"Will there be stability over chaos?"
The four-day Democratic Party convention in the US of A was devoid of the usual hoopla that characterized previous presidential nominations, no thanks to the COVID pandemic that has razed the most powerful nation on earth.
The climactic point was not in the convention proper; Joseph Biden was a shoo-in when everybody else folded their political tents long before last week. It was the selection of California senator Kamala Harris, the feisty daughter of a Jamaican father and an Indian mother.
What Obama started 12 years ago, when the first African American won the party nomination and went on to become America’s first colored president, lives on with the choice of Harris as running mate of Joe Biden. She could well be the first colored American woman to become vice president.
Obama earlier asked Americans to vote incumbent President Trump out, describing him as simply incapable of the office he mistakenly won in 2016.
“I did hope, for the sake of the country, that Donald Trump might show some interest in taking the job seriously; that he might come to feel the weight of the office, and discover some reverence for the democracy that had been placed in his care. But he never did,” Obama said.
Democrats have chosen a very senior citizen, Joe Biden, veteran legislator and Obama’s trusted vice-president for two terms, all of 77 years, who once elected would be the oldest man to occupy the Oval Office.
But times define the leader, and a sane, sensible, mature gentleman who will heal the wounds inflicted by probably the most atypical American to lead what the “land of the free” calls the “greatest democracy on earth,” is Joe Biden.
“Here and now I give you my word…I will draw on the best of us, not the worst. I will be an ally of the light, not the darkness,” he said.
Pete Buttigieg, the young former mayor of South Bend, Indiana who was one of the early frontrunners for the Democratic nomination, chimed in: “Joe Biden is right, this is a contest for the soul of the nation. That contest is not between good Americans and evil Americans. It’s the struggle to call out what is good for every American.”
Come November 3 of this horrible year, the likes of which we have never before experienced in our lifetime, we will know whether Americans will vote for stability versus chaos, whether America can be a trusted ally or persist as a user whose word does not match action, and whether its institutions of freedom and democracy will continue to weaken and its global leadership permanently damaged.
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Elsewhere in the world, the winds of change are likewise happening.
In impoverished Mali, a landlocked African nation whose gold mines were ravished by its French colonizers followed by corrupt changes in leadership, the military overthrew President Ibrahim Boubacar’s troubled regime, as thousands cheered them in the capital, Bamako.
The European community expressed alarm about the coup that deposed a democratically elected leader, even as the military junta announced that theirs will be a mere transition towards better civilian rule. Poor as it has always been, Mali has been wracked by conflict, with Islamic extremists controlling portions of this fourth largest territory in the African continent.
A friend who retired as a World Bank official and was once assigned to Mali, Niger and Chad, among other poverty-stricken nations, once described to me how difficult its populations strive just to survive. Despite all our present economic problems, we are still very lucky compared to the citizens of many such African nations, caught in the grip of chaotic politics and seemingly unending tribal conflicts.
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Continuing demonstrations led by labor leaders and factory workers threaten to destabilize the 26-year reign of President Alexander Lukashenko in another landlocked country, Belarus, which is bounded by Russia, Ukraine and Poland. They are demanding Lukashenko’s resignation after a supposedly rigged, umpteenth re-election, on top of his mishandling of the coronavirus plague.
Lukashenko has threatened strong-arm tactics to quell the opposition, but at the end of the day, it is Russia, and Vladimir Putin, who will decide on the fate of Belarus. Its economy is dependent on Moscow, where more than half of its agricultural and manufactured exports go, and where it imports most of its consumption needs.
This is a case where it is not popular decision, or the call of the times, which will define the leader, but a neighboring strongman.
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In our region, we are unnerved by the continuing threats of a Chinese “invasion” of what it claims to be its province, Taiwan.
Week after week here in the capital, Taipei, we learn of naval movements and air force fly-bys almost to the point of being ho-hum. But the martial cadence has been louder of late.
Over the weekend, soldiers stationed in Xiamen, the province closest to Taiwan, have been directed by their superiors to write “goodbye” letters to their spouses, sparking fears that the PLA might invade the island sooner than later.
Through the last three years, intensifying after President Tsai Ing-wen’s re-election early this year, the threats from the mainland have grown louder and more frequent. In Tagalog, the “panduduro” and the “giri-an” have been escalating.
At the end of the day, a lot will depend on how American politics, heating up towards a November 3 election, and a long transition between then and the presidential inauguration on January 20 next year, will shape up.
The repercussions upon the region, and especially our country, which is nearest the potential arena of conflict, are quite worrisome.