Self-centred US gets the Trump it deserves

By Ameen Izzadeen
Americans came out in their thousands to protest against the election of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States. Today is the 17th day since they first took to the streets on November 9 crying ‘He is not my President’. The liberal use of the F-word showed the intensity of their anger. Protests were largely peaceful, but in some areas they turned violent. But where are they now? They came, they protested and they disappeared.
The protesters were a motley crowd and mainly in liberal states like New York, Oregon and California. Some protested shouting ‘Dump Trump’ because they were angry their beloved candidate Hillary Clinton was not elected though she won the popular vote by a massive majority of more than 2 million.
The migrants protested crying ‘Build bridges, not walls’, because they feared Trump would deport them.
The Muslims protested stressing that “Muslim rights are human rights” because they feared they would be subjected to racial profiling and would be the target of hate crime. The Jews protested because Trump appeared anti-Semite.
“No Trump! No KKK! No fascist USA!” was the cry of those who feared that Trump would be an authoritarian president and would undermine the United States’ democratic traditions. The feminists shouted “My body, my choice!”
Some feared Trump would reverse the progress made in combating climate change while others thought he would be illiberal, irrational and could not be trusted with the nuclear code. But where are these protesters now?
The anti-Trump movement is today largely confined to some universities and online. Online petitions attract millions of signatures in support of a demand that the Republican Party Electoral College delegates switch their support to Hillary Clinton on the basis that she won the popular vote. Moves are now underway to persuade the Republican Electoral College delegates to vote for Clinton or a compromise candidate from the Republican Party when they vote on December 19. Trump has 290 delegates and Clinton 232. Though the success of such a move appears farfetched, it is constitutionally possible. In California and Oregon, some even went to the extent of initiating the legal process for their states to declare independence from the US. Even this impulsive move taken in anger is also unlikely to succeed. Some are even talking about impeaching Trump.
The failure to sustain the protests is a weakness of US civil society. The failure is not only because of the lack of energy or will power on the part of the protesters to sustain their civic action, but also because of their inconsistency in standing up against injustice. Sadly, US civil society reflects selective morality which is, in other words, hypocrisy. Mostly their hypocrisy is unintentional or due to their vulnerability to fall prey to media spins.
The US people power movements such as the civil rights movement of the 1960s had been an inspiration to many people around the world to bring about positive change. But, of late, US civic action groups have lost their momentum. They last tasted success when the Americans wanted troops back home from Vietnam. The anti-war movement was started by peace activists and leftist intellectuals in the latter part of the 1960s at a time when a majority of the Americans were supporting the US military involvement in Vietnam. But, over the years, the anti-war movement lost its moral high ground and assumed a self-centred character with a large number of Americans, worried about the rising US death toll and the staggering 25-billion dollar war bill, joining the protests to demand the troops be brought back.
Then in 2011, we saw protests in Wall Street against the so-called one percent. Occupy Wall Street was a good protest for a good cause aimed at highlighting the social inequality in the US. It called for a more equitable distribution of the country’s wealth, 95 percent of which was controlled by just five percent of the population.
The protesters realised that the bourgeois democratic elite from the two main parties were taking them up the garden path. But they failed to sustain the protests until their objective was achieved. In the end, the protests that lasted two months only provided the middle class youth and the working class a space to vent their anger at social inequalities. If they had succeeded in forcing the government to adopt sweeping reforms, we would not have had Trump as president-elect.
The white working class by voting for Trump who was not a full blooded Republican showed their frustration at the two main parties. But by making Trump win, they have given new life to racists. The Nazi salute is back. Hate crime has sharply increased. Muslim women are afraid to wear hijab. Where is the world’s oldest democracy heading?
Moral depravity is the crisis the United States’ democracy is facing today. It is evident not only in the system but also in civil society. The system was so bankrupt that its main candidates for the 2016 elections were not the best the American democracy would like to have. One was widely seen as a war monger responsible for the destruction of Libya and the carnage in Syria, while the other was a maverick billionaire businessman who has little or no respect for the minorities and women and refuses to believe that climate change is real.
US civil society’s moral depravity was evident during the US war on Iraq – call it the plunder of Iraq. It was a war for oil, but a majority of the Americans justified it. Even the liberals, now crying foul over Trump’s victory, backed the war — just as some European Communists justified colonialism. Of course, there were marches, but none lasted long enough to stop the war.
US civil society’s moral depravity was also evident when the Americans – largely due to their lack of interest in the rest of the world — remained silent when their government engineered a protest in Ukraine against a democratically elected president and overthrew him in 2014. They said little or nothing when their country funded a military backed revolution that overthrew Mohamed Mursi’s democratically elected government in Egypt. They did not protest when the US went to war and destroyed Libya, nor when their country backed its Gulf allies to start a civil war in Syria. They object not when their country openly endorses Israel’s oppression and illegal activities in the occupied Palestinian territories. They protest not when nearly 4 billion dollars in American taxpayers’ money is doled out annually to Israel, a highly developed country, while scores of poor countries beg for US aid and get little. If they oppose Trump, then they should also oppose their country’s direct and indirect wars across the world, its neo-colonialist programmes and its double standards on human rights issues. But let’s forgive them, for a majority of them know not what they are doing because their worldview is shaped by the largely corrupt Corporate Media, which is part of the so-called establishment.
(This article first appeared in the Daily Mirror, Sri Lanka)

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About ameenizzadeen

journalist and global justice activist
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