By Dr. Ian Clarke
Every empire in history has waxed and waned. In the nineteenth century the British Empire made Britain the most powerful nation in the world, but today Britain is just another nondescript nation, which seems to have lost its way.
Although America has never aspired to be an empire, it has exercised a form of imperialism by virtue of its global influence. The American President is referred to as the most powerful man in the world, though there are others who vie for this position, such as Vladimir Putin, but to put Putin in perspective, he runs a country whose economy is smaller than the State of California in America.
America has been the undisputed leader of the free world for decades, but it seems that the electorate was determined to undermine this position through electing a leader who does not adhere to any of the quintessential values that made America great in the first place. There is a saying that you get the leaders you deserve. I grew up in the deeply divided society of Northern Ireland, divided between Protestant Unionists and Catholic Nationalists.
I believed that there was a moderate, but silent, majority in the middle, but over the years leaders continued to be elected from the extreme fringes. Finally I realized that these leaders were a reflection of the society itself, which had become completely polarized.
There are many kind and good people in the USA, but they chose to elect Donald Trump as their leader. I have spoken to several Americans who voted for Trump, who claimed that they did not support him personally but thought Hilary Clinton was ‘the Devil’.
Trump was well known from his TV shows so it was known that Trump is driven by his ego and sees life as a zero sum: he wins and others lose. People knew his values, but they viewed him as a means to an end: he would put a conservative judge in the Supreme Court, he would role back regulations on business, and he would be tough on immigration, and he has not disappointed in these areas.
They thought that his ego and the more extreme aspects of his behavior, such as objectifying women (when he openly boasted about being able to grope women) were a price they could pay. But he has cut a swathe through many of the traditional American values, backtracked on American global leadership, and approved extreme elements in society.
A society becomes great not simply because of military power, but because of the values it holds. The British were masters of organization and teaching, and were on an incessant quest for understanding the world around them. Many of the great scientific theories and discoveries, such as the proof that the world is round, or the theory of evolution, arose from their voyages of discovery to far-flung corners of the world.
America has been built into a great nation in no small measure because she became the receptacle for the dispossessed of this world. In return, the rejected and the oppressed of other nations gave back to their benefactor and made her great. America has been ‘the land of opportunity’; the Irish fled the Great Famine in the coffin ships and became proud Americans. The Jews fled Europe and became great American traders, intellectuals and film-makers. But now in Trump America, the dregs of humanity are no longer welcome; he only wants the cream from other nations.
But perhaps this is not the worst aspect of recent changes, perhaps it is the change in the value of human dignity, respect for others, and even for life itself. When Americans voted for Trump they chose to overlook his obvious weaknesses in the interests of forwarding their own agenda.
This was especially the case with Evangelical Christians who ignored their own principles in the belief that the end justifies the means. In the latest twist, he lauded one of his aids, who had beaten, not one, but two, of his ex-wives, with the photographic evidence to prove it.
And now there has been yet another gun massacre of teenagers, to which there is no response regarding gun control by either the ruling Republicans or the President, because they are held in the power of the National Rifle Association and the gun lobby.
So American values of acceptance and respect for the disenfranchised, respect for women and minorities, and respect for human life itself, are being turned on their heads. It is now ‘America First’, which really means ‘Me First’ as far as President Trump is concerned.
This is not what made America great. These are individualistic and selfish values, and in Uganda we well know these destroy a nation, not make it great. Trump’s agenda to ‘Make America Great Again’ will result in exactly the opposite. He will make America small and despicable in the eyes of the world because Americans have betrayed their own values, which in time will destroy the fabric of their nation.