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Is Trump subverting the American Soul?

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THE 45TH PRESIDENT of the US never fails to amaze. Is he for real? What is he about? In a sense America is getting what it wanted, because his supporters sought someone who would rock the establishment and subvert the ‘natural’ order of politics, American style.

The fact that he had no political experience suited the purpose of his unshakeable and diehard supporters. They wanted him to sock it to them. How long will America tolerate the idiosyncratic Trump for whom tradition and rules mean little! He is challenging the foundation of America’s body politic. Despite an image somewhat clouded by a dark history, the country’s system of checks and balances stood as a beacon of hope if not of democracy. Now Trump threatens it all.

He wanted, recently, to order the Justice Department to prosecute his presidential rival Hilary Clinton and former FBI director, James Comey, but wiser heads prevailed. He is making claims for authority that might not be legally forbidden although dictated by convention. As Trevor Noah recently joked the American public will, before Trump leaves, be fully briefed on the US constitution since he regularly sends constitutional scholars and others back to their copies of the constitution. Trump is treating the presidency as if it is a department of his business empire. ‘America First’ means in essence, the Trump family first!

The most alarming and sickening episode of his presidency has surfaced recently with his reaction to the murder of US citizen and Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Turkey had, since his murder on October 2, been leaking information indicating that Khashoggi was murdered in the Saudi embassy in Turkey and implicating crown prince Mohammed Bin Salman, de facto Saudi ruler, as the force behind the killing and dismemberment of the journalist’s body. Turkey had supplied US intelligence agencies with relevant and compelling information, including audio recordings. The CIA using information from a multiplicity of sources had concluded that the crown prince was, without doubt, the power behind it.

When suspicions first surfaced about his involvement, he naturally denied it and convinced the King and Trump that he was innocent of any involvement in a murder that even Trump considered ghastly and abominable. He was prepared to await the findings of the CIA. The CIA has since, concluded that the order for what was in fact an execution, came directly from the crown prince. Trump is not accepting his Intelligence agency’s findings and is sticking to the word of the crown prince, although hedging about it, suggesting that he was still awaiting conclusive evidence. In his view Mohammed Bin Salman might or might not have known about it.

But all of this was beside the point because he is prepared to sell America’s soul, as they see it, for a mess of pottage. To him it is all about America First! What is important is Saudi Arabia’s promise to invest billions of dollars in America, some of it for the purchase of arms to continue the slaughter in Yemen. He has, even as he is wont to do, been pulling figures out of his hat, exaggerating the amounts that Saudi Arabia is supposed to be spending. This, in any event, takes precedence over human rights values and America’s moral leadership, as had for some time been espoused. Meanwhile most of the world is reacting in horror to the event and to the implication in the affair of the crown prince of Saudi Arabia.

How the Trump presidency plays itself out will tell us a lot about America and America’s soul. He has already silenced and captured the party on whose backs he rode to the White House. What next? Time only will tell! 

Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian

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