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Saturday, April 17, 2021

The downfall of Trump: the racist, white supremacist leader

Suruwa B. Wawa Jaiteh

On Wednesday January 6, President Donald Trump addressed his racist supporters and urged them to go the US Capitol, to push Republicans into voting against certifying the results of the Electoral College count which had his opponents, Team President-elect/vice President-elect Biden-Harris as the winners.

“We’re going to walk down Pennsylvania Ave. and we’re going to (try) to give our Republicans – the weak ones because the strong ones don’t need any of our help – we are to try and get them the kind of pride and boldness they need to take back our country,” he said.  Soon after, a mob stormed the building, climbed the walls, defaced the offices and put their craziness in display, as they said they were taking back their country.  Five people died from the violence, and during the following week Democrats at the House of Representatives, along with a handful of Republicans, impeached Mr. Trump just days before the inauguration of ‘Team Biden-Harris.”      

Then again, those words on January 6 were not the only catalyst to the desecration of American Democracy that took place that day.  The buildup has been slow and steady.  It stretches to as far back as months ago during a particularly bitter campaign made even more polarizing by a raging pandemic.  Through a combination of uttered words and social media posts, Mr. Trump has succeeded in convincing at least 75 million Americans to vote for him and, after his defeat, complaining that he had been cheated.

He launched a massive legal campaign to question the results but not a single judge anywhere in the country was convinced of the massive fraud he was alleging.  This, too, was a source of bitterness toward the last days.  He went as far as calling the Secretary of State of Georgia and telling him, at first nicely and then menacingly, to find him the required number of votes to overturn Biden’s victory there.  Most of the traditional media and, belatedly, social media giants, decided to stop giving him a platform for his lies, but Mr. Trump’s supporters had been sufficiently mobilized.  Now the nation is on edge, not necessarily because of the record deaths from the raging pandemic, but because of the threat of terrorism in the coming days.  All these goes to show that the white supremacist’s words are never taken lightly.  When they utter something, they cannot later on say they were joking, or exaggerating, or were talking figuratively.  People look up to their leader and take their cue from the words, coming out of their mouth.  Are they talking out of spite, or led by facts, or do they circle back to their own ego?  People are inspired or disappointed by what the leader says.  They are comforted, angered or saddened.  They are moved into action or driven into disbelief.  All of us should listen closely to how our leaders speak.  Their words are windows in our minds. 

This is a jarring reminder of what insane and unhinged leaders can do.  At a time when political discourse – regardless of its quality – has become too accessible to ordinary citizens, when the physical distance between a politician’s articulation and a citizen’s ear is now breached by modern technology, and when it is easier to peddle lies, bigotry, racism, tribalism/regionalism, disinformation and fakery, it is time to reflect on whether political rights should be limited to those who are sane.  

The United States of America is considered by many as the paragon of democracy.  It was unimaginable that such direct assault on their electoral and democratic processes could take place in America.  President-elect Joe Biden was right when he said in a tweet, “Today is a reminder, a painful one, that democracy is fragile.  To preserve it requires people of good will, leaders with the courage to stand up, who are devoted not to pursuit of power and personal interest at any cost, but to the common good.”

This should also be a timely reminder to us, Gambians.  Democracy is fragile.  As a matter of fact, very fragile.  It needs to be nurtured and defended not just by those in government positions but more importantly, by us, the people, as citizens and as voters. Democracy can be taken away if the citizens are not vigilant.  It can be destroyed if we become apathetic to political happenings.  It can be taken away if the people renege from our responsibility to be informed and involved.

As a people, we are not strangers to having our democratic system and institutions disrespected and destroyed because of vested interests of those in power.  We lived through the Yaya Jammeh dictatorship that shredded to pieces our democratic values, violated our human rights, prosecuted and killed political opponents, and plunged the country into poverty.  We were brought down to our knees while the few in power lived like untouchable royalty, enriching themselves using stolen public monies.  The Gambian people managed to pick up the pieces by ousting the dictator and rebuilding our democratic institutions.  We wrongly pinned our hopes on the Coalition government.  The Coalition government was not a cure-all to the ills plaguing our nation through the years.  We did not realize that simply ousting a dictator and installing a new leadership were not enough.  We failed to guard our gains and take an active role in ensuring that those out to only protect their self-interest would not occupy important government positions.  We did not sustain the initiative to develop a more mature, more discerning electorate.  We allowed ourselves to be seriously divided.  Our country is again in serious trouble.  Through the period after the Coalition, many of our people lost faith in an ill-defined Coalition.  Trusting that doing so would be good for the country.  Look where we are now.

Incompetence, disinformation and misinformation are everywhere.  Grinding poverty affects many Gambians many of whom are jobless and without any means of livelihood.  The economy is at a standstill while the pandemic is hovering above us.  We cannot afford to make any more mistakes in nurturing and protecting our democracy because it affects the kind of governance the country will have in the future.  It affects businesses, livelihoods, food security, our environment, our human rights, the social services.  It affects everything about our lives.  Democracy is fragile.  If ours is further weakened and gets even more destroyed, it is us, the people, as citizens and as voters, who will suffer more.

This year, 2021, we will vote for a new administration.  This is a golden opportunity for us to start regaining what we have lost.  WE MUST CHOOSE CORRECTLY.  For this to happen we need to work hard so our citizens are well-informed of the power of their vote.  From this point onward to the D-day of 2021, we should nurture and protect what remains of our fragile democracy and make sure that the Gambian people and the country will recover with people in government who are more capable, have integrity and who will work not for their self-interest but for the common good.        

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