Why are we shocked by this election? After all, this is America!
The day after the Revolution!
It’s the day after the revolution. Why are people shocked and shaken by the election result? After all, this is the United States of America — a festival of ironies, a symphony of right and wrong, a new land with new ways of doing old things with often misplaced ideals of entitlement and charity. Contrary to what we think, this election did not create a divide, it simply activated the fault lines that this society was built with.
These United States of America resemble the R&D Laboratory of a large and buzzing corporation that is the world. While we can laud this lab for its daring experiments that it gets to conduct in safe and controlled conditions, very similar to being the dominant nation in in an entire continent with no dearth in resources and hardly any neighbors to share these resources with, it is only normal that governance is not as difficult as in Asia or Europe. Development is followed by progress, invention is followed by innovation, privilege is followed by adversity, venture is followed by adventure, records are broken, horizons are breached, novelty becomes the standard and poverty becomes a social science. As long as these pet projects are kept within the walls of the lab, all will seem well. Which is how the US behaved until the turn of the 20th century. However, this nursery rhyme ceased when the lab opened its doors to the rest of the corporation — the world.
Without an overbearing history to adhere to, without imposing neighbors to deal with, with a large land full of bountiful resources and with the knowledge of science and technology to tame these resources brought from across the Atlantic, the United States was able to emerge as a super power within 200 short years. It would go on to bomb kingdoms, it would assassinate leaders, it would program in slavery, it would build an entire city to represent decadence, it would breach the privacy of the people whose very equality it swore to protect, it would engineer conflicts in oil producing nations and coups in Banana Republics, it would even ironically claim to put an end to all the above, that it played a big part to incept, in a sudden moment of volte face and give form to the United Nations — a non-partisan, impartial judge of every country in the world, only ironically headquartered in NYC and better, controlled in Washington.
It only gets increasingly clear that distance and age — distance from the east and two centuries young, were the super powers that this young nation in the isolated west enjoyed, going on to make America the symbol of the Free World. But, what does the Free World mean? Does it refer to a world that enjoys freedom of choice, freedom to do and be anything — free from sufferance, free from oppression and free from the burdens of tradition or does it refer to the world that is free from culture, free from conduct and even free from recognizing the need to be decent? All of history will tell us that America has been a combination of these two above contradictions, often interesting, but usually vicious, rife with ironies, idiosyncrasies, and oxymorons — nevertheless genius, precocious and experimental ahead of her time. Maybe ‘free’ refers to the country’s lack of direction or focus — walking one step forward, two steps sideway, three steps back and one giant leap across only to restart at Ground Zero.
This country was always a roller-coaster ride, ebbing and flowing, rising and falling, shining and glaring. A period of calm and progress would compulsorily be followed by a scathing, harsh and unpleasant phase. When we find ourselves at a relatively unfortunate time to live in this country, remember things are going to ebb. To the contrary, when things are going great and it almost seems like you are living the American dream, wait a year or two. This is what makes America attractive, invigorating, but mostly apparent. Let us look at a few events of American history through the lens of “EVENT” and “IRONY”.
Native tribes had walked this land for 10,000 years, when decadent children from Europe came along, kicking and screaming, pointing fingers and laying claims on land, resource, even human beings, that was never theirs in the first place. Over the next 200 years, the Natives were subject to a long-drawn period of holocaust-like ethnic cleansing, when they were massacred, raped, burnt, tortured, enslaved, and displaced. The population of Native Americans fell by 95%, all for spreading the seed of an already opulent Europe. Today they have been reduced to less than a percent of the population and a chapter in high-school history.
Ironically, the Jews were punished for being a foreign race. The Natives were, for being an indigenous race.
The free world was formed which would become an exemplary global superpower in less than two centuries. Tourists, entrepreneurs, refugees and dreamers would aspire to move to the US.
Shockingly, the Church and State, both were in support of the practice of bonded slavery. Over the next hundred years, the number of slaves reached 4 million.
