Can America Be United Again?

Donald Trump has lost, but he is not going anywhere and so soon, something that large sections of the mainstream media and half of American voters would want so desperately. He has got massive electoral support, almost 70 million plus votes, half of the American vote bank. He might be openly a racist, an overt and tacit patron of Rightwing fringe groups of white supremacism, a misogynist, sexist and an anti-immigrant, apart from being rather crass in his public conduct.

He might have decisively botched up the Covid emergency in his total denial in public and acceptance in private, as disclosed by a top journalist with whom he shared his views; and by denying masks and the universal danger of this pandemic, he might be singularly responsible for the spread of the epidemic. Almost 250,000 Americans have fallen to the pandemic.

And, yet, Trump is refusing to give way to the new president-elect, Joe Biden and his team, even in carving out an emergency response to the pandemic. On the contrary, he continues to call the poll results a fraud, something even some of his aides in the White House and many Republican leaders are not ready to accept.

Biden, in his victory speech, has emphasised that he stands for not a red or blue America but a United America, which is quite in contrast to the sectarian ‘ultra nationalist’ Trump slogan of ‘Make America Great Again’, which unconsciously reminds of the colonial era of White supremacy, the bloody and genocidal subjugation of the indigenous inhabitants and natives of this vast land by colonisers and missionaries, and the slave trade of Blacks and later their continued brutalisation even in the post-War scenario by the rabid Ku Klux Klan virus of white supremacy.

Biden especially said that he stands for all of America, including those who did not vote for him, acknowledging the tragic and bitter realism of a socially divided and psychology wounded country, which might take years to overcome the fissures and hostilities entrenched after the short Trump era of four years.

Indeed, as the The New Yorker reported, Biden asked for an end to “this grim era of demonization…” “He stressed that, in choosing him, a majority of Americans opted to “marshal the forces of decency and the forces of fairness. To marshal the forces of science and the forces of hope”— the forces of everything good, reliable, and familiar that can help us shake the feeling of living in an unstable and unrelentingly dark reality. Biden promised to “restore the soul of America”.

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Surely, America is in a crisis. Despite the upset victory of the Democrats in certain red states like Arizona and Georgia, and the close margin of the final vote count, the vast white countryside, especially the uneducated white working class, both men and women, seemed to have gone along with Trump. So has, surprisingly, a sizeable number of Hispanics, especially Cubans who hate communists and who got sold yet again on the Trump slogan that socialists and the Left are out to take over America. Trump has repeatedly drummed it in the social media that the Left has taken over the Democrats and America is going Left. So much so, some Democrats too have done a kind of campaign that it is because of the progressives led by Bernie Sanders, and others like Rep Alexandria Ocasi0-Cortez and ‘the squad’ of four radical, progressive and emerging women leaders, among others, that the Biden campaign suffered in some states.

Reports from the ground affirm that nothing can be further from the truth, and that it was basically the Sanders, and progressives’ campaign, relentless and dogged, and which went on from the day Trump won the elections in the first instance defeating Hillary Clinton (though she got more votes), and the Black Lives Matter movement, massive and widespread across class, colour and race, apart from the larger rainbow coalition which swung it for Biden and Kamala Harris.

This coalition belongs to educated people, youngsters and students, the millennials, the LGBT collectives, the liberal White, enlightened and feminist women, immigrants and Asians, and almost the entire Black population, who consolidated the huge and unprecedented mass of vote which overwhelmed the support base of Trump, who just did not anticipate the huge ground level work, the door to door outreach, the voters’ enrolment and postal ballot campaign, and the idea of a new, egalitarian and secular America without the racial and sectarian divide. Native Indians campaigned and voted overwhelmingly against Trump. This was against the crass language and conduct displayed in the Trump era, where unbridled capitalism of monopolists, despite the pandemic, mass unemployment, collective uncertainty, depression and anxiety, stalked the American landscape.

The progressives’ agenda will mark the new America in more ways than one. People are desperate for a health sector which is not so shamelessly loaded in favour of the rich, which reaches out to the most ordinary Americans; they want higher education for the vast majority of the working class, across colour, they want social security and financial relief, jobs and homes for the homeless, and a society where the police and law enforcement agencies are not so brazenly biased and partisan. They also want accountability for the rich and super rich, a level-playing field, a new economic order, and an end to the rise and rise of the capitalists who seem to have flourished in an unprecedented manner amidst the despair and distress of the deadly pandemic.

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Surely, amidst the millennials, this is a trend which has been trending since Socialist Bernie Sanders first entered the fray, while being blocked again and again by the big money lobbies, including Barack Obama himself. The Barack-Biden twosome has a bad record on several counts: mass deportations of immigrants, the total insensitivity towards the working class, health and education, and of course, the unbridled killings by the drones in conflict zones across the middle-east and the borders of Afghanistan, and the death and destruction in Syria and Yemen, which continues. At least, in the Trump era, no new wars waged by America in the rest of the world, though his record on Palestine and Iran has been grossly unimaginative and crude.

Stacey Abrams, for instance, a prominent black leader of Georgia, who had earlier run for the post of Governor, has been credited for leading a whole-hearted and successful grassroots campaign for Biden, overcoming the formidable Trump support base in Georgia. Writes The Daily Beast: “The Biden campaign placed Georgia as one of just three reach states that they sought to turn blue, hoping to expand the party’s old electoral map to defeat President Donald Trump. The fact that Georgia is narrowly trending in that direction at the top of the ticket is, in part, thanks to the work Abrams put in place during her first governor run in 2018, where voter suppression contributed to her close loss to unseat (Republican) Kemp. She has since escalated her organizing and mobilizing efforts with Fair Fight, the group she founded in the aftermath of that election, and offered a strong closing pitch to voters to “make a plan to vote early” leading up to November 3.”

So will America heal itself and become united in these edgy days to come… The answer, as the Bob Dylan song says, is once again blowin’ in the wind.

The Future Of America

A question that is increasingly being asked in the USA is whether America will survive the Trump presidency. The triple crises now dragging the United States down could break its resilience and unleash a response that could be devastating for the world as well as the USA itself.

America has faced many disasters and lived through many challenges through history such as political and police racism, security crackdowns and economic ravages, external attacks and terrorism. But each time its somewhat asymmetrical democracy has helped it to recover keeping the country on top of the world. This time it may be different. The polarisation, the experiences and the expectations of different communities are deeply entrenched and unprecedent.

The United States has slid into significant internal divisions. It is suffering a pandemic out of control due to Government mishandling. Further it is trying to cope with diminishing authority on the world stage. Compounding this, the country is being led by a narcissist megalomaniac President who has little understanding of the threats let alone skills to manage them.

The situation is not only dangerous for the United States, but for a western world and its allies that have become reliant on USA to maintain a world in their favour. These are extremely unsettling times.

The US health system, not one of the wonders of the world, is showing signs of wearing down under nature’s attack, the Coronavirus Pandemic. The response to the pandemic is under a President who thinks it is a bad dream that will dissipate when everyone wakes up. His stewardship has been childish, immature and sometimes downright dangerous as he addresses the Virus as if it is a rival politician. ‘I won’t wear the mask’ he said early on as if the Virus would retreat against his cowboy defiance. Many in his base followed him. They are obsessed with ‘freedom to do and act as they want’ against scientific advice and putting the rest of the population at risk.

These Americans are confusing political authoritarianism with nature’s indiscriminating force. Nature does not understand ‘freedom’. The Pandemic isn’t going to do a U-turn simply because Jo America ala Captain Freedom doesn’t like nature acting like ‘communists’!  So they defy the virus with no masks, no maintaining social distance and no staying away from crowded beaches. It is bizarre, surrealist and dumbfounding.

It is clear that this President has never dealt with a political or social crises. He of course knows how to deal with personal financial challenges.

