Were it not for the just-ended presidential election in America, many in Africa would still be stuck for life with this unblemished image of a country with an archetypical model democracy — sure of itself, its culture, traditions and with unmatched sophistication and modernity.
For most of us in Africa, America represents a land of dreams, a country that has overcome the trivialities of perpetual electoral haggling.
Indeed, for most in Africa, the US represents the first child of the First World, an enlightened country whose influence traverses oceans and continents.
Enter Donald Trump, the 45th President of the United States of America. With him came all things bastard. Things that would leave elders’ mouths agape.
Bigotry, brutish racism, misogynist, hubris, ignorance of basic etiquette, incorrigible, doer by instinct and an insatiable ego of kindergarten child.
President Trump has not only proven that money does not alter one’s intellect, but has also revealed to the world that sordid or debased characters are not the preserve of one race or another.
I sometimes hear that President Trump was some kind of a fraud and not representative of the American trait, personality or character.
This is incorrect. President Trump is a product of America.
The only difference is his anti-establishment attitude and therefore not schooled in the art of deception.
You see, we are from the Third World, a part of the world generally looked down upon by those that view themselves as having transcended basic stages of economic development.
Coined by a French demographer and social scientist Alfred Savy in an essay called “The Worlds, One Planet,” the world came to refer to countries reeling from colonial experience in Africa, Latin America, Asia and Middle East.
Thanks to Mr Trump, the derogatory reference to the Third World, particularly to Africa as the “Dark Continent” became a mere cliché used by the West to psychologically render us a people without agency.
We got to realise that far from exhibiting some kind of finesse, the West is actually debased.
Let’s take for example the first Presidential debate Mr Trump had with his opponent Mr Joe Biden.
Mr Trump blustered, bullied, name-called, misdirected and often interrupted his challenger and lied his way through out much to the chagrin of the moderator.
It was a new low in political debates, one you would associate with local opposition leader given to phantasmagoric hallucinations.
He failed to condemn supremacist and militia groups.
He waffled and tried to blame Antifa.
Mr Trump showed the world how far he was misaligned, he was with the avowed democratic principles long associated with America.
And even before the actual voting, Mr Trump started sowing doubt on the validity of the elections, telling us all that: “This is going to be a fraud like you have never seen.”
He urged his supporters to go into the polls and watch very carefully. We are not sure what they were supposed to watch carefully, but we suspect he was referring to possible shenanigans from those conducting or managing the voting process.
We thought this characterisation of an election process was synonymous with tags often attached to elections held in the Third World.
We watched with glee as a leader of a First World country went ballistic about possible vote-rigging, shredding into pieces the efficacy of his own country’s electoral process.
That’s not all.
Even when it was clear that he had lost the presidential race to his challenger, Mr Trump remained defiantly truculent declaring that he had won the election “by a lot”.
And by end of day yesterday, the man was still belligerent, vowing to challenge the results in the courts. Sounds familiar, right?
Mr Trump’s attitude was described by many pundits as unprecedented and at odds with American tradition.
America has indeed lost its moral authority to lecture anyone about democracy.
Mr Trump has simply told us not to trust their system which is prone to rigging and manipulation.
It is therefore not surprising that America’s standing in the world has plummeted to all-time low.
A 13-nation 2020 Pew Research Centre survey shows that America’s reputation has declined so much over the past year even among its allies and partners.
In several countries, the share of the public with a favourable view of the US is as low as it has been at any point since the centre started its research two decades ago.
Part of the decline over the past year is linked to how Mr Trump handled the coronavirus pandemic.
There are numerous things that Mr Trump did that were out of sync with expected modes of conduct for a president.
We are not celebrating his impending departure.
We are just happy that he single-handedly managed to do what we all have been writing about. America is not the paragon of virtue.
We are happy that Mr Trump perforated the whole idea of America as an aspirational country. We are hopeful that President-elect, Mr Biden, will stand by his words of wanting to counter lies with facts and proclaim the greater truths of our equal humanity and decency.
Time will tell.