In my last article, I let my imagination run wild when I propound the theory that America may well be the Promised Land. Today I am taking a look at American Politics, the Constitution on which it is anchored, and just a few of the eminent leaders and ideals that shape it, as well as lessons I think the Third World and indeed other nations can learn from America. Even though I choose to characterize it as Beauty and the Beast in this write-up, it is really more beauty than the beast for me and probably for readers who think like me, or who are as star-struck as I am with American Life style and Politics which are simply two sides of the same coin. The two are totally inseparable, but they are both uniquely appealing and exciting, but sometimes brutal from my own perspective as someone born and raised elsewhere, but who had spent no less than half my calendar age, either studying or working in America, and taking interest in things around me that others may just be too busy to pay attention to.
Every time I think about contemporary American Politics and her Hip-hop Culture, I see nothing but the efficacy of the American Constitution and the Rule of Law, Capitalism at its best, Democracy at work, Freedom for all and life more abundant, Openness and Transparency in Government, Accountability and Love of Country. It saying the obvious to argue that America leads the world in all of these concepts, if you ask me. Am I then saying that all is hunky-dory or that America can do no wrong, as far as I am concerned? Not at all. America, like all civilizations, clearly epitomizes the good, the bad, and the ugly. What is different is that America is a country on the move all the time, trying to consolidate what is good and endearing in her system while at the same time working to minimize, amend and rectify what is not so good, on the presumption that anything made by man, and even by God, can be infinitely improved?
Just imagine, for a moment, the problems of Crime and Violence, Drugs and Substance Abuse in this America, or even the problem of Insecurity or Terrorism which was violently escalated by the sad event of 9/11 when America suddenly discovered that the two oceans surrounding her can no longer guarantee an ironclad security for the new Canaan, as we have all come to believe. In that unique sense, the painful wake-up call by Osama BIn Laden probably served a purpose as mind-boggling and horrendous as it was. Much of that change was brought about with the new Canaan leading the way through amazing developments in Technology where future Wars may no longer need to be fought by human beings alone, but by smart weapons like we have found in the ongoing War in Iraq and Afghanistan. Enemy forces can literarily attack our Nation today, by merely pressing a button from the safety of their own borders. If America can be doing what the Rover is doing today on Mars, 103 million miles away, you can be sure, no nation in this planet is save anymore.
I am often told and I have read that Empires rise and fall, and that it is only a question of time before America may self-destruct, because it is just too ambitious and goal-driven and does not take “No” for an answer in her quest for perfection and self actualization. I just happen to know that the new Canaan is different from the Timbuktu Empire or the Roman, the British, the Greek Empire and others before her. This Experiment is founded not on a quick sand or sheer crude Military Power but on a solid rock with a Constitution that is as timeless and as ageless beyond any other one ever crafted in all of human history. It may not be a perfect Document, but it has stood the test of time, it has nurtured the New Canaan for more than 200 years of first class achievements in every conceivable field of endeavor, I have to say.
So those who predict that what goes up must come down, and using that analogy to judge America and its supremacy in the World, just don’t know what they are talking about. There are things that go up, nowadays, to places like Space, the Moon and Mars that stay up, once they get beyond the Law of gravity here on Earth. The new Canaan is always several steps ahead, and doing everything to ensure that she retains her cutting edge for as long as humanly possible, as each succeeding generation of Americans do what they had to do to let this Nation remain the “Numero uno” of all countries in the world as we know it today. Why do you think America with a huge yet untapped reservoir of Gas and Oil in Texas and Alaska, and yet is investing so much money to buy other nation’s reserve, while actively looking for ways and means to develop alternate sources of energy? If some of the oil producing countries around the world like Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, Venezuela, Nigeria, Libya are not careful, they may end up having to drink their own oil, when the world’s greatest industrial economies had hit alternate sources of energy that would significantly eliminate the problem of pollution. Rather than taking full advantage of the opportunities they currently have, they are wasting time, forgetting that oil is a diminishing asset which is bound to dry up sooner than later. When America exhausts their reserve, they too will now be on the receiving end, and looking then to America to now swop position. It won’t be pretty at that time because American will again be calling the shots, like they do now, in almost every sector of our life.
