By Ananya S Guha
This is the first time in the history of a chequered world – fraught with wars, cold wars, and open animosity – that a country has debarred people from seven countries to enter their nation, based exclusively on religion. This is rabid racism, and can only open more wounds. While the term for the Mexicans is ‘refugees’, a term not uncommon in India, the other ostensibly is to fight terrorism. Then why not declare it openly, and not in the garb of immigration? The US is, of course, full of immigrants. While some of its leaders have taken pride in its multi racial population, the present leader, Donald Trump wants a resurgence of ethnic nationalism. But is this the way to do it – by promising jobs, and whipping up fanatic feelings? Whether it will work or not is another question, but the precedent is ominous. People go back to racism at the slightest pretext. It is happening in India as well in the new regime, flushed with grand success at the last hustings.
The point about Donald Trump’s belief is that it is no ideology. It is simply playing to the gallery with slogans like ‘this is your land’, mind you, not country. It also pooh poohs the very notion of cultural integration and assimilation. It is monolithic in character and nature. Monolith cultures have a way of resembling a herd mentality. That a country of America’s proportions and magnitude is shamelessly throwing to winds any notion of cultural humanism. A shift in such ideology can only lead to political and social atrophy, if not anarchy. Singling out countries by religious profile is the bluntest form of racism, which can only lead to a reactionary response.
Those under Obamacare will continue to be covered, but their railing will be against Trump. Donald Trump is as unsure of relationship with Russia, as Russia is of relationship with America, so both don’t know where they stand. But the cause for immediate concern is internal disorder. Once you fan the right wing, you find a trigger-happy people, out to decimate those whose faces are different. To still maintain the pluralism of the country, Trump must allow a free movement of people.
Coming back to the refugee problem, in this case Mexican, the world is split regarding this. While one part of the European world wants consensus on rehabilitation, some countries do not want to disturb the demographic profile. There are countries like Greece which have welcomed Syrian refugees and are also doing the rehabilitation in quality hotels. The point is one of subterranean racism versus humanism. It is a matter of attitudes. But political propaganda and vitriol is another matter. People can be fuelled by such malicious propaganda, abetted by insecure political leaders. If one goes by some social media site responses, obviously people are not happy. They are also not happy by such fear-mongering in the name of religion, intending to divide people. Trump’s plan seems two-fold: divide people along racial and religious/ethnic lines and whip up feelings of pseudo nationalism. It is of course a quirk of truth that organizations like the UN and Amnesty International are keeping a studied silence on this matter. For decades the US has become synonymous with world power, but at a time of internal political crisis, when it is pushed to the extreme, it resorts to ethnocentric worldviews. Gone are the times when it paraded its multilingual and multiracial ethos. It is now looking out for scapegoats – the poor immigrant, the ‘refugee’ – forgetting that their people are also refugees in other worlds, albeit white-dominated.
Bertrand Russell once prophetically said that the fourth world war will be fought with stones. If we have demagogues as world leaders, we might just fall into a clutter of atavism. Even bombs will not matter or used. Pernicious word play such as this will be enough. Although the internet has created a metaphor for one world, some people are out to destroy the world, its humanity, and perpetuate suffering. Was the picture of the Syrian boy drowned, which left the world aghast, merely ephemeral? Are we transitioning into a beast like mob culture by singling out a religion? Terrorism must be fought openly; the world will support this. It should be an open, declared fight, not a hidden, cowardly one, which will only smoulder more trouble.
Read this piece in conjunction with Deeba Abedi’s Trump’s Biggest Hurdles as an Incoming President in Recent History.
Ananya S Guha is Regional Director, Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), Shillong.
Cafe Dissensus Everyday is the blog of Cafe Dissensus magazine, based in New York City, USA. All materials on the site are protected under Creative Commons License.
Read the latest issue of Cafe Dissensus Magazine on ‘Unmasking the Conflict: Making sense of the recent uprisings in Kashmir’, edited by Idrees Kanth, Leiden University, The Netherlands and Muhammad Tahir, Dublin City University, Ireland.