Trump: A president weighed in the balance and found wanting


Trump: A president weighed in the balance and found wanting


Wednesday, October 21, 2020

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According to Old Testament history, around 538 BC, Belshazzar, king of Babylon and successor to the notorious and feared Nebuchadnezzar, held a party in his court for his princes, his wives, and his concubines. He ordered that the golden and silver vessels which his father had taken out of the temple in Jerusalem be brought in so that his guests would drink wine from them. This was not just a mockery of God and Jewish culture, but it was a barefaced attempt by an autocratic king to demonstrate his unfettered power to his friends and the people at large.

His hubris and perhaps narcissism were clear for all to see. As he and his guests carried on with their drunken orgy, a finger suddenly appeared and wrote on the wall, “mene, mene, tekel, parsin” (or upharsin as some translators have it). Daniel, one of the young and promising men who had been taken into exile in Babylon, and who had proven his loyalty to Yahweh, was called in to interpret the writing on the wall. The interpretation was no comfort to the king. His kingdom would be taken from him. He, the king, had been weighed in the balance and found wanting. Daniel would not hide the truth from the autocratic centre of power in his time.

Reflection on this story brings haunting parallels to where we are in America today under the Donald Trump Administration. If the polls are to be believed, they consistently tell the story of a once-proud nation in decline, of a country that seems impotent to restrain the propensities of a man who no doubt harbours the dispositions of the autocratic Belshazzar. While he may not be drinking sacrilegiously from holy vessels taken from a temple — the president says he does not drink alcohol — he has caused the nation to be drinking from a chalice of the bitter gall of unnecessary suffering and pain brought on by his mishandling of the nation's affairs, especially in the area of the raging pandemic.

And, it is in the pandemic that Trump's political fate is sealed. It is in this area that his weight on the scale of accountability is most pointed. In the midst of a raging, easily transmissible respiratory pandemic, the leader of the country shows reckless disregard for his own life, and that of his supporters, by holding campaign rallies at which thousands of people are assembled, and many, including himself, not wearing masks.

Foolishly, just two weeks before the presidential election, and at a time when over 30 million electors have already voted, the president is still spreading disinformation and downright lies about the virus. His gullible audience laps up the lies that the country has turned the corner on the virus, at a time when there is a gigantic surge in infections and hospitals are becoming overwhelmed in sections of the Midwest. Yet, the president conducts political rallies in some of these areas, contemptuous of the local mitigation protocols put in place to contain the virus.

He has attacked the country's leading scientific expert on the pandemic, labelling him an “idiot” and “a disaster,” projective terms that many would reserve for Trump after almost four years of leading America.

By any metric we choose, Trump has been weighed in the balance and found terribly wanting. Like all would-be autocrats before him, he has no one else to blame but himself. I have said repeatedly that he is his worst enemy; that by his words and actions he has judged and declared himself for who he is — an inept, erratic, and irascible president more concerned about his own personal interests than those of the country he claims to love.

As a result, and if the polls are to be believed, close to 60 per cent or more of the people whom he has governed for almost four years have declared him not worthy of their attention. They have weighed him in the scales of probity and are now convinced that the Kingdom of America that Trump would like to build in his own image must be laid to rest. His kingdom, set on a foundation of racial bigotry and a confederate past that many Americans would wish to leave behind, is not the America they want to live in.

What are Americans to make of the finger writing on the wall today? What message are citizens reading? What is clear is that the country is in a gigantic battle for the preservation of its soul and the survival of its grand democratic experiment. This is a time for all Americans of goodwill to seriously ponder whether, with all fidelity to their pet issues, America, as they have seen it over the past three years and counting, is that which represents the best of what is in the American spirit and soul — whether for the next four years the country will not be irrevocably changed for the worse if the present status quo should persist. This is an existential question that will be answered by every voter in this election for a new leader.

As they ponder these considerations, they may well recall the oft-quoted statement attributed to the 17th-century political philosopher Edmund Burke, that the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing. But who are the good people in America today? Who are those who are sitting by while right before their very eyes mendacity is becoming a regulatory and governing principle in a country founded on democratic principles; the free press is declared fake by a president who brooks no criticism of himself; the nation's troops, in a report from the nation's intelligence agencies, are being threatened in a theatre of war by bounties being placed on their heads by an adversary power; the president openly rejects the report of his own intelligence agencies and accepts the word of the president of that adversary power, Russia, a man who once headed his country's national intelligence agency, the KGB (Committee for State Security)?

Who is sitting on the fence while in the midst of this pandemic the president and his Republican enablers are supporting a brief in the Supreme Court that may very well terminate the health care Act, and thus remove health insurance from millions of people and millions more who have and will lose their jobs in the near future? And thus, even if those millions could get insurance, may find it too expensive to purchase or be denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition.

Who is sitting idly consumed by his or her own problems not to notice the president's debasement of the institutions of the country — from his castigating of servicemen and women in the military; to his clear attempts at politicising the department of justice; and his placing of his people in departments of government, who are clearly there to carry out his wishes even if these are injurious to the public good? And this, while the president indulges a litany of boisterous tweets which often showcase his obsession with self and his contempt for perceived enemies.

November 3, 2020 is a day of reckoning; a date with destiny for the American people. The writing on the wall is not only about the political demise of Trump as a national leader, but it is also a statement to the American people to determine where they want to be or what they want to become as a nation in the next four years.

Dr Raulston Nembhard is a priest, social commentator, and author of the book WEEP: Why President Donald J. Trump Does Not Deserve A Second Term . Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or

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