By Vishwamithra1984 –
“I think that there’s something in the American psyche, it’s almost this kind of right or privilege, this sense of entitlement, to resolve our conflicts with violence. There’s an arrogance to that concept if you think about it. To actually have to sit down and talk, to listen, to compromise, that’s hard work.” ~Michael Moore
America is in an election year. The usual barbs, insults, arguments and counter-arguments thrown about by those who contend for nomination from each Party, Democratic and Republican, on political stage in the rural and urban areas as well as big cities in the United States are overshadowing the real issues and principles and policies of each candidate. Well, that is the nature of politics and that essentially is the nature of electioneering. Yet unlike in most third and fourth world countries, politicians in the USA are ostensibly held to a higher standard. That again may well be defined as part of arrogance of the American psyche.
When one looks at the development of American politics, especially in the last five to six decades, since the assassination of President John Kennedy, America seems to have lost its way, not only in the way she conducted herself in the International arena, American political culture as a whole, within its troika of governance (Executive, Legislature and Judiciary), is seen to be dangerously dashing towards the fringes of the two main political parties. One can attribute this mad dash to more than a half a dozen reasons and events. America, as all other countries are, is susceptible to the vagaries of modern-day developments, the technological revolution of which the United States is the proudly claiming to be the prime mover has made most of Americans, young as well as old, willing slaves of that very revolution. One wonders whether what Oscar Wilde once said with cruel cynicism that “America is the only country that went from barbarism to decadence without civilization in between” might after all come true. Well, let us not be as harsh as Wilde was on the only super power in the world today.
Thanks to something called television, radio and now modern social media, news and news-making events visit our drawing rooms on an hourly basis, without even the assistance of so-called celebrity anchors. Live coverage of political rallies and in their wake coupled with instant analysis provide the usual news-junkies with sufficient substance for their evening conversation around the clubhouses while social media lends itself as a platform to invite robust interaction among many participants scattered all over the globe.
When President Kennedy was gunned down by an assassin in 1963, the news hit the streets within hours. Now in the twenty first Century, the alacrity with which such an explosive news item would reach the populace would be instant. As much as the killing of Osama Bin Laden was telecast to a waiting population almost the instant this terrorist was done away with, the infamous beating of Rodney King, an African-American, in Los Angeles by some unruly policemen in California, (as a result of a video recording done by an onlooker of some sort) and thanks mainly to the highly technically advanced smartphones in the hands of the young generation, have all collectively advanced the cause of accountability and the concept of right to information.
A sophisticated democracy which they call America has however shown over the last few years that some parts of that country is light years away from the sophistication of tolerance of other points of views. The avalanches of radio talk show programs dominated by ultra-right wing ideologues and the Fox News channel are broadcasting on a daily basis a very dark and dangerous side of American entrepreneurship and political culture. This was greatly compounded by the election of the first Black President, Barak Obama. The wild rhetoric and nuanced statements unleashed by the Republican bigwigs and greatly amplified on and off by the aforementioned radio talk show hosts backed by the Fox News channel have driven the rural white America into a frenzy beyond control. When more than 50% of Republican sympathizers express the opinion that Obama is a Muslim born in Indonesia coupled with the willful silence observed by the hierarchy of the Republican Party, these semi-educated rural white folks not only think that an obvious fact is a lie, they go to the extent of genuinely believing that Obama is an imposter and that he did not deserve to lead America.
Robert Kennedy whose untimely death may have caused the biggest vacuum in the liberal America declared thus: “Let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world”. Bob Kennedy’s unmatched charisma and his unwavering commitment to social justice reinforced by his education, experience and a genius in political campaigning was undoubtedly one of the most exceptional political leaders of the last century. Whoever killed Bob Kennedy did indeed achieve his/their desired purpose. By eliminating him, they eliminated an exceptional human being from our society; had he not been deprived of his legitimate chance at leading America in the late Sixties, not Bill Clinton but Robert Kennedy would have been christened as the first ‘Black’ President of the USA.
The Vietnam War, Richard Nixon’s unpardonable crimes and his near-impeachment process, Reaganomics which ushered in an ear of deregulation which ultimately resulted in the Savings and Loan crisis in the eighties, George W Bush’s trickle-down economic policies, fighting two wars on credit and depressing an already volatile economy to a near-depression in the first decade of the new Century were the gruesome features of American internal governance in the last few decades. When Barak Obama walked into this mess so created by the shortsighted policies of the Republican Presidents and their super-rich class of friends and businessmen, whatever he, Obama, did was treated as policies and principles adopted by an alien. The first Black President was ridiculed, riled against and derided at every turn.
So was born the “Tea Party” faction of the Republican Party.
The frustrated and angry white Republicans supported this group of charlatans and their main source of strength was the radio talk show hosts and Fox News. The paranoia and a deep sense of alienation gave way to irrational belief in lies, half-truths and wild exaggerations. The stark difference between the two parties, as shown in the ongoing Presidential Primaries and Caucuses, the unfair interpretation of disappointment of the people at large as a legitimate ‘anger’ at Washington, mainly caused by the twin branches of Government- Senate and Congress- are visible to the naked eye. Yet a maddeningly impatient media has opted to indulge in sensationalism by coalescing with the newest phenomenon in American politics- Donald Trump.
Portraying the affinity shown by a mere one-third of the Republican Party Primary voters as pervasive feel in the country and generalizing that feel as a mirror image of the Democratic Party, have driven even the so-called political pundits to a point of no-return in that making any concessions to Trump’s rivals would sound and look like a betrayal of their prime-time television viewership. The hullabaloo on Donald Trump and his crass painting of America as a disaster-ridden nation that can be saved by his self-immortalized strength as a superior negotiator and deal-maker seems to have taken ahold of the current psyche of white Americans.
Instead of acknowledging Donald Trump as a mere product of all the ill-conceived notions designs and stupid rationale of the Republican Party driven to the fringes of extremism by calculated propaganda of right-wing ideologues, had the Republican Party sought ways and means to come back to power by adopting the very sensible and far-reaching changes as envisioned in the policy document that was put out at the end of the 2012 Presidential Elections, they chose to make the ugly American look uglier.
The Nineteenth Century American essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson said that “What lies behind you and what lies in front of you, pales in comparison to what lies inside of you.” It’s time that America as a whole tried to live by the precepts so richly articulated by Emerson. Donald Trump might gain a temporary place in the shallow minds of some shallow Americans. But the reasonable American once again would, as they did in 2008 and 2012 Presidential Elections, would elect a reasonable man or woman into that stately office- leader of the free world.
*The writer can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org