Mon | Apr 24, 2017

The Emperor's New Roads

Published:Sunday | April 5, 2015 | 4:00 AM

 America is the new Rome. Whether or not that's an altogether bad ting is another matter altogether. The question remains, though, whether is is more like the Roman Republic, or the Empire that replaced it. 

Going solely by the retinue of pages, scribes, courtesans, and centurions that traipse around behind the president, I'd say there's a solid argument to be made that he's no mere consul, but more like an emperor.

A year ago, attending EU and NATO summits in Belgium, Obama's entourage was a whopping 900 people. Aside from Air Force One, he came with three cargo planes. His motorcade had 45 vehicles. Remember, that's to Belgium, not exactly a hinterland of civilisation or inherently dangerous place.

Anyway, the Emperor is travelling, and his visit to Jamaica is causing a lot of excitement and, it is evident, generating a lot of costs. The extensive road repair and security activity are the most obvious.

The JDF Reserve has been deployed to assist the already considerable pre-visit preparations being undertaken by US personnel. And you can trace the Emperor's likely route by attending to the roads being repaired. For instance, I noticed that avenues in Mona were magically patched, indicating that he will be heading up that side.

 

CAN WE AFFORD IT?

 

One does have to wonder: What with all the fiscal austerity is Jamaica in any condition to entertain such an important guest? I only hope Mr Obama compensates by bearing considerable gifts.

I think it important to remember that he comes with his own purposes in mind. Though in our own minds we are of supreme importance, his calculations likely are somewhat more complicated. China, America's only near-rival, is so active in these parts. Venezuela and Cuba, our friends, have evolving relationships with the USA. Certainly we could use the attention.

Speaking of gifts, it seems that someone decided to leave a gift with the US Embassy. I got snarled in Wednesday morning's traffic that had built up after what The Gleaner called a 'US Embassy scare!' Owing to my vivid imagination, I was anxious to be as far away as possible from anything newsworthy that might ensue.

Naturally, our countrymen, many of whom are of the mind that one should flee towards such possibilities, had gathered in even greater numbers than usual so as to not miss anything. Luckily, it only amounted to "a Caucasian man who threw a bag over the perimeter wall of the US Embassy on Old Hope Road and tried to escape".

There has been no official word about the contents of the bag. However, it was April Fools' Day, so I'm hoping the Caucasian suspect wasn't a practising terrorist so much as a citizen poop-tosser. It's quite a guessing game to figure out precisely what kind of lunatic he will turn out to be, so I hope the results aren't ultimately hidden. Going by the things people vent about on social media, there are many irritations, special interests, causes, and policy problems that can bring a slightly unhinged man to do such a thing.

So Liguanea's already unmanageable traffic has become an even worse bottleneck. The walled-up compound of the US Embassy is now a paramilitary zone completely shielded from its surroundings. Roads are blocked off and military types parade around looking very serious.

 

CONSTANT DANGER

 

Anyway, I accept that while it's easy to ridicule the security arrangements and to get annoyed by the inconvenience it creates, we can't entirely forget how tenuous a hold on sanity some people have. And whenever you deal in large numbers, it only takes one of every thousand to be a nutcase and you're in constant danger.

Less than a month ago, Izola Curry, the woman who in 1958 had stuck a letter opener into Martin Luther King Jr's chest, finally passed away in a New York nursing home. He was just trying to sign a book at the time. Or consider this evil madman, Andreas Lubitz, who took a planeful of people down in the Alps.

On that point, I would want to use the negligible persuasiveness of this column to gently remonstrate with Las May and The Gleaner for the cartoon of April 1. In it, Mr Andrew Holness is pictured as a sweating lunatic pilot locked in a cabin and flying an airplane labelled 'JLP' while others are trying desperately to get through the locked door to the cockpit. It is obviously a reference to the Germanwings tragedy. And I think it's over the line.

I had myself used a small gag about the Germanwings flight while discussing the JLP troubles in my last column. But I had, quite consciously, placed Mr Holness outside the cabin, saying that with all that's going on around him, he might be in fear of getting up to use the toilet. I figured that was pretty far, and quite far enough, down the road to perdition.

Whatever his internal party fortune, we can't forget that Mr Holness currently holds the constitutional office of leader of the Opposition. Outside extraordinary circumstances, like perhaps if he were to engineer another Dudus-shielding and Tivoli-incursion stunt, portrayal of him as a mass-murdering psychotic depressive is going too far.

Anyway, let's hope Mr Obama didn't see that Wednesday paper, or else upon meeting Mr Holness, he may run in the other direction.

- Daniel Thwaites is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.