Two Cheers For Hillary And Hope

One of my favourite  contemporary writers is the Nigerian author Wole Soyinka, the first literary Nobel laureate of the African continent. I read him in Leeds with writers like Chinua
08 Nov 2016 11:00
Two Cheers For Hillary  And Hope
Satendra Nandan

One of my favourite  contemporary writers is the Nigerian author Wole Soyinka, the first literary Nobel laureate of the African continent.

I read him in Leeds with writers like Chinua Achebe, the more popular of the two. And both were from Nigeria and got caught in the tragic civil war of their country.

They became exiles and Soyinka was imprisoned; subsequently he was condemned to death in absentia.

He escaped the fate of Ken Saro-Wiwa. But his book The Man Died remains a moving document of imprisonment and a serious indictment of the then Nigerian regime. But he lived to tell the tragic tale of his nation and his people.

We know Mr Achebe for his first book, Things Fall Apart, published in English in 1958. It’s  widely read and has now achieved the status of a classic. Mr Achebe died a few years ago, a disillusioned man and writer for he saw what had happened to his richly endowed country and how it was being ruined by many of his own people. He couldn’t blame colonialism any longer.

Mr Soyinka  has been more politically active including being the President of the Writers Parliament in Strasbourg. And only the other day, he made a statement: “If Donald Trump gets elected, I’ll tear up my green card and leave the USA,” where he’s been teaching for years.

Another friend I’ve known from my student days in Delhi and who has been at the University of Berkley, California, for decades, wants to migrate to Australia, if Donald D Trump triumphs.

I was hoping to visit him next year.

But I think one should have more faith in the American democracy: both the distinguished writer, whom I’ve never met, and the Delhi mathematician, from whose home I got married, suddenly seem so deeply disillusioned by the ‘greatest democracy in the world’.

How has Mr Trump achieved this? Surely it has to do more than mere male chauvinism and emails?

This has been the most astonishing and atrocious US presidential campaign in living memory: rude, crude and lewd.

Barack Obama’s election to the oval office in the White House was a refreshing change after George Bush Jr.

It’s true that President Obama hasn’t been able to achieve so many things in his two-terms as President, but he has prevented involving the American ground troops in any major world conflict.

And that is no small achievement in the inflammable Middle East, rich in oil, fuelled by the zeal of the zealots and the greed of outsiders.

Mr Obama, in my opinion, has been an outstanding president for the US. And the world is a better place with the possibilities of a healthier climate. And every time he speaks, there’s hope and decency in his words and voice and the essential goodness of a civilisation prevails.

While Mr Trump’s slogan ‘Make America Great Again’  seems to have a subtext: ‘Make America Hate Again’! And here Hillary Clinton’s two words ‘Stronger Together’ seem a much more positive and sober message to the American voters and the free world.

When Mr Trump descends low; Mrs Clinton ascends high: one hopes ‘love trumps hate’ on election day.

That has been her unruffled strategy and I think it will pay off on Tuesday. Polls indicate a close result: my instinct tells me: it’ll be a decisive victory for an extraordinary woman.

Mrs Clinton doubtless will make a more worthy President after Mr Obama: her experience in the White House, as a the wife of President Clinton and how she stood by him in his arousal years; as a New York Senator; and as the US Secretary of State, amply qualifies her to the highest office in the land.

She has written two major books and the first volume Living History is a powerful memoir that chronicles her personal history in love and politics and the courage with which she has survived personal betrayals and public scrutiny.

The volume ends with her waltzing away after eight years as the First Lady. It looks as if she is, once again, predestined for the White House for another eight years.

I’ve been reading her fascinating memoirs and Obama’s Dreams from My Father. These two leaders of America are really complex thinkers and writers. And I think writing has made them better human beings.

Because in writing the journey is always inward and the mind clarifies and questions many things as one writes. Words become witnesses to one’s innermost thoughts. And it’s difficult to be dishonest to oneself.

Most leaders harangue the populace by simply reading what others have written. And this doesn’t make for good politics, because their convictions are not rooted in any deep contemplation of the consequences of their words and actions.

I do not know if Mr Trump has ever uttered a memorable sentence or written a quotable paragraph; but he has built towers and casinos and saved billions in tax avoidance. One of his famous casinos is named Taj Mahal—the name of a famous mausoleum. The election could see him metaphorically buried there.

Apparently Mr Trump builds towers: it’s a face that can also burn many topless towers in the world.

His personality seems unsuitable for a presidency with the nuclear code so close to his rather salacious fingertips. And this is profoundly worrying.

But more disastrous is his blithe ignorance about world affairs. And how the multi-polar world works  in politics, economics, trade relations, diplomacy and what-have-you. Even the only super-power in the world has its severe limitations.

Whatever we may think of the USA and its many hypocritical policies, it’s still the best democracy in a world full of some of the worst leaders; more than a basket full of deplorables have got elected in several countries recently. The news is not encouraging from many corners of our global village with borders closing daily.

And America’s strength comes from some of her individuals and institutions. They are both creative and critical and often generous despite the blunders of their many gun-trotting politicians.

The war-fires in Iraq and the Middle East are simply egregious examples of many with their seeds sown after World War I.

In a world so conflict-ridden, imagine what could Donald Trump do with it? His populist philosophy, his penchant for Vladimir Putin, and building walls, will all be barriers to world peace which remains the most vital idea of our world.

Recently I’ve been reading Homer’s The Illiad, from where so much of the civilisations of the West takes it origins: two lines caught my attention:

We are all held in a single honour, the brave and the weaklings.

A man dies still if he has done nothing, as one who has done much.

This is uttered by the hero of the epic, Achilles.

We are held in a single honour” is true of our world too, not only for the ancient Greeks and the Trojans.

One of my great disappointments is that Donald Trump hasn’t uttered a single sentence that has captured my mind or imagination.

He speaks in little sound-bites and innuendoes. His attack on Mrs Clinton is simply unworthy of a man who aspires to the highest office.

It puts him in the category of some pretty repulsive leaders of a few countries.

The vulgar attacks on migrants and asylum seekers seem the first resort of some of these scoundrels. A recent report shows that 1.3 million people who reached Europe last year represent 0.2 per cent of the European Union total population.

Suddenly they have become a threat to western civilisation? So walls have to be erected, according to Mr Trump against the Mexicans whose immigrant destiny is part of Mr Trump’s national history.

Living history tells us how the European continent sent its huddled masses, escaping religious persecution, wars, famine, fascism, communism, to many parts of the world to structure vibrant societies from North America to the Southern Lands, Australasia.

Mrs Clinton will be the first female President of the US in its 240 years of independence.

And that is a wonderful thing for the world of women and men, and our children and grandchildren.

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