By Chris Anyokwu
The United States of America has always prided herself as “The City on a Hill”; “God’s Own Country”, the Land of the Brave and Free. The Haven of opportunity. All of this, truth be told, is the very basis of the immensely popular slogan of the “American Dream” or, the less-popular term: American Exceptionalism. Experience has, however, shown that it has not always been so. The long walk to civilisation and civility was marked by an endless series of constitutional amendments given the fact that the basis of human co-existence, the legal organogram of the social contract, is eternally work-in-progress.
These Constitutional Amendments, numerous as they are, were necessitated by a rash of societal impediments which usually make peaceful co-existence in a patently ethnically and racially diverse polity a bit of a herculean nightmare. Given, thus, that the rule of law is the basis of civilised society, the Supreme Court of the Unity States (SCOTUS), the nation’s apex court has had to play a pivotal roledefining and directing the manifest destiny of the Republic. Just to be certain, indeed, the powers of life and deathliterally reside with the Justices of the SCOTUS.
These grizzled gurus of the law regulate the collective health of the nation, seeing to it that every sector of the economy, be it health, homeland security, foreign affairs, domestic politics, religion, etc. runs as smoothly as possible. The battle over the soul of the nation which is normally joined between the Republicans and the Democrats is refereed, in a manner of speaking, by the nation’s legal system superintended by the Supreme Court. Regardless, however, of the best efforts of this age-old, tried-and-tested institution of the law, the USA has always been riven by what may be termed the demographics of hate leaving deep fissures in the body politic. Usually you realise that fault-lines, ancient primordialities, bone-deep racial resentments exist among the warring and fiercely-antagonistic ethnic/racial groups comprising the white majority, and the black and Latino minorities, not forgetting the Native Americans, descendants of the aboriginal Red Indians, themselves victims of genocide and ethnic cleansing – one of the blots on America’s escutcheon.
At all events, America has been dogged by associated social ills of tribalism, racism, social inequality/inequity, and oppression. The good news, however, is that the United States of America has been able to overcome all of these challenges to varying degrees depending on the social pathology in question. She had experienced the American Civil War fought from 12th April 1861 to 9th May, 1965 under President Abraham Lincoln; experienced Slavery,Reconstruction, racial segregation, Civil Rights Struggles in the 1950s and 1960s; fought in the World Wars I and II; experienced the infamous Great Depression from 1929 to the 1930s, a 43-month-long socio-economic nightmare which left in its wake many deaths arising from the untold psychological and physical pain(s) it had unleashed.
Despite these distressing problems Americans had had to contend with, the nation was able to emerge from the ashes of adversity to become the world’s greatest nation. Welcome to the American Empire! But like all the previous empires before her, empires that rose to world dominance for a period of time and later eventually declined, the USA is steadily – some would go as far to say precipitously – careering along the slippery slope of declineand probable demise. The reasons for this unfortunate turn of events are many, some of which include narcissism, anti-black racism, institutionalised inequality, the epochaladvents of demagogues like President Donald J. Trump, among others.
The Trump phenomenon or Trumpism is coterminous with the Reign of Narcissus, the portrait of the president as God-man! And, unsurprisingly, his stint at the White House has been nothing short of cataclysmic actively stoking the embers of racial division and encouraging prejudice. Under his watch, the world has witnessed the resurgence of the so-called alt-right movement composed of extreme right-wing nationalist elements such as the White Knights, the neo-Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacists.