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The pandemic has divided Americans state wise, economically and racially. The virus has affected the poor, the blacks and the Hispanics most. There is a sense among them that the Government has deliberately allowed the virus to spread. Moreover different states in USA are approaching the pandemic differently as there is no coherent national plan or a collective Federal attempt to signal ‘we are all in it together’. If the pandemic continues to increase, it won’t be long before some states close their borders and manage their economies. A Pandemic that could have brought a spirit of unity, may lead to fissiparous tendencies.

Added to this is the sudden eruption of race politics on centre stage in America. The Afro-American population of USA has suffered racism from the days when they were brought as slaves to the modern era.

Much has changed for the Afro-American. From days of slavery when they were in chains to now as proud, free and politically strong community. But significant portions of white America has failed to move on with history. Their treatment of black Americans betrays prejudices and attitudes that were once found during slavery.

For many White Americans on the extreme right, the romance and tolerance of equality is now wearing thin as latent prejudices resurface. They want the White America as it once was.

But Afro-Americans are not the subdued population of yesteryear. They have dignity and expect respect. Black America isn’t going to accept intimidation, suppression or marginalisation anymore. For Black America, history cannot go backwards but only forward. Black Lives Matter is a powerful movement showing that the Afro-American isn’t going to take resurgent ‘White supremacy’ lying down. 

In favour of Afro Americans is the fact that the vast majority of White Americans also want to see an end to racism. They have collective shame about slavery and the treatment of Black Americans subsequently. Many White Americans joined in the protests and demonstrations that led to apparent equality. Now most White Americans actually support Black Lives Matter.

Afro-Americans are not the only group suffering racism in USA. The Hispanics, the Asians and the Muslims are also facing different levels of racism from White Supremacist

Unfortunately the constituency of ‘White supremacists’ is not small. Their racism is back on the agenda, given tacit encouragement by the President himself who has fuelled latent dreams of a permanent ‘white Nirvana’ in USA, a dream forged in falsehood.

White supremacist Americans have some choices to make for the future of USA. They can either continue to create tensions until they retreat into segregated white only areas or create de facto apartheid making life hell for any Black or Asian living in their area. They can come to terms with history and start to accept Afro-Americans as equals or they can start to fragment America creating a breakaway country where they can bask in whiteness.  Either way, they are likely to precipitate bloody Balkanisation of American society if they continue to live in a time warp.

Unless a remarkable leader pushes the genie back into the bottle, the future of America is bleak and facing fragmentation. A democratic President can only buy time but not bury the recurring past.

It will be an irony of history that where white Americans created reservations for Native Americans, the white supremacists will end up in a smaller country which effectively becomes a ‘White reservation’ in North America.

Thirdly the external international challenge is equally daunting. The United States has lost significant status in the world. Instead of leading, it often walks away from major international treaties and conferences. It walked away from the United Nations Human Rights Council as it did from the Climate Change Agreement and the Iran deal to name a few. It has even walked away from WHO. Usually it is when people are losing that they walk away from further humiliation.

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The USA no longer has the power to influence even its friendly countries to its bidding. Much has changed in the last two decades. It hasn’t quite adjusted to a world of multilateral powers. It is increasingly being challenged by China and appears to be at a loss for an effective response.

China is testing it in South China Sea, in South East Asia and lately in South Asia as it intrudes into Indian Territory. The USA almost feels obliged to come to the aid of India, but in what form? China is almost provoking the United States to wage a direct war. This is a dangerous game. Unlike the cold war when USSR and USA waged proxy wars, this one seems to be getting close to a direct confrontation.

Trump has so far avoided foreign wars. In an election year where his ratings are going down he may well be tempted and encouraged by his advisors to rise to the bait to look tough as his handling of Coronavirus pandemic has cost him his popularity. A foreign war to gain domestic votes is a frequent risk from democracies with internal crises.

However Trump has avoided an international war and is unlikely to engage in a conflict with China. Even he can see that the personal and general costs are too high. Chinese history has shown that China can sacrifice millions to survive. Although Opulent China has not been tested in a war yet. Americans do not have that sort of appetite for unending body bags. A USA ducking a war might make China look tougher than it is. This won’t go down well with many of the armchair warriors from neo con and American Supremacist tribes who have been keen to restore American power again in the world through a bloody war.

