Not only by the example of our power, but also by the power of our example. This is President Joe Biden’s pledge to the global community. The United States is set to turn a new leaf in the New World, following the exit of Donald Trump, and Biden’s inauguration as the 46th American President. Biden has promised fresh leadership and pledged to undo the damage his predecessor did to the international spirit of togetherness, over four years in office.
President Biden has promised the world that America is going to be a responsible part of the whole. He intends to shed off the abrasive and isolationist character that has defined the USA under his predecessor.
For history will record that Trump was a grumpy and blustery individual. He was a cantankerous bully, both at home and away. He rolled on the wheels of megalomania, everywhere he went, with his narcistic mantra of “Make America again.”
His nervous wrath was felt everywhere. From Havana to Jerusalem and from Tehran to Pyongyang. He was a rancorous character, who derived a sense of catharsis from firing his appointees and from scolding those he had no capacity to fire. His favourite punching bags were his immediate predecessor, Barack Obama and his 2016 competitor for the White House, Hillary Clinton.
This megalomaniac was a nihilist. He respected nothing. The ugly January 6 assault on Capitol Hill by his supporters (at his bidding) and his snubbing of the Biden inauguration will take a special place in the annals of infamy. His departure brings some level of relief not just to his country, but to the rest of the world. We can breathe.
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Of course the American extreme right will disagree. But, as President Biden said at his inauguration, let that be so. It is the nature of democracy, they don’t have to agree. Moreover, we can only expect the whole truth about the Trump presidency to begin coming out, now that he has left the centre of power.
We can only expect new bestsellers on the dysfunctional Trump years to begin hitting the bookstores. This aggressive and restless gentleman will certainly go down in history as a good example of a horrible leader.
Yet this horrible individual was also a good test for American institutions. They have demonstrated that they are solid. They can survive turbulence. But if Trump has booked his space in the records of notoriety, the Biden inauguration will, for its part, take a special place in the annals of the democratic tradition. Many will remember where they were on this day. It was a breathtaking occasion, the kind of day that sends different thoughts through different minds.
The African citizen is speechless. He can’t help wondering why things don’t happen the same way here, in the Cradle of Civilisation. The galaxy of retired presidents calls to shame Africa’s perennial dictators who put their competitors under house arrests during elections. Their “crime” is daring to run against them – like Robert Kyangulani running against President Museveni in Uganda.
While Kyangulani has been under house arrest in Kampala, you are reminded that America now has five former presidents, enjoying life as private citizens. They include Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, George Bush Jr., Barack Obama and – of course – Grumpy Don. Compare this with an African country where one man has placed everyone under his iron fist for 36 years, with many more still in store. That is why the only political change that much of Africa seems to know is turbulent change.
Indeed, the power of the American example is mighty. From one reckoning, the Biden-Harris inauguration was a salute to ripeness of age and to progressive conquest of prejudice. The colourful galaxy of the young, the aging and the aged puts to shame Kenya’s generational diatribe. Young people no longer respect their elders in a society where elders have traditionally been honoured.
In our village of Emanyulia, for example, elders are ranked and revered next to the ancestors. And the ancestors sit next to the gods. What we call the gods are in other civilisations called angels.
A younger person, therefore, weighs his words when talking about elders. And yes, the elders too weigh what they say about the youth. For, the tongue of the elder can bewitch. It was refreshing to witness the functional seamlessness of age in the world’s foremost democracy.
But the Biden inauguration parade was also an assurance that political bigotry can be defeated. Trump’s Vice President, Mike Pence, stood out in the war against political prejudice.
His dignified presence was the apex of his refusal to be associated with the worst of the Trump leadership baseness. For four years, Pence stoically put up with this baseness.
Pence brought America back from the brink. Someday history will reflect on his role on the day that Trump wanted to overthrow Congress. The world will wonder what could have happened, if the Vice president had been a man riding on the same instincts as Trump. For this alone, Pence will be a remarkable leader to watch in the Republican Party. Meanwhile, let the lessons sink in, in the rest of the world.
-The writer is a strategic public communication advisor.