In our stupidity and ignorance, brilliance and ambition, we are all Americans. That could explain why what is now happening in the world’s most powerful free economy is agitating the world and firing conversations and emotions about an election that is more than a year away.
The good news first, telex style. In a little over 200 years, the United States (US) went from being a British colony (1776) to the world’s first superpower. They have influenced every aspect of our daily lives from the scientific to the economic, cultural and social. They are top of the pops in entertainment. Internet, space travel, innovation, medicine, technology and what we call “regular” stuff such as Coca Cola, Blue Jeans and fast food kiosks are born in America. To be successful in America continues to be a dream for millions willing to risk it all to become part of the melting pot, wall notwithstanding.
What remains to be seen is if the impact of the US will be as long lasting as that of the Roman Empire which was a superpower in its time, going from a republic to an empire that lasted for well over a thousands years. Many of our legal leanings and systems date back to their time, as does the practice of delivering babies by C-section even today.
The bad news is the current US President Donald Trump who has unleashed such vituperative and vile language on his people and the world, not to mention a threat a day to nations that even the most inured US haters could feel choked. For the past few weeks, terrible images of children separated from families and living in cage-like rooms have been haunting the world. The question that must be asked is why didn’t anyone care about the orphans - from - war children in Iraq, Syria and Libya? No, this is not a children VS children sympathy race. The former were victims of war caused by American foreign policy i.e. bombs. The latter are asylum seekers who cannot be arrested under international law. Law and Trump – elected by the American people – are poles apart.
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There’s brouhaha in the American media about Trump’s racism. Seriously, did they just find out or are they hyperventilating about what degree of calling someone black vermin is acceptable? The Republicans are predictably silent about Trump because even as he trails in the polls now, he knows neither the East nor the West Coast will make the difference – Middle America will. What game are the Democrats playing?
Other than criticising their very own emerging and brilliant Alexandria Ocasio–Cortez (AOC), they are falling into Trump’s trap. Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi (D) sounds like a broken record, overtaken by events and queen mother Hillary Clinton (D) who reminds me of India’s Gandhi family complete with sense of entitlement is still sulking from the drubbing. Presidential hopeful Kamala Harris (D) is yet to show the stuff of leadership even in her words. Compare her to very respectable Bernie Sanders (D) – also a presidential hopeful - who is taking unequivocal stands on issues without fear or favour clearly saying his country is in the doldrums. Levels matter, especially in a Presidential debate. The Democrats including former President Barack Obama have a lot to answer beginning with why they failed to develop second and third rungs of leadership in their own party and why their arguments to wrench power from Trump are ludicrously lazy, dated and irrelevant.
The US media has largely been disappointing. The big guys are chasing morsels that come their way instead of going for the real stuff including the over 400 – page Mueller report. Legendary investigative reporter Carl Bernstein’s comments on this are critical. “I think we’ve made a big mistake in the press about how we’ve covered the Mueller report…we’ve gotten totally wrapped up in the warfare in the Congress between Republicans and Democrats and is there obstruction of justice or is there no obstruction of justice, ” he said recently.
The distraction is painful. As the American in all of us laughs at Trump’s trumpets, it’s also aghast at the trivialisation of serious matters including international trade, war, multilateralism and even more basic issues like water, food and livelihoods. We no longer speak about school shootings because as one European observer told me “…who cares as long as they’re killing themselves. I didn’t vote for Trump.” Think about it. I didn’t vote for Trump either, but all of us have to live with the consequences. Oil prices – anyone?
I had a full fellowship in one of America’s top universities, generations of my ancestors travelled to America to study and teach. Today, I am appalled at Trump’s language, his absence of respect for difference, his disdain for work in a country that used slaves and then fought for their rights, his disregards for diversity, the struggles that made America a generous nation and the fear and arrogance he thrives on. Picking on the weak is what bullies do and he does it everyday with his pen and words. Deep down I get the sense he’s having fun.
The math and the clash are coming together. Every country in the world wants a piece of the US market, but Trump hasn’t realised that he’s no longer the only Sheriff in town. He is a very powerful American President but if you give their recent history a serious look he’s not the worst. At least not yet because that title is firmly held by the Bush Family (father and son, both Presidents) that bombed the daylights out of more countries in the Middle East and other regions than we have fingers on our hands. Bombing a children’s hospital and calling it “collateral damage” – remember? I’m skipping Vietnam, Chile, Honduras – the list is long. Trump has not yet gone to war with North Korea or Iran and last heard the European Union (EU) is trying to close the barn doors before the horses flee on Iran. Russia, and China stand guard now, economically and militarily, and the EU, former colonisers of many countries in the region is part of the pattern. Other countries including India are playing their self-interest cards with more confidence today. America however, remains America.
The oft-heard criticism that Americans are insular is naïve. They’ve always been so because their history has taken the best from the world, given them the best of knowledge and opportunity the side effects of which are bound to be a certain allegiance to their alma mater at the expense of all else. Europe’s history is varied, it’s a mix of nations and nationalities where being insular is to hit at the very soul of the Continent. India is a very insular country where navel-gazing is a national sport among intellectuals most of whom revel over their own mediocrity.
To call Trump a liar is to say the sun rises in the East. To find more dimensions to his lies – sex offender Jeffrey Epstein in the latest one – is important, but cannot distract from what America does externally. There’s not a big difference between the foreign and trade policies of the Democrats and the Republicans and when it comes to securing US interests including dropping bombs where the alignment is seamless. Journalist Rania Khalek cut to the bone recently about Trump when she said his amassing of wealth is the “biggest upward transfer of wealth in modern history.” The talented Lebanese journalist’s recent soap-box is a must watch. “Watch me yell at rich people crying about the use of the term “concentration camp” … And then watch me highlighting the Democratic party’s complicity in the caging of children.”
Today is 50 years since the Apollo 11 launch. The whole world is watching now as then. Trump has given his country such a bad name, my American friends tell me they’re ashamed to take their passports out at airports. That’s quite a trip is less than four years Mr. President.
(The views and opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of Republic TV/ Republic World/ ARG Outlier Media Pvt. Ltd.)