Thus, against the backcloth of the foregoinganomalous situation compounded by the Covid-19 pandemic which Trump, at best, has been handling cavalierly and fecklessly, the American electorate hadheaded to the voting centres to cast their ballots during the Presidential Elections in November, 2020. The choices before the voters were stark; the blue and red candidate couldn’t be more dissimilar – whilst Trump with his “America First”, ultra-right, separatist agenda, harangued and hectored America to keep him for another four years in the saddle, promising them Eldorado with his hollow and empty rhetoric, Joe Biden oozed bonhomie, an avuncular presence casting an aureole of hope and optimism over a paranoid, near-panicky nation. He told the nation he was a purveyor of alter/native vision. He was ready to give his compatriots a new lease of life. It’s refreshing and heart-warming to hear Joe Biden preach and promise unity in the immediate aftermath of the elections, that is, as soon as he was declared winner of the race, beating Trump with 306 Electoral College Votes to Trump’s 232!
And rather than be gallant in defeat and concede the election to his democratic opponent, President Donald J. Trump mounted a legal blitzkrieg against Biden, instituting over fifty lawsuits across America challenging the integrity of the democratic process. At almost every turn, Trump told those who cared to listen that the election was rigged and that the process was marred by a slew of irregularities. Like the Queen Bee ensconced in the belly of an anthilland surrounded by an army of hardworking bees, Trump enjoyed the fierce support and solidarity of his fellow Republican lotharios and hierarchs, House and Senate Republicans and all. They all chorused with one voice: “America must remain RED”! “BLUE is Anathema”! Even in the Conradian Heart of Africa, Nigeria to be exact, some deluded themselves, seeing in Donald J. Trump,Christ-incarnate! It couldn’t get more bizarre and ridiculousthan that.
Mercifully, the election results have now been certified and approved by the Electors of the Electoral College and President-Elect Joseph Biden, Jnr. can now rest easy and get down to the onerous business of fixing the four-year mess created by Trump and his Republican co-travellers.
To be sure, in his first speech as President-Elect, Biden has sought to spread balm over the welts and woes of ALL Americans, calling for unity, togetherness, forgiveness, compassion and tolerance. Hear him: “Let this grim era of demonization in America begin to end-here and now.” Oh, what a proud moment to be American, considering the triumphs, trials and troughs of the past! What a stirring rallying-cry to the 244-year-old Republic, which on the 4th of July, 1776 made the Declaration of Independence, marking the historic transition of the 13 colonies into a new nation, i.e., the United States of America! While their erstwhile colonial conquistador, Great Britain looked on admiringly and wistful of the defunct Pax Britannia (with the USA as their crown jewel), America in this epoch-making moment is forging a better and greater destiny in the smithy of her vexed conscience.
Long gone are the re-echoing reports of the gunboats of the Revolutionary War of the 19th century fought between Colony and Metropole; long gone the Founding Fathers of the Union. But what a proud time for their worthy scions! Joe Biden has been, in the meantime, assembling his cabinet, attentive to the multiple sensitivities and subjectivities – White, Black, brown, yellow, Latino and Native. So far, there have been many “firsts” in the history of the nation as Biden taps and picks the best and brightestacross the board. It is absolutely gratifying to see that he has also picked our own compatriot, Adewale “Wally” Adeyemo as his nominee for Deputy Secretary of the Treasury. Born in 1981 in Nigeria but raised in the USA, Adeyemo’s resumé was all Biden needed to pick him ahead of millions of Americans. No questions asked about surname, tribe and tongue, religion, sexual orientation, age or other pedestrian considerations. He has been nominated on MERIT, a word which is taboo in these parts. For us, it’s all about North-South dichotomy, Christian versus Muslim, political dinosaurs versus too-young-to-run, blind loyalty versus proven competence.
Yes, the Not-Too-Young-To-Run Law has been enacted, we are aware, but, for intents and purposes, it’s merely another anodyne sop from our sit-tight gerontocratic and geriatric rulers concocted to hoodwink the credulous leaders of tomorrow. But we all know tomorrow never comes. Never! Can we borrow a leaf from the incoming Biden Administration and allow MERIT be our guiding principle and the fulcrum of state policy! It’s never too late to turn over a new leaf. Let’s make Nigeria great again!
Chris Anyokwu, PhD.
Associate Professor of English
University of Lagos