I was still in Nigeria in the early 70s when America had landed the first man on the Moon. There were many in the third world, at the time, who could swear to God that the day America lands a man on the Moon would be the end of the world, because they had ignorantly figured it out that the Almighty God was going to come down hard on America for tempting God, and for wanting to know too much by going to a planet no human being had ever seen or colonized. As a matter of fact, in some primitive societies around the world, the Moon is worshipped as a God because of lack of knowledge. I am positive that if the Majestic River Mississippi the longest river in the World, were to be located some where in our own neck of the woods in Africa, it would, without any doubt, be worshipped as a local Deity. If you don’t believe, I have to remind you of River Oscine in Sun State or the great Atlantic Ocean and “Yemoja”, the mother of all Fishes and the so-called custodian of all marine life in much of the world in the belief of our people. All those objects are worshipped in some parts of our world, because we know no better. “Ikole o rohun m’aso se, Ikole t’ala B’Ose” “Ose” is a big fig tree, right in the front of the Palace of the Elekole of Ikole, Oba Adeleye Adetunla. The fig tree is worshipped in years gone and possibly up till this moment for precisely the same reason. The statement translated in Yoruba simply means Ikole People for not knowing what to do with their white linen, have decided to deify the fig tree and worship it. Can you believe that?
Many in my own part of the world were expecting an Armageddon to occur any time soon because they believe America is putting too much pressure on God by asking and doing too much to research all frontiers of Science and Knowledge in order to unravel too many of the mysteries of this world that God had not wanted any of his creatures to unravel. If America had not shown the man’s landing on the Moon for most nations of the world to witness on Television, and if they had not brought back to Earth pieces of the Moon rock for all to see, there were many in my country and my village who were ready to pronounce American pathological liars, because as far as they were concerned the Moon is beyond any human being. They just could not believe it was possible, because they knew no better.
Minus a cross section of our population, at that time, we were a bunch of voodoo worshippers and animists who worship Trees and pieces of Iron or mud molded into the image of a human, called “Osanyin” in Yoruba Mythology. When I remember some of the things I had to live with, as a young boy growing up in the Deji’s Palace at Akure where I was being raised by my grandmother, I sometimes wonder how different our life style was, when compared with what I later came to see and observe here in Uncle Sam. You know I used to think of Jerusalem and Jericho, Shilo and Rama as being in Heaven itself, and our folk lore and local songs in the Church do o confirm that in their lyrics. I remember one song in particular we used to sing as little children in Akure. It goes like this, “Ebi npani laiye o, ko si Lorun rere, Jerusalem o e” meaning “There is hunger and infinite suffering in our own world, but it is a totally different world out there in Heavenly Jerusalem” I did not realize the hollowness of that song until my plane landed in Tel Aviv sometimes in 1993 when I went on a packaged trip with some students of my alma mater, the Yeshiva Jewish University of New York. It was then I realized that Bethlehem Joppa and Neblus were as poor as my father’s village at Igunshin in Akure local Government. There are many in some parts of my country and Africa who can only think of America today as Paradise on Earth, and can kill to come here.
I am told that close to 3 million Nigerians have played the Visa lottery to come to America for this year alone. I am reliably told that only 350,000 slots have been assigned to Africa as a whole and not more. I am quoting that figure just to demonstrate how far America has come as the promised land for all mankind. I recently stumbled on a Nigerian movie titled “One Dollar” acted by some Igbo artists who I can easily classify among our best talents in Nigeria. The morbid craze clearly demonstrated in that DVD/CD album has clearly depicted, albeit, with so much humor that would crack your ribs, as it did mine. This article could not possibly do a better job than what that DVD had done in demonstrating what America has become to too many of our people and to the whole world at large. What has empowered America to be all things to all mankind today is the engine that drives America. it’s the pros and cons of its Politics and those who shape it?
