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Thursday 22 August 2019
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Commentary

Are you surprised?

REGINALD DUMAS

IN THE prologue to my May 2017 book Eleven Testing Years: Dissonance and Discipline, I said: “(T)he coming of Donald Trump, as presidential candidate and as President, has helped shove (America’s) racism, latent for decades but always present, to the surface of society.”

And, after quoting Eddie Glaude, a black Princeton University professor, who wrote that, on Barack Obama’s watch, US race relations had “gotten worse,” I continued: “Under President Trump, they will get even worse: many, if not most, African-Americans think they have a very good idea what his slogan ‘Make America Great Again’ really means for them.” Now Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, has provided the literal interpretation of my diplomatic obliqueness: “Make America White Again.”

You must have realised that already. Who forms his rock-solid political base? Why a wall, and cages, to keep out all those black, brown, off-white and Amerindian “rapists” from Africa, the Caribbean and Central America? Why the constant sniping at Obama? (About which I said in a Newsday article of January 2018: “I am clear that Trump’s obsession with Obama has essentially to do with the latter’s race.”) Why the sneering reference to “shithole countries,” as contrasted with the express wish for immigrants to come instead from (blond, blue-eyed) Norway?

Now he invites a quartet of non-white congresswomen – the determined and politically progressive squad of four – to “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime-infested places from which they came.” The facts that the women are all American citizens – how else could they be in Congress? – and that three were born in the US (the fourth arriving as a small child) are immaterial. What for him is relevant is that they are ideological thorns in his side, and they are not white. Worse, two are Muslim.

Who are they, he asks, “who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world, (to tell) the people of the US…how (their) government is to be run?” Imagine, American citizens in “democratic” America having the right to criticise their government! (That is, criticise him.) And the gall to exercise that right! What is America coming to?

Trump has been widely flayed within the US for the obvious racism of his remarks (I say nothing of their well head of xenophobia and white nationalism), and the House of Representatives has condemned them. He insists he’s not racist, and again attacks the congresswomen, who have given dignified replies. But Americans already knew he was a racist. Even lily-livered Republican politicians knew, but are so concerned about winning their next elections to stay in office (or get there) that they have been almost completely silent.

Almost: Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina did speak, but all he managed to do was put himself in pole position for hypocrite of the year award. And this feckless man was a friend of the principled John McCain! No wonder Meghan McCain, the late senator’s daughter, has rebuked him.

Trump arrived at the White House promising to heal America’s wounds (inflicted by Obama, no doubt) and bring Americans together (separated by Obama, no doubt). He would “make America great again” – the “again” told you that, in his view, America had declined (because of weak-kneed Obama, no doubt).

But promises have fled, or perhaps always had peculiarly Trumpian connotations. How do his divisive, dog-whistle, contradictory, mendacious tweets and pronouncements and actions uplift America? In fact, they have been widening the gaps in American society. They have been bewildering the world; even allies are in despair. They have been deepening disrespect for, and hostility to, America, not only in hot spots like Iran and Palestine and North Korea. They have been helping the delighted Chinese with their One-Belt-One-Road policy. They have been emboldening Putin (thus ironically protecting Maduro).

Even Theresa May, following the British ambassador’s uncomplimentary, though accurate, assessment of the Trump administration, has at last found the fortitude to push back at Trump after all his publicly dismissive, and insulting, comments about her. (Or perhaps it’s only because she’s going soon?) Trump has been diminishing America, though feeding his boundless narcissism.

In the next few days Boris Johnson, a mimic Trumpeteer with a plummy accent, will probably become the UK Prime Minister. He could well be with us for some time, unless Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn can demonstrate that he possesses prime ministerial qualities he may be adeptly concealing.

The thought of Trump in Washington and Johnson in London is unsettling. We in TT had better mind our business with greater care than we have been doing.

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