Does History Make a Difference?

By William Small
May 17, 2017
Justice Initiative International
Contact: williamsmalljr@gmail.com
The American political landscape currently seems to be in a state of disarray. The confusion that now seems to abound serves to create the impression, in the minds of some, that the Nation is experiencing some transition in its national values. It is true that we have a President who often lacks presidential composure and frequently fails to display a common acceptable standard of coherent adult behavior. However, it is the public unravelling of an American President that is being displayed center stage for the entire world to see, that some find so upsetting.America and particularly African Americans must not be overly influenced by those distractions.   We must not fail to see that the policies and practices which the current President espouses are in fact consistent with what has become the standard United States policy play book. The breakdown in sophistication and competence displayed by the President has resulted in the removal of the mask, and the entire world is now looking at the naked heart of the nation’s political institutions; and they are frightened by what they see. This is the unsettling fact, as we wait to see who will emerge as the adult in the room?

It is for some a special concern that the names mentioned most as potentially helpful stable adults, and as persons who understand national and international government, are names that are most often drawn from a cadre of leaders who ”are” military Generals. These Generals have quietly exchanged their uniforms for business suits. My special concern is reinforced in the old adage “that if the only tool you have or the tool that you are most comfortable with is a hammer- then every problem looks like a nail”. I do not think it is a political coincidence that America has “just discovered” how antiquated and unprepared the United State military establishment has reportedly become. It is not, for me, a coincidence that the President of North Korea has selectively emerged as the newest and largest threat to the United States and to United State global interests: “Remember the Maine”, remember the Gulf of Tonkin, remember The Weapons of Mass Destruction,” remember Muammar Gaddafi. Most of all remember how the nature of war has changed over the last century. Remember that war today is almost entirely an enterprise orchestrated by proxy nations and supported by a non-draft based United State Military machine. A machine that has been consistently engaged in the enterprise of war for the last half century and has not produced a significant victory since WWII. The economic cost of war and the lingering negative impacts on survivors, civilian non-combatants, infrastructure, antiquities and other natural and valuable human and physical resources, could easily provide for peace-if peace was the desired outcome.

President Trump was praised by nearly all for acting Presidential when he fired 80 or so missiles into Syria, at the reported cost of 93 million dollars and a superb chocolate cake. This, of course, was in retaliation for their alleged use of poison gas by Syria. The President and UN Ambassador Niki Haley railed over the horrible sight of dead children who were presumed to have been poisoned by the gas incident.

However, when any person dies unnecessarily and in-humanely, death is a horror. We must remember that the United States and its Allies have flown thousands of sorties on Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Yemen, killing untold numbers of civilians and children in the process. Drone strikes have been invoked by the United States that have killed the 16 year old son of Anwar al Awlaki who was a United States citizen. Later the 8 year old daughter of al Awlaki was reported to have also been killed in a United States supported air strike. I heard no apologies recited, I heard no sympathies expressed. One child killed under the Obama administration, one child killed under the Trump administration. America must ask whether all lives do matter or whether the pronouncement is just more “fake news”.

Sadly, perhaps the real differences between both of America’s major political parties have been absorbed by the dominant values they share. Values like race and class privilege, power and an unholy respect for capital. Perhaps the “Citizens United” case has reduced establishment politics in America to a frenetic scramble for money, advantage and personal insulation from accountability. The Trump administration is actively stripping the veneer of specialness off of the American Democratic System.

As America watches the irrationality, “the voters become increasingly confused and upset” and the politicians try desperately to ignore or exploit the inconsistencies and the aberrations. Solutions seem to become further and further removed from the grasp and consciousness of our elected officials.  Try as it may, this presidential administration, comports itself in a way which unmistakably says that wealth and white privilege continues to “Trump” the values of democracy in America and in the jurisdictions which America controls.

I ask the reader to reflect back to the election of President Obama. The Republican establishment was “as clear as a bell” that they were not going to accept Black political leadership. They vowed to work to insure President Obama’s marginalization and hopefully his failure. There was no serious recital of any ideological differences to support their position. None was necessary. It was not a difference in party objectives that put their bigotry on the national record. It was the resurrection of America’s historical nemesis “Racial Bigotry and the fear of losing ‘White Control'”. It could not have been said more plainly by the Republican establishment if they had posted a sign saying “Blacks Need Not Apply”. Like the Harlem Hell Fighters of WWI, President Obama, because of American racism, was more highly regarded abroad than he was in the halls of government in the country where he had been elected President.

The official Republican racist reaction to the election of an African American President was never specifically defined or adequately challenged by elected Democrats or by Black leadership. The Republican response to the election of Barack Hussein as the President of the United States, patently and quickly removed any doubt as to whether or not the spirit of the COINTELPRO was alive and well in America. Remember it was once announced under that program that Dr. Martin Luther King was “the most dangerous Negro in America”.

The question for Black political activists, strategists and leaders of all stripes and persuasions as the world and nation wrestle with the Trump approach to governing simply is: “What have we, as Black people, learned from history and how will that learning be manifested?”

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Dr. William Small, Jr. is a retired educator, and a former Board Chairman
and Trustee at South Carolina State University.
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