Are those images we are seeing on TV really coming from America? From the America we know, or thought we knew? From the America we dream of moving to? The America that is now home to many of our people? America, that fountain of democracy! When confronted with the inhumane treatment of immigrant children, I have heard Americans say, “This is not our America.” Of course, it is! I repeat what I said previously. What Trump is doing is forcing Americans to look more closely at themselves. He has brought out the racists, rednecks, and bigots from their closets. They are about punishing their country for having the audacity to elect a black president. So, Trump’s mission is to undo everything Obama had done.
America has succeeded in selling a picture of itself as the land of glory and freedom, that welcomes those seeking a new and better life. This, despite the rampant racism that they are at times able to conceal. They have aided and harboured some of the most brutal dictators in the world. They are once again using the bible to give cover to their brutal and immoral behaviour. A section of the evangelical movement even worships him. Did some of us not misread his pledge to make America great again? His lunatic base resents that their ‘real’ America appears to be disappearing, as they see Latinos and blacks becoming more visible. They fear that the life they know will disappear. Lower class whites could have rationalised their existence once there was an ‘under-group’ whose colour defined it, irrespective of education or status. The election of Obama threatened that, so it is back to old times – Trump’s mission! Their pathetic ignorance is not obvious to them, they, whose view of the world is shaped by Fox news. Trump is truth, everything else is fake!
This should force us to look again at ourselves. We felt that America’s system of checks and balances was an obstacle to dictatorial rule. Trump who praises the ‘rocket man’ shows us it is not so, and reminds us that it is people who man and shape constitutions. America does not depend on its government to the extent that we do. Despite racism and the other ills, many migrants still hope they could work their way around them. With us, hope hardly exists and our dependence on government is almost total. Ours is climate favourable to authoritarian and dictatorial rule.
Trump’s irrational and uninformed approach to international trade, draws that country away from its traditional partners and spells trouble for us. The cost of imports from America is likely to increase consequentially. When he has finished his battle with the Latinos and Muslims, our people in the diaspora might be next. His pledge, publicly announced, to punish countries that vote in international fora against his edicts might frighten some of our leaders and force them to say ‘Uncle’. Would you put it past the madman to limit or even ban remittances sent to relatives? There are rough times ahead. We can’t sit back and say “That is America”, for when they sneeze we catch a cold and get pneumonia.
As I write and reflect on this, I take comfort that people are fighting back. Those churches that retain their sanity are speaking out. The peoples’ reaction is causing some Republican Congressmen to take cover. The international community is speaking out. The US meanwhile has announced its withdrawal from the UN Human Rights Council, citing among other things, the dubious record of some members. Irony of ironies! That statement from a country that has lost its moral compass! That is America, for You!
Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian