This is my first political commentary (sort of) on America, and if sticks and stones should come break my bones after detractors read this, then (gulp) I think it’ll be my last one too!
But before you say anything, let me be crystal clear.
I’m no political pundit.
For most of my life, I avoided politics like it was Covid-19. All that manoeuvring for pole position? It’s more nail-biting than a grandmaster chess game on Netflix’s The Queen’s Gambit.
And a million times more frightening!
To be remembered as the world leader who either built up or tore down hundreds upon thousands of lives with every decision made everyday? And which we the ordinary citizens petition for on our feet and vote for with our ballots?
Thanks, but no thanks.
Still, I’m not exactly the small “0–5” years of age toddler going on “1–5” teenager. This year, I’m the big “5–0” going on “5–1” adult!
So like it or not, I can’t exactly dodge the effects of political fallouts here or elsewhere. Nor avoid having an opinion no matter how much I try to block out the news. And given the proliferation of real and fake news these days, the speed in which they are delivered, and the incessant onslaught at every turn, it’s a heck of a lot to block!
Where I’m situated, it’s also impossible to ignore world politics and economic issues, especially in recent times.
Singapore has played host to such history-making moments like the Trump-Kim summit in 2018, and the next World Economic Forum in May 2021 (a forum that has always been held in Switzerland, except once in New York in 2002).
While many of my fellow countrymen may puff up their chests with pride that we beat other global cities to secure such privileges, I’m less enthused.
To me, these man-made events are, well, man-made. All that pompous posturing means squat unless real change that benefits ordinary folks like me can be achieved. I mean, look where that Trump-Kim summit got us?
But even the most hardened of cynics must acknowledge, albeit begrudgingly, that what just took place three days ago in America marked a highly significant turning point in its history, as well as that of the rest of the world.
America’s & the world’s return to normalcy?
On January 20th, Joe Biden was inaugurated as America’s 46th president.
Unfortunately, it’s happening during a time when this great global bastion of democracy is at its arguably lowest point in terms of world standing.
Domestically, America’s also at one of its most divisive moments in history, with racial riots and citizen distrust at an all-time high.
And there’s still the pandemic to deal with.
While many would pin it on The Donald, I wouldn’t; though his narcissistic personality is hardly a selling point (courtesy of a toxic father figure Fred Trump Snr, if Mary Trump’s memoir is to be believed); nor the reality that he’s not the self-made successful businessman he repeatedly claims to be.
Truth is, Trump was a mere channel for the undercurrents that have been steadily building momentum over the past decades in the States. Currents that ultimately unleashed and resulted in that unfortunate incident at the Capitol earlier this month (it’s now a permanent Wikipedia entry!).
The fact that 75 million voted for Trump last November should be enough to redirect any sane person’s attention from him to these voters: Just who are they?
As an outsider, I can only watch in helplessness like someone on the opposite shore of a city on fire, powerless to send water over.
There was a time…
Growing up, I was fed a healthy dose of all things red, white and blue, thanks mainly to the tube.
A smorgasbord of Sesame Street, Different Strokes, The Cosby Show, M*A*S*H, The Golden Girls, Justice League and Hollywood blockbusters. You name it, I’ve watched it!
On the airwaves, I was also swept up weekly by THE most popular music countdown show then. Even now, I can still hear oh so clearly his familiar baritone go “Hi I’m Casey Kasem, and you’re listening to The American Top 40!”
So as a young boy, it was hard not to be acculturated in the ways of the West, and its alluring promise of freedom and democracy the American Way!
Of course, I also had my fair dose of local/Asian influence, born and raised an ethnic Chinese in a multicultural “rojak” that includes Malays, Indians and Eurasians.
But somehow it was the pop culture of the West, in particular the US of A, that most attracted my attention, and (if I’m to be perfectly honest) undying devotion.
A devotion to the truth
While I’m no political pundit as mentioned, I am a parent. And if there’s one value I desire for my offsprings, it would be an unswerving devotion to truth and the American way.
Oops, I mean truth and the honest way.
Devotion to a cause you believe in, and a commitment to honour and pursue what’s true, right and just.
Now that’s not too much to ask, is it?
Yet look at our world today! The daily avalanche of newsfeeds (real and fake) seem to speak of nothing but doom and gloom. And entities like Pride Boys and QAnon have managed to find their way into our vernacular and living rooms, challenging the very fabric of truth and the world we ought to bequeath to our next generation.
How did we let it get this far?
Yes, I say ‘we’ because I firmly believe we’re all complicit in this, no matter where we are on God’s green earth. The earth we were charged with the duty to caretake, but which we’ve abdicated in exchange for the temporal and fleeting skirmishes and in-fighting.
I’m guessing at dinner tables everywhere in and out of America, conversations on the recent US presidential election and inauguration are unavoidable. But what exactly is being said, especially to our children who need a steady moral compass to navigate this tumultuous times we live in?
I know what I want to say to my kids
I don’t know about you, but I know what I want to tell my kids.
I want to tell them that Daddy would like to see America back on its feet again.
To see the star-spangled banner unfurled and dancing joyfully with the breeze. To see not just an America that is great again, but this whole world too.
A re-United States of America. And a unified and inclusive world.
The truth is that I need my kids to still hold onto heroes.
To a desire for better ways.
Or at the very least, not to be resigned and cynical like many adults today.
Alright, I see that look on your face. You’re about to stop reading and write me off as some pre-pubescent dreamer who’s out of touch with reality.
In my defence, I’m not saying any of this from a place of nauseous naïveté. The fact is, I’m saying it more from a place of utter desperation!
I desperately need to hold onto what could be the last vestiges of what’s true and right about this world. To hold onto faith, hope and love.
And, more than anything else, I want that for my kids with my whole heart.
For what’s the alternative if I don’t?
What sort of world will my kids live in when I go?
A “re-united” one, I hope.
Starting with the “Re-United States of America”.