Today ended like a dream, a series of surreal hours that – one after the other – confirmed some of the worst fears of sane tolerant people. I’m disappointed like I’ve never before been in the political process and a certain intolerance best exemplified by what had just happened. It was unbelievable. The president of the United States had called a press conference, cutting into all live shows around the country, to show a final definite proof that he was born in the country as he had always said he was: a long hand birth certificate. It was the first of any president.
For me, this is sad on many levels, and race had a very large role to play. A few minutes after the White House released said birth certificate which they had got on request from the records office in Hawaii to put the controversy to rest, media mogul Donald Trump – also a contender for the next election – went to a press conference not just taking credit for the disclosure but also asking for the president’s college transcripts thus casting doubts on his qualifications as well.
I am a firm believer in the inner goodness of every human being in spite of their colour. I approached this country and people with the same open mindedness and was – like everyone else around the world – ecstatic and absolved when Obama was elected in 2008 in spite of what many considered his biggest obstacle: the colour of his skin. And then, from then, disappointed as to how every criticism of his policies seemed to come with something more than just a mere disagreement with economic policies. The press conference by Mr. Trump exemplified for me an unfortunate culmination of an underlying culture of intolerance.
First he said the president wasn’t born where he said he was, then he said the president had paid over $2m to prevent himself from having to show the document. A few weeks ago, he said he had sent investigators to Hawaii and he “couldn’t believe what they’re finding.” This, we found, was a lie, as Anderson Cooper found out after sending his own reporters to Hawaii. It turned out that Trump’s men either haven’t been there, or haven’t spoken to any relevant people as they should have. Yet he kept hyping the issue up for ratings in the media. Today, as the document finally surfaced, you would think he would back down. No, “we will get experts to examine it,” he said. For a moment there, I remembered another third world country – Ivory Coast – where Laurent Gbagbo had used a similar case of citizenship to keep his opponent away from the political process for many years. Many years, thousands of lives, and a brutal civil war later, we know where Gbagbo now sleeps, and in what bad shape his country is. It’s not the perfect analogy, but it’s not too far off either. The script is the same: “show us your papers and we’d let you play.”
I don’t think that many Americans realize just how bad this reflects on the country to the rest of the world, and that makes it a little more unfortunate. I’m not American and may never try to be one. But seeing how the country treats its own and one of its best leaves very much to be desired. This piece published today puts it in very good perspective. (Thanks to Nneoma for the link)