Michael Abrahams | Farin mash up fi true
During my childhood, I was in awe of America. I watched American films and television shows, read American comics and magazines, and listened to and enjoyed American music. I visited New York and Florida on several occasions and enjoyed visiting amusement parks, bookstores, record shops (in those days we had these things called records that we would play to listen to music) and, of course, toy stores. In my opinion, America was the greatest country on Earth. As I grew older, I gradually learnt of the ugly reality of racism in the USA as well as the country’s penchant for interfering in the affairs of other sovereign states, and my eyes began to open to see that although America was a great nation, it was not as wonderful as I had naively thought before.
But today, America is a hot mess. In an article published in The Irish Times last year, Fintan O’Toole said: “Over more than two centuries, the United States has stirred a very wide range of feelings in the rest of the world: love and hatred, fear and hope, envy and contempt, awe and anger. But there is one emotion that has never been directed towards the US until now: pity.” Regarding the American people, he continued, “Most of them did not vote for Donald Trump in 2016. Yet they are locked down with a malignant narcissist who, instead of protecting his people from COVID-19, has amplified its lethality.”
O’Toole’s comments eloquently echo my sentiments. America has had no perfect president. Regardless of who is in power, its healthcare system still needs to be sorted out, and its criminal justice system, with its high incarceration rate, especially for people of colour, is, ironically, unjust. But in 2016, America made a decision that has had dire consequences. Despite losing the popular vote, thanks to America’s Electoral College, its people installed an infantile pathologically mendacious man with glaring narcissistic and psychopathic traits, and no political experience, as their leader.
During the next four years, we saw social upheaval, the likes of which we have not witnessed in recent times in the country, as well as the tragically inept handling of a lethal pandemic. Now, as his term in office draws to a close, we are witnessing the climax of one of the most dysfunctional presidencies in America’s history. Despite losing the popular vote for the second time in a row, and being defeated in the election, Trump has spent the last two months insisting that he won and refusing to concede to Joe Biden who, according to the authorities who monitored the election, won fairly. Trump has consistently lied to his followers, and while members of his party have distanced themselves from him, several continue to egg him on.
Last Wednesday, we saw the disgraceful culmination of Trump’s dishonesty, demagoguery, and hate mongering. Congressional certification of Joe Biden’s victory in November’s presidential election was scheduled for that day. However, after dozens of lawsuits challenging the results of the election were rejected, and several recounts confirmed Biden’s victory, Trump had one last plan: for Vice President Mike Pence to overturn the results. When Pence informed Trump that he did not have the power to do that, the president berated him.
Later, as Trump addressed his followers at the Ellipse, a park in Washington south of the White House, he openly criticised Pence and instructed the crowd to march to the Capitol, saying, “You will never take back our country with weakness’’, after his personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani had taken the same stage earlier and called for “trial by combat” against the Democrats to win the election. Trump, however, did not accompany the supporters he pressed to fight for him, but returned to the safety of the White House, where he again attacked Pence on Twitter.
Then all hell broke loose. The words “sedition” and “insurrection” are words you will encounter while reading about events in American history centuries ago or unrest in “Third World” countries today, but that is exactly what happened on January 6, 2021, in the good-old USA. An unruly mob overcame a poorly defended Capitol and stormed the building, breaking windows, vandalising and stealing property, and defecating and smearing their excrement on the premises. An invader was shot and killed, and a policeman succumbed to his injuries, while three other people died from medical emergencies during the chaos. A makeshift gallows was erected nearby, and a Reuters photographer reported hearing rioters call for Pence to be executed. Two days later, Trump was banned from his favourite bully pulpit, Twitter, as well as Facebook and Instagram, as articles of impeachment are being prepared against him. All this while the COVID-19 case and death rates soar to record numbers in the country.
As we say in Jamaica, sometimes you have to “tek serious ting mek joke”, and the memes generated in response to the unfolding craziness have helped to ease the tension. My favourite is one showing Kermit the Frog, of Sesame Street and The Muppet Show fame, drinking a Red Stripe beer, with the caption “Farin mash up to r**s. But dat a nuh my bizniz.”
Farin really mash up fi true.