By Raffique Shah
February 24, 2017
(WARNING: The contents of this column are meant to inform readers, more so citizens of the USA, of their constitutional rights vis-à-vis those who govern them. They are not intended to incite anyone, anywhere, to take drastic action to remove any leader, even if he (or she) has become a despot. I further warn my Trinbagonian brethren who live in the USA, and who may be visiting T&T for the Carnival, to resist the temptation to take a printed copy of this column when you return States-side. Mere possession of it could be grounds for denying you entry, or worse, for declaring you a terrorist!)
For the few among America’s 320 million-or-so population who bother to read that country’s declaration of independence, or know anything about it, the paragraph they best remember is: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…”
The lofty ideals promoted as fundamentals in that impressive proclamation were not new when Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and three other eminent Americans included them in the draft presented to the then colonies’ legislature in July 1776. In earlier civilisations, indeed, almost from the dawn of civilisation, whenever men have risen against rank injustices perpetrated by monarchs, emperors or chieftains, they have invariably underscored the equality of man as a cornerstone of their revolutions.
The Founding Fathers of the USA knew well that their rhetoric fell far short of their deeds. By 1776, the European colonisers had already decimated the indigenous American peoples, reducing them to a fraction of themselves, and had confiscated all their lands, restricting the survivors to the wretchedness of reservations.
So, the indigenous peoples were not equal. Nor were the millions of African slaves whose horrendous living and working conditions categorised them more as beasts than human beings. In fact, it would take a civil war and another hundred years before slavery was formally abolished, although the bondage of Afro-Americans continued well into the 20th Century. They were still marching for civil rights in the 1960s, and to this day, they endure racism in many parts of the country.
Still, even they, and what is left of the indigenous peoples, remember the “self-evident truths” of equality bestowed by the Creator, albeit without the concurrence of Washington or support from the “rednecks” across America.
It was another, more important part of the preamble to the Constitution that came to the fore as I watched that society come apart at the seams in the wake of the election to the presidency of Donald Trump. I have repeatedly written that I have little interest in US politics. Matters not who occupies the White House, little changes in Washington’s policies, especially its foreign policy.
However, since he took office less than fifty days ago, Trump has turned America upside-down. He has declared war against the media and the judiciary, declared open season on illegal and even legal immigrants, awakened the sleeping giant that is China, alienated much of Europe, and worse.
Inside America, this man who did not win the majority vote, far less the support of the majority of the country’s electorate, is embarrassing Americans every time he opens his mouth, and endangering their lives by restoring The Ugly American as the face of every citizen.
Battered and bruised, the populace seems to be at their wits end as to how they can grapple with Trump.
It was in those circumstances I remembered a right the Founding Fathers empowered them with. They wrote: “Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.
“But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security…”
Yup! Americans are among few nations in the world that enjoy the constitutional right to overthrow an elected government (substitute president) if they suffer “a long train of abuses and usurpations”. Many might argue that Trump has not been in office long enough for his abuses to be deemed a “long train”. I counter that with the pace at which he is making mischief, one Trump-day equals a regular quarter, if not a full year.
Of course, the CIA may well resolve the issue by other means, or Congress could choose the impeachment route.
Still, Americans must know that they have the right to revolt against a buffoon before he reduces the nation to ruins. Just saying.