Saturday, March 4, 2017 9:52 am
By Owei Lakemfa
In his first Address to the Joint Session of the American Congress on February 28, President Donald Trump delivered his expected message of intolerance in the garb of a tolerant democrat. To counter his racist image, he began by trying to identify with African Americans by linking his speech to the Black History Month. It is a period when the achievements of the Black people in America and their contributions to the country are highlighted. Despite this effort, it will be difficult to live down the fact that he is a bully who thinks little about non-whites.
His sustained attacks on his predecessor, Barack Obama and his legacies, are actually little veiled attacks on Black people. For instance during the ‘Black Lives Matter’ protests, he said “Our great African-American President hasn’t exactly had a positive impact on the thugs who are so happily and openly destroying Baltimore.” His emphasis was not on Obama as the American President, but as a Blackman, and the protesters who were mainly Blacks, as “thugs” who are destroying America. His insistence on dismantling OBAMACARE even when it would negatively affect some 18 million Americans is also a reflection of his mindset, and lack of empathy for the poor.
As expected, Trump’s main agenda which he unfolded in his Address is the strengthening of the police, apparently to police Americans, and the military, to police the rest of the world. He said: “to keep America Safe we must provide the men and women of the United States military with the tools they need to prevent war and — if they must — to fight and to win. I am sending the Congress a budget that rebuilds the military, eliminates the Defense sequester, and calls for one of the largest increases in national defense spending in American history.”
If in truth he wants to “prevent war” is it by increasing military spending rather than campaigning for a just world? He backs away from his campaign promise to de-emphasize the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) which he had described as “obsolete” and a waste of American funds. In his April 27, 2016 Foreign Policy talk, Trump had declared: “We have spent trillions of dollars over time on planes, missiles, ships, equipment, building up our military to provide a strong defense for Europe and Asia. The countries we are defending must pay for the cost of this defense, and if not, the U.S. must be prepared to let these countries defend themselves. We have no choice.” But in his Address to Congress he praised NATO and hinted at strengthening it: “Our foreign policy calls for a direct, robust and meaningful engagement with the world. It is American leadership based on vital security interests that we share with our allies across the globe. We strongly support NATO, an alliance forged through the bonds of two World Wars that dethroned fascism, and a Cold War that defeated communism.”
Trump claims empathy for Americans, lamenting that: “Ninety-four million Americans are out of the labor force. Over 43 million people are now living in poverty, and over 43 million Americans are on food stamps. More than 1 in 5 people in their prime working years are not working.” One would have expected him to announce a robust mass employment policy. Rather, he declares: “ We have placed a hiring freeze on non-military and non-essential Federal workers.”
All over the world, when people do not have an answer to their problems, they blame others especially the minorities and immigrants and accuse them of criminality and taking their jobs. Adolf Hitler who described the Jews as “That race of criminals” accused them of taking the top jobs in Germany. For this, millions of Jews were eliminated. Today in South Africa with rising unemployment and poverty, the populace accuses Nigerians and other African nationals of taking their jobs, selling drugs and being involved in criminality. For this, the African immigrants are being murdered and their property vandalized. Trump’s Address took a similar route of blaming immigrants for crimes, drug trafficking, unemployment and causing general adversity. He told the Congress: “My Administration has answered the pleas of the American people for immigration enforcement and border security. By finally enforcing our immigration laws, we will raise wages, help the unemployed, save billions of dollars, and make our communities safer for everyone…We will soon begin the construction of a great wall along our southern border. It will be started ahead of schedule and, when finished, it will be a very effective weapon against drugs and crime.”
A displacement crisis of unimaginable proportions afflict humanity; the United Nations Refugee Agency says 65.3 million are displaced with 21.3 million of them being refugees. It is a catastrophe that cannot be ignored. Trump’s solution is “ to create the conditions in which displaced persons can safely return home and begin the long process of rebuilding” It seems a basic solution, but how this can be done is the question he does not answer. First, what is the fate of the refugees which America under Obama had agreed to re-settle? Secondly, to create the conditions under which the displaced can return home, presupposes an end to the wars that put them in flight. So why is America not actively participating in ending the wars it ignited in places like Syria and Afghanistan and those it escalated as in Yemen?
Trump does not believe there is such a human challenge as climate change or endangering the environment. There have been debates and protests against the construction of the 172- mile Keystone and Dakota Access Pipelines which is expected to carry 570,000 barrels of crude oil. The Standing Rock Sioux people on whose lands the pipes will be laid, complain that they would pass underneath the Missouri River which is the source of their drinking water, and that given the frequency of pipe leaks and bursts, the river can be polluted. They also complain of non-proper consultation, while environmentalists argue that fossil fuels should be left in the ground due to their adverse effect on climate change. Trump’s response in his address is: “We have cleared the way for the construction of the Keystone and Dakota Access Pipelines”
Trump made a rehash of his vow to build a wall cutting off Mexico and of a trade war with other countries. He declared: “We’ve lost more than one-fourth of our manufacturing jobs since NAFTA was approved, and we’ve lost 60,000 factories since China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001.”
One basic Trump assumption is that it is only America that can fight; he will find out that other countries are also capable of squaring up in the ring, even if the prized fighter thinks he is Goliath.