By Dele Sobowale
“Every country has the government it deserves.” Joseph De Maistre, 1753-1821. (VANGUARD BOOK OF QUOTATIONS, VBQ, p 80).
Landing in America in August 1964 to start university education provided by US taxpayers, with American Government scholarship, my heart was filled with gratitude – just as my mind was full of wonder. We entered on Alitalia Airlines through Boston with a Greyhound Bus waiting to take us to Brattleboro, Vermont, for orientation before being sent to various states and universities. I could not believe that this nation was on the same planet as the one I left and that people anywhere could be so generous. Even with Trump turning the White House to a nut house, America will for ever receive my gratitude and my prayers. What else can I offer them?
As last year’s US elections were drawing nearer, I was certain Trump would win – despite my preference for Clinton. Perhaps objective to a fault, I had observed from Nigeria, with a sinking heart how America had gradually shifted to the right or conservative side of politics. More heartbreaking for me was the realization that the vast majority of Trump supporters were my age group – the baby boomers, born during or just after World War II. They were the same folks with whom I defied elders by deifying the Beatles, Punk and protest music, protested against racism and the Viet Nam War and grew long hair. Back in the late 1960s and early 1970s, it would have been incomprehensible to me that many of them will lurch right politically in old age.
Now I know what Professor Marcuse, a leading socialist thinker meant when in a lecture at Brandeis University, the Jewish elite private university, in Waltham, Massachusetts, meant, when he said in 1967 that “Existence determines consciousness. Where you stand influences what you see.”
In 1967 we were in school and owned nothing but a few pairs of jeans and one suit for important occasions. We could afford to be generous when there was nothing to give. So we supported the Democrats and liberal politicians.
Today, some of my old school mates are billionaires or millionaires. None to the best of my knowledge is poor or destitute. With property comes conservatism. They are closer to Trump than they are to the poor and underprivileged millions and several thousands of them, now in their 70s, live in Florida – the retirees’ state.
But, in turning right and fighting for the protection of their properties through favourable tax laws discriminating against the poor they have also grown more callous as the world has become increasingly a global village with a lot of grown up “kids” which the US brought up since the end of the war. One of them, China, is now even challenging for global economic leadership. It is easy to understand why the Americans elected, in 2016, a leader who promised to roll back the clock by reasserting America’s leadership by force. Donald Trump was an accident waiting to happen as the US loses its grip on global leadership. He is the worst sort of leader the Americans could have elected to help the transition to shared leadership with other nations of the world.
Like all small-minded demagogues, he has a simple solution to everything irrespective of how complex the problem. He would build a wall between America and Mexico and get the Mexicans to pay for it. Pray! Tell what better definition of imperialism is there? He would repeal Obamacare and replace it; enact a new tax law; flog NATO allies into line and tear up the globally supported Climate Accord which was seriously watered down to please America the world’s second largest environmental polluter. He was going to do all these with scant regard for how other nations or people feel – as long as his white supremacists in America are satisfied.
Like all fanatics, he actually spent the first day in office issuing Executive Orders – some of which have been repelled by the judiciary. His health care bill suffered ignominous defeat and the tax bill is languishing. More importantly, he lies repeatedly – as all fanatics do. They never want to be confused by facts.
Europeans and China who had observed with growing alarm from afar were jolted into facing reality when the American President attended the G-7 meeting in Spain. None believed that Trump would actually demonstrate the bad manners associated with him when sending Twitter messages to people including other Heads of State. They expected some restraint when he operated in a group of world leaders. It took less than two days for the G-6 to realize that g-1 is the closest thing to a lunatic to have attended such a meeting. In the same number of days Trump had reduced America’s influence on world affairs to its lowest level since 1900.
As the rest of the world is re-grouping around efforts to reduce the accelerating consequences of Climate Change, nobody will henceforth care what America thinks anymore. The former most essential country in the world has finally over-played its hand by electing a leader the world detests. Even the Russians who allegedly helped him by interfering in the last elections have left the US in the lurch by championing efforts to control gas emissions.
Furthermore, America, which had almost single-handedly promoted free trade and open competition – when it was advantageous to do so – is now actively pursuing protectionism under the slogan “America first”. All the years of efforts and resources spent in establishing the World Trade Organisation, WTO, admittedly imperfect, have now been wasted by one man pulling his country out of it. Like most short-sighted demagogues, he fails to realize that unilateral action by the US on so many fronts might provoke unilateral repudiation of treaties and accords which the US might want to retain in the future.
My heart bleeds for America. The world’s current greatest nation has surrendered leadership by electing a nut and an incorrigible individual into the White House. It will take years to undo the damage – if it is ever achieved.
What is important for Nigeria, is for our leaders to realize that America is no longer reliable. We should stop looking to the US for assistance on anything and learn to be more self-reliant. Trump, in any case is poised to reduce foreign aid. We will receive less whether we like it or not. Why not voluntarily relinquish every help given? It will be tough at first. But, once we learn to fend for ourselves, we can literally tell Trumps America where to go.
CAN LAGOS: WHAT HAPPENED TO HONOUR?
“Money makes everything legitimate – including bastards.”Jewish proverb.
When money and power are arrayed on one side against relative poverty and powerlessness, it is always easy to know how most unprincipled and dishonourable people will react when conflict develops. The sack of Pastor Taiwo of the Light of Christ Chapel, Alausa, has produced the expected result – not withstanding my position that the chapel should be closed by the Lagos State Government.
A friend asked me what I thought the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, Lagos branch, would do. It took less than two seconds for my reply. “CAN will line up behind Mrs Ambode irrespective of the merits of the case.” He was uncomfortable with the reply; so he asked me why I said that. Below is my answer.
“CAN will support Mrs Ambode or the wife of any other Governor involved in such an altercation not because they think the Governor’s wife is right but because the CAN leaders know where their bread is buttered. Already, they might have sent a “solidarity” team to Mrs Ambode to “apologise” on behalf of CAN and Christians for the embarrassment caused the First Lady. Most probably a “golden handshake” will follow. “To a shower of gold [or naira] most things [including the heads of “Men of God”] are penetrable”, according to Thomas Carlyle, 1795-1881. Pastor Taiwo has neither silver nor gold nor naira. He must be guilty!!”
My friend called when the news came that CAN had backed Mrs Ambode and said, “Dele, you are a wizard.” I replied: “No, you just don’t know those “Men of God” as I know them.”