“The truth does not care about our governments, ideologies, religions. It will lie in wait… I once would fear the cost of truth. Now I only ask, what is the cost of lies?
“[…] Every lie we tell incurs a debt to the truth. Sooner or later, that debt is paid.” — Valery Legasov, Soviet scientist, Chair of the Chernobyl Commission.
That debt for the USA came due this week; we should learn the lessons. As Legasov documented, governmental pressure and desires often perpetrate unfolding tragedy that costs other people’s lives.
We, in our twin-island state, should use our strength not to litigate the ills of the USA but remove the scales from our eyes.
At the core of the US insurrection is the lie about the value of human beings. When we believe that some are more valuable than others, we are engaged in an ideological posture. We call it racism in the USA but what do we call it here?
Racism leads to structural inequities that affect the quality of lives and the chances of success. When President Donald Trump on 5 November 2020 names Detroit and Philadelphia as cities that should not determine the outcome of elections, it is akin to us casting aspersions on Laventille—a place rich in political and cultural history but with people of a certain colour and social class.
Detroit, the largest city in Michigan, was the hub of the auto industry and the home of Motown music. It is decaying because black people lost their jobs and therefore their homes.
Philadelphia, the largest city in Pennsylvania, is known as the home of the Liberty Bell and it is where the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were signed. But it has the third largest Black US community.
Subsequently, Arizona was added to the Senate’s electoral challenges because for the first time the Hispanic vote broke from the Republican base.
Do we need to spell out Laventille’s contributions?
When we ignore the plight of those who wait for interminable hours at our hospitals, we too are behaving as though public health does not matter. When the elites get special privileges while others suffer, we too are Marie Antoinette. The elites convince us that we lack personal responsibility to help ourselves to do better.
Martin Luther King Jr, in discussing the ‘promissory note’ that the Black Americans were holding, lamented “instead of honouring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad cheque, a cheque that has come back marked ‘insufficient funds’”.
Sadly, we too are doing the same to many, using the virus as an excuse.
This week Neil Sheehan, the ‘Pentagon Papers’ journalist, died. He was at the epicentre of the famed showdown between the Nixon administration and the press.
Locally, we castigate investigative journalism, seek to identify their sources and intimidate such intrepid souls. We give support to narcissists who believe that they alone can save us from destruction.
We believe that social media, unfiltered and unverified and driven by algorithms, is better than the well-sourced report. We like and believe ‘doctors’, who hawk conspiracy theories and divisive positions. Shades of Senators Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley.
President Trump claimed that he alone could fix the state of the nation and promised to ‘drain the swamp’. He claimed to have done the most for black people. Were these claims ever true?
Ignoring personal history and actions, we too believe the robber talk of some who live among us and hail them as patriots. We are simple-minded trusting folk.
As an imperfect believer, I am deeply disappointed with Christian leaders, here and there, who promote lies. As Romans 1: 25 says, ‘They exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised’.
Their silence or embrace of politicians for short-term gain sabotage their prophetic voice. Claiming to speak on behalf of God, they feast on ill-gotten wealth while being blind to the needs of the poor. They sidle up to politicians to get a piece of the action, praising them instead of the Sovereign God, and so cannot denounce the wrong actions.
The Bible warns us ‘remove the beam in our eyes before attempting to take the speck from our neighbour’s’.
The old people would tell us, ‘when your neighbour house is on fire, wet yours’.