End of the American Empire
The very title of this think-piece is an exaggeration; appropriately and deliberately so. The new and bloated Orwellian American presidency is an excess of indecorum; official doublespeak; political ignorance, naivety, arrogance and gerrymandering; race-and-religion-baiting; national sectarian divides and international diplomatic catastrophes. In short, this mis-government is a painful and embarrassing abscess – a swollen boil on the world’s pubic region.
While the informing sentiment here might also appear to be an exaggeration, it only captures the equally hyperbolic political wish of this new America to self-destruct – quite without the aid of any terrorists, ironically; to implode and disintegrate rather quickly instead of aging, waning and melting away like all Empires do. In this contradictory Yankee instance, there is the possibility of a sudden–death syndrome to be brought about by a bungling, immature, ego-maniacal Whitehouse trapped in the Lacanian mirror stage of child development. It is a special never-seen kind of childish Whitehouse whose forearms flailed and fluttered – face, neck and mouth askew – in derisive and inhumane mimicry of a disabled American journalist during the political primaries campaign. The twisted mouth of that campaign has gone on to spew more political vomit in the infancy and infantilism of this administration. In the grip of that disease of the mouth, this regime reels from one verbal scandal to another, tweet-by-insane-tweet, splintering the American body politic further, alienating allies abroad, inflaming the world and eroding America’s global moral and political standing – all within a tiny fraction of the usual probationary hundred days!
The core instinct and ethic of this bi-polar regime is disdain for the Other and an official dissimulation to sustain it. This is in keeping with America’s founding egotism – American interest above all interests. And in that regard, who is defined as ‘American’ is ultimately (de)based on the same Othering disdain and spite, which in its most vitriolic form, escapes out as the murderous actions of an unrepentant Dylan Roof. America’s political death-wish is the result of that unthinking, headless racism. What else could have brought an alt-right-post-truth-alternative-facts-President to power if not an insidious and cancerously benign racism couched in the language of shameless self-interest, rabid nationalism and of ‘securing a homeland’ that is, in reality, only a body of immigrants – except for the indigenous (first-nation) native-American. That racism is the shifty bedrock of a now shaky American Empire; it has been eating away and corroding the body politic like acid from the moment the first slave ship docked in Virginia in 1619. This historical fact – the docking, enslavement and flagellation of black bodies – planted the seeds of the alt-right-white-right poisonous fruit that America has always devoured and which now makes her sick and, retch. The plant of that sad fruit, which is bitter and sweet at the same time depending on who is chewing on what part of it, has been watered by over two centuries of willful blindness to its real-political and social health hazards.
In recent history, an American decline in global power was set in motion, not so much by the events of September 11, 2001, as by the disproportionate, arrogant and unmeasured military responses to it. These depleted state coffers, dismembered troop limbs, shattered combatant lives, demoralized bereaved families, and became the distant precursor of a US bankruptcy in 2008, with its accompanying global financial meltdown. The regime which succeeded those wars of self-depletion helped to roll back that decline and set the country on its original course towards a lasting imperium. However, the new government has again rewound the clock, this time moving the hand of retrogression rapidly forwards. An isolationist and a protectionist new dispensation can only whittle down the remaining prestige and power of this dying giant, till the country is carved, shaved and paired into a flute for blowing tunes of rapid decline, failure and diminishing global power.
The new regime is a personification of that proverbial hubris and arrogance which precedes a fall. Hubris it is indeed for America to deny its history and bury the dead rotting thing, that succubus of hate and barbarism called racism; to embalm the living smelly corpse with the cloth of manifest destiny, and assume there is no such thing as karma. The very thing which could have kept the imperium longer, namely internal group cohesion, is sacrificed for sectional, racialized interests. It is an age-old truism that a house divided cannot stand. America is embattled at home and abroad it draws awkward stares reserved for the terminally ill. The empire is dying!
However, State narrative is that America is being made great right now. It is a new squeaky-clean, non-racist progressive nation with its eyes set on a horizon of greatness and renewed vigour – even when clearly this is a troubled country breathing its last sighs into the yawning pits and on the verge of ruin-nation. With that country’s self-declaration as a bastion of freedom and democracy, George Orwell probably never had America in mind when he wrote his anti-fascist novel, 1984. However, fascism is abroad swaggering along Whitehouse corridors in blue suite and red tie; it is clean shaven, rotund, well-fed; incredibly petulant and full of tantrums like a spoilt little boy. More than just turning in his grave, the British Orwell must be doing backflips in alarm at his American cousins.
This regime reminds one of the over-wise and self-deflationary cunning of the Tortoise in Yoruba folktales. Noting that her husband, the Tortoise, is dressed up to the nines to embark once again on another of his unending shenanigans, Yannibo, the wife and moral conscience in the tale, asks plaintively: “IJapa, my husband- this journey you are embarking on again- when are you going to return.” Ijapa threw his flowing gowns around him in a celebratory flourish and bells out a response in a dancing singsong: “Not until I have been disgraced, disgraced, disgraced; not until I have been disgraced!” The new American government is the Tortoise in the tale; it has embarked on a journey from which it shall not return until Empire has been disgraced.