LOCAL PERSPECTIVE Reflections on exile: make St. Helena great again

A column by Tony Smith

Views expressed are those of the author and do not

represent the views of

The Montanian


“Politicians and diapers must be changed often, and for the same reason.”

Mark Twain


As the arduous February and March weather has kept us “pent up,” both physically and figuratively, the tumultuous political scene continues to ramp up, controversial figures in Hollywood, the sporting world, and fashion dominate the news, and with “Megan watchers” worldwide on the edge of their seats, perhaps it is time for an accounting of sorts- a time for some suggested political, sporting, fashion, and publicity-seeking “cleansing,” if you will. Understand, the list offered by this writer is not all-inclusive; please feel free to add or delete to your heart’s content. You may, without an ounce of resentment, include the author of this piece, who attempts to live by the motto: “May I become the kind of person my dog thinks I already am.”




“This cursed rock”

Napoleon Bonaparte


Few locations in the world are as remote as St. Helena, a 47-square mile volcanic tropical island located in the south Atlantic, 1,200 miles from the southwest coast of Africa, and 1,800 miles from South America. Its distinction lies in two things: The exile and death of Napoleon Bonaparte, who arrived on the island in 1815 and died there on May 5, 1821, and having the world’s most expensive coffee (praised by Napoleon for its flavor). St. Helena was discovered by the Portuguese in 1502 and used as a source of food and fresh water for ships sailing the “cape route” from Asia to Europe. Over time, the island was occupied by the Dutch (1633-1651), then by the British East India Company, and today is part of the British overseas territory, with a population, according to the 2018 census, of approximately 4, 897 people, most of whom are dependent on government aid. It does have a sparse tourist industry, based on the promotion of Napoleon’s imprisonment, a golf course and three hotels. Most tourists who visit the island arrive via ocean freighter, approximately five days out from Cape Town, South Africa. The temperature, attributed to trade winds and the Benguela current, is moderate, 70 to 80 degrees during summer (January to April) and 63 to 75 throughout the remainder of the year. In reality, St. Helena exile, weather-wise, would not be a bad gig. However, my “sources” inform me that the coffee remains expensive, but extremely tasty.




Few of the oligarchic families of America including the Rockefellers, Morgans, Carnegies, Vanderbilts, Bushes, etc., have exuded the political ambitions of the Clintons, not even the Kennedys; in fact, John F. Kennedy wanted nothing to do with the presidency. It was his domineering father with mob ties, one who made a fortune making “B” movies, who threatened, cajoled, and insisted that John Kennedy would replace the “favorite son,” Joseph Jr., killed over the English Channel during WWII, and groomed for the presidency. (To demonstrate his ruthlessness, and without the knowledge of the matriarch of the family, Rose Kennedy, Joe ordered a lobotomy performed on his eldest daughter Rosemary, who many said was the most glamorous of the Kennedy girls, turning her into a vegetative state for the remainder of her life, and shipping her off to a home for “special needs” in Wisconsin. Rose visited her for the first time some 20 years later, and was attacked by an enraged Rosemary. Ironically, she outlived all of her siblings with the exception of Jean Kennedy Smith, dying in 2005 at age 86. Papa Joe could simply not abide having a Kennedy with even a slight mental defect. But I digress).

Surely the American public wishes to move beyond the Clintons and the baggage they’ve accumulated over the years. Hillary, despite winning the popular vote in 2016, has recently made a “vow” not to run for president in 2020, but the Clintons are not personally equipped to fulfill “vows.” Their compelling need for power and personal ambition will most likely overcome a promise today that could be easily broken tomorrow. At best, they will be a distraction throughout the campaign, and at the worst will bring ruination to an already fractured political party, represented by candidates from many political spectrums. As Mark Twain once stated, “I belong to no organized political party. I am a democrat.”  Given the fact that most residents of St. Helena today are on the “dole” of the British Government, surely the Clintons, with their Clinton Foundation “slush fund,” could be a tremendous asset to the island, and many Americans could breathe a huge sigh of relief upon their departure. Perhaps Bill Clinton, leaving office with a 65% approval rating, could represent St. Helena in an official capacity for exiled and displaced Americans.



