In the space of one week, three things happened in the world’s most influential nation – (i) it crossed the grim landmark of 100,000 COVID-19 deaths; (ii) nationwide unrest erupted over the killing of George Floyd and (iii); it sent two men into space for the first time in almost a decade.
Normally, the latter would have served as a bit of a distraction from the rest, but these are not normal times in America and the significance of Saturday’s event wasn’t enough for celebration in light of the other two tragedies.
Sitting at the top, President Donald Trump might have used these crises as opportunities to display strong leadership, particularly in an election year. Instead, his responses have been largely political and often divisive, criticising and blaming opponents while suggesting force against Floyd protestors.
We in T&T can learn from this.
While it’s not for us to determine Trump’s future in the White House, with elections also due this year amid an economic crisis and uncertain future, proper leadership is no less important to us now as it is there.
And we need not look beyond the last few weeks to ask ourselves if the options presented by the Government and Opposition are best for the country.
The Government was widely applauded for its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic but somehow found a way to create mistrust and doubt with Venezuela Vice-President Delcy Rodriguez's visit and the T&T-Aruba fuel deal. Moreover, the behaviour of those in Cabinet, through whom clarification was sought, has done little to help the Government’s credibility.
On the other hand, many have questioned the motive of Opposition members in addressing the same issues. They’ve been accused of deliberately trying to get T&T slapped with a sanction, if only to raise their status as a better alternative.
Neither actions are what right-thinking citizens see as proper leadership.
And frankly, with very little on offer as a third force, the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader have golden opportunities in this election season to right their wrongs by setting the right tone as prospective leaders worthy of taking T&T forward.
Now is not the time for politics of lies, half-truths, innuendoes and scandal. Those fighting to maintain themselves and their families after losing their jobs due to the COVID-19 lockdown measures care no more about who “buss the best mark” than they care about who is lying or telling the truth.
In this unprecedented era, our leaders will be judged on what they are offering to a suffering nation. Our leaders must thus lift themselves above the politics of bacchanal, distrust and scandal and see T&T as the ground sees it - our home. They must offer proper plans, not just proper politicking. They must offer good care, not just good campaigning.
Let's learn the lesson from our neighbours up north and not be left pointing to a rocket in the sky, while the ground burns below.