THE German language is truly underappreciated. Take ‘Drachenfutter’ for example: translating as ‘dragon fodder’ this is the gift one gives as a peace offering to an angry partner or spouse. Then there’s ‘Schadenfreude’ which means: ‘pleasure derived from another person’s misfortune’. There’s a lot of that going around these days, with careful statistical research showing that global schadenfreude levels peak whenever Donald Trump opens his mouth.
This isn’t just expected, it’s also deeply satisfying. After all, America has lectured the world for decades on everything from human rights to democracy and everything in between. For those used to a steady stream of ‘do mores’ from the exceptional nation, the opportunity for some payback is irresistible.
Latest to take a pot shot is the state-owned Chinese newspaper Global Times. In a mirror image of editorials one would normally see in the New York Times or Washington Post, the Global Times expresses concern that democracy itself may be the problem. After all, they argue, if such a ‘clown’ can get so far in ‘one of the most developed and mature democratic election systems’ in the world then what does that say about that system of government itself?
In another jab, it points out that Hitler also came into power through the ballot box before going on to say that while Trump would probably not become president, the US does face the “prospect of an institutional failure”. Implicit in this criticism is the message that the Chinese system is far superior, given that it delivered dividends and not Donalds.
The opportunity of some payback is irresistible.
Echoing think pieces written by American journalists about the Middle East, journalist Murtaza Hussain sought to explain Trump’s rise in the context of American culture, saying that “it makes sense that fascist politics in the US would come via a reality TV star”.
In Pakistan, we are used to retired servicemen regaling us with their opinions about politics and even firing occasional shots across the bow of civilian statecraft and now, lo and behold, former CIA chief retired Gen Michael Hayden has come out saying that the US military would “refuse to act” if Trump were to actually order them to kill the family members of terrorists, as he pledged to do in his campaign speeches.
Were a former ISI chief to say this in Pakistan, we would be forgiven for keeping a close eye on the movements of the 111 brigade. As it stands, it isn’t impossible to picture a container outside the Capitol if Trump doesn’t get his way, with the soul-chilling possibility of Kanye West standing in for DJ Butt. However, any possible (and probable) Trump agitation would be nowhere near as peaceful as Imran Khan’s dharna, given that Trump has repeatedly and actively advocated violence against protestors at his rallies and has actually warned that his supporters may riot if he doesn’t clinch the nomination.
Add to that the massive support his fascist rhetoric garners and one can safely assume that were this to be happening in another country the US State Department would have issued at least one strongly worded statement of ‘concern’ about the democratic process while readying the cruise missiles.
Turnabout is fair play of course, and Lebanese humorist Karl Sharro took advantage of the Chicago clashes between pro- and anti-Trump factions to express the hope that the US could one day hold peaceful elections. He also offered to send Lebanese election observers to help with capacity building for Americans in what seems to be an increasingly sectarian election season.
He’s (mostly) joking, but the highly respected Economist Intelligence Unit is dead serious when it warns that a Trump presidency would pose a major threat to the global economy. On a scale of one to 25, they rank the threat of a Trump presidency at 12, four points above a clash in the South China Sea and three points below the breaking up of the eurozone and the fracturing of the European Union.
According to the EIU, Trump gets this ranking due to his hostility towards free trade, his “exceptionally right-wing stance on the Middle East” and his “alienation of China and Mexico”. However, while the EIU also states that it does not expect Trump to defeat Hillary Clinton, his “most likely” contender for the Presidency, it says that there are “risks to this forecast, especially in the event of a terrorist attack on US soil”. It’s not without irony then that, at number 12, Trump ties with the danger of an escalation in ‘jihadi terrorism’.
America borrows many symbols with the Roman Empire of old, so it is instructive to remember that Rome fell only after being weakened by a succession of weak, and often insane emperors. It’s also instructive to remember the old saying, “those whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad”. Or in this case, make ridiculous.
The writer is a journalist.
Published in Dawn, March 21st, 2016