Abraham Lincoln, arguably the best president of the US, an exceptional commander and a prolific orator, who apart from modernizing the economy, reforming banking and developing the railways, was also credited with the abolition of slavery freeing 4 million slaves while holding together the union even after casualties of 1.7 million soldiers in total. Lincoln impacted the course of human progress in the face of racism for centuries to come, inspiring several world leaders including MLK, Mahatma Gandhi, and Nelson Mandela.
Of course, Lincoln was shot dead.
John Quincy Adams rightfully put it “to go abroad in search for monsters to destroy”. By the turn of the 20th century, Presidents alike pursued a string of international policies and programs in the name of Dollar Diplomacy and Open Door Policy thus rubbing shoulders with China, Cuba, Japan, Russia — all of whom came back to bite them severely before the turn of the century — WW2, Cuban Missile Crisis, Cold War, etc. Teddy Roosevelt choreographed Panama’s split from Columbia only to assume modern-day feudal lordship over the naïve new-born. Roosevelt saw Panama, one of the world’s biggest feats of engineering, only for its geographic potential and strategic advantage.
After milking it dry for over half a century of its economic and military utility, in the 70s, the US withdrew its high-hand on the administration when it realized that Panama was a Hen that laid golden eggs. Till day, Panama continues to be arm-twisted by the US.
President. Woodrow Wilson attempted to join America into the League of Nations, while 1.5 million American soldiers fought in the Russian Civil War and WW1. The US wanted to make a mark on the world map, and make a mark it did. The period that followed involved waves of international immigration, initial surge & subsequent decline of American Industry, stock market crash, one of the country’s worst recessions, racism, xenophobia and homophobia, and a hopeful Republican president-elect Herbert Hoover who, despite having no elected-office experience, and despite displaying anti-Catholic sentiments against his opponents, got the people’s mandate. An engineer by training, he saw the government as a series of business processes that could be improved and optimized by problem-solving. He called for “rugged individualism”.
Interestingly, Herbert Hoover is shockingly similar to Donald Trump in character and in training. The economy spiraled down, unemployment rates remained at 25% leading to Hoover’s overwhelming defeat in the next election.
Even though he admired and respected his wife Eleanor for her fierce intelligence and her passionate sense of right and wrong, who would later go on to become the country’s first representative to the United Nations, FDR let himself slip into an affair with his wife’s Secretary. Born with a silver spoon, ivy educated, handsome, ambitious, virile, FDR was a man who flew high and lived dangerously. Soon after he announced filing for divorce.
After all, it was his mother’s dramatic threats of distancing him from the family’s name and estate, which pushed this titan to agree to not go ahead with the split. Husband and wife went on to make a historic political partnership that masked a failed marriage. Eleanor was alone not only at home, but for seven years at the UN, where she was the only woman.
A tactful statesman and a seasoned diplomat, FDR had served as the wartime secretary of the Navy amongst other demanding high-offices. Elected for an unprecedented fourth term and having won the war, the USA had emerged as a superpower and was in a league of its own. This mommy’s boy became the most powerful man in the world.
Ironically, affected by polio and becoming a cripple at the age of 39, the most powerful man of his time, FDR was powerless over much of his own body. Yet, Roosevelt’s infirmity was his greatest source of power. He famously quoted “The only thing that we have to fear is fear itself”.
Unlike his political guru Woodrow Wilson, FDR succeeded in convincing the American people to take up the burdens of international leadership in an improved version of Wilson’s League of Nations. His first two presidencies were very successful unleashing a wave of agrarian, economic, housing and wage reforms reviving the country from one of its worst recessions. Diplomacy and restraint were exercised in guarded measure in spite of the growing personality of Hitler and the increasing threat of the Japanese Empire. All seemed well and un-American, as the US behaved respectfully. FDR had introduced the ‘New Deal’ — Social Security, GI, for the middle-class and the returning veteran. These programs were very unpopular with the voters, the opposition as well as the Supreme Court. However, on hindsight, these programs have been lauded by pundits and politicians alike for its profundity and social impact.
