Chuck Park, a foreign service officer for the past ten years, is resigning his position in protest of what he calls the “complacent state,” which exists instead of the myth of the “deep state.” Ashamed of the fact that he and all the other careerists have quietly gone along with Trump’s vile agenda, he thinks other should follow his lead in stepping down to avoid being a cog in a now-destructive administration.
Over three tours abroad, I worked to spread what I believed were American values: freedom, fairness and tolerance. But more and more I found myself in a defensive stance, struggling to explain to foreign peoples the blatant contradictions at home…
Since then, I have seen Trump assert the moral equivalence of violent white nationalists and those who oppose them, denigrate immigrants from “shithole countries” and separate children from their parents at the border, only to place them in squalid detention centers.
But almost three years since his election, what I have not seen is organized resistance from within. To the contrary, two senior Foreign Service officers admonished me for risking my career when I signed an internal dissent cable against the ban on travelers from several majority-Muslim countries in January 2017. Among my colleagues at the State Department, I have met neither the unsung hero nor the cunning villain of Deep State lore. If the resistance does exist, it should be clear by this point that it has failed.
Instead, I am part of the Complacent State.
The Complacent State sighs when the president blocks travel by Muslim immigrants; shakes its head when he defends Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman; averts its gaze from images of children in detention camps. Then it complies with orders.Every day, we refuse visas based on administration priorities. We recite administration talking points on border security, immigration and trade. We plan travel itineraries, book meetings and literally hold doors open for the appointees who push Trump’s toxic agenda around the world.
So when I read a recent New York Times op-ed calling for the public shaming of the “midlevel functionaries who make the system run,” I squirmed in my seat. We rank-and-file, like the Justice Department lawyer who recently endured public scrutiny for defending the administration’s terrible treatment of detained children, don’t like to be called out. And when we are, we shrink behind a standard argument — that we are career officials serving nonpartisan institutions.
We should be named and shamed. But how should we respond? One thing I agree with the conspiracy theorists about: The Deep State, if it did exist, would be wrong. Ask to read the commission of any Foreign Service officer, and you’ll see that we are hired to serve “during the pleasure of the President of the United States.” That means we must serve this very partisan president.
Or else we should quit.
And so he is quitting. He says he is ashamed at how long it took him to reach this conclusion. And it’s made all the worse by the fact that his son, now 7 years old, was born in El Paso, Texas. Not only would I like to see more careerists, at the State Department, the DOJ and many other agencies, resign, I’d like them to do it en masse at each agency. It would send a powerful message if dozens, even hundreds, of career diplomats, DOJ attorneys, EPA employees and others were to resign in multiple groups, one agency at time. Yes, it would cause serious dysfunction in the government, but that’s already happening for far more sinister reasons.