By Abraham Anansi
Like many of you, I woke up in the early afternoon of January 1st 2017 hungover, dishevelled and bedraggled. I dragged myself to the bathroom and, raising my head slowly, I carried out the important task of staring back at myself in the mirror. ‘You idiot’, I thought, ‘you’ve done this to yourself, now fix it’.
The election of Donald Trump as the next ‘leader of’ the ‘free world’ has taken many by shock and a good portion of those, by horror.
But I propose that on a number of major issues, Trump is a far more honest reflection of today’s America than his predecessor. Furthermore, Trump may actually act as the bitter antidote for Western apathy to what should already have been an unpalatable status quo.
It is my opinion that a suave, peace-professing (and professing only), black president is dangerously misrepresentative of the US. Barack Obama, began as an aspirational figure, a leader that we all allowed ourselves to be hopeful about (remember ‘Yes We Can’?), not only as a historical milestone but also a signifier of a changing of the old guard.
Undoubtedly Barack Obama has achieved something incredible, the highest office in the face of fierce opposition (not least, racial opposition and not least from Donald Trump himself). His election and subsequent presidency have inspired a generation and, particularly as a young black male, I feel a certain debt of gratitude when discussing him as a political figure, regardless of my assertions.
However, I believe the he has become an all too convenient, gleaming façade, inviting us all to deny and forget the increasing rap sheet that has continued to accumulate on his watch, and that he has often condoned. In a clear example of this hypocrisy, Obama, who during his presidency has accelerated America’s Predator drone programme (begun under the Bush administration), responsible for unknown and underestimated civilian casualties across the Middle East, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009. This is beyond deception; it is oxymoronic. An example of this, the escalation of strikes in Pakistan, can be seen in this animation.
To take a topic that is closer to home, race. I must admit I was one of the people who foolishly believed that a black president spelled, in his own words, ‘better days’ for African Americans. 7 years after his election, I watched on TV as Eric Casebolt, a white male police officer of ten years drew his gun on a group of black teens at a pool party and forced his knee down onto the head of a 14-year-old unarmed black girl in a bathing suit, on camera, with a confidence that implied impunity. Just one of numerous brutal and often deadly assaults that are still common place and still largely unpunished.
I continue to read of the disproportionate stop and searches, arrests, minimum sentencing and mass incarceration of African Americans. A system which now finds more African Americans imprisoned in the US than were enslaved at the height of the transatlantic slave trade. With over 100 private prisons selling the labour of 62,000 inmates to the likes of Motorola, IBM, Boeing, Microsoft and AT&T and fronted by the CCA (Corrections Corporation of America) which has spent $9.7 million lobbying congress since 2010. Can we point to Obama as an emblem of racial progress, when so many of our young brothers and sisters fester behind bars, filling the pockets of shareholders? No. We. Can’t.
In fact, the gap between presidential promise and day-to-day life for many Americans continues to grow. Until, that is, along came a presidential candidate who puts his dirty money, where his foul mouth is. Yes, Trump is a disgrace, but so is the system that he presides over, so let’s at least not kid ourselves any longer.
America owes 1.115 trillion dollars to China and sleep walked into the worst financial crisis since 1929. It then proceeded to bail out the Wall Street 2%ers responsible for the crash, with the tax dollars of the 98%.
What better team mascot then, than a lying multi-bankrupt son of a billionaire with a track record of poor business decisions, dubious tax history and an almost sexually-charged fear of our far eastern cousins?
Perhaps most notably in the run up to the election, was the emphasis that was put on race and we were encouraged into outrage at the sentiments of the soon-to-be President-Elect. But why? It is commonplace for the country’s major media outlets to tacitly condemn female news presenters above a certain age with aesthetic sell by dates for their careers, many of whom have reported being ousted by their younger, often blonder, counterparts. Where researchers have found that females are vastly underrepresented, in the film industry and news media both written and televised, on and off camera, does a representative President really look like a respectful husband and loving father of two daughters? Or does he look like an archaic misogynist who, when he is not ‘grabbing women by the pussy’, is calling breastfeeding a ‘disgusting act’ or is on his hit show The Apprentice, claiming that the female contestants must rely on sex appeal? I could, of course, go on.