Japan bombed Pearl Harbor pushing FDR, well into his third term, to announce the Manhattan Project. Though the savages of WW2 came to an end, Hiroshima and Nagasaki went on to inspire deadly WMDs. Worse, it ushered in the practice of Atomic diplomacy leaving the world in a permanent sense of apparent power and imminent fear. Sometimes wars were furthered with these weapons, sometimes wars were started in fear of these weapons, but hardly has a war been ended with these weapons. Back home, in spite of the victory, the country would struggle to limp back from the expense of war.
WW2, the war that husband Franklin Roosevelt chose to enter, claimed 420,000 American casualties
3 years after, wife Eleanor Roosevelt pushed through the UN Declaration of Human Rights.
The dashing JFK — one of the most lauded presidents of all time, put man on the moon and expanded man’s journey beyond known horizons, but failed at invading a little island ninety miles away. This little island came back to shut his staggering ego down as it scrummed with the soviets to play catch-catch with nuclear war-heads in the Atlantic. He also put the Oval on page3 and inaugurated the Cold War — the political version of a slow-motion bar fight between two drunkards throwing punches standing in different bars.
Of course, JFK was assassinated — his lack of consistency was too much, even for America to handle.
MLK Jr., in spite of being black, did what was last done by Lincoln and Jesus. A close friend of MLK, Robert F. Kennedy — a former Attorney General who was perceived by everyone as a mix of MLK’s social appeal and Kennedy’s populism, was just emerging.
Of course, they both had to be assassinated.
President George Bush Sr. probably is the poster boy, only second to FDR, for this festival of ironies that the US is. An ivy educated oil businessman, having served as Ambassador to the UN, Chairman of the RNC, Director of the CIA, and Vice President to Reagan’s double term, Bush began his presidency with very high approval ratings. In spite of a rather clement presidency, with measured progress at home and decent international footprint, and with the Gulf War became a military as well as diplomatic victory, Bush became the first elected Republican president since Hoover in 1932 to lose a reelection bid. The American people flipped apparently quoting three missing elements i.e.
- a weak economic recovery
- pre-mature withdrawal of troops without eliminating Saddam Hussein
- an overall lack of vision
Ironically, these three elements were precisely the causes for his son, Bush Jr.’s presidency to implode, leaving the US as well as the world economy crippled for a decade after. North Atlantic Free Trade Alliance — a Bush Sr. brainchild, went on to become a favorite of the Obama administration and hence the RNC’s object of censure in the 2016 Presidential election.
President. Bill Clinton, manned the country’s most successful period of economic progress, delivered a three-year surplus budget and left office with one of the highest end-of-office approval ratings of any U.S. President since Roosevelt.
All the country could ever speak of was his trigger-happy manhood.
Close to 3,000 people died in NYC on 9/11 as the world hauntingly watched the Twin Towers crumble, and Manhattan meltdown, triggering the War on Terror. Al-Qaeda was retaliating for the US’s support in the apparent atrocities committed on Muslims in Somalia, Russia, India, Lebanon, Saudi, Israel and Iraq — precisely those countries that the US had arm-twisted with its Dollar Diplomacy. The Financial sector was either deregulated or purposefully mismanaged, with Washington desperate for money to fund the war. The Global Financial Crisis, spurred by the sub-prime mortgage crisis caused by QUANGOs Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, spread to most parts of the world connected with the US one way or another.
10,000 Americans and 1.3 million non-American people have died till date. It becomes staggeringly unclear as to who is waging the war on whom, for there seems to be more terror now than before caused by the apparent victim. There is growing hatred towards the United States. The war on Terror continues to dent Wall Street and the Treasury, furthering the crisis back home. This period comes to be known as The Great Recession, the only time in a decade where the word ‘Great’ is used.
