Friday, February 10, 2017

Looking on the bright side of Trump

Image The Sun.
THERE is a CBS tape of Donald Trump calling Barack Obama early in the morning. A dozy Obama answers his cell by saying, “President…er…Barack here.”

When Trump identifies himself, Obama tells him that it’s the first time in eight years he’s been able to have a lie-in. Why is the President bugging him?

“I don’t sleep, I tweet,” retorts Trump sharply, who tells Obama now that he’s in the White House, what must he do? And, oh yes, what is this “politics thing?”

It is indicative of world affairs that many people would actually believe that this meme had really happened, and that an angry Donald Duck had also changed his name. In trying times laughter allows us to have a time-out from reality. In the post-truth, alternative fact era, it’s like an oxygen mask in a fart storm.

And Trump, a hot-air narcissist, has certainly given us lots of that; a man who – like Hlaudi Moetsoneng – always gives me the impression that he is talking to his mirror. He must have said “very” at least a million times during his campaign, “very serious, very bad.”  

By comparison, President George Bush II might have given us a meaningless war on an abstract noun, an illegal invasion, Guantanamo Bay, water-boarding and statements like “making the pie higher” – but – he did have a gung-ho vacuity that he was doing something, even if he didn’t know what it was; and, he did at least look like a president.   

26,000 bombs-a-year President Obama surrounded by “yes we can” coffee mugs, was shot down by an uncooperative Republican house quicker than the drones he sent to Pakistan and Yemen. However, he did show some swagger when assassinating Bin Laden, annoying Netanyahu, negotiating with Iran and – at the last moment – refusing to veto a UN vote against Israel.

But where Trump goes – Mexico wall ‘n all – nobody knows. Incidentally, it’s an idea filched from Democrat Bill Clinton, who mooted it in 1995 to a standing ovation. I think the point is that Trump is unpredictable, unsweetened by the poisoned saccharine of international diplomacy.

That’s why he will still un-nerve the Israelis, in spite of promising to build an embassy in East Jerusalem and snuggling up to the Israeli right wing. Trump is unpredictable, and Israel doesn’t like unpredictability.

The Trump universe, which is business as usual in the form of capital and Cecil John Rhodes-like profiteering, has made its mark by condoning subliminal racism and making it the conscious new cool. That is why a supercilious buffoon like Jared Taylor of The New Century Foundation can confidently tell journalist, Jorge Ramos, that African people have an inferior intelligence, and that he would happily kick Ramos, a Hispanic, out of the US.

For many US citizens, the most problematic aspect of Trump’s policies has been his Islamophobia. But again, this is nothing new. Most have forgotten the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1996, which gave immigration authorities the power to deport green card holders. After 9/11 the legislation morphed into the Patriot Act which went from focusing on Palestinians to Muslims.

Apart from Trump’s bizarre travel bans on Muslims – whom he thinks carry bombs or WMDs in their travel bags – he has exempted the countries most responsible for the export of terror, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, but clamped down on countries such as Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Iran, Libya, Somalia and Sudan.  

But ironically, very ironically – to borrow a Trumpian phrase – Trump has managed to shoot his own foot on Islamophobia. Decent Americans have revolted against his supremacist notions and Twitter decrees by embracing Muslims in large numbers.

After 9/11 I was told that one couldn’t find an English-translation Qur’an anywhere in the US. In 2012 the New York Times reported that a Religion Census had showed that due to immigration and conversion, the amount of Muslims in the US had risen 67% since 9/11. A researcher had ventured that the anti-Islam sentiment after 9/11 could have had something to do with the increase in numbers.

In 2017 the situation has been even more extraordinary. People such as Abbas Durab, a second-generation US citizen of Afghani descent, have expressed to me their utter amazement to see US Muslims praying at airports, and in public spaces, whilst being protected by fellow citizens during protests.

Hasan Minhaj, who appears on Trevor Noah’s Late Night show, said that he was also gobsmacked by the response, saying that white people had rushed up to him and hugged him for being Muslim. Whilst he was talking with a comic edge, his amazement that his Muslim-ness had been acknowledged for the first time in 31 years, was genuine.

Durab informed me there were unprecedented scenes at the famous Women’s March, when being photographed with a Hijabi almost became something of a status symbol.

But where Trump has already made his mark is that by default, and definitely not presidential design, he has ensured that Islam will become mainstream in the US. By selectively targeting Muslims he has exposed Islam. By demonising Islam he has stimulated a curiosity, something which many will no doubt explore like they did after 9/11.

From now on Muslims doing normal things in public, like wearing hijab, fezzes, turbans and thawbs (robes) will be regarded as normal. Things like people praying in public spaces will also become normal. Going to mosque will be normal. Mosques will be normal. Muslims will be normal.

Of course, the Klu Klux Clan and the supremacist muttering classes will proclaim that the sky is falling in and that hordes of limb-cutting Orientals are massing at the gates, but it will be too late. And as they slap their holsters and tote their Smith and Wesson’s, all that they will have to shoot at will be empty Mexican tequila bottles.