As hugely as I’ve always admired (the United States of) America’s avowed ideal of achieving greatness by grating against every ideology devoted to denying its own and other people equal rights to ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’, I’ve simultaneously regretted its many failures to keep this noble goal in sight.
Even from the very first, for example, the ringing core statement in the Declaration of the American states’ Independence from the intolerably grating Great Britain that ‘all men are created equal’ and are endowed with ‘unalienable Rights’ including ‘Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,’ was given the lie by the continued acceptance of slavery.
And it took almost a century of berating and grating, not to mention a catastrophic civil war, to unite the previously disunited States in the abolition of this evil obstacle to the nation’s ethical if not economic greatness.
Meanwhile, native Americans or so-called Indians continued to be disgracefully denied not only their allegedly ‘unalienable rights’ to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, but also the freedom to inhabit the lands of their ancestors and ‘Great Spirits’.
Perhaps America’s nearest apparent approaches to ethical and moral and thus not merely territorial or economic greatness came when it belatedly helped save Europe from German militarism in World War 1, and again intervened in the nick of time to rescue the entire planet from domination by Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan in World War 11.
Though in both cases economics arguably took precedence over ethics, as the US profited mightily through what President Eisenhower later identified as the ‘military-industrial complex’ in his famous warning of the American people against permitting this monster to retain too much power.
But the Cold War and the disastrous expedition into Vietnam that cost the populace so dearly in deaths and dollars so mightily enriched and empowered the military-industrial complex that it morphed into the unholy alliance of the Pentagon, Wall Street and Washington establishments that is so grating on today’s American workers and their families that they have elected Donald Trump to the presidency.
Of course Trump was all too aware that resentment at the political establishment’s apparent dedication to the further enrichment of the rich and impoverishment of the poor might appear somewhat hypocritical on the part of a candidate who has so flagrantly used and abused the same system he claims to so greatly abhor to make himself a billionaire.
So he also ranted as gratingly as possible against everything else that his potential voters could possibly be revolting against, including female and marriage equality, equal rights for non-white citizens and minorities like LGBTIs, universal, affordable health care, Mexican and Muslim immigration and free trade with China or indeed any other nation.
In other words, far from intending to genuinely ‘make America great,’ be it ‘again’ or as I and I’m sure a good many others would argue, for the very first time, he’s on a mission to ensure that America becomes more grating than ever.
But I’m not against grating as such. As I mentioned much earlier in this column, the US founded the United States of America by grating against the government of people by autocratic, repressive, self-serving and otherwise unjust regimes.
So, when Trump assumes office, the task for the US Congress, Senate, Supreme Court, the media, presidential advisers, not to mention the American people and the heads of other nations, is not to render him any less grating, abusive, abrasive or even aggressive, but to redirect his angst against the right targets.
Against the Chinese Communist Party, for example, for their repressive one-party misrule of their people; not against the people of China for taking Americans’ jobs, as many of Trump’s supporters simplistically and indeed falsely believe.
Against rogue governments like Putin’s kleptocratic Kremlin clique and al-Bashar’s murderous Syrian regime; not against the majority of Russian and Syrian people who are fighting to the death to rid themselves of such anti-democratic rulers in their struggle for the principles of ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’ so allegedly sacred to Americans.
Against Islamic State and all the Islamic and Muslim-majority governments around the world – like, for example, Malaysia’s criminal Umno/BN – that make their citizens’ lives a misery under the false pretence of representing or supporting Allah; not against the good Muslims so impoverished and suppressed by such regimes as to seek refuge in the US and elsewhere in the so-called ‘free’ world.
And finally, as my word-count is running out, against sexists, racists, religionists and other species of bully in America and everywhere else around the world; not against those innocent and defenceless people such bigots like to feel free to vilify and victimise.
In summary, far from the catastrophe that so many of his opponents fear he will be as Commander-in-Chief of the US, if only President-elect Donald Trump can be persuaded to be as grating as possible against the mad and bad of his nation and the world, and not the harmless and blameless, maybe, just maybe, he can make America great after all, if not necessarily again.