S Waithe: This is America: eroded values, abused ideals, and ‘white privilege’

Any recovering alcoholic will tell you that the first step is admission of the problem, so attempts can be made to address it. Crucially, they are encouraged to acknowledge that the problem never goes away—they will always remain an alcoholic—but that admission creates the necessary control over said problem. 

What the world witnessed on Capitol Hill on Wednesday 6 January was the problem. But what continued in its immediate aftermath was the lack of admission of the problem. 

Photo: Supporters of US president Donald Trump try to break through a police barrier at the Capitol in Washington, as Congress prepares to affirm president-elect Joe Biden’s victory on 6 January 2021.

‘This is not America’ was the repeated sound bite, followed by stereotypical portraits of the ‘real America’—a place of white picket fences, neighbourly love and community spirit; where being American comes first, before colour, race and class. 

The storming of the Hill, we were assured, was the action of a few (the one beer that won’t affect the alcoholic), not the majority of good-thinking citizens. Except that 74 million represents a fair amount of people. And while it was ‘a few’ of those 74 million that desecrated their own vaunted democratic process, they were given licence by a leader who was still able to garner that many votes after a shambolic, divisive, flame-fanning tenure in the Oval Office. 

That’s 74 million people who believed in their president and are, by extension, part of the culture that flew Confederate flags within the Capitol Hill dome. 

This is not to condemn every Republican supporter for exercising their right to vote for whomever they choose. But it points to the wider decay across America that the ideals of freedom of speech, the right to bear arms and other tenets of their society, can be abused and manipulated in the grab for power at all costs.

Should the world really be surprised that Trump supporters stormed the Capitol? Didn’t he publicly incite the action? 

Photo: US president Donald Trump speaks during a ‘Save America Rally’ near the White House in Washington, DC on 6 January 2021. Trump’s months-long effort to toss out the election results and extend his presidency is expected to meet its formal end this week.
(Copyright Shawn Thew/EPA/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The spoilt child reaction to losing the general election came as no shock. So too the blatant and transparent attempts to be a disruptive force in the remaining days before Joe Biden’s inauguration, and to set the divisive tone for the next four years. Trump has already succeeded in both because in the America of the 2020s, the problem is still dismissed as the actions of ‘a few’.     

There can be no more blatant example of Trump’s continued influence and power than his ability to whip his supporters into a frenzy, have them storm the bastion of the nation’s democracy (armed with the safety of white privilege), then when prompted, ask them to disperse. That’s a lot of power.  

If we did not know it before, we do now. Despite whatever was said in the Senate in the aftermath of Wednesday’s events, this is actually about the man. This goes beyond the Republican Party, it is now about the individual, the personality, ‘The Donald’. 

The Republican Party is simply the vehicle that he used to get into power. And if we recognise that, so do the Republican senators. 

Photo: Armed guards try in vain to keep Donald Trump supporters from breaching the US Senate on Capitol Hill on 6 January 2021.

When the Senate reconvened and the time came to stand up and be counted, to put the nation—indeed the Party—first, there was still political grandstanding; the adherence to Trump’s childish game as senators were unwilling to call Biden’s name as the president elect.   

Senator Mitt Romney possessed the necessary cojones to lead by example, to condemn his party’s leader and acknowledge Biden by name. Thankfully others followed, but as long as America continues to play political correctness with its domestic decay it will remain in the perpetual spin that resulted in the great divide we see today.  

‘Complicit’ means staying silent as the president abuses his power. ‘Complicit’ means staying silent while Hitler-esque levels of propaganda and lies are generated and spread throughout your nation. ‘Complicit’ is going along with post election shenanigans designed to frustrate the political process and achieve nothing else. 

What is the point of political correctness at such a crucial juncture? 

Like the alcoholic that looks himself in the mirror, fighting to make the admission, the US has to do the same. Dismissive comments won’t work when the few are part of the whole. 

Photo: A Donald Trump supporter storms Capital Hill with a Confederate flag during a riot on 6 January 2021.

Right wing elements will not just go away. Racist slavery residue cannot be abolished like slavery itself when it is indoctrinated into the society. When an individual like Trump can tap into those elements to gain power, it’s because it was close to the surface and ripe for abuse. 

These problems are not the sole domain of the US, but, like Britain, their brand of democracy is held up and pushed onto the rest of the world as the template for others to follow. That ideal has been eroded. 

It is time for America to stop the idealism of yesteryear, to sit in that Senate circle of intervention and admit ‘we have a serious problem’ which is not simply dismissed as the remit of the few. The few thousand that ran amok on the Hill were, much like their intended champion, representative of a much greater number. 

Given the ease with which protestors got into one of the most secure buildings on the planet, which conspiracy theorist would not buy into the notion that the sitting president had a hand in ensuring that his supporters could get as far as the speaker’s seat for maximum impact? 

This is where are today. ‘This is not America’ —except that it is. Or rather ‘This is America, accept that it is.’

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About Sheldon Waithe

Sheldon Waithe
Sheldon Waithe is an avid freelance writer who divides his articles between sport, politics and tourism. Using the other side of his brain, he is also the owner and Director of Communique Debt Recovery Ltd aiming to redefine corporate debt collection in T&T.

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