Moderator Harvey Golden poses questions to a sizable group of participants at Current Events’ March 4 meeting in the Phillips Gallery. SC photo by Jan Holly
Moderator Harvey Golden poses questions to a sizable group of participants at Current Events’ March 4 meeting in the Phillips Gallery. SC photo by Jan Holly

American relations with North Korea and Afghanistan prompted a divergence of opinions at Current Events, March 4 in the Phillips Gallery. Beginning the discussion with the recent summit meeting between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, moderator Harvey Golden posed the question, “Was [the meeting] worth President Trump’s 8,000-mile long trip and Kim’s 60-mile train ride?”

First to weigh in, Herb Rubin remarked that Trump “didn’t cede anything. We are still talking, not shooting, and talking is wonderful. I am not concerned about the expense or timing of journeys. We are ok so far.”

An attendee argued that, at a second such summit, agreements should have been made prior to the meeting, “and you just show up. But [Trump] is not a traditional president, so it didn’t happen that way,” he said, adding, “[Kim] brought his own forks, spoons, knives and food, because he was concerned about being poisoned.”

One attendee applauded Trump’s performance. “[Kim] found out that Trump is different, and he won’t get sanctions lifted for a little inspection of one nuclear site. Kim has to think about it. It will take time, but he will come around.”

Offering an opposing view, another attendee predicted that North Korea will never relinquish its nuclear capability. “[Kim’s] whole existence depends on Korea’s nuclear weapons. Without them, he will be the next Khaddafi.”

Gene Rothman branded the summit “a failure. Normally, you have an agreement on something that the two leaders can sign. They had agreements on nothing,” he said. “Korea expected all sanctions to be lifted. America’s expectation was complete de-nuclearization [of North Korea]. Expectations were unrealistic on both sides.”

Concluding conversation on the topic, Steve Overbeck asserted that Kim will maintain his nuclear capability. “It’s the only thing keeping him alive.”

Citing America’s decisions to withdraw troops from Afghanistan, abandon the global climate agreement and leave the Iraq nuclear deal, Golden posited that America is “no longer the world’s policeman. Does this trend exist?” he asked, adding, “and are you happy with it?”

One attendee took issue with Golden’s premise. “I would not say that we have been the world’s policeman,” she said. “We are working collaboratively with other countries. Trump’s isolationism is dangerous.”

Concurring, another attendee offered, “We don’t have to be the world’ policeman, but we do have to be the world’s conscience.”

Sydney Picker elaborated on that theme. “Institutions have been built since World War II to ensure that there will be no World War III. By withdrawing from these institutions, we are going back to the beginning of the last century. This is a giant step backwards,” he said.

Tico Moreno defended his point, by paraphrasing Thomas Jefferson. “I am a defender only of my own liberty,” Moreno said, adding, “I understand good intentions, but with good intentions come bad applications and unstable situations. These multi-lateral organizations like the United Nations do good, but also a lot of harm. Take Venezuela. That should be their job, but they don’t do anything about it.”

Hyde Tucker took a more moderate position. “I want America to be completely engaged with the world. It’s a good thing for the world. We have made some mistakes in over-emphasizing some of the jobs that we have done in parts of the world we didn’t know much about,” he said. “I am not completely in favor of excessive engagement, but we need to be part of most important things.”

Golden evoked the #metoo movement, with the recent news that Amazon Studios has canceled a four-movie deal with Woody Allen—on the grounds that the movie producer had allegedly molested his daughter in 1992. “Allen is suing Amazon,” Golden said. “Should Allen be prevented from making movies?”

One attendee posed a corollary question. “Where has Amazon been? This [incident] happened in 1992. There wasn’t even an Amazon then,” he said, adding, “Woody Allen can make all the films he wants. I won’t go see them. But there is something wrong with an agreement that was started [two] years ago, and now they are going to cancel? I don’t get it.”

Another attendee brought up aspects of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’s personal life that have been in the news. “Mr. Bezos has a checkered career and is at worst a womanizer,” he said. “Should we stop buying from Amazon?”

A third concurred, saying, “This is not Harvey Weinstein. There is a big difference. I would give [Allen] a pass. “

Albert Hann acknowledged being a “very big Allen fan. A charge like that, violating a small girl, should not be made unless a lot of evidence supported it,” Hann said.

Current Events meets 10 a.m. Mondays in BIG ARTS’s Phillips Gallery. Peter Pappas moderates the next session, on March 11. Islanders are invited to join the discussion. Admission is $3.