BIG STORY: THE IDES OF
MARCH ARE COME’ – BY SATENDRA NANDAN
Julius Caesar: The Ides of March are come. Soothsayer: Ay Caesar; but not gone!
Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Act III, Scene 1. So the Republican Party is slowly waking from its political stupor into a nightmare. Donald Trump’s campaign jet is now flying more triumphantly with T inscribed brazenly on its silvery tail. It will be difficult to stop the juggernaut of both style and money of the presidential aspirant. Whatever we may think, the US presidential primaries for the most powerful position in the world arouses worldwide interest. It’s one hell of a version of democratic politics.
Trump, dangerously wild candidate
Mr Trump , to me, has been a rather dangerously wild candidate, card or cad—take your pick. No-one envies him his real estate wealth or his rather well decorated jet. It’s all part of the great contemporary political circus. The symbol for G.O.P is an elephant; of the Democratic party, it’s a donkey! In between come creatures like us whose lives are affected by what happens out there.
Normally this would be fun. But there are worrying signs about Donald Trump. He doesn’t seem to regard democratic politics with any genuine respect. Indeed he thinks, even perhaps believes, the whole thing is a great tama
sha— the Hindi word is just the right one for his campaign. To think, if nominated in July and elected in November, President Trump as commander-in-chief of the most lethal force on the planet, will have the secret codes of the nuclear arsenal on his fingertips, would be frightening were not such a preposterous possibility a farcical reality.
Right-wing leaders shaping the world in self-image
But one can’t be sure—there is that Great Leader of North Korea threatening to blow up parts of the world at every perceived threat from his neigh- bours. And he is not even thinking of walls and punches. There’s a tendency in this century for several right-wing, toxic leaders to emerge and shape the world in their self-image. This has happened in several democracies. Most of these men and women have no idea of how to deal with the new challenges either in their societies or in the plural and expanding universe.
They want to cling stubbornly to their belief systems on which the oppressive pillars of hierarchy, patriarchy, gender, race , religion, communalism, class and caste are founded with the special privileges for the few, by the few. And they thrive on divisions and subdivisions of fear, nations, religions, wealth and people. One great and distressing danger of all this is that it reduces our faith in democratic politics.
And that is a tragedy for everything is, in the final reckoning, determined by the politics of a nation, both virtually and vertically, with all the virtues and vices that human flesh is heir to. We know in politics the crooked timber of humanity is present but the tree is very much there: we rest in its shade, we build with its boughs, we eat its fruits and leaves, we use its wood; and the birds build their nests in its foliage. And when we cut the tree down, the tree of men and women bleeds.
Politics, oxygen of air we breathe
Politics is really the oxygen of the air we breathe – you pollute that atmosphere and we have less fresh air to breathe in. And sooner than later we’ll feel suffocated by more than carbon emissions. It happened in Europe, and India, and even Fiji. We’ve had experience of this in Fiji when we damaged our speaking tree of a humane language and thought. The wrong kind of politics can corrupt our inner- most culture and values. Politics is ultimately about human relationships and what a nation or a people can do together against all odds.
The ancient civilisations of Iraq and Syria are now in ruins and the desert landscapes are starkly desolate and deserted.
If we don’t get the politics right, our institutions and values would be diminished and derogated.
The great experiment of the US has been its capacity to create, sometimes through assassinations and guns, the most dynamic, modern civilisation. There’s doubtless crass materialism but it’s often balanced by genuine idealism. No nation has given so much to the world in such abundance. Life, liberty and pursuit of happiness are huge challenges and great ideals, though when the ideals were being fashioned, there were slaves under the log cabins and lynchings not far away.
Good politics in India
This gift of good politics is part of the largest democracy, that is, India. Terrible deeds happen on that vast sub-continent and many people believed that India will never survive as a nation. But it has and it will soon, I hope, show a new light to the world amid the encircling gloom of current American experience and experiment. But when you look around, despite its immense and immeasurable challenges, the Indian flag is flying high.
Indian democracy – plural, diverse, secular - has become the hope of much of the world.
This idea of India is often challenged from within and occasionally from without but somehow the oceanic-Himalayan nation pushes the debris out of its mainstream. The mainstream is always a few leaders and the multitudinous ideas, polyphonic voices of a billion ordinary people.
Trump as President- almost blasphemous The problem with Donald Trump is that I haven’t come across a single idea the man has articulated which deserves our respect and attention in the modern world.
If anything, he has introduced a political idiom of vulgarity, violence and violations of many colours. Some people think he’s a colourful personality. That, I think, will be a tragic perception of a very egocentric and shallow person. You’ll have to go back to Europe of the 1930s to find parallels with some of the most nefarious demagogues. True now he’s top of the rat race : but even if you win the rat race you still remain a rat! And to think Donald Trump could be the president of the US, after Barack Obama, is almost blasphemous. Long before Obama created history by becoming the President of the US, almost eight years ago, he wrote two books: Dreams From my Father and The Audacity of Hope, both projecting a vision of his country and leadership. Imagine even a significant speech by Mr Trump that could compare with anything by President Obama. And to think this man could replace one of America’s most intelligent and thoughtful presidents is unthinkable. Skyscrapers and jets don’t make leaders. It’s worth contemplating this at Easter.
To some Mr Trump seems to be the “suppository of all wisdom” as one of our former leaders had remarked ,and wanted to shirt-front Putin. Such political wisdom should remain where it is. And he has been dumped as a leader. The bigoted and incendiary rhetoric of Donald Trump is politically fatal. As Hillary Clinton remarked: If you play with matches, you’ll a start a fire and that‘s no political leadership, it is political arson. We of course have experienced that in Fiji. Consequently the creative energy of a generation has been lost fighting that kind of evil. The ‘axis of evil’ often comes home to roost? As someone who lives by and in words, what I find most distressing is that Mr Trump has reduced the positive energy of language into the hollowness of his thoughtlessness. One can barely remember an inspiring utterance from the man. And that is the price a culture pays if our feeding comes from the constant stream of verbal sludge of reality TV and puerile commentators. Mr Trump cannot, it seems, put a sentence together. He speaks in sound bytes and his audience laps it up much to their gullible shame. Luckily in these primaries hardly 20 per cent of the eligible voters vote. So in November, when the voters are cast their ballots to elect the President, one hopes the good sense of the majority will prevail.
Last Republican President brought disaster But there’s the rub—can one count on that? The last Republican President’s elevation to that office was finally determined by the US Supreme Court. And what a disaster—wars, waste of trillions of dollars, millions of refugees, thousands of lives lost, ancient cities destroyed, and an ugliness spawned in the world of today in search of the nonexistent WMD. From his Trump Tower, Donald might see the Manhattan cityscape. But it’s well to remember that even twin towers are toppled by a sense of madness. And if you built your triumph on the mendacity of your supporters, you’ll not be able to dismount that tiger in a hurry.
Pray for Hillary So I fervently pray for Hillary Clinton. And watch the finals of T20 world cricket championships being played in India. Last Tuesday’s result: NZ from down Down Under, thrashed India in the first match. Not an auspicious beginning in the largest democracy of the world. Some things are worth celebrating even if you lose the first round! Satendra Nandan’s Brief Encounters was published last year. His forthcoming book is a travelogue – his first journey from Nadi to New Delhi - to be published later this year.
US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump during his campaign.