A new President in November is not going to be able to reverse America’s status. He will have to accept a multilateral powered world and re-engage in international institutions as well as treaty arrangements from a position of weakness. Whether he will be able to heal the divisions within is another matter. He is likely to face persistent criticism from American ‘Supremacists’ who feel betrayed by loss of American dominance in the world. They, like ‘white supremacists’ won’t accept the march of history. And when crises ridden democracies can’t unite by fighting abroad, they start to self-combust.

A superpower, facing internal unrest, an uncontrollable pandemic and a fall in international status, does not bode well for the world or the world order. The Trump presidency will be seen in history as a sort of hubris of the American power and American unity. Will the next President be able to slow it?  First the incumbent Trump has to be defeated and then hope restored. Yet it may be all too late. Trump has stayed in power two years more than was safe. He wasn’t removed when the threat was crossing the threshold of no return. A lot will depend on whether militant White Supremacist Americans will accept change or not. It may be too late now and it may be a case of not whether the USA will break up but when will it break up.

Make America ‘Breathe’ Again

White people in this country will have quite enough to do in learning how to accept and love themselves and each other, and when they have achieved this — which will not be tomorrow and may very well be never — the Negro problem will no longer exist, for it will no longer be needed.
James Baldwin in Newyorker, November, 1962

Between Minneapolis police officer and his three colleagues who backed him, Derrick Chavuin, and Afro-American citizen George Floyd, it took just about 8 minutes and 46 seconds, to resurrect the jackboot of White supremacy and Ku Klux Klan racism yet again, in full public view, as a public spectacle for the whole world to see.

Pinned down by his knee on the ground for the alleged crime of using a $20 counterfeit currency note (like another White man who was let out easily and predictably), the knee is yet again becoming a bad faith/good faith metaphor in the United States of America, certainly not the ‘greatest nation’ in the world, as it routinely claims. Indeed, the cops in Miami, one knee bent, have proved the visual and symbolic value of this gesture – followed by protestors hugging them warmly, some with tears in their eyes.

Remember the infamous ‘Wounded Knee Massacre’, and all the other massacres of  the indigenous native tribes of the Americas by the ‘White migrants, immigrants and outsiders’ to capture their land, bodies, natural resources, and brutally ravage their souls, civilizations, memories, folk traditions and history? The massacre on December 29, 1890 and later, of more than 300 Lakota Indians by the US Army in the Wounded Knee Creek somewhere in the southwest South Dakota has been movingly recorded in that heart-breaking book: Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown.

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Indeed, not only Black Lives Matter, the lives of the original inhabitants of these vast lands, killed by small pox, starvation, brute atrocities and genocides, too matters, though most of the last remaining native tribes, malnourished, ghettoised and degraded, have been pushed into invisible  forests and no-man’s land as third class citizens, outside the gaze of the so-called ‘greatest nation’.

George Floyd kept saying something which too has become a bad faith metaphor for the whole American society, White and Black, immigrants, Latinos, dissenters, intellectuals, journalists, homemakers, professional and students. Like that famous painting called ‘Scream’ by Edvard Munch, his last words reflect the suffocating reality of oppression which the largely marginanlised Afro-American communities, among other oppressed groups, face in affluent America.

“I can’t breathe,” he said. “Please help.” As he was pinned down, finally, calling out for his mother in his last moments. Murdered on the street by a White cop for no rhyme or reason, as is mostly the case with Black people in scores of similar situations all across the White supremacist landscape of this advanced capitalist democracy.

In recent times, this sinister and open legacy of murder has continued unabated, especially under the leadership of President Donald Trump. Some weeks earlier, Ahmoud Arbery was killed by White vigilantes in a suburb in Georgia; the video footage showed he was peacefully jogging. On March 13, an African-American woman, Breonna Taylor, was killed by the cops. Later, it transpired that they had botched it up again – they were searching an alleged suspect at a wrong address.