I call America the promised land because the real America is not beholding to any idol worship any where in their country. “In God we trust” is about as far as they have gone in identifying with the supreme Deity. And if you can believe that, the country has broken all comers record in every field of endeavor without worshipping any idol. You will have to be amazed like me about the supremacy of this great nation under God. Like I said earlier, America has landed a Rover on the Mars as we speak. What is frightening is not just how they were able to chart their way to the Moon or to Mars? The real jigsaw puzzle for many in the developing nations is how they are doing it in a way that you and I can observe without any gimmicks or abracadabra. They are doing it with effortful ease, that all of us can see from the comfort of our bed rooms or living rooms around the world.
I couldn’t help shouting “Akuko” meaning amazing News or Development in Igbo Language, when I saw the Rover make a picture-perfect landing on Mars, roughly two weeks ago. The Rover up to this moment, is being given instructions from Control room some where there at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The magic is that the machine doing exactly what it was being commanded to do from hour to hour and from minute to minute, with clock-like precision. This is the same country that the spider man and ex-Dictator, Saddam Hussein did try many times to intimidate by merely pulling a long sword out of a sheath or shooting a short revolver into the air to demonstrate what a strong man he was. I think Moamar Ghadafi finally got the message or heard the hunter’s proverbial ‘whistle, and could conceivably trace his way back to reason from his desolate desert of misadventure as he is now desperately, under severe pressure, trying to mend fences with America and the West before it is too late. There is something about America that makes her the shining City on the Hill for the rest of the World is what I am saying.
I have gone into all this narrative to illustrate the greatness that is America, and to articulate how that greatness is anchored on the political machine of this great nation after some 200 years of Independence from Great Britain on July 4th 1776. I have to say that the supremacy of the Promised land has crystallized through purposeful and visionary leadership right from the first generation of American leaders from George Washington to George Walker Bush. Regardless of Party Politics, America’s goal and resolve to lead the world has remained inviolate. It does not matter who is President or which Party controls the Congress or the Judiciary, America’s eyes have remained focussed like a laser beam on the prize “to be the best in the World” and that is something the rest of the World and more so the third World is yet to fully assimilate.
The American Empire, if you can call it so, has come to stay, and it is not going to disintegrate like previous Empires before her. Why? Because it is being actively monitored, and the union is being made more perfect by each succeeding generations of Americans from one era to another using all the tools or indices of Government I have identified in my second paragraph in this write-up which I must now elaborate upon.
I have to start with what Americans generally refer to as the Supreme Law, The almighty American Constitution. I see some similarities between the American Constitution and the Commandments delivered to the Israelites by Moses. We were told those commandments were specifically compiled and sent down by God to guide the children of Israel as they charted their way from their Land of bondage in Egypt to the promised land of their dream. I have to agree the Ten Commandments coming from God definitely had its own place and merit in the world of the Israelites, and by extension in the world of mankind if you can accept that. But the American Constitution, I have to say, is several shades above and beyond the scope covered by the Ten Commandments.
I spend a lot of my leisure time studying the American Constitution. All I could say is “Oro gbe inu omo enia fohun” Christians, the world over, have interpreted that to mean that God often speak using the hearts of you and me as his platform. For how else can we interpret the uncanny crafting of the American Constitution by a group of men just working together to produce what I call the eighth wonder of the World, if you can accept my hyperbolic presumption. I don’t care what anyone may say. I look upon all those wonderful drafters and compilers of the American Constitution as truly reflecting God’s plan for man on this Earth. I am talking of the great Thomas Jefferson the man who has earned the distinction of editing and putting the document together, from the suggestions and ideas of his distinguished colleagues. It was true that the Constitution was the handiwork and the brainwork of not just one person but many including the great Benjamin Franklin among others. I am simply amazed as I get into the nitty-gritty of the First, Second, Third, Fourth and the Fifth Amendments and what they say. I applaud the determination of Americans and their consistency in upholding the Constitution regardless of the temptation to do otherwise, especially in times of crisis. If you compare that to how many Constitutions Nigeria has had in her checkered career minus the several ones imposed on us by our colonial masters, you can clearly see my point.
