books,” in this issue.)
Euthanasia is a popular ideology in Oregon, and it may grow romanticized with the release of a documentary that follows a Portland couple married for 66 years as they prepared to kill themselves together.
The couple suffered from serious health problems, but the wife especially appears alert, mobile, and articulate in the film. She said they wanted to end their suffering and their lives together. Their children were supportive. On April 20, 2017, they hugged their children goodbye and took lethal doses of medication obtained under the state’s Death with Dignity law.
End-of-life issues are difficult and painful, but advocates of life like Joni Eareckson Tada have reminded us in the past that a person’s choice to take his own life affects the society around him, not just himself or those closest to him. She quotes the Apostle Paul: “None of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone.”
In a hurting world, that’s an ideology worth protecting.