Wed | Jan 27, 2021

Ronald Thwaites | An open sore

Published:Monday | August 21, 2017 | 12:00 AM

Where other people have a soul, he has an "open sore", is a fair paraphrase of a wise American commentator, Bill Moyers' description of Donald Trump's character. His biographer says he is an "empty vessel ... with no moral core".

Reputedly, the Donald has a gold-embossed toilet with his name imprinted on it. I wonder if it helps relieve his constipation? Money and a brutish authoritarianism, now garlanded with political power, are supposed to validate his obsessive self-possession.

Despite how easy it has been to see through this racist bully who now leads the United States of which so many of us would like to become a state, or better, an 'estate', the frightening fact is that there are tens of millions of Americans, albeit dwindling fast, who admire his bluster and voted for him to be president.

For it is the entire liberal enterprise, enshrined in the US constitution and ours - the cause dependent on things like a common definition of truth, of what is right and wrong; of respect for the dignity of the other - that is under threat from the bigotry and intolerance manifested at Charlottesville and supported by Trump.

Their hope, and ours, rests with the thousands who went to Boston last Saturday, representing the spirit of resistance to the awakening beast of nastiness and danger represented by the alt-right.

Has the 'free world', amazingly now led more by Germany and China than by the USA (recall their history and marvel), heard the cry of Christian America, especially the majority Catholics, in support of human rights and in condemnation of the Bible-toting KKK? Or are we still too divided into denominational capsules and still too afraid of political engagement to defend the weakest and most vulnerable as Jesus does?


Lessons for Jamaica


There are lessons for Jamaica. For there are strong tendencies in our current political culture to love the 'wrong and strong' attitude, to govern according to partisan expedience rather than principle.

Consider the silence, just for example, about the origins of the Tivoli massacre, the unresolved bushing scandal, Trafigura and the appointment of incompetent or corrupt party hacks to public posts, and the continuing diarrhoea of fake news equating announcements with achievements.

The soul-searching query for everyone is whether character really counts in personal and national development. And if so, what are the elements of good character, clearly absent in Mr Trump, which we would espouse as a nation? There is huge confusion in today's Jamaica about these standards.

Is it enough to be law-abiding? Is having a consumerist lifestyle and name recognition the high points of life? Do we leave it to popular culture and the market to be the main arbiters of ethics and morals, or is an essential task of nation building the definition and promotion of serviceable values?

Consider some of the unresolved questions. What kind of family form is most congenial to our progress? What economic system will assure all citizens the opportunity for decent work? Is our education and training apparatus conducive to optimise human aims and productivity? Should there be more of a resolve to align cultural form to national goals, or is the outcome of a free-for-all posture going to be the determinant?

There are many other issues, too. Currently, there are very limited opportunities for national discourse on such fundamental matters. The political parties recognise the peril of engaging, while religious institutions, the media, the academies, and civil society are usually preoccupied with narrow concerns, venturing forth only with fitful statement or occasional commentary.

The effort to revive a values and attitudes campaign is yielding very little so far. Lots of our youths - talk to the scammers and shottas and their girls - display Trumpesque tendencies of exhibitionism, nihilism, and self-absorption.

Do we think we can build a prosperous society without a moral core? The conversation around this subject, propelled as much by our current mayhem off increasing poverty and five killings each day, as by our appal at what we see happening up north, must not be postponed any longer.

We need hearts of flesh, not open sores.

- Ronald Thwaites is member of parliament for Kingston Central and opposition spokesman on education and training. Email feedback to