Monday, March 9, 2020 5:05 am
By Hope O’Rukevbe Eghagha
On the impeachment matter, it can be said that America had been on trial. On trial in the eyes of the world. Not President Donald Trump, not really Donald Trump that is, even though he was in the dock. America tried itself. The world tried America. American tried its institutions. The idea of America was compelled to face the crucial test of the primacy of the rule of law, fairness, truth, justice and equity. That nation which is presented in the biblical metaphor of a city set on a hill was on trial. From the investigations of the Democratic Party-dominated House of Representatives through the Republican-controlled Senate and the final verdict, the American Idea, or the idea that is America was tried.
In the end, America did not pass its own test, in our eyes. Yes, in our eyes. What do we matter in the survival of America? Nothing really. Our votes do not count in America. As minions and infinitesimal homo sapiens from a continent infested with official corruption and criminal administrative incompetence, who are we to stand in judgment over America? Yet, seen in another light, that is why we need the city that is on the hill. As an example. As gold that cannot, must not rust. Although a democracy, America does not need the democratic support of the world to have its way. The arsenal of mass destruction at its disposal is bullishly intimidating. America will wait for November 2020 to pass a verdict on all stakeholders in the impeachment brouhaha. That is what counts. And for that America must wait!
We, believers in America though were disenchanted by the conclusion of the process. Not because the president was not found guilty by Senate. But because truth was seen from the prism of party lines. We never thought America could decide an issue as fundamental as this on strictly party loyalty. Survival. Not honour. Not the Ideal. Bread and butter. Survival of the Republican Party. Just like the politicians we are used to in Africa. In the Third World. The world without order. We were simply appalled that the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court could preside over a trial in which the White House withheld 71 documents and blocked 12 witnesses from testifying! The Law could do nothing about obstruction of justice. In a proper trial, he would re-direct the court process to guarantee a fair trial. But we are told the law is the law! Not because the Chief Justice was appointed by the Republicans. Not because he has Republican ideals and beliefs in his blood and brain. Is that why in Notes of a Native Son James Baldwin quipped: ‘The American ideal, after all, is that everyone should be as much alike as possible?
What is the idea of America, we ask ourselves? I remember John Gunther’s reference to America as ‘ours is he only country deliberately founded on a good idea”. What is America to the free world? Is the American idea, the American ideal constant? Is it in a flux, pulled by forces known and unknown? Should it be constant? Can a nation which once institutionalized racism be an ideal nation, still be a city on the hill? Is there a contest between religions as epitomized by the idea of America as we currently perceive it? Is justice political, allowed to serve political interests and still be justice for all, justice done and seen to be done?
Senate chaplain Barry Black’s prayer “Remind our senators that they alone are accountable to You for their conduct. Lord help them to remember that they can’t ignore You and get away with it” – did not save America. God did not answer the chaplain. He looked the other way and allowed them to have their way. So, loyalty to party interest, not American interest won the day. Which is a sad day for champions of ethical beauty. A sad day for eternal things. The conclusion is that things are not always what they seem to be. Institutions represent a country. Yes, they do. These are institutions are made up of men and women. Of course, we witnessed the beauty of the minds of the men and women who spoke for and against the President in Senate. Excellent arguments. Puerile arguments. Less than intelligent arguments. The duplicitous art of speaking from both sides of the mouth. Technology was at play. AI was recruited also. Human intelligence directed Artificial intelligence. But minds were made up. Hard work. Decades of established convention. Whether these efforts yielded the truth or not, the institutions stood. The persons may have failed. But the institutions stood to be counted. Which is a contradiction. Only to be resolved by a deus ex machina.
But of course, if America failed us, we could only lament. In power and in might, America dwarfs the world. At the height of the Cold War, America wore a garment of moral authority. Or so it seemed. It is possible that we elevated America beyond its true moral integrity as a corporate body. The proclaimed and much vaunted projected ideals set out in the American Constitution are subject to human frailty. E.E. Cummings acknowledged this when he said: “America makes prodigious mistakes, America has colossal faults, but one thing cannot be denied: America I always on the move. She may be going to hell, of course, but at least she isn’t standing still”. But if America could not sustain its name, if it did not believe in the grand personality of the nation, we indeed wanted it to be different. The ideals of America are needed in the world. Or so I think. Yet I come from an infinitesimal continent and country! So, what does my thought matter? Sometimes, leaders emerge, leaders with immense power, who are unable to rise to the ideals of a nation. They then try to bring the nation to their level. They sometimes succeed in dragging the entire nation along till the scales fall off the eyes of the collective mind!
Perhaps considering the political mess which my country has found tragically itself, I should direct all my energy towards proffering solutions to the baffling level of foolishness hereabout. In the end, the Senate chaplain’s prayer: “Stand up, omnipotent God, stretch yourself, and let this nation and world know that let this nation and world know that You alone are sovereign” will give us an anchor through restitution in a manner that will be pleasantly wonderful to us all. As Chief Justice of the, the World Sovereign will reign eternal and will bring down those that exalt themselves while elevating the abased ones.
Professor Eghagha who writes from the University of Lagos, can be reached on 0806 325 9454 or [email protected]