Nov. 16, 2016
The world is in a tailspin, obsessed with who Donald Trump will turn out to be as President of the United States of America and how that will affect them. Writers have gone crazy analyzing this state of affairs from all possible angles. Belize, it doesn’t matter which side (and there are many) of the debate one is on as to whether Mr. Trump was wrongly or rightly elected, whether he is fit or unfit, unless that side reflects some real truths not usually spoken about in ‘polite society’.
Mr. Trump’s perceived rejection of a racially diverse America (aimed at keeping out the non-white ‘tired, poor, huddled masses yearning to breathe free’ (from words quoted on the Statue of Liberty)) that attracts white nationalist groups, his misogynistic and divisive remarks, public mockery of a disabled person, his supposed anti-Semitism (although he promises even more support to Israel; his son-in-law is a Jew), are said to be against American values. His penchant for the spoils of capitalism and elitism, the impression that he acts before he thinks and may enact bad policies, particularly trade, even start World War III, are also what his adversaries point to as making him unfit to be the so-called ‘leader of the free world’.
Working-class Americans (some think they are the same white nationalist groups) voted for him because they see him as the person to reverse the economic hardships that corporate America and bought-and-paid-for governments have subjected them to over the recent four, five decades. I include with them those who wished to sideline the Democratic corporate and war machine which they see as having perpetuated the inequalities of capitalism, both domestically and globally, and which continues to spread expansionist wars, now bordering on nuclear, that have taken millions of innocent brown and black lives.
Others are reassessing Mr. Trump. CBS’s 60 Minutes reporter Leslie Stahl concluded that in her post-election interview with him she found him somber, softening on some of his policies, genuinely trying to be open to the views of others, and vowing to stick to his promises to the working class. Some see him as likely to continue to listen to now controversially appointed (fears of white nationalism) chief advisor Stephen K. Bannon, who is said to have introduced Trump to the so-called populist take- care- of- your- own- first movement, but who will also help him shift positions to facilitate working with a 535-member Congress. Even President Obama has chimed in, describing Mr. Trump as more pragmatic than ideological, implying that is a good thing. Among surveyed wealthy investors who feared the worst before the elections, more than half are now being reported as optimistic.
There’s good in America. Many have made great strides. At the same time, America is foundationally every negative thing Mr. Trump is said to personify. There are no indications that will significantly change regardless of whether the country has a Republican or Democratic president or government. Listening to the stories of immigrants I have found that every group, regardless of skin color or religion, Germans, Irish, Polish, Asians, Africans, Hispanics, Jews, Catholics, Muslims etc., all suffered racial/ethnic discrimination at the hands of those who arrived before them. When I arrived in the United States the group that was at the lowest stratum of Whites were the Polish. They were demeaned in every way. I recall cruel put-down ‘Polish jokes’ that were the in thing. One co-worker shared that Polish people had taken to changing their surnames to English-sounding ones to ease transitioning into American society. Not even Barack Obama was exempt.
That America is racially diverse is true, obviously, but not every group has found inclusiveness in that diversity; not every group, race, gender, even age group, has enjoyed social or economic equality, equal access to affordable and quality health care and education, or job opportunity equality, and certainly not all groups have equal protection under the law. America is still a racially segregated country despite laws hard won through sacrifices, shed blood and lost lives (mostly Black but also Latino struggles) to integrate the society. Whites to this day run from living in proximity to any other ethnic group. Those shunned in turn segregate themselves from one another — Native Americans, Afro-Americans and Arab-Americans live in separate enclaves; there are Jewish neighborhoods, Hispanic neighborhoods and Asian neighborhoods.
Democracy and Freedom – for whom?
Much advancement won through struggle has been reversed, watered down or simply ignored. Examples include ongoing legal attacks on Affirmative Action (a policy to help disadvantaged minority groups in education and employment), one which ended in 2003 with the U.S. Supreme Court removing racial quotas. Aid to poor women with dependent children has been drastically curtailed, starting with President Reagan, who painted a picture of Welfare as a program that Blacks scammed; that safety net was whittled down even more by President Bill Clinton under a welfare-to-work plan which condemned millions of black and brown children to life below poverty levels. The latest attack of many on the Voting Rights Act calls for voter ID cards, supposedly to avoid voter fraud but seen by many as an attempt to exclude otherwise qualified voters in poor communities, particularly black, who cannot produce the required identifying documents. Under revised or new laws, incarceration has reached high, racially disproportionate levels (some view this as a new slavery), which, along with increasing militarized policing, is ravaging black and brown families and communities. Maybe objectors to Mr. Trump fear a wholesale attack on constitutional rights. Well, racism, sexism, other ‘isms’ and ‘phobias’ of inequality are well institutionalized. So who’s fooling whom?
Ironically, the very freedom that white Americans want for themselves has been stripped away piece by piece, accelerated since the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center twin towers in New York. Government citizen surveillance has reached levels beyond the McCarthy era of the 1950’s when anti-communism was at an all-time high. America has never respected the freedom of other nations to order their lives the way they see fit, not in South America, not in Africa and the Middle East, Asia nor in parts of Europe. As wars to control the Middle East continue, it is noted that aggression toward Russia and China is inching forward under Democratic President Obama, the president of hope and change at that.
More of the Same or Change by the People?
If President-elect Trump does any damage in America it could only be the wounding from exposing the reality and hypocrisy of America where touted democratic values are in theory only; an America where the dream either never was, or has been and still is a nightmare for many. If he deports three million, that too is a continuation of U.S. government policy. President Obama is called ‘Deporter-in-chief,’ with 2.5 million under his belt. If Trump gives the order to push the nuclear button, he would just be carrying out what was put in place by those before him.
It’s estimated that U.S. presidential candidates honor 70 to 75% of their campaign promises; many will be holding their breaths! If Trump is any worse for Belize and the general area, including Mexico, it will be in the areas of trade, money and banking. That could hurt, ‘bigly’ (Trump’s favorite word). There is that chance President Trump will be good at least for America if the right people have his ears. Enough of the underclass spoke through the Electoral College and stopped the popular vote of the sleepwalking, deluded and blind-to-America’s-atrocities-now-demonstrating majority. I can only hope if he slips up, this time around the latter will join the former, regardless of race, religion, gender or party affiliation, put aside their differences, find commonality and unite in the social and political revolution that has been stirring in America in different quarters and make America great, for all its people, for the first time.
Watch and learn, Belize.
America and the so-called ‘free world’ it leads needed this shaking-up to confront the big lie. Then again, what we see happening may just be the long, last roar of a dying imperial beast.