Tue | Feb 20, 2018

Letter of the Day | ‘Spiders’ can bond to constrain Trump

Published:Wednesday | January 17, 2018 | 12:00 AM

THE EDITOR, Sir:

There is an old Ethiopian proverb about collectivism that is instructive for the countries that President Donald Trump recently referred to as "s***hole" countries. The proverb states, 'When spiders unite, they can tie down a lion.'

In an epoch where the most powerful man on earth can escape any meaningful castigation - domestic or international - for blatantly disrespecting neighbouring states, it is important that such states stand up in unity and in opposition.

The nations that the very un-presidential American leader deemed worthy of the grossest characterisation (i.e., Haiti, El Salvador and African states) continue to express their upset at Trump's suggestion that their citizens were qualitatively inferior to the citizens of European states such as Norway.

CARICOM lamented that Trump's derogatory remarks about Haiti emerged around the time of the anniversary of the devastating 2010 earthquake, and stated, "This insult ... was totally unacceptable." The African Union sharply denounced Trump's grotesque remarks and demanded that he apologise.

However, carefully worded expressions of upset from predominantly black and brown countries around the world will not be enough. Trump must pay the kind of price that can only be levied through collective action. The 'web' that the 'spiders' of the brown and black developing world ought to be collectively forming is one that would start to constrain (if not contain) America's head of state from continuing his ongoing casual disrespect towards them. Here are a few simple courses of action the derided countries should consider.

Demanding that US ambassadors explain their president's remarks to the host nation's head of state or government in person is a de facto low-intensity public shaming that is appropriate. Walking out on the president's annual speech to the UN General Assembly as a group is another low-hanging fruit with tremendous symbolic weight.

Want to pick it up a notch? Then consider suspending all multinational exercises, conferences, etc, as another expression of protest that could start to get the indecent president to think twice before he utters the next round of slurs.

Last, for those that baulk at a harder-line approach towards Trump, understand that he will not stop at name-calling. He does not want our friendship on the basis of mutual respect. No, Trump wants only our submission to his will nothing less.

OLIVER BARRETT

oliverbarrett@janusadvisoryinc.com