The American Constitution, in my subjective judgment, has become the crown jewel of most “written” Constitutions, the world over, second perhaps to the British Constitution which is unwritten but based merely on time-honored conventions which had been mellowed and distilled by human experience over the years. The American constitution by adding the Jury system, from no where at all, had demonstrated its purity and originality as distinct from the British Constitution. It is therefore a thing of beauty if you ask me. The three powerful words “We the People” have entered into the Lexicon of constitutional government through out the entire world because it is so simple, unique and direct.
I now wish to examine, in some detail, what I mean by the concept of the Beauty and the Beast in the context of the major attributes that I believed the American Experiment in Government has solidified and validated around the world. I want to begin with the concept of Capitalism itself as opposed to Communism. Even Karl Marx and Lenin, should now have been convinced, like the Chinese are learning, and like the great majority of Russians have learnt, that Communism as an ideology has some endemic flaws that make it inferior to Capitalism in its basic or fundamental assumptions. For proof, I just ask you to look at the outcome of the cold war between the West and the old Soviet Union, and to form your own opinion as to who the clear winner is. The Beauty of Capitalism underscores the Beauty of American politics without any question.
Now to Democracy at work. It is now generally accepted around the world that Democracy is about the only game in town. That belief is championed and led by America around the world. Totalitarianism and Dictatorship have so far lost their luster and appeal around the world, so much so, that unrepentant Dictators are even ashamed to now identify themselves as Dictators. I cite the case of IBB and Muhammadu Buhari in our own neck of the woods in Nigeria not to talk of men like Moammar Ghadafi of Libya. Both IBB and Buhari as Johnny come lately and later day champions of Democracy, are now claiming they want to lead the experiment in Nigeria. If you believe them, I have an Island to sell to you in the Pacific. I guess the point I am making here is that America has continued to symbolize the beauty of Democratic ideals around the world. You can easily say the epithet “We The People” is not just a Campaign rhetoric in America, it is a fact of Life.
The Constitution requires that anyone who will be President in America must wily nilly reach out to Americans old or young, rich or poor from coast to coast and from sea to shining sea. Anybody who will be President must go through the mill or face the same baptism of fire as they are forced to canvass for votes in the primaries in the frosty Winters of Iowa and New Hampshire. Who ever finally emerges as President through the Ballot box in America, cannot, possibly do so by fluke. Never. If you ever emerge a President, even by losing the popular vote like George W. Bush, you still have something going for you that cannot undermine America and her mission in the world regardless of your personal flaws. The system is such that you will not even emerge as your Party candidate, to begin with, if you don’t have what it takes to be President. And if you are given the chance, and in four years you have fumbled so much, like leaders in many third world countries, you will not last beyond four years, trust me. Even if America is wrong in their initial selection, she offers herself an opportunity to correct that error in the Election Circle.
Today America is virtually ostracized and feared around the world because of the Bush policies. Americans would not fail to take notice, trust me. George W had told Americans he would never lie to the country under any circumstance, and he campaigned that the Democrats be rejected .. But what has he done after winning the presidency by the narrowest of margins in the Electoral College history? The answer is the exact opposite. If Democrats can properly and brilliantly frame the issues and articulate them in the 2004, I can tell you the Bush victory is not a done deal. That is the beauty of American Politics. Once beaten, twice shy. America like the elephant never forgets. You have got to love America, when all is said and done. I really do believe that.
How about Freedom for all and life more abundant? When the great Obafemi Awolowo first coined that phraseology in the 50s and the 60s in the old Western Region of Nigeria, I did not appreciate the full implications of what Awo was talking about until I came to America. You can say all you want about America. Their goal is undeniably Freedom for all and Life more abundant for all Americans. That was what President Bill Clinton had spent all his eight years in office doing, turning huge Deficits into surplus, creating 22 million jobs and ending ethnic cleansing in Kosovo without one casualty in combat. It is true that he had allowed some human frailties to distract his great work and contributions to the nation. He was, decidedly, a great President, and History would be much kinder to him than the Republicans. Part of the Beauty of American Politics is exemplified by Clinton’s popularity today among the mainstream of Americans nation-wide.
