Before agreeing to provide medical services and latrines for banana plantation laborers, Mr. Brown turned to look out the window on the deserted Macondo. “When the rain stops,” he said. “As long as the rain lasts we’re suspending all activities.” A downpour occurred immediately afterward that lasted four years, 11 months and two days.
Just like that “gringo” in “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” we have read about others who have suffered similarly disastrous consequences on the pages of the finest Latin American novels; on this absent-minded afternoon, I am reminded both of the aforementioned Mr. Brown, and a certain Mr. Chapy in Jorge Icaza’s novel “The Villagers,” whose requests to the landowner provokes the final massacre, not maliciously but rather in the name of business. “Gringos are neither bound to here nor there; rather, they are bound to money. That is their homeland,” José María Arguedas wrote incisively about Americans and their role in the formation of the Altiplano regimes.
But not even Gabriel García Márquez at his most scathing would have dreamed up Donald Trump. The outgoing president of the United States has not been worse than Harry S. Truman, Lyndon B. Johnson or Richard Nixon perhaps; maybe he has not been even more obstinate than Ronald Reagan, but with respect to his relationship with the rest of the world, Trump’s character perfectly illustrate one of the fundamental pillars of American political ideology: a belief that matters are predetermined.
In many ways, Trump has been the spokesperson for politically incorrect and unfortunately popular ideas on all sides: the literal narrative of building walls to curb immigration, the designation of all refugees from the Middle East as terrorists without exception, or the idea that there is nothing more dangerous than introducing women into the workplace. Although these are exaggerated positions, they reconstitute a type of chauvinism that is not limited to America alone. Misogyny and intolerance disguised as patriotism can be found everywhere, as some of the worst specimens of criollo* politics aptly demonstrate to us whenever the opportunity arises.
More specific to its brand of nationalism is the idea that the United States is predestined to lead the world. Should this not be possible through leading by example, just as it became painfully clear to Woodrow Wilson over a century ago, then it will be achieved through force. With respect to Latin America, this conviction, considered by some to be imperialist and by others expansionist, is but a basic precept of domestic security for the majority of Americans that has prevailed since the dawn of the Monroe Doctrine era.
The major overtone here is that two centuries ago, the motto “America for Americans” referred to restraining European colonialism; during Trump’s presidency, just as will occur during Joe Biden’s, this now refers to not relinquishing further ground to Xi Jinping’s China.
Are there alternative methods to develop foreign policy? Possibly. But what is the point of doing so if one cannot hostility and strength, aggravating whomever possible, carrying the rationale to the point where the dialectic no longer fits and there is only passion instead? Trump, a purebred Presbyterian, achieved this by reasoning that there was no need to hide when the thing that helps both him and America is acknowledging that the course is not historical but rather one of his own prerogative, an inherent right, a destiny.
These are ideas that are not best discussed over coffee, and are idea that millions of Americans would disavow any day of the week. Yet, in the mouth of a leader who declares himself to be more autocratic than democratic and is willing to step on the freedoms of others in order to defend the freedoms of those equal to him – a category so loosely defined that members of the most disparaged minorities consider themselves to be members – these pronouncements connect on a primal level, be it intellectual or instinctive. For that reason, more than 70 million of Trump’s fellow citizens voted for him just a few days ago.
Trump will continue to be Trump, and leave a trail behind him akin to buffalo stampede. Meanwhile, Biden, will arrive to a cry of victory that will ring out until it starts to rain once more in Macondo.
*Editor’s note: A criollo is a person of Spanish descent born in Spanish America.
About this publication