Deja Vu Everywhere
Michael Ovienmhada

There is a Chinese proverb that goes thus: He who rides the Tiger is afraid to dismount. For some reason, mainly, a reason to survive, many people think they can do business with a Tiger, (Dictator).

What is lost to them is the fact that the dictator by nature is ruled primarily by paranoia. History is replete with friends of the dictator who instantly transformed into enemies of the State. For the dictator, the dictator is the State and the State is the dictator. There is no daylight between the two. In recent days, there have been speculations that the Attorney General who has effectively doubled as Trump’s personal lawyer may end up in the belly of the Tiger. To his detractors, it was always when, not if. This has always been in the column of inevitability. In nation building, people ordinarily aim to make the best person win an office as they define best to be. This is why choice between opposing views and opposing candidates sits at the heart of democracy.

As we have all come to learn in recent history, the difference between democracy and dictatorship is easy as a smile turning into a frown. Adolf Hitler rose on the wings of democracy. We all know what he did with that. Erdogan of Turkey rose on the wings of democracy. We all know what he is doing with that. Putin rose on the wings of democracy. We all know what he has done with that. What we did not know and what we did not think in the realm of possibilities was that the United States could ever be in that category. Since 2016, we have witnessed an assault on democracy on a scale that makes Richard Nixon look like a Kindergartener. First was the firing of Comey. Then came the public mockery and eventual firing of Attorney General Sessions. Many others followed in rapid succession—-General Matthis, General Kelly, Rex Tillerson and many more. As these events unfolded, political watchers and historians, mouths wide open, wondered whether the institutions, the pillars, time tested, weather beaten traditions of 244 years would hold strong. The opinions of 340 million scattered, diverse, individual people are ceded to their representatives in Congress. If the people in Congress acquiesce to the whims and caprices of a dictator wanna-be, what hope is left for the multitude? These people are supposed to provide a pushback.

Next comes the Department of Justice. Ordinarily, one is supposed to view this department as a veritable bulwark for the curbing of the excesses of the executive. If the Executive were a car, the Department of Justice are the brakes. However, since JFK first appointed his brother, Robert as Attorney General, that office had been compromised to a great extent. This is where men and women of conscience ought always to speak out and speak up even when their Party is in power and everything seems to be to their own advantage. In the activities of humans, observation is crucial. People generally do not want you to tell them what to do. People want to know what to do by the power of your example. If a sauce is good for the goose, why not for the gander also?

What we are witnessing in America today did not just begin with Trump. He only came to push the envelope and push, he did.
One thing has been made clear so far. Everyone who cuddled him in the course of his grave assault on our democratic institutions has ended up thus far, in the belly of the Tiger. You have to give it to the Chinese. They know these things. They have more proverbs about life and human behavior than any other nation in history. When you ride the Tiger, you are never gonna be able to dismount. You transform into lunch for the Tiger. Should we feel sorry for Attorney General Barr? Since the disgraceful exit of Jeff Sessions who caught Trump’s ire for recusing himself from the Russia “hoax,” Barr has been a staunch defender of the unlimitedness of Presidential power. Barr’s expansive view of presidential power is analogous to bad brakes on a car. Someone is gonna get killed. It is not a matter of if, but when. In this case, the republic we have all been building for 244 years and counting. The ramifications of the death of democracia reach far beyond the walls at the Mexican border. They reverberate across the world. America is the candle on a hill. Or is it?

Enters the Supreme Court of the United States. Thankfully, the founding fathers had thought it wise to create this institution as a bulwark against the destruction of the republic by inoculating them with a lifetime appointment such that they would not be tools for destruction but rather for preservation. Regardless of the divide in terms of Conservative Judges and Liberal Judges, for the most part, this institution has held its own. Recall that this institution has been at the forefront of change at different junctures in the evolution of the United States even during the dark days of slavery, through the tumultuous times of Jim Crow, the tunnel of segregation and the turmoil of the Civil Rights struggle. If historians were to put the Supreme Court of the United States on a scale, I would be giving them an A grade for their ability and courage to stand against the tide of powerful men and make great strides. This speaks to the dictum by John Adams to wit: “Ours is a Government of laws and not of men.” What this means is that— in a free society, rules must be clear and understandable. No one should be able to move the goal post as they wish. This is why, in every culture, Madam Justice is depicted with a blindfold on. As decades go, this decade which ends in 18 days has been a troubled one. As years go, this year which ends in 18 days has been—- in the words of the Queen of England— when the Monarchy was rocked to its foundations by the troubles of her children— an Annus horribilis.

In spite of COVID. In spite of the attendant economic hardship resulting from COVID—-one of my highly respected friends would always say— if it had not been for the Lord on our side—-where would we be? Goodbye 2020. We love thee but we must bid thee goodbye.

Michael Ovienmhada.
Author, Playwright, Poet, and
Public Affairs Commentator
[email protected]

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