It is as if Bill Clinton had never left office. If he runs today against George Bush or any of the candidates in the race, he would win by a landslide. The Beast in American Politics is in the Washington crowd in particular and how negative, wicked and treacherous, the two major political parties can be, in running out some good people out of town for minor infractions and human frailties that do not rise to the level of impeachment. The attempt by the Republicans to impeach Bill Clinton for lying about Monica Luwenski, and for almost sending him out of office, in spite of his superb performance in office, is a case in point. Not even in the third world do we experience that kind of unconscionable vendetta. If it were in Nigeria King Sunny Ade and Commander Ebenezer Obe would be waxing albums extolling the virtues and the manhood of a great President. it is a different ball game in America where they often make a mountain out a molten hill. I call that the beast in American Politics The kind of pressure that can kill an opponent. Both Parties are guilty of it, but the Republicans are clearly the worse culprit.
If the Democrats are bent on asking for their pound of flesh, George Bush could conceivably be history in 2004. But the beauty again is that George Bush and his party are not just going to fold their arms and watch in silence. They are probably getting their ammunition ready to respond to the Democrats’ onslaught when the time comes. There is no shortage of brains in the two camps plus the Independents as the third force. If you factor in the Ralph Nadir and the Ross Perot and the Jesse Ventura factor or even Arnold Schwarzennegger factor into American Politics, you have to give kudos to America. Nobody does it better than America. It is a thing of beauty, believe me.
Now to Openness, Debate and Transparency in Government. Nobody beats America in that for sure. Their whole concept of responsible Government is predicated on the notion of openness, debate and transparency. When I was living in Washington, I never missed going to the Public Gallery to watch the two Houses in session and in debate. How about the formal way the Legislators and Senators dress, and the way they take their responsibilities and their lawmaking duties very seriously. It is in sharp contrast to the way our own Legislators and Senators in Nigeria take their job. They, essentially, go there to share booties and compete for government contracts, and to lure the Executive to offer them bribes and kickbacks before they do their job. Many don’t even show up for debates or are there late, and don’t want to be bothered about any thing other than claiming their allowances or looking for estacodes for internal or overseas travels. In the American Congress, you will usually find staffers working behind the screen to assist the Congress man or the Senator in compiling the raw data and research necessary to frame and articulate their positions in debates. It is a joy to see.
You watch Senators like Ted Kennedy, Robert Byrd, and Joseph Biden of Delaware Dick Durbin or Richard Lugar, Orrin Hatch, Allan Specter and John McCain speak on any issue, you shake your head, because they are above and beyond the ordinary in terms of their grasp of the issues at stake. There are just far too many Presidential materials in America. Just too many You can literarily pick and choose.
What is equally enchanting is the way these Law makers defer to seniority and experience. When Robert Byrd or the late Strom Thommond rise to speak, the Earth shakes beneath their feet, because they have both become a one man battalion. They speak with candor and authority. They are easily the best in what they do. My esteem for Ted Kennedy and Joseph Biden on the Democratic side is larger than life. I think Ted Kennedy had again demonstrated that power of the garb. a few days ago, when he delivered one of the most powerful speeches that have framed the issue of why President Bush had lied and misled the nation by going to War with Iraq and how he had made America more vulnerable, insecure, and ostracized by the rest of the world. It was the most persuasive case ever made against Bush and his policies. And when you remember that the same Ted Kennedy was the proud recipient of the George Bush Presidential Library Award for Public Service in America, a week before, you have to take off your hat for America. America is now hitting the point of self actualization in most things relative to other nations of the world, but they will be the last to admit that. All you keep hearing is “The Best is yet to me” What a country?
If you think that was impressive, wait till you hear how President Bill Clinton, and the War hero he had defeated to secure a second term, are working together to make America remain the leader of the Free World. You compare that with how the former Soviet Union, and now the current Russia Federation treats their former leaders, you instantly understand why the Soviet Union had to lose the cold War, and why President Putin of Russia had to be contented with playing the second fiddle in the Super Power chess game, if China which is eyeing the same spot, does not ease off Russia as time goes on. You compare how Nikita Kruschev and Gorbachov were relegated and forgotten after leaving office, you will know what I am talking about.President Bill Clinton had not only bestowed the highest honor in the land to his rival and opponent in Robert Dole. The two leaders are teaming up today to run a talk show on Television that seeks to illustrate the strength and the Beauty of American Politics. Need I say more?
