Dhaka Courier

American Election - A Planetary Existential Question

By the time you read this there will be only about sixty or fewer days left to the American election. The fate of the country and maybe the planet is riding on this election. There has never been a more consequential election in modern history. I know my friend Afsan Chowdhury will take his spectacles off of his nose, make a pyramid with his finger and declare with utter condescension, “who cares, it is the West. Amader kicho Ashe jay na” (it is of no consequence to us). Well, this is attempt to make everyone sit up and take notice, especially, the nattering nabobs of negativity. The fate of the planet may indeed be on the line. Four more years of the Fat Orange Bigot (AKA Donald Trump) can indeed do us all in.  Here are the reasons why.

Racism and Race War: A win for Trump will usher in unbridled racism and White nationalist dystopia in America and many other countries. Some 330 million souls call America home (we will know a more accurate count after the Census at the end of the year) and it is hodge-podge of a country with hundreds of ethnicity, languages, religions, non-religions, beliefs, non-beliefs. That is the soup that makes America. I have lived in the USA for 45 years, a significant portion of my life. I absolutely love the murky soup that makes the country. But, and it is a big but, there is an under-current of racism that courses through the bloodstream of America. From the very beginning of my living here I have heard shouted slurs, “go back home”. Where, pray tell, is my home? This bigoted antics is based partly on fear, partly on ignorance and mostly on deliberate forgetting of history. Donald Trump came down his gold plated escalator in 2015 and tapped into this racist vein by claiming Mexican are rapists, murderers and such. He managed to play on the fears of lots of white people who are looking at the demographic shift whereby America will become a minority/majority country by 2050. There are many theories about the Trump voter. Uneducated, rural, blue collar, small farmer and many other things. But, none of these descriptions actually define the underlying theme. Beneath all the labels there is the molten core of race based fear, anger and yes, garden variety racism.

Trump is the inevitable result of a black President, Obama. A country is truly weird if after eight years of someone called Barack Hussein Obama we can switch to someone called Donald John Trump. The jump happened mainly because the blue collar, farming whites took great fright when they saw a black man sitting in the White House. Fox News and its echo systems were constantly stoking the fear that the America that its viewers have grown up with is no longer possible. The visual confirmation was a black family living in the people’s house built by slaves. That was all too much to take. The Donald (as Trump has been often called) was the man that met the moment. He poured kerosene on racial fears and simply lied about everything. The folks wanted to believe that the country was in peril, so lies or not, they took it hook, line and sinker. In the main the Trump Voters are gun toting, God fearing and conspiracy - theory minded folks. They have bought into the conspiracy theory that black and brown people are going to destroy their lifestyle and culture. They are willing to use extreme violence to protect their perceived racial hegemony. Few days ago a mother drove her seventeen year old son to Kenosha, Wisconsin strapping an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle. This boy managed to kill two people in the middle of the chaos and confusion of the protests resulting from a policeman shooting black man in the back seven times in close range.

However, these people are not the sum total Trump voters. I have a dear friend of some 35 years, Let us call him David C. He is a well-educated, erudite and compassionate human being. I love him so very much as a friend and a confidant. However, I am continuously amazed by his lack of understanding of the privilege he was born into. He looks at the same scene as I look into and sees an entirely different thing. He thinks that the Policeman murdering George Floyd was just a bad apple and not the result of a systemic racist perceptions and procedures. He hears Trump’s lies but he counters those lies by saying Democrats lie too! Never mind the scale and damage from the Trump lies, some 25,000 of them. He looks at the utter failure of COVID-19 response by the Trump administration but he does not really care. He drove through six states recently, stayed in hotels and ate at restaurants, nary a care about getting laid low by the virus. He inhabits a universe that is so close to me and yet so far. Oy Vay! That is a privileged Trump voter who worries about taxes, listens to right wing talk radio, watches Fox News and OANN. He is not quite into the QANNON conspiracy theories yet. But, hell is definitely Q curious. How is that possible? QANNON folks believe that Democrats are running a child sex ring and eating (yes, literally eating children). They also believe that Trump is God’s avatar and he will rise up an army to punish the evil doers. All of these is cloaked in apocalyptic religious undertones. So, we have now banished reason for dark conspiracies.

Trump won in 2016 with 46.1% of the votes, four years earlier Mitt Romney lost with 47.2% of the vote. Trump clocked three million fewer votes than Hilary Clinton but won the Electoral College with a combined total of 74,000 more votes in the Midwest. However, that is not the whole story. Plenty of educated and sophisticated people voted for him with their eyes open and for elite sort of reasons, such as tax cuts, less or no regulations and transfer of wealth from the masses to few. All of that has come true as Trump truly governed for the elite and built scant three miles of the much ballyhooed wall along the Mexican border. Wealth gap and inequality is the highest in America as it has ever been. So much for the gun- toting working class Trump supporters.

