CAREFUL WHAT YOU PRAY FOR...
Over the holidays I joined two colleagues for dinner at Big Chef in Rodney Bay. It wasn’t long before we were discussing the particularly low points of yet another all-lows year about to evanesce. With few reasonable explanations for the current state of once simply beautiful Saint Lucia, one of my companions did what most of us do when confronted by the consequences of our persistent inertia: he passed the buck. “What we need here is a leader like Donald Trump!” he said.
I was reminded of another unforgettable encounter at least a decade older with two locally renowned businessmen, one of them a respected engineer. Determined to convince him of the near limitless power of combined effort, I proffered the following scenario: “Imagine your life depended on lifting a heavy lump of iron from the ground to knee height. You try with one hand. It does not budge. What’s your next move?”
His lightning-fast response short-circuited my brain: “Make it lighter.“
“And how do you do that?” I asked.
“I don’t know!”
Since then I’ve come to accept as a Saint Lucian idiosyncrasy our abiding interest in other people’s motes, whether or not Internet inventions. But back to my fellow journalists at the dinner table.
“Why do we need a Donald Trump?”
“Well,” he said, “Trump doesn’t just talk the talk. He keeps his word, regardless of what others may think.”
“Are you saying what we need in Saint Lucia is some kind of banana republic dictator?” He wasn’t ready for this one. He blinked, but that didn’t mean he was about to change direction. In Saint Lucia, consistency is everything; regardless of how foolish. It’s we kolcha.
“Well, yes,” he replied,
“if you wish, go ahead and call him a dictator. But he gets the job done. People seem not to understand Trump made promises to his base and obviously he’s determined to deliver.”
I reminded him that in recent times the president’s approval rating had plummeted; he was the focus of several investigations involving his business adventures in various parts of the world, including Russia, that may have impacted his run for the presidency.
“Hey, c’mon,” my friend chuckled while dismissively waving me off with his free left hand. “That’s mainstream media stuff. I never watch CNN and I read neither the New York Times nor the Washington Post. They can’t be trusted.
All they ever carry on Trump is fake news.” He named as his more reliable sources two or three online publications. I’d never heard of them before, an admission that seemed to afford him pleasure beyond measure. I went on: “What do you know about your favorite online authors? Do you fact-check them? Do you even remember their names? Their history as reporters?”
On all counts his answers were negative. I had just one more question: “How can you be sure what you read about Trump, what you see on his favorite TV stations, aren’t specially filtered with folks like you in mind?” He admitted he couldn’t prove otherwise. Then again, that’s what faith has always been about: deep irreversible belief without proof. It would’ve served no useful purpose to bring up that Trump had openly advocated violence against those not supportive of his election campaign. My friend had to have known that already. Or that Trump had publicly demonstrated a callous attitude to those differently able. Or that the President of the United States thought nothing of grabbing women by their doodahs.
I have absolutely no doubt that had I mentioned porn phenomenon Stormy Daniels and former Playboy bunny Karen McDougal my dinner companion would’ve struggled to recall intimate details about Monica Lewinsky. In Saint Lucia the only thing more commonplace than belief in boloms is whataboutery.
We return to my friend’s earlier expressed dream wish: a home-grown Donald Trump; a leader for whom good governance was all about dat base (apologies to Meghan Trainor). Throughout our exchanges our other friend had been uncharacteristically silent as he concentrated on his seafood plate and his wine. “I’m not the only one who thinks we need a leader like Trump,” said the declared Trumpostle at our table. “So does he!”
Not anymore, it appeared. I tried to draw him out several times but he seemed abruptly to have undergone an attitudinal sea change. We spent the rest of the evening, 30 minutes or so, trying in vain to figure out what might be the motive behind Philip J. Pierre’s no-confidence motion, reportedly scheduled for parliamentary debate later this month.
What continues to occupy my mind weeks later is my colleague’s long-distance love affair with a Donald Trump who may or may not actually exist. How telling that he seemed to know intimate details about the American president but barely remembered who was Allan Louisy or George Odlum. As for his dream wish, I dare to say we’ve never had a leader who did not demonstrate while in office the contemptible characteristics now synonymous with Donald Trump. Where Saint Lucia is concerned, Donald Trump is déjà vu.
Consider the 1994 story about a local prime minister’s extra-marital shenanigans with a schoolgirl not yet sixteen. On countless occasions he had applied to the British, Canadian and American embassies for visas in the name of the young girl, whom he falsely claimed as a relative—and on paper embossed with the nation’s
coat of arms. Could Trump have survived such behavior? I doubt it. But his local counterpart certainly did!
I could name at least one prime minster of a sister island who was more than once publicly accused of sexual assault without suffering a dent in his approval rating. You’re probably thinking, so what? Trump got away with that too. In which case I would advise you to wait until the fat lady sings her version of Estelle Waters’ Stormy Weather.
Could President Trump have gotten away with Frenwell and Grynberg? Again, I have my doubts. But a local prime minister certainly has. Remember when candidate Trump told the world he was so popular that if he were to shoot someone on New York’s Fifth Avenue he wouldn’t lose a vote? Idle hyperbole? Braggadocio? Maybe, but more importantly, Trump stopped short of naming his target, unlike a campaigning local prime minister who in 2016 had identified a father and his son as marked men—again with impunity!
Long before Donald Trump publicly labeled certain countries “shitholes,” long beFore he explained on TV the best way to treat a lady, prime ministers throughout our region were carrying on as if they were above the law doing with impunity most of the things now synonymous with the current widely despised President of the United States.