Published On: Sat, Nov 11th, 2017

Charlie Chaplin, The Tramp and Donald, The Trump -By Owei Lakemfa.

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 Charlie Chaplin, The Tramp was a little, downtrodden man in baggy trousers with a mustache, bowler hat and carrying a cane. He was poor, powerless and bewildered.  Chaplin (Charles Spencer Chaplin) seemed a lonely, vulnerable figure who tried endlessly to make sense of the world. His caricature of Adolf Hitler, the most powerful man in his generation, remains a winner to-date.

Two generations separate The Tramp, who was exiled from the powerful United States (US) on suspicion that he had communist sympathies and the most powerful man in this generation, President Donald Trump of the same united States.

In contrast, Trump is a big, man-about-town, power dresser in designer suits, clean shaven and stupendously rich. Where the former carried a cane, Trump may have the Nuclear button carried for him. He is perhaps the most powerful man in the universe, and where The Tramp, understandably was humble and powerless, Trump is quite arrogant and so powerful that he stood before the rest of humanity and boasted he could wipe out a country of 24.5 million people by the snap of his fingers. Unlike Chaplin, he is quite sure of the world and has an endless retinue of people including world leaders jostling to kiss his feet. While Chaplin was a radical who wanted a better world for all, Trump is a conservative who wants the world to remain as it is; the desperately poor mass, and the stupendously rich handful.

Where The Tramp was the King of the Silent Movies, Trump is the boss of the shattering Twitter. Despite being such contrasting world figures, they also have a lot in common. Both are talented comedians of the slapstick genre complete with exaggerated expressions and activities that are way beyond normal expressions.

Trump, this week is on a twelve-day swing through Asia. During his first stop, which was Japan, news came about another bloodbath in his country; a lone gunman in Texas, Devin Kelly, had gone to a church, not to worship and ask God to preserve his life, but to take lives. He gunned down 26 human beings including eight members of one family, the Holombes. As a President who explains off everything to suit his policies such as free flow of guns, Trump announced that the man was mentally ill. True it takes an amount of lunacy to murder people, but the killer had access to guns which he freely used.

Given his disposition, Charlie Chaplin would have been reflective; he would have questioned why the frequent bloodbath in his adopted country; why there are more private guns in the country than there are humans; why nothing tangible is not being done to reign in the guns. He   would have reflected that the American in his ‘God’s Own country’ cannot walk on the streets, go to church or mosque, school or the recreational centre, attend a concert or marathon, without the risk of a massacre.

Most importantly, he would have turned to his host, Mr. Shinzo Abe, the Japanese Prime Minster to ask why despite being so industrialized and modern, such massacres do not occur in Japan. If President Trump had done so, he would have learnt that the first sentence in the Japanese weapons law states that: “No one shall possess a firearm or firearms or a sword or swords” and that the process of doing so is so windy and difficult that only a handful own such weapons. As a result, while in 2014, there were six gun deaths in Japan, in contrast, the US recorded 33,599.  He would have learnt that to own a gun in Japan, comprehensive background checks are carried out including on family, work, social, mental and drug. That you attend class, sit for written examinations and pass a shooting range test with a mark of at least 95 percent. With all these, only air rifles and shot guns can be owned privately.

Despite his bumbling, The Tramp wanted a world at peace but Trump seems obsessed with war. When he arrived in Japan, he boasted about American military might: “We dominate the sky, we dominate the sea, and we dominate the land and space.” And, in South Korea he upped his boast:  “I think they (North Korea) understand we have unparalleled strength. There has never been strength like it. You know we sent three of the largest aircraft carriers in the world, and they’re right now positioned. We have a nuclear submarine also positioned. We have many things happening that we hope, we hope — in fact, I’ll go a step further, we hope to God we never have to use.”

In contrast to Trump’s war   disposition, South Korean President Moon Jae-in prefers dialogue with North Korea. The son of North Korean refugees, Moon had been jailed twice for pro-democracy activities in South Korea and is a well-known advocate of reconciliation.  He was sworn in as President on May 10, 2017 and nine weeks later made an open offer to hold peace talks with North Korean including on nuclear weapons. But Trump opposed the peace talks and pressured against it.  Then White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Trump had made it clear that certain conditions must be met before any peace talks can be held.

This was the same way the US opposed and wrecked peace talks amongst Afghans to end their civil war. Then President Hamid Karzai had made peace overtures convinced that it would be practically impossible to defeat the Taliban who had grassroots support especially in the rural areas. In 2013 when the Taliban said he was an American stooge and therefore did not trust him, Karzai agreed to meet them in Qatar and also agreed that the Taliban open a Liaison Office in Qatar. He held secret negotiations with the Taliban and in 2014, refused to sign a long term security agreement with the US. Today, the senseless war in Afghanistan continues.

Chaplin  would never have understood why a US President would vehemently oppose peace talks especially over nuclear weapons or why it would seek to dismantle the international nuclear peace agreement with Iran. It would also be incomprehensible to him that Trump would seek to wreck the Climate Change Agreement and endanger the world. He would also have been intrigued that in the 21st Century, a President of the United States would vow to build a wall against the wishes of its neigbour and insist that the neigbour must pay for it.

The world  is trapped in an ostensibly bewildering  universe ruled  by rich and powerful people like Trump while the mass are poor, helpless, defenceless, bullied and exploited; but like  Charlie Chaplin,  it is the meek and seemingly weak who  shall inherit the earth. 


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