Donald Trump and the American Paradox
My friend recalled how he arrived in New York on the 17th of December, 1980 on his way to read for a BA degree in Broadcast journalism at the Columbia College in Hollywood. He had chosen to transit through New York out of pure fantasy and desire to explore the city that truly never sleeps before heading to the Nigerian Embassy in Washington DC to have himself documented as a legal foreign student. That was how organized things were back then, for Nigerians who sojourned abroad to get an education.
To my friend, to live in America in the 1980s was a joy to behold. I should know. By the spring of 1981, I also found myself enrolled at Kean University in New Jersey, almost within visible distance from the World Trade Center’s twin towers brought down in such tragic circumstances on September 11, 2001. The 1980s, as my friend recalled with so much nostalgia, was the decade in which America gave the world Michael Jackson in his prime. America also disgorged Lionel Richie, Diana Ross, Marvin Gaye, Prince now unashamedly known as “The artist”; unforgettable athletes such as Carl Lewis, Sugar Ray Leonard, Michael Jordan, and of course, Thomas Hearns – also known as the Detroit Hitman or Motor City Cobra!
America, in the 1980s, my friend recalled, also gave us some of the most epic television series and movies the world had ever seen such as Dallas, Dynasty, Indiana Jones, Star Trek, the Rambo and Rocky series, as wells as Bill Corsby and Eddie Murphy.
In the same decade he concluded, America elected no fewer than nine African-American mayors for some of its major cities. There was Tom Bradley in Los Angeles, California; Harold Washington in Chicago, Illinois as well as Coleman Young, Detroit, Michigan, and Norm Rice, Seattle, Washington. We also had Harvey Gantt in Charlotte, Carolina, J.O. Peterson in Memphis Tennessee, and Wilson Goode in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The list was concluded by Clarence Burns in Baltimore, Maryland, and James Garner for Hempstead, New York.
Remarkably, this feat was achieved when it was almost thought impossible for an African-American to be elected President of the United States of America. The myth was of course comprehensively shattered in 2008 with the election of Barak Obama. Ordinarily, with Obama’s election, we were fully entitled to believe that it was a measure of improved race relations in America, but in an equally remarkable irony, the statistics continue to suggest the opposite.
The days of rallies of the Ku-Klux-Klan and the burning of effigies may long have abated but hate crimes against African Americans and people of color has continued to escalate. A brief chronology is of the essence at this point.
Since Obama’s election, the African-American Professor, Henry Gates was subjected to the indignity of arrest for “breaking” into his own house because the police officers who effected his arrest just could not imaging that he owned a house in the suave neighborhood. The episode, of course, prompted what came to be known as Obama’s ‘beer summit’ in reference to the unique method the president chose to douse tensions generated by the outrage.
About the same time an African American woman was also hauled into a psychiatric ward for days because the white policemen who arrested her did not believe she owned the sports car she was driving. There was also the unforgettable incident involving the murder of black teenagers the most famous of which was the one involving Trayvon Martin. And, just a few days ago, Ahmed, the five year old kindergarten student of Sudanese heritage, was arrested and handcuffed because his teacher believed the nonsense that the clock he personally constructed to impress her was a bomb!
And yet, as if that is not enough, the shocking new incident of intolerance has coincided with the period the American Republican party frontrunner Donald heightened his nauseating rhetoric of intolerance and divisiveness in the race to pick his party’s ticket to contest for the presidency next year.
Before the his latest act in which he openly encouraged the notion that President Obama may be a closet Muslim – as if being one is a crime in a nation in which the freedom is as sacrosanct as the freedom speech, Trump had already drawn the ire of minorities and Latinos in particular for his views against immigration.
Now his latest outrage is sure to vibrate far beyond the shores of America were the various primaries that will produce the leading candidates for next year’s presidential elections are being monitored closely. Can we even begin to contemplate the prospects of what will happen to the Middle East peace process with a Donald Trump in the White House?
The unquestionable reality today is that Donald Trump is a problem that only Americans will have to deal with on their own. The rest of the world will have to wait and watch. In the past several decades Americans have elected Republican candidates who proceeded to leave their marks on the rest of the world for all the wrong reasons.
Ronald Reagan’s presidency was relished in America for restoring the dignity of the nation soon after the Iran hostage crisis. But Reagan also gave us the gunboat diplomacy and laid down his marker in Grenada. The other Republican presidents in recent times both Bushes, also did little to enhance the image of America abroad.
In fact, it was George Bush Jr, who let the jinnee out of the bottle with the invasion of Iraq on the strength of a dodgy dossier. Iraq may have been a dictatorship under Saddam, but it was still paradise compared to what it is presently. Bush’s indiscretion directly led to the creation of ISIS and the proliferation of other home-grown terrorists across the world including Boko Haram. Besides Adolf Hitler, no other leader in modern times has caused the deaths of more human being than George W. Bush. Just how that same individual is not presently before the International Criminal Court at The Hague is beyond me.
But in Donald Trump America now has a virtual disaster waiting to happen. His uncourt airs and crude remarks threaten to eclipse the poor records of the other American Republican presidents we have had in recent times. But like I wrote earlier he remains a paradox which only Americans can deal with. Let us pray that they demonstrate enough commonsense by denying Trump the stage he craves to make the world even less secure than it already is.