Indeed, the homeless streets of New York, perhaps one of the most democratic and expensive cities in the world, are a testimony of the destiny of the Black population in America. Even in the bitter, freezing cold, with temperatures falling below minus 40, they are out on the windy streets, in the night and during the day, poorly clothed, looking for the idea of fake warmth from the heating system’s steam which comes out from the streets and gutters. Capitalism in America is cold and cold-blooded – even a beggar has to get a coffee from a Starbucks café!

The prison system is yet another example, including those run by private parties, including the highly exploitative prisons, as reports say. Till about 2017, majority of the prisoners were either Blacks or Latinos/Hispanics, and the quantum of punishment they get is often disproportionate to the crime committed by them, it is reported.

According to a report by the Pew Research Centre, Blacks have long outnumbered Whites in American prisons. However, there has been a decline in the number of Black prisoners, according to new data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS).

The report declares: “At the end of 2017, federal and state prisons in the United States held about 475,900 inmates who were Black and 436,500 who were White – a difference of 39,400, according to BJS. Ten years earlier, there were 592,900 Black and 499,800 White prisoners – a difference of 93,100. (This analysis counts only inmates sentenced to more than a year.) The decline in the Black-White gap between 2007 and 2017 was driven by a 20 per cent decrease in the number of Black inmates, which outpaced a 13 per cent decrease in the number of White inmates… The gap between White and Hispanic imprisonment also narrowed between 2007 and 2017, but not because of a decrease in Hispanic prisoners. Instead, the number of White prisoners fell while the number of Hispanic inmates increased slightly. At the end of 2017, there were 100,000 more White inmates than Hispanic inmates (436,500 vs. 336,500), down from an inmate difference of 169,400 in 2007 (499,800 White inmates vs. 330,400 Hispanic inmates).”

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Trump decisively botched up the pandemic aftermath, in initial and total denial. Consequently, more than 100,000 Americans have died, a large number in New York, something perhaps which never happened even while putting the death toll together in the civil war, the first and second World War. Anyway, since it is geographically so distant in the map, America has had the illustrious history of inflicting death and destruction across the continent, but remains aloof and safe, facing no consequences for its actions, unlike, for instance, what Europe faced, and Soviet Russia, during the war against fascism.

Indeed, the thousands killed in the middle-east due to American policies and ‘blood for oil’, remains a fact of bitter realism. While Germany under Angela Merkel can give shelter to one million refugees from the Middle East, much of America can only suffer vicarious guilt and detached anxiety.

Even the pandemic seems to have killed more Blacks than Whites; in the manner that the poorest workers and migrants in India have suffered the most after a botched up lockdown announced by the Indian prime minister. Even a pandemic is prejudiced when translated in different geographical and social circumstances. Indeed, the unemployment figures among African American in a routine scenario is 25 per cent – almost three times the national average. In recent times, post pandemic, reports point out that of those arrested, 68 per cent are Black and 24 per cent are Latinos.

Among the White supremacists, like those who backed apartheid in South Africa for decades, the summering longing in the political unconscious is for a ‘back-to-slavery’ syndrome. ‘Make America Great Again’, the Trump slogan, in many ways reflected that – Make the Whites Call the Shots. They call the shots anyway.  Loosely translated, it means give more power to the powerful.

Every gesture and word of the militarist and narcissist US president, including holding the Bible outside  an Episcopal Church in Washington DC, after using rubber bullets and tear gas against peaceful protesters, and ‘kettling’ them, is reflective of this perverse ‘White American Nostalgia’. Not surprisingly, the bishop of the church, and other Church authorities, have expressed outrage and anger at his gesture amidst police violence, and has strongly condemned it.

The silver lining in this American explosion is that both Blacks and Whites, along with other communities, across the class and social spectrum, have collectively taken racism by the horn. It is reflected not only by the Miami cops, or the Houston police chief telling Trump to “Shut up”.

It is mostly reflected by the great gesture of the White protestors, including women, who line up as peaceful vanguard, in front, protecting the Blacks, telling the armed cops, “Come, get us first, will you?”