As I write this, the world is gradually coming to terms with the fact that the new President of the United States of America is Donald J. Trump, ‘self-professed’ billionaire and political-outsider sworn in to office less than a week ago. How do I perceive the ascendency of Trump and the future of America under this most unpopular President in America, their America? This is my take. It is not going to be short.
First things first, I should state where I am coming from; the values that have shaped my thinking about what I am going to write about. You know what they say, “…we do not see the world as it is, but as we are!”
I am a middle-aged black man, a Christian of the fervent Pentecostal, Evangelical flavour. I believe in God, in Jesus Christ and in the Holy Spirit. I grew up the son of a church elder, who later became a Pastor. My mum is a Deaconess. But do not think that makes me ignorant about things outside the Bible and the stories of Abraham, David, and Goliath. By age 10, I could reel off the list of all American Presidents from George Washington to Ronald Reagan. Even now, I can tell you (with no effort at all) the names of all America’s Presidents in the last 120 years, and in the correct order of course. With an advanced degree in International Politics and a keen interest in international affairs spanning more than three decades, I am well grounded in the arguments in that field, especially in International Political Economy.
By age 12, I was convinced that I was fully in love with America, their America. Not only did America give us the writers, preachers and singers I loved (Mark Twain, Kenneth Hagin, Billy Graham, Keith Green, Kenny Rogers, Robert Frost, Maya Angelou), but I had fully bought into the hope that America preached (that anybody could make something of their lives, irrespective of where they started from). Yes, I also read about the civil rights struggles but that did not take away from my love for America. As I grew older, the love grew, and with it also grew a kind of expectation (of better behaviour) from their America.
The years following the attack of America by Japan at Pearl Harbour heralded the dawn of Pax Americana, with America fully assuming the role that had been played by Imperial Britain for a hundred years till World War I. From 1941 when the US was dragged into World War II, she stepped up and became the big brother that could be relied on to show a good example, even though a closer look might reveal she was also a bully in South America, and Africa, and Asia. She came across as a friend you could count on if there was some money to be made, or an enemy of his to be fought. I found out in my early twenties that Ronald Reagan was not always our friend in Africa. With Mrs Thatcher of the United Kingdom, they kept apartheid pacified in South Africa, supported coups all over Africa and encouraged the swindling of Africa with the shylock policies of the IMF and World Bank. America was not always our friend but America, their America was simply lovable. The way they told it, America was God’s own country.
So here I was, with a deep education about the God that America said they belonged to, and in contrast, the America that was shown to me through Time Magazine, Hollywood, and the policies from White House. America was not shy about their Christian root, about the fact that people of faith from different parts of Europe came together to found a country where they could exert their inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Fast forward to 2008, and before my very eyes, the United States of America was making a huge leap to become what she could actually be. America was voting in not only an African American, but she was voting in a Democrat that believed in social and economic fairness of sorts. I had hope for America that the greed that “the 1%” usually exhibit (which in collaboration with Wall Street had ruined the world in 2007/2008 Economic Recession) would be reined in to some extent, and the bleeding economy would be healed. I was hopeful that there would be some progress in America’s race relations. I was hopeful that the War on Terror would stop being a disguised Scramble for Oil. America had no business in Iraq, and I was hopeful that that war theatre would be given a reasonable closure.
So, the America I thought I knew, and the America I wanted to see were gradually going to become one and the same. An America that was strong but fair; an America that was rich but did not exploit; an America that did not simply lock up or shoot black men at the slightest provocation. Remember Diallo?
However, deep down in me was that hope that I would see an America that also aligned with my moral values. Moral values that teach that abortion is immoral (and is only excusable when a life is endangered). Moral values that teach that a cake maker should not be punished for refusing to bake a cake for a union that runs completely against her religious beliefs. Moral values that believe in the Ten Commandments (and the importance of prayer in schools). Why would America not want those?
So I was disappointed that my African-American (Barrack Hussein Obama) did not espouse those values. For eight years, he seemed to encourage a departure from even the mention of God. Yes, he pulled the country out of the war in Iraq and his calm calculated style oversaw the taking out of the founder of al-Qaeda – Osama bin Laden.
But I was conflicted. Conflicted because the political people in America would say my moral values belonged to the Republican Party, the party that wins overwhelmingly in The Bible Belt where I have more than a few preachers I love and respect. Conflicted because the political people in America would say my economic values made me a Democrat. At best, I would be a conservative Democrat, or a liberal Republican.
But I would rather be a conservative Democrat than be a liberal Republican, simply because the Republicans have fought the longest, in spite of their so-called Christian ethos, to keep the coloured people subjected to discrimination and racial profiling, even in the 21st century. There are many small towns in rural Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee and Georgia that a man of my colour would better not be found needing help in. He would be shot first. Questions later. The hypocrisy stinks.
I am convinced there are some good Republican people in that “middle America” that have come to terms with the possibility that the contents of a man’s character are more important than the colour of his skin but I did not see them in the 2016 Presidential Election cycle. What I saw were people who rallied around a rabid candidate with the worst values of any candidate to vie for that office. He boasted of sexually assaulting women who let him get away with it because he was a superstar. He called Mexicans rapists and drunks; and he had the temperament of an over-indulged 6 year old. His tweets are a testimony to his lack of basic decorum and simple common sense. While this can be a good thing, in the sense that he is not exactly a hypocrite, but the man’s reluctance to even listen to security advisers (believing he is smarter than everybody); and his friendship with alt-right extremists is not something that should be overlooked. Multiple bankruptcies over the course of his business life, historical swindling of partners (business partners either in real estate or in fake universities or previous marriage partners) is a precedent to how he may treat other nations. Climate-change denial is just simply being ignorant. In other words, “I do not like him. I do not respect him. I do not trust him”
But if his personal morals are horrible, what about his party’s. For now, it seems his party is going to attempt to bring back some things I liked about America, their America (including prayers in schools). And Donald Trump will encourage those because he is an entertainer at heart. He needs to keep his voters happy. And that is about the limit of the good I expect Trump to do.
On the economy, he is going to do the exact opposite of what his country needs. He is already filling his cabinet with corporate-minded billionaires who will (by default) look after the interests of the Corporations first. Rex Tillerson of ExxonMobil as Secretary of State is an interesting choice, given the history of the oil companies in conflicts all over the world. His pursuit of isolationism needs more than four years to mature or make any impact. Will he bully companies back to making their goods and services in America? That can only happen if the CEOs are going to agree to lower profits at best, or realistically, face fiscal losses in the short term.
My reaction to the first few days of Trump’s presidency is exactly as you guessed it. Gladness that the inauguration was a covertly religious affair – Yes! America is a Christian nation again; horror that his White House is anti-press -There are talks of sending the Press Corps out of the White House completely. Has Nixon made a comeback; some sympathy for the protesters all over the world. The protests will achieve nothing even though I fully understand their anger. That Oval Office deserves better.
One big takeaway since the November 2016 election is that the Red State/Blue State is alive and well and Obama’s 2004 speech at the Democratic conventions was premature.
My concluding thought is that the Republican in me needs to reach out more to the Democrat in me. In other words, America’s Bible belt needs to embrace better economic and social justice policies and the Democrats in America should get off those high intellectual horses, and remember that faith (and the moral values they preach) are not to be despised, simply because you think you’re in the 21st century and do not need God anymore.
The ranks of the liberal Republicans and the conservative Democrats needs to be swelled considerably as to make the extreme left and the extreme right the minorities if America will become that America I fell in love with – America, my America.
Chukwudi Adepoju is @adechuks on twitter