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Trump and the parable of the cave

By News Express on 23/02/2017

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The road to the United States of America’s presidency for the billionaire-businessman, Mr Donald Trump, has been topsy-turvy, and can best be described as a Pyrrhic victory.

The processes leading to the election of Donald Trump and the defeat of Mrs Hilary Clinton, erstwhile Secretary of State, to the immediate past US president, Mr Barrack Obama, saw a grave degeneration of the hitherto elevated status of the American brand of democracy.

The dirty language and the phenomenal rise of fake news in online media, which spewed out hate messages, reduced the respectability that the civilised world had of the United States of America. Even Russia and China, that are anything but democratic, jeered at the Americans for making jest of their unique brand of democracy.

The reclusive dictator of North Korea even laughed scornfully at Americans soon after the election, for not conducting smooth and controversy-free election.

Both the Republicans and its rival, the Democrats, were equally guilty of adopting dirty tricks in their attempts to de-market the other, before the American voters.

Coming, as it were, from outside the Washington DC power base, the Republican Party outsider managed to out-manoeuvre the entire entrenched political dynasties, both in his political party and the rival Democratic Party, to emerge as the winner of the last American presidential poll, to the consternation of the Democrats and her wealthy backers, including some of the richest persons on the face of the earth.

The campaigns leading to Trump’s eventual victory and his January 20, 2017 inauguration as the 45th President of the United States of America have been described as ‘hate-filled’, ‘divisive’ and ‘sensational’.

With his ascension to the Office of President of the United States, Donald Trump seems to have opened more battle-fronts when he signed series of executive orders, among which is the particular one that bans citizens of seven majority Islamic nations from visiting the country for, at least, three months.

He also slammed an indefinite ban on visitors from Syria. Countries such as Sudan and Somalia in Africa, Iraq, Iran, were among those who came under the hammer.

At first, the executive order banning certain categories of visitors into the USA created a world-wide panic and travel chaos, going by the fact that some of these passengers from the aforementioned countries, who were air-borne, as at the time the executive order was signed and enforced, were caught between the devil and the deep blue sea.

They arrived at the JFK Airport, Queens’ Street in New York, Airport in Washington DC, and many other entry-points, but were blocked from stepping their legs on the land popularly called God’s own country. Crowds of people massed together in different parts of the world to oppose the travel ban.

Big businesses in the technology sector have written to oppose the travel ban, which will negatively impact their global businesses. Even the technology giant and the world's richest man, who owns Microsoft, is opposed to the travel ban.

A letter has been sent by these big businesses to Donald Trump to ask for variation in the applications of the travel ban. The British Government also made frantic efforts and succeeded in getting the US President to exempt British citizens from the travel ban, especially if they have dual nationalities that relates to the banned Islamic countries. Nigeria, for now, is not affected by the travel ban.

The immediate past president Obama, who spent his brief out-of-office holiday with the British billionaire, Sir Richard Branson, in his Virgin Island mansions, broke a presidential tradition of former presidents not criticising their successors, by clearly opposing the travel ban.

Obama has returned to his new private home in Washington DC. But this executive order by Trump is currently being challenged by some dissenting Americans. Others have likened the impression President Trump has of Muslims to the experiences of the freed slaves from the iconic Plato’s cave. The said Donald Trump needs to better understudy traditions and historicity of Muslims, so he stops behaving like the typical inmate of Plato’s cave that has just been released.

You may be wondering why Plato’s theory of the cave is apt in this debate. Mr Samuel Enoch Stumpf, who edited a scholarly book of philosophy, narrated this story of the cave-people as originated by the ancient Philosopher, Plato.

His words: “Plato asks us to imagine some men living in a large cave where from childhood they have been chained by the leg and by the neck, so that they cannot move. Because they cannot even turn their heads, they can only see what is in front of them. Behind them is an elevation that rises abruptly from the level where the prisoners are seated. On this elevation there are other persons walking back and forth carrying artificial objects, including the figures of animals and human beings made out of wood and stone and various other materials.

“Behind this walking person is a fire, and farther back still is the entrance to the cave. The chained prisoners can look only forward, against the wall at the end of the cave, and can see neither each other nor the moving persons nor the fire behind them. All that the prisoner can ever see is the shadows on the wall in front of them, which are projected as persons walking in front of the fire. They never see the objects or the men carrying them; nor are they aware that the shadows are shadows of other things.”

He noted: “When they see a shadow and hear a person’s voice echo from the wall, they assume that the sound is coming from the shadow, since they are not aware of the existence of anything else. These prisoners, then, recognise as reality only the shadows formed on the wall.”

What will happen, asked Plato, if one of these prisoners were released from his chains; were forced to stand up, turn around, and walk with eyes lifted up towards the light of the fire?

He replied thus: “All of his movement would be exceedingly painful. Suppose he was forced to look at the object being carried, the shadows of which he had become accustomed to seeing on the wall. Would he not find these actual objects less congenial to his eye and less meaning than the shadows?

