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It’s Black Friday: American Values for Sale

It’s Black Friday: American Values for Sale

It is Thanksgiving Day and for many Americans, it is the time to be thankful to the lord for all that they have been blessed with. As for the majority, it is a time to put their gastronomically enhanced abilities to family contests. In recent times, the consumerism that has gripped the world’s psyche has reduced this moment to an orgy of impulsive and debt inducing commercial bonanza. It is not surprising that this period appears to be best commemorated these days as “Black Friday”. But what is Black Friday and what is this all about? A lot of theories abound for the origins of this modern day craze. One popular myth is that the day is called Black Friday because back in the 1700s, it was a day when slaves were sold at a discount. But several urban legends maintain it was the day retailers made profit from bargain hungry shoppers. (Photo: Abdulai Mansaray, author)

The truth about this myth is that the phrase was coined in the 1960s by fed up Philadelphia police officers, to describe the general mayhem and overcrowding on the roads that came with people not wanting to go to work the day after Thanksgiving. Every year, huge traffic jams and accidents clogged up streets as thousands of people opted to go shopping for pre-Christmas bargains, while hundreds of others headed to the annual Army versus Navy American football match. This meant that many employees called in sick in order to go shopping. But even before the phrase was coined, shop-owners nationwide had realised they could tempt hoards of excited customers by offering huge discounts for one day only. Since then the sales event has grown and is now associated with the start of the Christmas shopping season.

As ironies go, this year’s Black Friday is one that comes with a twist. It is American values that have been put on sale here, thanks to Donald Trump. It is not surprising that he has been embroiled in another diplomatic wrangle. The death of the Saudi journalist Khashoggi, has given a diplomatic headache to many world leaders. Just like the Saudi official channel, Trump has given various and conflicting interpretations of his stance on the matter. You can like him or loathe him, but unlike other leaders, you cannot accuse Trump of hypocrisy. You may not like Trump, but he says it as it is. Trump is too honest to be a politician. Trump has been roundly condemned for his stance on the Khashoggi debacle, and he has gone as far as throwing dirt on and discrediting even his own intelligence service on the findings of the circumstances surrounding his death. In trying to submit a moral equivalence for the death of Khashoggi as justification, Trump argued that Iran’s crimes exceeded anything Saudi Arabia had done; as if Iran is the yardstick for measuring world morality.

“Punishing Saudi Arabia, Mr Trump said, would put at risk $110 billion in military sales to Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and other military contractors, as well as $340 billion in other investments, which the Saudis have agreed to make since he became president”( The New York times, 20/11/18). There you have the one and only reason for Trump’s support of the Saudi’s, which sits conveniently with Trump’s narrative of “ America first”. What Trump does and says is always tailored to the palates for national consumption. Trump has little time for the opinion of the world, and you wonder why the Alt-Right and Nationalists feel at home in the White House?  At least, he has been honest enough to declare that he is a nationalist. His stance has drawn criticism from both sides of the American political aisle. The interesting bit is that for far too long, The Republicans have been biting their teeth and toeing the Trump charge. This is one of the few times that some of them have dared to raise their head above the parapet. It is sad that it took the life of one individual for some Republicans to realise that Trump had been taking the moral scalpel to the entrails of so called American values.

But what is nauseatingly frustrating is the level of hypocrisy across the world. Trump’s stance on the issue may not come as a surprise to some of us. Khashoggi was a journalist. Trump’s view about the press is no secret. His tenure in office would be best remembered for battle with the press and his attempts to muzzle free speech. He is not only Commander in Chief of the US military but also the High Priest of Twitter. This is the man who invented the term “fake news”. This is the man who described the press as “enemies of the people”; in a bid to turn his errant base against the liberal and mainstream media. Is it any wonder that since Trump took office, there has been an upsurge of attacks against journalists worldwide?  To all intents and purposes, Khashoggi personifies one of Trump’s greatest enemies; journalists. It may stand to reason that if anyone should defend journalists, Trump is not one of them. As this is thanksgiving, expecting Trump to defend Khashoggi would be like asking foxes to vote for the welfare or chickens. Or better still, asking turkeys to vote in favour of Thanksgiving.

But what beats me these days is why people continue to be surprised by Trump. Since taking on the mantle at the White House, Trump has been anything but dishonest. During his campaign rallies, he promised to do away with political correctness. Trump is publicly saying what other world leaders could only say at ministerial or cabinet level, and behind closed doors. With the exception of Germany, which country has openly placed an arms embargo or threatened to do so to Saudi Arabia, because of the Khashoggi killing? Most of them have given lip service that they would consider their options but none has categorically said that they would temper their diplomatic ties with Saudi. As we know fully well, all foreign policies are grounded in national interest and nothing else.

Take a look at what is happening in poor Yemen? Who is complaining? At best, even the UN is asking for humanitarian help. No one is talking about ending the war as Saudi Arabia and Iran use the Yemeni people and Yemen to test their toys of armoury. One thing we know though is that Saudi Arabians don’t make and sell weapons. The world sits idly by, as Saudi Arabia and Iran turn Yemen into the world’s biggest Toys R Us for weaponry. And when Trump publically gives us the DNA of the foreign policy of the world leaders, they are queuing up to take the moral highway; as part of their megaphone diplomacy. Unlike other world leaders, Trump’s crime in this case is his honesty. Trump and diplomacy are strange bedfellows as he always wears his heart on his sleeve. Has any world leader summoned any Saudi diplomats from their embassies? Have any diplomats been deported? Have any ties been cut with Saudi? So what’s all the hypocrisy about castigating Trump for?

Like him or loathe him, Trump is real. He has never hidden his misogyny, his racism, his lack of moral compass or narcissist tendencies. When was the last time did Trump apologise for doing something wrong? When last did he show any remorse for anything? This is the president who, in the height of the Paradise fires in California, at the time when fire-fighters were putting their lives at risk; he was blaming them for bad management and for not using a rake to manage the environment. Anyone with a shred of conscience will be supporting these brave men and women at such a time; but that will be very un-Trumpical.

As America gets ready to celebrate another consumer laden Thanksgiving and Black Friday sales, they should also remember that it is not only Amazon that is selling here. Donald Trump is also selling American values to the highest bidder; and they cannot come any bigger than Saudi Arabia. So instead of Americans feigning surprise at every turn of Trump’s aberrations, they should be honest enough to admit their error and apologise to the world; for unleashing Donald Trump on the world’s moral values. Donald Trump is the bye product of the underbelly of the American society. Many schools of thought believe that his election was a tacit response to America’s audacity to elect a black man for the first time to the White House. The black man was only supposed to help build The White House as slaves, not to be a tenant. So when the unthinkable happened, America was ready to accept anyone but another minority. If Americans think that Trump has sold their values down the river, they should wait till you see what he has in store, when Robert Mueller finishes his investigation. Like you Americans say, “You ain’t seen nothing yet”. (Pardon the tautology). That’s how Americans say it.

The trouble with Trump is that, he is too honest to be a politician.

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter (M. L. King).

Abdulai Mansaray.

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