Don't worry about the US, worry about us

Paolo Kernahan -
Paolo Kernahan -

NATURALLY, THE goings-on at the Capitol Building in Washington DC had many Trinis in rapt attention. As the “free and the brave” gained largely unfettered access to the Senate chamber and gaily roamed the halls and offices of that hollowed institution, many watched aghast.

Our 1990 insurrection was a bloody coup attempt, seen by outsiders as perhaps a violent expression of failed society railing against law, order and decency. In the US last week, though, that was a “revolution” by patriots. Admittedly, that sounds more romantic.

So everyone sat with their popcorn and watched the real-time putsch orchestrated by Trump supporters. Trump ramped up the mental programming of his Trump-bots perhaps two years prior to the election. He repeatedly told supporters the only way he'd lose the election is if it was stolen from “them.” In a case of way too much irony for anyone's diet, Trump supporters attempted a coup by claiming to have been victimised by one.

So we watched, absorbed by scenes of insurrection that seemed unimaginable, even though they were preordained before our very eyes. We watched, offering running commentary as events unfolded in a reality far removed from our own – even as our circumstances call for an equal investment of passions.

Now, there's a strong inclination to pass judgment on Trinis who are, in turn, passing judgment on American society. Nothing is wrong with having an opinion about the travails of Americans. A dose of perspective, however, is always useful for a people constipated with a flawed self-righteous fury.

When the George Floyd killing flashed over to violent unrest in 2020, Trinis at home staged protests in front of the US Embassy. Some people went as far as to draw parallels between the BLM struggle and the experience of Black people in Trinidad.

With the assault on Capitol Hill, at least one local morning show host drew a breathtaking parallel between a deadly insurrectionist push in the US and the opposition UNC's request for recounts in the 2020 general election. Now, I've seen attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion, but even that one was a doozy!

Still, Trinis are entitled to their views about convulsions in the US, and ill-perceived affinities between our cultures. If only, though, we could be as vocal about our own calamities.

While we suffered stigmata here at home for “lady liberty,” news emerged of a government minister and her sister being granted an exemption to leave the country and return. Also sharing that flight was an opposition MP. The government minister in question, when quizzed about her travel, is reported to have responded, "Why isn't anyone asking about the opposition Member of Parliament?" For the record, the reporter did reach out to the UNC MP but didn't make contact.

Also reported last week, the Prime Minister's daughter left the country after a short Christmas vacation for which an exemption was granted to enter the country from covid19 ground zero, New York.

Meanwhile, thousands of Trinis facing financial ruin, psychological trauma, separation anxiety and illness remain at the mercy of a failed exemption process. Politicians accessing special privileges while ordinary civilians suffer hardships provoked no true outrage.

We worry about armed gunmen roaming the streets of the US, but murders and robberies are such a part of the landscape in Trinidad they scarcely raise eyebrows anymore. Job losses continue to accumulate astride business closures. Methanex last Thursday announced the indefinite idling of the Titan methanol plant at Point Lisas. Sixty more workers have now joined the ranks of the unemployed.

Amcham recently warned the public to brace for (further) price increases across the board as port delays and increased costs to clear goods impact importers. For the most part, however, Trinis seem to be going with the flow.

Procurement legislation, meant to guard against corruption and wanton waste of public funds, was subverted under all our noses. Evisceration of the bill, which the Government supported while in opposition, effectively neutered the Office of Procurement Regulation. Amendments invested oversight over major financial transactions in none other than the Minister of Finance. This happened without so much as a whimper from the public.

As this country continues to circle the drain, public silence grows louder. For a people so enamoured of drawing parallels, we fail to draw a parallel between the incompetent Government and an inept Opposition; this is a guarantee that both parties will dance on the graves we dig for ourselves.

Trinis lament the USA's fall from grace, a condition over which we have no control – yet we relinquish control over our own affairs, over which we have every opportunity to influence.


"Don’t worry about the US, worry about us"

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