“And would not his eyes ache if he would undoubtedly try to escape from his liberator and turn back to the things he could see with clarity, being convinced that the shadows were clearer than the objects he was forced to look at in the firelight?”

Those opposed to Trump’s unique worldview of Moslems have compared him to this cave man, but have asked him to grow up and become a global leader who shouldn’t discriminate against people based on religion, creed or race.

But President Trump said he is much educated and vastly travelled than the cave man, as captured by Plato. Trump is vastly educated and owns businesses around the world. It is left to imagination as to whether his new executive order banning some persons from entering USA makes him look like the cave man in Plato's thoughts.

Trump said his government’s decision to ban Islamic terrorists from reaching the United States is to protect national security. But those challenging the power of President Trump to use executive order to stop Muslims from visiting the country seems to have secured the first major court victory, with the immediate suspension by a federal judge of the implementation of the executive order, which Trump has immediately appealed.

What is now at play is a battle between constitutionalism and national security.

Article II of the United States’ Constitution, in section 1 provides: “The executive power shall be vested in a president of the United States of America. He shall hold his office during the term of four years, and, together with the vice president, chosen for the same term….”

Also the president certainly has the power to provide security to his nation. There's no doubt that the USA is the number one destination for terrorists nursing the ambition to bomb the free world.

For political historians like Clinton Rossiter, the presidency is a one-person job. “The person who holds it can never escape making the final decisions in each of many areas, in which the American people and their Constitution hold him or her responsible.”

It is believed that the executive powers of the president are extensive. The United States of America’s president “selects the key figures in the military establishment, including the Secretary of Defence, the Secretaries of Army, Navy and Air force, and the military Chiefs of Staff. He recommends the defence budget to congress and administer laws pertaining to the defence of the nations” (See The New Webster’s Dictionary of the English Language; International edition; 2004).

Supporters of Donald Trump believe that the executive order was not a ban on Muslims, but a measure urgently needed to stave off the threats of imminent terror attacks targeting the homeland. The ball is in the courts of federal judges to determine the distinction between the presidential executive powers vis-a-vis the issue of adopting measures to safeguard national security. Trump said he was primarily elected to create jobs and to protect the United States. He alluded to the suspicion that judges are using politics to strip him of these powers. He said he still reposes hope on the American judiciary. He has directed and, indeed, his justice officials are right now at the Appeal Court to seek the restoration of the executive order. Article 111 section 1 says: “The judicial power of the United States of America shall be vested in one Supreme Court and in such inferior courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish.” America operates the principles of separation of power. This explains why the battle front is in the court, as we write.

According to Cable News Network (CNN), three federal judges grilled lawyers from the Justice Department and Washington State Tuesday night, as they considered whether to lift a US-wide block on President Donald Trump’s travel ban. The Appeal Court judges interfaced with attorneys over the president’s use of sweeping executive power, questioned the connection between the seven affected countries and terrorism, and launched into tough questions over whether the ban discriminated against Muslims. During the telephone hearing, the lawyer representing Justice Department, August Flentje, argued that the President had wide powers relating to immigration and national security.

He contended that federal judges did not have the power to review Trump's executive order, which bars citizens of Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen from entering the US for 90 days. It also prevents entry for all refugees for 120 days, and indefinitely halts the admission of refugees from Syria.

From the start, Flentje repeatedly sought to emphasise the government's position that a lower court acted beyond its powers when it suspended the President’s executive order last Friday. Flentje argued that the President acted within his constitutional powers.

“This is a traditional national security judgment that is assigned to the political branches and the President and the court’s order immediately altered that,” Flentje argued.

The three-judge panel at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals pressed Flentje on whether the government could show that the seven countries affected by Trump’s ban were connected to terrorism.

“Has the government pointed to any evidence connecting these countries with terrorism,” asked Judge Michelle Friedland.

Flentje, special counsel to the assistant attorney-general at the Justice Department, countered that the lower court had overruled the President's judgment about the level of risk from those countries.

“The district court's decision overrides the President's national security judgment about the level of risk and we've been talking about the level of risk that's acceptable,” he said.

While we await the decision, it is safe to state that it may be difficult for the court system to void the presidential executive powers to safeguard national security, but President Trump may have to redesign his executive order to remove any suspicions of deliberately targeting travellers based on religion, creed, or race.

How on earth can anyone argue that the President lacks power to ban aliens from entering the USA, when ordinary immigration officials working under the executive arm of government are the issuing authority of entry visa.

RIGHTSVIEW appears on Wednesdays, in addition to special appearances. The Columnist, a popular activist, is a former Federal Commissioner of Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission and presently National Coordinator of Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria (HURIWA). He can be reached via 08033327672 (sms only) or via

Source News Express

Posted 23/02/2017 09:15:06 AM





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