Ghaznafar A Garewal
MY eyes turned to our suitcase. It made me sad for Baba (father). After everything, he’d built, planned for, fought for, fretted for, dreamed of, this was summation of his life: two suitcases and one disappointing son…Then they found a place to bury their scarred memories. These moving lines by extremely eloquent Khaled Hosseni beautifully portray what America is for a foreigner:
A country that offers a secure, independent and prosperous life. Not only in Afghanistan but all over the world, people dreamed of pursuing their life in the United States. By becoming a champion of human rights, individual’s freedom, capitalism, free markets and trade agreements, the US reached the heights that any nation would aspire. It started from Atlantic Charter in which America stood by the nation’s right to freedom against the British Colonialism. Of all, pluralism was the driving force of making America attractive to everyone.
Yet this image began to tarnish after unilateral policies. When anti-US sentiments were on the peak, Americans asked a very significant question back then, “Why they hate us?” Many answered, “You speak different and act different.” By deviating from the principles of liberalism, the very base of US global position started to erode. The unilateral actions of War in Iraq, heinous human rights crimes in Guantanamo Bay, extrajudicial killing of humans by drone attacks spiraled into the decline of its policies. Yet, Great Recession, economic inequality, the people’s protest against the elite in the form of Occupy Wall Street accelerated this decline. The rise of BRICS and America’s shrinking role in the global affairs exposed the fault lines in its power and influence.
Franklin Roosevelt, the prime architect of the Atlantic Charter, once said, “America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedom, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.” What made America great was the dexterity of its leadership to fuse the bi and multi-partisan views. Protection of individual freedom is the pillar of American democracy and its pluralistic approach towards its citizens. This individual freedom is protected against notonly atyrant but the majority ruling in a democratic country. If the US fails to reconcile the opposing parties and their views, it will be one great threat to its very democratic values. It is the biggest challenge that Trump failed to realize in his inaugural speech.
He assumed office while securing low on favourability polls: 43% favourable, 53% unfavourable. He assumed office amidst his supporters chanting, “Make America Great Again.” Yet the biggest challenge to America, he fails to realize, was his opponents who were protesting outside the White House. If he ever realized the gravity of this challenge, he would have offered them an olive branch. After naming Bill Clinton, he intentionally avoided his vanquished rival, Hillary Clinton. He did not wish George W. Bush, who did not endorse him in the election campaign. He called Obama magnificent but portrayed him as a president who betrayed his own people. It was his moment to assure the people, at home and abroad, that democracy is working in America. Yet he chose to convey an altogether different impression.
During the US election campaign 2016, it was almost a consensus among the American and international audiences that he could not have a chance against the luck as he is advocating what the most Americans believe: liberalism and pluralism. Yet, surprisingly, he emerged successful, winning against all the odds. The people, at home and abroad, believed that his ideas spoken at the rallies are but a mere tactic of scoring high in the polls. To their chagrin, his inaugural speech dashed all of their hopes. His inauguration speech was a replica of any of his speech at the rally. An angry and pessimist president promised the same to the crowd enchanting “Make America Great.” He again painted a bleak picture of America which was under siege and could only be saved by ousting foreigners, Muslim terrorists and Washington insiders. Void of any grace notes, his speech was a blatant reconciliation of the whites by ensuring them“I’ll never let you down.”
Trump made it obvious that he is going to make America great again by following the policies of realism, pragmatism and not following policies of spreading liberalism and pluralism. Above all, he has no intention of either protecting democratic values or spreading democracy abroad. Trump’s silence on extrajudicial killing of Philippine’s President is also going to exact a high toll on democracy. Other American presidents also kept silence on such issues many times, not any of them undermined the importance of advancing democracy abroad. Even the most realist president of all, Ronald Regan, believed that if America fails to advance or defend its principles abroad, it cannot be made great.
The Trump’s idea of making “America Great Again” is for the white class not for all the Americans. It will surely unite the White while tearing the United America of all communities and races. From now on, Trump’s America is only going to reconcile the Whites and move apart all the other communities. It is the test of a liberal and pluralist America whether it is capable to advance its principles and add more substance to them or eroding the very base of its legitimacy.
— The writer teaches at National University of Modern Languages, Islamabad.