Now to Accountability and Love of country. America has recorded yet another first in this endeavor. Are there rotten eggs, corrupt and shameless people in American Politics? The answer to that is a resounding “Yes” just like we do in Africa and more so in Nigeria. What is then the difference? The difference is the willingness and the resolve of America to enforce the Law and the Constitution, if such rotten eggs ever get caught or exposed. That is the Beauty. It makes no difference whether the culprit is a President or a Senator. They pay the price, without any doubt, just to serve as a deterrence to other future offenders. The list is inexhaustible. Spiro Agnew paid the price. Tricky Dicky Richard Nixon one of the strongest presidents of the last century also paid the price. Gary Hart, Congressman Livingston, Speaker Newt Gingrich, President Bill Clinton, Trent Lott as Majority Leader in the Senate.
Republican Governor Rolland of the State of Connecticut is right on his way to paying the price by being forced to resign from office, all because he got caught. What offense did he commit? It was his using his office to get a contractor working for his State to tar a private road to his personal property or what some in my country will simply call ten percent kickback in cash or kind, “idamewa” or the tithe as defined by the Bible. In Nigeria, that is no big deal. I am sure if you check out our current President, he would have had such skeletons in his cupboard if you look closely enough. Everybody does it in Nigeria. Our Senators live and die by ten percent. So are the State Governors. It does not matter if they get caught by Law Enforcement. Our Law Enforcement agencies don’t even bother about such things. I am sure the Inspector General himself cannot be found clean, if you check his records. Not so in America. The Law will go after you with vengeance if you get caught.
Do few people escape punishment in America? Yes they do. But it may still be exposed for public records long after the fact, if only for the lessons future generations can take away from it. The late Senator Strom Thommond of South Carolina in his days as a politician and Governor was a segregationist and racist of the worst order who had preached segregation in the day, but, was, at night, romantically embracing the same concept he has roundly condemned and rejected in the day time. But he managed to keep under wrap for years all of this outrage. He fathered a black woman who is now 70 years old. MS Washington Thommond had now broken the news open after the Senator’s death.
The Beauty of America is that the News Media here never fail to do their job. So determined are they that all the Cable Television Stations in America have joined hands to establish what they call PBS (Public Service Television) which runs C-SPAN 1 & 2 Channels in America without fear or favor and extolling the virtues of America. How I wish the multiple Television stations and more than 36 Radio Stations in Nigeria led by A.I.T. (African Independent Television can learn something from that example, and do for Nigeria, what C-SPAN 1 does for America every morning from 6.30 to 630 am when they run the program called Washington Journal. For those of you who are not familiar with how that channel services this Nation, I urge you to try and watch that channel everyday if you can. You will be glad you did.
I will like to end this write-up on what I see as another Beast in American politics. If you talk of vendetta in Nigeria, it is even more vicious and malicious here in God’s own country. What they will not do in America is this, and that is because they don’t believe in it, America will not put a voodoo on you or make you a dead man walking o like is common in our own part of the world. They can send assassins to get you, for sure. If they threaten you, nine out of ten chances, they will carry out the threat. If an American draws out a knife on you, nine out of ten chances he will stab you. Not so in our own part of the world. But the vendetta in American Politics is equally deadly, if you don’t fight back and defend yourself. But the good news is that the system makes room for both sides to be heard if possible on equal air time. Could there still be injustice to some parties, you bet, but it is never as blatant and undisguised as ours, because either party can either go court to seek a redress and still get justice, because there is provision for free Legal Aid services to those who cannot afford one. What is more is that the axiom that you are still presumed innocent until proven guilty still holds sway here, unlike it does, in our own system in the third world?
The pros and cons of American Politics is a compelling venture for me as I compare the system here with the system elsewhere around the world, and most especially in the developing nations, and most especially with Nigeria, the one I know best, serving as my major point of reference.
I rest my case.