A New World Order—Again
Our very own “short-fingered vulgarian” has singlehandedly kept the news cycle immersed in his indelicate bluster for so long that sometimes we forget about what’s happening outside the U. S. of A.
In my family’s hometown of Karachi, Pakistan, where our leaders’ sectarianism and political polarization primarily lead the thundering charge against sanity, extremists recently vandalized murals adorning the perimeter walls of the Karachi Press Club.
The artwork, which celebrates progressive women, was defaced with death threats — including the portrait of my grandmother, Yasmeen Lari, a prominent humanitarian activist and Pakistan’s first female architect — and a jibe at the press on the portrait of eminent journalist Zubeida Mustafa.
Extremists openly threatening powerful women, openly threatening Muslims and openly threatening reporters. If you’re Pakistani, you’ve heard this one more than a few times.
As state after state fell to crimson on election day, it appeared America was relishing President Donald J. Trump’s frothy anti-Muslim furor with a delight neither Hillary nor Jeb! could’ve ever anticipated.
The Cold War alliances are crumbling, and the post-9/11 battle lines have emerged. It would’ve been inconceivable with a President Hillary Clinton — whose entrenched Cold War worldview harkens back to an antediluvian era, who knows Pakistan as a “vital American ally,” who turns pouty when the Pakistani government — the token of sheer bureaucratic ineptitude — turns out to be playing with fundos in Kashmir like children with fire.
A jingoistic bromance between Trump and Indian PM Narendra Modi is forming against an ill-defined scapegoat of “terrorism.” To India’s consternation, China is launching new — and controversial — economic initiatives into Pakistan. Trump is haranguing China for “stealing our companies and destroying our jobs.” And the rift between the Americans and the Russians is rapidly dissolving. Apparently, when your arch-rival invades Afghanistan before you do, and then you both launch assaults on Syria, you realize after decades that fighting each other is a waste of time.
The Pakistanis got tired of Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton and John Kerry coming to Islamabad to nag, and the Americans got tired of nagging Islamabad for doing naughty things that they had themselves done decades earlier.
At home, Pakistanis have the incompetent Ministry of Education to thank for lofty illiteracy rates, a department that once called my grandmother offering to “help” her in her work to build schools. Americans have Betsy DeVos.
To dual-national, perpetually-hyphenated Muslims struggling to resolve that age-old identity crisis, it often seems like 2016 left the answer only more elusive. While our countries squabble, we sit here stranded, watching extremism on one side nourish extremism on the other, harassed at airports by border control of countries we are citizens of. The President’s choice line — “America First” — and his executive order suspending immigration from 7 majority-Muslim countries signal that his vision of America is defined by whom is excluded.
While our touchy, unstable provocateur routinely binges cable news, hate-watches every “Saturday Night Live” episode starring Alec Baldwin and provokes Twitter conflagrations at 3 a.m., Muslim Americans experience vilification and interrogation. At the hands of world governments, the people of Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen continue to suffer.
It is some comfort that on Jan. 21, one million Americans across the continental U. S. marched in solidarity with those vilified. On Jan. 28, protests against Trump’s executive order erupted across airports from Dulles to LAX. Lawyers poured in to international arrivals terminals to work immigration cases pro bono. The ACLU won a victory in a federal district court, freeing refugees detained in airport holding. And within 10 days, the murals at the Karachi Press Club were restored. We’ve all been stretched thin, but there is hope.