For the rest of us, it hardly matters but under Trump the US will at least get to be intimate with itself, says Azad Essa.
Pretoria - There has never been an election quite like it. In American history that is. A straight-up neo-fascist and a progressive-talking war monger face-off in the most embarrassing election in the free world. And by tomorrow morning we should know if it will be Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton that has won this slugfest. Oh, how far we have fallen from the days Barack Obama charmed even the most cynical among us.
The choices in this election are certainly closer to home. And for many of us looking in from the outside, it would remind us of the scarce options we have had in our own domains. Take, for instance Kenya’s 2013 election which pitted Uhuru Kenyatta against Raila Odinga; South Africa’s 2014 vote featuring Jacob Zuma and Helen Zille; or India’s 2014 battle between Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi. It’s as if there is a dearth of reliable, honest leadership everywhere. Watching the US suffer from the same symptoms is of little consolation. It does help to know that we aren’t alone.
But there is one difference. As the most powerful country in the world, America holds out its credentials as the standard, as the flag-bearer of the progressive world. Through its political and economic institutions that look to permeate each and every corner of the globe, it bids us to manage ourselves in its shadow. And through its volley of sophisticated cultural exports, it urges us to see the world through its eyes. It commands veneration as a force of good. The reality is very different.
And there are many ways of looking at it. For instance, debates have raged over the extent to which the South African state has been captured by the Guptas. In what seems outrageous at first, isn’t all that extraordinary. By virtue of the tremendous bailouts of American banks after the crash in 2008, it is beyond doubt that the US government is captured by corporates. Same goes for India, where a stunning partnership between Hindutva and rampant capitalism has taken root. In this grand collusion between capital and the political elite, the country keeps on going to wars to benefit of defence industries. And it is the people who routinely suffer.
The US is no different. Take a simple indicator like infant mortality, often used to rate the health of a nation. The lack of access to health care to the poor in the US means that despite being the richest country, the US has a higher rate of infant mortality than Botswana, Sri Lanka, even Libya.
Then there is culture and sophistry. The Americans you meet at restaurants in Sandton, or in lonely charities in Lilongwe or on your holidays in Spain who apologise for their drones or never-ending wars or sprout disdain for incessant racism back home is not the real America.
Even the loud ones that irritate you at airports do not represent the country they’ve left behind. They are often still the best of the lot. And they are “with her”.
The real America is really just an uncouth, creepy and paranoid white male terrified that social progress is about to leave him behind. Sure, as a melting pot it is light years ahead of Europe when it comes to the “possibility of opportunity for all”. A black, brown man can make it in America if they play by “the rules” of white America.
In Europe, a black man will always just be a former colonial subject. But America is still racist. And narcissistic. And selectively ignorant. It is built on catch-phrases, hashtag activism and simplistic solutions to complex problems. Some of the better ones may have been galvanised by the Bernie phenomenon, but the political system is so rigged that the Clinton establishment cut him out.
A Clinton presidency would usher in the first female president of the US - a feat that would arrive years after so-called lesser nations like Nepal, Indonesia, Kyrgyzstan, Turkey Taiwan, Thailand, Sri Lanka, India, the Philippines, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
But the logic of the American state apparatus would remain the same. The sophisticated lexicon of “development” and “assistance” would remain mere euphemisms for bombs and regime change. While the emphasis has remained on her “lost e-mails”, her actual crimes are far more incendiary.
Donald Trump would be a nightmare for Americans, especially if he pushes for right-wing Supreme Court judges or changes laws or builds that wall.
For the rest of us, it hardly matters. Under a Trump or Clinton presidency, children will still get burnt alive by US-led bombardments in Kunduz, Afghanistan, as it happened recently. Coups would still be measured by their worth to American interests and not per peopleâ??s right to democracy.
American-led financial institutions would still dictate sweeping cuts to social expenditure much to the detriment of the poor in nations like Malawi. Israel will still be allowed to expand its illegal settlements and interfere in its neighbourhood in much the same way apartheid South Africa did.
In short, nothing changes. The world will remain as dangerous as it has always been. But under a Trump presidency, America gets to be intimate with herself. And that is always a good thing.
* Essa is a journalist at Al Jazeera. He is also the co-founder of The Daily Vox.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.