This can all happen again. Trump is on ‘Law and Order campaign’ that is filled with selective narratives and lies. But he knows that if you constantly repeat your lies people eventually just give up. Just look at Russia or China or any of the authoritarian countries of the near past and present. A Trump victory may indeed bring in an Orwellian world where the Big Brother will tell you how many fingers you have and not how many finger you actually have. Or maybe you will be arbitrarily declared white and given privileges that alluded you. Whichever way you cut it a Trump victory will ensure decades long racial hatred, dystopia and animosity in the US.

Climate Emergency:

One of Trump’s first official act was to withdraw from The Paris Climate Accord. US is the country that has historically pumped more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than any other country on this planet. The vicious floods in Bangladesh, the droughts in Africa, Latin America and parts of Europe are all testimonies of the callous disregard of the environment by America and other advanced countries. A country that has but a small percentage of the world population is still the number two polluter of the planet. If you believe that personnel is policy then his first EPA Administrator (Environmental Protection Agency) Scott Pruitt was a doozy! He was an Attorney General for Oklahoma, a state heavy on oil and gas, fracking and atrocities to Native Americans. This guy nullified two important rules right at the outset. He rolled back the Clean Power Plant rules from the Obama Administration and stopped the CAFÉ standards (which regulates how many miles you get from a car). So, now the car companies can continue to pollute the earth at a faster rate by emitting carbon from the tailpipe for the sake of a little vroom and power plants can put carbon in the air willy-nilly! Pruitt’s first official visit in 2017 was to a Coal mine in Pennsylvania in order to promote Coal which is probably the dirtiest source of energy. He has promoted fracking and boosted subsidies to the fracking and gas companies. These actions have stopped America’s slow march to a cleaner energy source and reversed years’ worth of environmental gains. America is pumping out more pollutants into the atmosphere today than it did even five years ago. A second term of Trump would mean a deliberate attempt by the machinery of the government to cancel out any environmental gain, drilling in the pristine landscape of Alaska, subsidies for polluters like Coal Mines and more damage to the planet. More floods in Bangladesh, India, more islands wiped away in the Pacific and so on. A three degree Celsius rise in planetary temperature will make our planet unrecognizable and parts of it uninhabitable. For what? To save some sixty thousand coal jobs!

Attack on Freedom:

A Trump victory will ensure that authoritarians around the world get emboldened and continue their march towards an illiberal world. The Washington Post writes, “Regimes founded on democracy and human rights, which 25 years ago appeared to have triumphed, now face a grave challenge from a resurgent authoritarianism, which employs new technologies to refashion the tyranny that Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union could not sustain. At stake is not only which nations will dominate global affairs, but also whether individual freedoms — of expression, of assembly, of religious faith — will survive”. American leadership was essential is tamping down the tyranny in various parts of the world. Yes, it made many mistakes like Vietnam, but as a whole America cherishes free expression, freedom of thought and religion and exercise of free will. My writing this screed against a sitting leader would not be possible in many countries, yes, including Bangladesh. It is not only possible, it is encouraged in the freewheeling soup that is America. All of that is under attack at home and abroad. Trump wishes to unleash his blind cultish followers on people that do not agree with him. Look at Kenosha or New York City. Tonight he gave an order to review whether or not Federal funds could be blocked from New York City and three other democratic run cities. He is constantly is devising ways to divide people. He is always courting the dictators. Vladimir Putin, Dear Leader Kim Jung Un, Victor Orban of Hungary, Narendra Modi of India, Jair Bolsanaro of Brazil and the list goes on. A second term of Trump would unleash Bibi Netanyahu on the Palestinians, Modi on the Kashmiris, Bolsanaro on the Amazon and the indigenous Amazonian populace.

Unfortunately, the consequences of the American election will not be limited to the borders of America. Besides what Afsan may say, the impact will be powerful and global. A lot is riding on the election, a possible path to normalcy or continuing chaos and incompetence at all levels. This election has planetary implications because of the fragile state of the environment, the rampaging of the current pandemic and many to come, a possible hot war between China and US if these two countries are unable to avoid The Thucydides Trap. This is a term coined by American political scientist Graham T. Allison to describe an apparent tendency towards war when an emerging power threatens to displace an existing great power as the international hegemon. That is exactly what the world is rushing towards. The British had the wisdom to let America rise and withdraw to its home waters, Trump never reads anything and he is unlikely to know anything about Thucydides Trap. A war between the two super powers will not only be catastrophic for the two countries, but also for the rest of us. So, much rides on this election, ooofff!

Kayes Ahmed is a Bangladeshi American serial entrepreneur, thinker and writer. He lives with his two dogs in Colorado and California

(The views expressed in the article are the author’s own)

  • American Election
  • Former US President Barack Obama
  • US President Donald Trump
  • Covid-19

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