It is no longer acceptable for the president to espouse inclusivity, equality and concern for refugees when the country’s interpretation of its own immigration law sees refugees (that’s literally the huddled masses that The Statue of Liberty was referring to) imprisoned in detention centres, in violation of their most basic human rights and without legal representation. A country that, on paper, abhors barbarism and fights a ‘war on terror’, but whose own CIA has allegedly used rape as a torture technique?
Surely Trump, who professes that torture is a tool to be used and that ‘gets answers’, is a far more fitting leader. Like it or not, Trump’s sentiments echo the actions of those who have had the power to affect change in Washington over the past decade and yet have done nothing.
Now let me be clear, I don’t think that we should be happy that Trump is going to be in power, nor do I believe that Trump actually reflects the views of the majority of Americans. But I do think he represents a fairly accurate distillation of the rhetoric that the US is now feeding it’s populous on a daily basis. Whether it be through Fox News, military sponsored blockbuster movies, or CIA Whitehouse press conferences, with President-Elect Donald Trump, the country now ‘does what it says on the tin’, or rather ‘does what it says on the presidential mandate’, less of a ring to that though.
The first step in fixing the deep-seated, systemic problems afflicting the country, may be an accurate diagnosis; in this case, Trump, the abhorrent yet accurate reflection of a dismal state of affairs.
Trump can be useful to America, but only if he elicits the unintended consequence of awakening an equal and opposite reaction to his particular brand of politics.
Paradoxically, it is precisely this message which Trump falsely yet effectively voiced to pit himself in opposition to the ‘corporate lobbyists’ of Washington, a presidential election campaign worth a cool $932.3 million. And now that the election confetti has settled, how is Trump’s anti-corporate lobbyist agenda steering the nominations for his new cabinet? Not that Trump’s lies will come as any surprise to you if, that is, you happen to be sentient, but let’s take a look at a couple of the cabinet nominees and see if we can hazard a guess as to where his loyalties lie:
– Man of the people, Chairman and CEO of Exxon Mobil and TPP proponent, Secretary of State nominee, Rex Tillerson. A man whom the Washington Post reported to have taken home a $27.2 million salary in 2017.
– Ex Goldman Sachs Executive VP and CIO, national finance chairman for Trump’s campaign and Treasury Secretary nominee Steve Mnuchin. Mnuchin also spent the financial crisis at the helm of bullish mortgage corporation, OneWest Bank, whose foreclosure practises were, in a 2009 legal action, eloquently eviscerated by Judge Spinner of Long Island as ‘harsh, repugnant, shocking and repulsive’. Oh Steve, what are you like!
To labour the point, Trump is to the corporate lobby what Kale is to vegans: easily bought, very good for them and, so long as they can stomach him, he lets their shit slide.
Donald Trump’s election must act as a wake up call for all of us. Now that the ugly truth stares at us on every TV screens every day, we have no choice but to push for real change. The alternative is unthinkable and future generations may not forgive us.
The realist in me shuddered when Noam Chomsky, in a recent interview for Al Jazeera, stated ‘what [the left] will be trying to do now is to protect rights and gains that have been achieved, from being destroyed’. An already uphill struggle, has just been made even harder.
The optimist in me, though, is anticipating the positive liberal backlash to Trump’s stated intentions for the United States. An awakening of an equal and opposite reactive (active being the operative part) political movement pushing for the type of true political reform which allows the US to finally move out of this dark era of leadership (simmer down Nigel, that wasn’t a pop at Obama).
If masses of young voters flocked to support Bernie Sanders in the record numbers that they did in response to an Obama White House, then surely the trajectory for the left wing’s opposition of Trump’s administration is something for us all to be excited about. Sanders may in fact have planted the seeds of defiance that Trump’s presidency will now water.
To bring these ramblings to a close, I propose that before us all there is an opportunity to finally acknowledge and thoroughly reject the hideous business-as-usual that we have somehow become accustomed to. Yes, it has taken a near fatal blow to wake us up, but now that we are awake, it is incumbent upon us to resist.
When our grandchildren ask us ‘what did you do to prevent the final downfall of America at the incompetent hands of Donald Trump?’, what do we want our answer to be?