The Diasporan Perspective
By Ekerete Udoh
Last Wednesday was July 4th-America’s Independence Day. The annual ritual where under pomp and circumstance Americans renew the essence of its founding, collectively luxuriate in sweet aroma of its exceptionalism and celebrate the unique instruments to governance that have been copied, admired and held aloft as mankind’s best hope for a government where the contours and contorts are acutely watched and superintended by the people and the same people have the inalienable rights to step up and replace such governments if it were seen not to work to advance the hopes and aspirations of the governed .
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness”. The above is a quote from the Thomas Jefferson inspired Declaration of Independence from Great Britain by the founding fathers of the United States.
Since July 4th, 1776, America has followed through on the above prescriptions, changing and altering governments and instituting new ones that they hope would best provide the platforms for them to pursue happiness and ensure their safety. The journey was not easy as in the course of establishing a perfect or near perfect union, it had to confront the imperfections of the human spirit, the selfish, immoral, and desire for conspicuous consumption ... It had to confront the evil system of slavery, the reduction of fellow humans into articles of trade and the shocking counting of humans- blacks as three fifth of a human being in order to reach a compromise on the ratification of its constitution. It had to deal with a civil war to beat back this inhumane trade in humans, and lost in the process a president who helped pull the union together when it almost seemed it was splintering along the north and south divides.
It had to deal with a Reconstruction that some in the south felt was harsh and unfair; the regrouping and subsequent rise to power of the southern irredentists, the sly manner the constitutional provisions were evaded under series of laws that fell under ‘states rights’. The Jim Crow ear, the rise of racial discriminations, the reversal of fortunes of a society that had had seemed to bury the ghost of slavery and racism- the Supreme Court that was packed by racist justices who gave us such morally appalling rulings as Plessy V. Ferguson, American always found a way to reinvent the wheel of its fortunes.
At every turn in is evolution, a few good men showed up- men who were ready to pay the ultimate sacrifice I if it needed to, I n order to establish the perfect or near-perfect union that the founding fathers had inspired and hoped for. When it seemed America was destined for a split into two distinct nations-one that viewed the instrument of slavery as inhumane and immoral (the north) and one whose genteel culture depended on the this immoral trade to sustain its economic needs, Abraham Lincoln came along and after years of brutal war where millions of Americans were killed and destruction of indescribable proportions, the south was brought back and the American nation was restored.
When the twin ideologies that define the American socio-political soul-democracy and capitalism were threatened as a result of the Great Depression-when Americas were openly romanticizing socialism and had began to question the propriety or otherwise of its much vaunted free market system and the associated freedoms and liberty, when poverty walked on four legs and men and women who were millionaires few days earlier were reduced to queuing up to at soup kitchens, when the soul and spirit of American exceptionalism seemed like a fairy tale, Franklin Delano Roosevelt stepped up and in 100 days, restored the confidence of the American people about the superiority of its system. Americans went back to work through many governments inspired programs and initiatives and capitalism and democracy was saved from itself.
When racism assumed Olympian proportions and blacks were treated like second hand citizens and the political environment appeared like it had accepted the situation as fait accompli- Americans first elected John Fitzgerald Kennedy whose initial efforts to confront racism was cut short by his assassination, but the momentum was never lost. The Johnson administration that succeeded him, bulldozed its way through the Congress and successfully passed the Civil Acts and the Voting Acts that leveled the political playing field and gave blacks voting rights that the Jim Crow era state governments had denied under a welter of a sinister ploys to deny them of voting rights such as the infamous ‘Grandfather Rule’ and poll taxes etc.
When the world was split along bi-polar extremes- the East dominated by Socialism and its twin sister of authoritarianism and superintended by the defunct Soviet Union and the West defined by democracy and capitalism and lorded over by the United States-each with its own spheres of influence and the attendant gridlock on international politics highway, Americans elected Ronald Regan whose main motivation it seems was to end socialism and in the words of Francis Fukuyama made the world “ free for capitalism”. Communism was defeated and today, the world stands as a uni-polar entity, shaped, defined and directed by the United States as the sole hegemonic power. Even though many international politics watchers predict that China would be the next hegemonic power, I disagree- China would become a major soft power, but it would take decades for her to become both a hard and soft power that America had become since 1945. And while it attempts to become a hard power, America would not sit idly by and watch its comparative advantage get blunted.
When American economy was experiencing severe downturn in the early 90s and the laughable Republican catechism of low taxes and less regulation no longer held promise with the American people, it elected a Democrat-Bill Clinton whose two terms in office gave Americans the best peace time economic growth in over 50 years. When it seems the moral standing of America had been compromised after the Republican led administration of George W. Bush went to war with Iraq under false premise of going to destroy weapons of mass destruction and to free the world of what it called the dangerous portents of the late Saddam Hussein, American people having seen thorough the devious machinations repudiated such tactics and looked to show the world it has zero-tolerance for brazen use of subterfuge and obfuscation to push though a policy be it local or foreign. America restored its moral voice and also in one fell swoop buried the ghost of racism- and proved that race relations in America were improving exponentially. It elected its first African American president- a president with a unique circumstance of birth and a unique set of names-Barrack Hussein Obama. To imagine that America was still at war with a man who inflicted the worst terrorists attacks on the American soil-Osama Bin- Laden and was equally fighting another theater of war with a man whose name was Saddam Hussein and the romp of his government in Iraq, Americans refused to buy into the carefully and devious conflation of Obama (Osama) and Hussein as in Saddam) employed by the right wingers and those in the Republican Party who gave a nod and a wink to these sly attempts to cast President Obama s the ‘other’ an alien who was not “one of us’ and massively voted him into office in 2008. They will repeat that process I predict on November 6th 2012 in spite of the battle cry of the same people to “take back our country”.
America has shown the world that though it is not yet a perfect union, it has found ways and means of resolving internal crises by appealing to higher ideals. As its citizens from Maine to Alabama, from New York City to Honolulu, Hawaii, from Anchorage, Alaska to San Diego, California, played a symphony of nationalism and pride with fireworks last Wednesday, you are left wondering: when will we, Nigerians begin to be seized buy such nationalistic fervor and begin to celebrate the oneness of our essence? When will we begin to celebrate our shared ideals and hopes of a building a nation that is free from ethic and religious colorations? When will our Abraham Lincolns, the Franklin Roosevelt’s, the Kennedys, the Johnsons, the Ronald Regans, Bill Clintons and our Barack Obama show up and lift us all up, galvanized our hopes and make us sing in unison that we are Nigerians and we are proud to be so identified because our governments have given us the reason to feel as such? I hope that day comes…and soon too!
Thank you all for all your kind prayers.
Sometimes you get to know how you are loved and appreciated when you found yourself in a circumstance that is very challenging or had faced-a near- death experience. The story of how I cheated death by the whiskers by missing the the ill-fated Dana flight on June 3rd, by a few minutes has elicited numerous reactions from people all over the world. I have always known that there are people out there, who appreciate my little contributions toward national discourse, but I was moved to tears by the number of phone calls, text messages and e-mail messages form people all over the world thanking God on my behalf for being alive today. People have held thanksgiving on my behalf and this Saturday, a group of friends led by former reporter, now an Elizabeth, New Jersey based businessman and movie producer-Moses Adedeji are having a party in my honor in New Jersey to thank God for saving my life. May God almighty bless you all for your prayers and may the souls of those who died in that cash find sweet repose in Jesus Name.