​​​​​Posted 2nd June 2017

Planet Earth: Sold for a fistful of dollars 

No one should be surprised that Trump has reneged on the Paris Climate Accord. Undoing everything achieved by his predecessor is what he does. It's a fitting, if predictable, climax to a week that only he and his lapdogs could term ‘successful’. Having said that, it must be recognised that there are those in his administration and far more in his uneducated or demented core support base who might believe embarrassing his hosts, haranguing and threatening NATO counterparts, insulting European leaders and generally behaving like a yob in the playground is just what is required to make America great again.

So let’s be clear; there is no ‘great’. America was never great. No country was or is great. Countries, like their people, are flawed. None has reached the state of perfection necessary to warrant such praise. Even ‘Great Britain’ is a misnomer and the great part, historically (Ptolemy 147 AD), serves only to distinguish the largest island from the others in the British Isles. It refers neither to the former British empire, nor to British inventions and achievements, culture or legacy ...and certainly not to its desperately regrettable decision to leave the EU.

With what legitimacy, therefore, can the term great be applied to the      United States? A country whose rapid growth in size and wealth has, in less than two centuries, outstripped its maturity; a country that has consistently deployed its wealth and an astronomical national debt to pursue aggressive military ambitions and support corporate greed to the massive detriment of large swathes of the third world; a country that is merely 150 years on from tearing itself asunder in a civil war at least in part about the abolition of slavery and yet didn’t officially end racial segregation until 1964; a country that is ineffective in preventing bigotry and discrimination against those of ‘non-white’ ethnicity and LGBTs and, in many states, pursues policies to legitimise persecution in the name of Christianity and gerrymandering to marginalise the black and Spanish vote; a country that allows the KKK to conduct its ongoing campaign of terror unchecked and lunatic preachers to condemn homosexuality from the pulpit, inciting violence and murder as righteous punishment; a country where the gun lobby is unassailable, open-carry is legal and so-called rights under a grossly distorted interpretation of the 2nd Amendment are more important than the countless lives lost through the proliferation of firearms in the hands of the irresponsible, the deranged and the criminal; a country where police forces have been systematically militarised, police brutality is commonplace and all too often the victims of same are denied justice; a country where both the environment and the incontrovertible rights of Native Americans continue to be sacrificed to the insatiable demands of Big Oil; a country where men - and men alone - feel empowered to control and restrict womens’ rights over their bodies? I’m sorry but I don’t see greatness here.

I say this not to savage America but to acknowledge truths about which a large proportion of the population is already frustrated, angry and impatient for long overdue change. My heart goes out to those people, a few of whom I am privileged and grateful to call friends. The Trump anomaly - for that is what I hope history will categorise it as - has accentuated all of the above. Rather than unite the country (yet another lie), he has given encouragement to the haters, re-opened healing wounds and inflicted new injuries out of a vile blend of spite, avarice and ego, his compulsion to massage which knows no bounds.

Because of Trump's recent actions, American companies may well face opposition to their products abroad as they share in the newly earned pariah status. The US has definitively lost whatever moral high ground it may have held and its President is no longer seen as the leader of the free world, as other nations recoil in dismay from his selfishness and betrayal. Trump isn’t even the leader of his own country; he's nominally the man in charge who is also secretly collaborating with an enemy power, which most people - the GOP excepted - would describe as treason. He will continue to press his own nefarious agenda, causing havoc and misery for as long as he is there, but he is no leader. He’s a ticking bomb and it’s time-critical. Republicans in Congress (for whom a disgrace could be the new collective noun) need to start putting country before self-interest, because, as the indefatigable Keith Olbermann (https://twitter.com/keitholbermann) put it so eloquently in the latest of his excellent video broadcasts, "they own the bomb now".

As a footnote, how ironic is it that the title of a movie which made the man with no name famous should so encapsulate the man for whom his brand is everything? That he happens to be President of the USA is more than unfortunate - it’s criminal.

Nigel Austin 

author of The Robin Gibson series