By Raffique Shah
November 08, 2016
Today is a big day in American politics. In fact, the battle between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump for the presidency of the most powerful nation on earth has excited probably half the world’s population, who will have monitored the bruising election campaign and who will follow the count tonight until a winner is declared.
I must confess, though, that not for the first time since I developed an interest in American politics. Back in the early 1960s when John F Kennedy was all but sanctified and sold as the Pope of the Free World, have I found myself uninterested the quadrennial battle for control of the White House.
Back in the day, with the hormones running riot in my teenage body, I was more interested in Jackie Kennedy than John. But the glam-couple came as a package deal that people in tiny Trinidad and Tobago bought wholesale.
The Cold War between the communist Soviet Union and its allies and the US-led West was hotter than a scorpion pepper when, in 1962, during the Cuban missile crisis, Kennedy told Nikita Khrushchev to “tun dem ships in de opposite direction”, as the Mighty Sparrow sang, and we chanted, “Kennedy is de man for dem!”
When Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963, everyone remembered where they were and everyone wept. The power brokers of the US had successfully marketed Kennedy as a saint and we believed the myth.
However many presidents later, crooks and clowns among them, I have learnt that whomever sits on the Oval Office throne, it makes no difference to the average American, be he a red-neck racist or a suffering or successful Black or Hispanic.
America will be America, a bountiful country, a land of opportunity—except that its immense wealth is shared so unequally and opportunity knocks so selectively, that poverty, both literal and relative, runs rife beneath the veneer of prosperity. The façade of the American dream, the model middle class home and family, mutes the cries of the aged who have worked all their lives but suffer in silence in their golden years, and numbs the pain of bright young minds that may never bloom because their parents cannot afford to pay for the best education on offer.
America will remain a powerful country that uses its military might to impose its will on any other country that dares to disagree with it over a definition of democracy. As the self-appointed global policeman, the only change the US has made in executing this bullying role is to have substituted regime-change by fomenting chaos and bloody confusion among the target populations for its earlier, cruder “gunboat diplomacy”.
America hijacked the blooming “Arab Spring”, a people’s uprising in North Africa and the Middle East, a beautiful experiment in direct democracy that sought to remove entrenched dictators, many of whom had been installed by the CIA. Seeking to control who replaced them, America inserted advisers and arms that soon fell into the hands of Islamists. A declared policy of regime change in Syria yielded ISIS, which, in turn, begat the refugee crisis, terror attacks in Europe and threats of terrorism across the world.
To contextualise this colossal misadventure with today’s presidential election, in 2011, when Syria exploded as the hottest spot on earth, Hillary Clinton was Barack Obama’s secretary of state, the architect of America’s foreign policy. Obama and Clinton made an unholy mess of the Middle East. They can be credited with, or be blamed for, the creation and expansion of ISIS.
But it could have been worse. If Trump had control of the nuclear joy-stick back then, none of us might have been around to point fingers and tell the tale. He would have “nuked” Syria and the entire Middle-East, which would have triggered a catastrophic response from comrade Vladimir Putin, and before we knew what was happening, the world would have been history.
The doomsday picture I’ve painted here may be seen by many as far-fetched, as the meanderings of a madman. But ISIS is real, it’s global, it strikes at will anywhere, anytime. Hillary and the bitter fruits of her bungling foreign policies are there for us to see. And this madman Trump, madder than me, I assure you, is also real.
Now, do you understand why I have no interest in how Americans vote today?
Whoever wins, the poor, the powerless and the ethnic minorities in that country will be no better off tomorrow or anytime soon.
The rest of the world will not be a better place. If you wonder what could be worse than Hillary’s ISIS, watch closely how America is provoking Russia and China. Therein lie the seeds of another conflict that could turn into a global conflagration.
Fellow Trinis, eat up, drink up, wine up, make merry. With mad people in power in America and so many other countries, who knows what the morrow will bring?