In 2009, the US elected Barack Obama as its first African-American President. Obama garnered a total of 69.5 million votes, making it the highest amount ever won by a presidential candidate. Amongst other things, Obama signed into law economic stimulus legislation for the recession, introduced Obamacare, repealed Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, brought under control the U.S. troop levels in Iraq and Afghanistan, signed the New START arms control treaty with Russia, ordered U.S. military involvement in Libya, opposed Muammar Gaddafi, ran the operation for killing of Osama bin Laden, ruled against gun control, strived for greater inclusiveness for LGBT Americans and normalized U.S. relations with Cuba. Above all, he knew to frame civil sentences and keep it in his pants, even though he was ‘Black’. Yet, in 2015, new waves of racism, xenophobia and homophobia surfaced. Working class Whites were displeased with income levels, borrowing rates, inflation, and jobs-creation. There seemed to be heavy discontent with the Obama administration, given the American people’s need for short-sighted absolutes and the expense of their understanding of economics being limited to GDP growth rate. Probably the former community organizer, Harvard-educated lawyer, U Chic Professor of Constitutional Law, three-time Senator, Nobel Prize winner and former civil rights attorney missed out something that the people in the fly-over states realized, as they were standing in line to collect their federal aid and unfunded mandate sponsored food stamps.
Obnoxious outsider to both politics and civic decency, registered democrat, billionaire businessman Donald Trump, who in the past had openly criticized the Republican Party, now a loud critic of President. Obama received the RNC nomination.
Many of Mr. Trump’s statements in public turned out mostly false and often controversial. Multiple women broke their silence accusing him of lewd, vulgar and criminal behavior towards them. Having made several appearances on television including taking the beating in a wrestling match from Steve Austin, constantly swearing and taunting, he has openly termed Mexicans as rapists, weighed open threats at ISIS, called women pigs, and lewdly objectified female opponents on live television. Trump claimed to renegotiate U.S.–China trade deals, oppose NAFTA (a Bush Sr. brainchild) and TPP, reform veterans’ care, repeal Obamacare, and cut taxes. He also claimed to build a wall along the U.S.–Mexico border, suggested a temporary ban on Muslim immigration from countries with a proven history of terrorism — a term that the US holds the patent rights for.
The country’s first female presidential candidate, DNC nominee, two-term state first lady, two-term first lady of the United States during the country’s more successful periods, two-term Senator, and former Secretary of State to incumbent Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton is labeled as lacking vision. Of course, the private email server during war-time, a time-tested Counter-Intelligence tactic, received a lot of flak from the television-trained people.
Social media, college students, immigrants, Hollywood, Wall Street, Silicon Valley, women, people of color, minorities, International leaders, Academia, etc. throw their weight behind Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.
Donald Trump is elected president!
America reminds me of a talented young man straying into manhood not completely aware of what he is getting into, intelligent yet naive, whimsical yet impressionable, proud yet reflective, young yet innovative, sympathizing yet guarded, self-centered yet not selfish, afraid yet inquisitive, and sympathetic yet not empathetic. In short — a Boy King! As is with the whimsical teenager, one emotion is usually followed by a contradicting emotion, with great indulgence. Hence, for all those who are assured or shocked with Trump being the chosen one, it needs to be stressed that this is very much part of the rise and fall of America’s lifecycle — Up and Down, Round and Round! If this phase is up or down is for each of us to decide.
But for the first time — in this election, beyond the roller-coaster ride model, beyond this convenient explanation that we tell ourselves, there seems to have crept in a degree of brash indecency and entitlement disguised in the name of candid honesty that is too much even for Vegas. It is suddenly acceptable to say wrong if you can do right, to call women names if you can give their men jobs, to make mistakes in the journey if the destination is reached, and to suggest for some of the people to climb out to a brighter tomorrow, even if it means stamping over the many others — the many, many other who came to this land leaving their families and homes behind, working equally hard and sharing the same dreams if not the color of their skin, whose equal hands helped build and re-build America!
It’s the day after the revolution, and a new leader has been elected. Today, it needs to be asked, as we attempt to shake on the profundity of governance, kingship, and polity — what bequeaths the elected leader of the free world? To be fit and do right or simply be popular. If the latter, then what happens if there emerges an uncouth person, vile and vulgar, but popular among an already ill-informed, prejudiced, weak, short-sighted quorum of people. Is that a country worth living in? Is America worth our awe? Was it ever?