Garth Rattray | Number 45, the enemy within
In 2016, when the 45th president of the United States of America was elected, I was numb with shock, disappointment, and foreboding. It didn’t require uncommon perspicacity to realise that serious trouble was brewing. The ascension of such a man to the highest office in America and the most powerful position on the planet only promised a term of hate, divisiveness and prejudice.
This was a man whose real estate business was sued by the federal government for discriminating against minority groups, and a man who openly admitted to and boasted about sexually assaulting women because he was powerful and famous. He romped with sexual predators and perverts and hired at least one prostitute. He ran several businesses into bankruptcy, and manoeuvred around paying his fair share of taxes – all in the name of ‘good business practices’. His lack of morals was very evident from the beginning.
While campaigning, he publicly beseeched Russia, America’s Cold War nemesis, to engage in illegal hacking to find the allegedly lost emails belonging to his political rival, Hillary Clinton. He was rude and disrespectful to women; he demonstrated a blatant ignorance of foreign affairs. He had absolutely no experience in any political arena – yet, he was elected as the 45th president of the United States of America!
He tried to undo everything that his predecessor, President Barack Obama, had achieved. His promises went unfulfilled. His close associates were criminals (whom he eventually pardoned). He openly admired foreign dictators and despots. He was unsympathetic towards the suffering African American community, but called dangerous white supremacists, “good people”. He fired anyone who did not do his every bidding. His extremely poor leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic contributed to the loss of hundreds of thousands of American lives. And his personal flouting of anti-COVID measures set a bad example for others.
It was painfully obvious that he also despised poor and underdeveloped nations, exuded insularism, wanted to cherry-pick immigrants, and was only interested in maintaining power for himself. What truly flabbergasted me was his throng of supporters. Almost half of the American voters supported number 45 in his bid for re-election.
I wondered if his supporters were beguiled by his façade of power, the false impression that he projected of being in charge and in total control. I wondered how they either never noticed or ignored his thousands of lies, his plethora of character flaws and litany of shortcomings. Weren’t his unscrupulousness, narcissism and megalomania evident to them? Or did something that he promised strike such a resonant chord within them that they felt compelled to uphold his wrongs and excuse his failings?
Number 45 forewarned of his capabilities; he said, “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn’t lose any voters…”. And, when asked during a debate with Joe Biden, to tell white extremists to stand down, he waffled and hesitated before telling them to stand back and stand by. I found that astounding.
When number 45 lost his bid for re-election, he refused to accept defeat and embarked on a relentless (and futile) campaign to overturn the will of the American people. In doing so, this president of the United States of America suggested that democracy in the nation founded on democracy, and on which it based every excuse for going to war, is an illusion. He suggested that the very democracy used to justify embargoes on poor countries like Cuba is a sham. He allowed his self-interest to undermine the foundation of that society.
The storming of the US Capitol by his supporters was tantamount to an attempted insurrection/coup/revolution. The rhetoric coming from number 45, “We will never give up … we will never concede … you have to get your people to fight – you’ll never take back our country with weakness, you have to show strength and you have to be strong – we fight like hell, and if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore”, incited it. He betrayed his fellow Americans in numerous ways and encouraged violence against the government. His despicable actions were those of the proverbial enemy within.