TOWARDS the end of the prologue of his best-selling book, “The Audacity of Hope”, former U.S. president, Barack Obama writes: “Recently, one of the reporters covering Capitol Hill stopped me on the way to my office and mentioned that she had enjoyed reading my first book. “I wonder,” she said, “if you can be that interesting in the next one you write.” By which she meant, I wonder if you can be that honest now that you are a U.S. senator.
Of course, Obama’s journey to the White House has not been without its challenges, having to succeed George W. Bush, who has spent eight years in office despite making some of the biggest gaffes in the office’s history. But Obama, ever the optimist, had to prove that America could renew its image, sentiments he expressed in his aforementioned book. After the world was filled with wonder as to why the younger Bush ever got to the White House, Obama was to be the wonder boy who would rescue it from shame.
But Obama was audacious enough to face down criticism in a respectful way, often engaging in self-deprecating humour to lessen the sting. From triumph to misstep, he ensured that America must embrace certain positive values that have shaped its character. Among those values is immigration, without which America itself would not be as great as it thinks.
President Donald Trump’s recent racist remarks that referred to Haiti and African countries as “shithole countries” in his attempts to justify plugging the immigration flow from those countries go counter to the embrace America has extended to the world for many decades. Not only has Trump faltered in using his words poorly, but he was also showing up his insensitivity to a nastier degree.
As a so-called leader of the free world, Trump should know better than to lambaste other nations with such hurtful rhetoric, especially when cities like Detroit which have been decaying for years now since the economic meltdown nearly a decade ago continue to struggle to survive.
As a region that has always chosen to play second fiddle to the United States, the Caribbean must understand Trump’s statement clearly by recognizing that it is a blatant attack on people not of Trump’s pigmentation. With Haiti being a regional metaphor for standing up against suppression and Africa being the cradle of origin for many of the region’s people’s ancestors, Trump’s statement on immigration policy went beyond that. Plain and simple, the region demands an apology from Trump – without any undue delay.
Just when America was beginning to show that it had any semblance of being audacious about hope for itself and the rest of the world, Trump has emerged to diffuse that process by creating division instead of unity. If Trump truly knows what it takes to lead, he should know that being respectful of other cultures play a crucial part in building relationships.
After all, had it not been for America’s open immigration policy Obama’s father would not have migrated to America to study, thereby meeting Obama’s mother, a white American who – like her parents — embraced her son with all that she had.
As for the cited prologue, Trump is a different kettle of fish altogether because while Obama did his best by being audacious to live up to the positive promises he made as a senator and later president, Trump has used his time in office to trample upon the very things that contributed to making America great in the first place: people. Today’s Trump is much the same – and honest – as he has ever been, even though his brand of honesty as president is what rubs many more people the wrong way.