In my view, Elizabeth Warren has no chance in Hades to become the Democratic standard bearer. However, surely she is the anointed Democratic Party’s pit bull with the moniker, “When they go low, we go lower.” Of that, the “fighting fire with fire” approach, I have no argument; in fact I’m rather looking forward to it throughout the campaign. She is a woman of strong convictions with the courage to express them. So why, then, to St. Helena? Simply to bring diversity to the island, given her self-proclaimed Native American heritage. Although credible genealogists allow her at least 1/32 Cherokee heritage (there’s a running joke in Indian country: If you meet somebody who you wouldn’t think is Native but they say they’re Native, chances are they’ll tell you they’re Cherokee),  I believe she is selling herself short, for surely she would represent all of Beringia, referring to the hundreds of thousands of Native peoples following game herds across the Bering Strait into warmer climes during periods of extreme cold, causing water to be locked up in glaciers, thereby lowering sea levels and exposing a 620-mile wide land bridge to the Americas. The 1723 census taken by the East India Company at St. Helena Island counted 610 African slaves out of a total population of approximately 1,100 individuals, but not a single person of Native American heritage. Thus, the distinction as a Native American, for which she seeks as an American political candidate, would be hers and hers alone on St. Helena.



Counselor to the President, and rejuvenator of “alternative facts.” According to slang by dictionary.com, the expression “alternative facts” evokes newspeak, the language of the fictional ruling party’s propaganda in George Orwell’s seminal work, “1984.” Newspeak leads to doublethink which is when a person holds two contradictory beliefs in their mind at the same time, and accepts them both. In other words, “alternative facts” are not “facts” at all; they are lies dressed up to appear like facts. One commentator referenced her ability to apply “alternative facts” without “a hint of sarcasm.” This writer prefers the term “smirk” to her style of referencing “alternative facts.” Believing in the power of Redemption, one can forgive Press Secretary Sarah Sander’s difficult task of “turning a lemon into lemonade,” (for example, inflating the size of the crowd at President Trump’s inauguration), but smugness and smirk is a different story altogether.

Kellyanne Conway is the granddaughter of a notorious mobster known as “The Brute,” a name inscribed on his tombstone (you can look it up), and although her current salary is $176,000 as “Counselor to the President, her net worth is approximately $40 million, an amount that is actually at the low end compared to many members of Congress, but not implausible to imagine how that money was gained in her family background. She has been suspected by White House colleagues of being a “leaker,” primarily through her husband, George Conway, who eviscerates Donald Trump at every turn.



That would include Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, who appears to have consumed a bad batch of Kentucky bourbon when addressing the U.S. Senate, and Rand Paul, the self-proclaimed “fiscal conservative.” Paul has remained silent and irrelevant as the national debt has increased two trillion dollars in just two years, from $20 trillion to $22 trillion (Each and every American owes the equivalent of $68,000 to the Federal Government). Watch him emerge from his bunker when and if the Democrats reclaim the White House in 2020. Furthermore, the much-publicized trade war with China and imposition of higher tariffs has resulted in the largest federal trade deficit in ten years, one that currently stands at $621 billion.




Surely St. Helena has corrupting opportunities, but first and foremost, the “power of a presidential pardon” reaching St. Helena would be wholly ineffective.



Yes, Montana’s own Ryan Zinke, former Secretary of the Interior who rode a horse into Washington, D.C., promising to be another “Teddy Roosevelt conservationist,” but instead attempted to sell or give away our public lands for “30 pieces of silver.” Like many Trump appointees, he was forced to resign and has corruption charges pending against him.

Surely the reader understands how Napoleon perceived the natural environment of St. Helena to be a “cursed” place, and perhaps the “exiled” included in this writing makes it even more so. Thus, part two, to follow, will attempt to bring a nubbin of glamor to such an unglamorous location, inviting the Hollywood and sporting set to enliven the place.


“The mere passage of time makes us all exiles.”

Joyce Carol Oates, American