The United States of America (USA), the self-proclaimed custodian of democracy round the world as well as being the mouthpiece of freedom of speech and freedom of opportunities is in chaotic and disgraceful state now. What happened at the Capitol Hill on the day (6th of January) when the Joint Congress session was set to confirm the election result and endorse the incoming president was not only shocking but also shameful. Even more shocking was that the sitting president under the pretext of “Save America” was about to destroy the very foundation of American democracy by declaring that “we will never concede”. What the incumbent president meant was that he would never concede to the defeat in the presidential election that took place on 3rd of November 2020. Lawless behaviour of an existing elected person, let alone the president of the country, could not be more pronounced than what the world had witnessed on 6th of January 2021 at the Capitol Building.
America had been traditionally quick off the mark in condemning any violation or presumed violation of democratic principles and practices anywhere in the world (exceptions were those countries which kowtow America blatantly). The countries like North Korea, China, Russia (bar during Donald Trump’s presidency), India, Iran, Bangladesh, Pakistan, some Middle Eastern countries, most of Africa and South America had faced severe criticism and condemnation of the American state, when they had to quell illegal or inconvenient demonstrations against the states or perceived democracy. Bangladesh in its liberation war against Pakistan in 1971 had faced the condemnation and almost the military might of America state in the form of 7th Fleet, but the 7th Fleet was not used as the war came to an end, thanks to India, before the Fleet could reach the Bay of Bengal. Iran was perpetually under the American threat and antagonism ever since the time of overthrow of Shah of Iran, an American stooge, in 1979 and no amount of compliance and adherence to the rule of international law by Iran would remove American threat and highhandedness. The Chinese government is being condemned by America at any possible opportunity for “re-educating Uighur Muslims” away from Islamic brainwashing.
On the other hand, Israel violating more than half a dozen UN resolutions over a number of years for developing nuclear weapons had none, zilch adverse response from America. Saudi Arabia butchering a Saudi journalist in their Istanbul Consulate and then dumping the severed body in the well within the Consulate office had been told by Donald Trump’s government that there was no concrete evidence to condemn Saudi Arabia! Duplicity could not be starker than this.
But, as it is said, what happens abroad has a reflection at home. If America thought that they can preach and enforce democratic principles abroad, and practice at home the opposite of democracy, then they are blatantly wrong. Rampant inequality, total lack of fairness, social justice, subjugation of black and Hispanics etc at home had been endemic in American society. ‘Black lives matter’ is an outward expression of frustrated black lives in America.
Donald Trump, a self-proclaimed billionaire, became the champion of the deprived, disadvantaged and social outcast people in the country by his deceitful campaign of ‘draining the swamp of the capital’. He tapped into the underlying discontent of the citizens against the establishment, against the rich and against oppression. Although he is a significant part of the oppressor, he manoeuvred himself as the leader of the oppressed group by populist and nationalistic slogans like ‘Make America Great Again (MAGA)’, ‘America first, America first’. In addition, he gradually brought the fascist, racist, fanatics and nationalistic groups into his wing and thereby creating an electoral base of extremists. And Republicans, seeing his strong electoral base of almost blind supporters, had to kowtow to his wishes and demands.
But America had serious historical problems too. Since the discovery of the land in the 15th century, called America, people from Spain, Portugal, Britain, Germany, Scandinavia and so forth had emigrated to that country and systematically exterminated the original inhabitants. So, mass extermination was not new to the ancestors of the present inhabitants of America. Since then, black people from Africa had been brought in by the tens of thousands to do the menial tasks of building the country. As they were brought in, literally chained in the ships, they established their homes in America. The slavery was abolished in 1865, but the fruits of that abolition were not fully transferred to them.
About a year ago, when blacks were protesting in Charlottesville, North Carolina, against the killing of unarmed black men under the banner “Black lives matter”, they were suppressed with heavy hands. On the other hand, the white rioters invading the Capitol Building on 6th January were not stopped by the police, although joint session of the Congress was in progress to confirm the election results. Difference in the treatment of two groups of people could not be starker.
Voices from the invading mob of Capitol Building were ringing out, “we fought for our independence in 1776, we fought the civil war in 1860s and we will fight again. We will fight the civil war. Stop the Steal.” The voices were clear and strident. But the problem is, fighting against whom, seeking independence from whom? The incumbent president was directing the operation. Is it not an implicit declaration of civil war against the blacks, Hispanics and other immigrants?
America has serious structural problems too in the political field. Although Blacks obtained freedom from slavery under “Emancipation Proclamation” in 1863, there is still “three-fifth clause” meaning blacks are only 60 per cent of whites; that is reflected in the electoral voting system. In other words, five black men and women are counted as three white men and have three votes. This was the compromise that was made after the abolition of slavery to give adult franchise to the erstwhile slaves. The education of blacks is well below par with the whites. Yes, the blacks are doing well in sports and games as well as in pop music etc, but they are not racially integrated in the mainstream of America. Even a short visit to America will make that abundantly clear – this is the black neighbourhood and that is the white neighbourhood, I was told in the tour of the city when I visited the University of Virginia a few years back.
Obviously, American blatant proclamation of being the leader of the free world upholding freedom of speech, democracy etc and the treatment of blacks in America throws up sharp duplicitous behaviour. Any disconnect will have repercussion at home and abroad. Iran already said, “What a failure the Western democracy is and how fragile and weak its foundation is.” Russia said very poignantly, “US electoral process is archaic, does not meet modern standards and is prone to violations.” With all these shortcomings, any attempt to pretend otherwise is bound to fail.
Years ago, Noam Chomsky, the most prominent thinker at the present time in America, had pointed out the blatant abuse of power and the assault on democracy in the country and gave the verdict that America is a “failed state”. It is not so much on economic and technical grounds, but on social, political and moral grounds. In this day and age, any duplicity is going to be flashed around, at home and abroad, and that is not a very flattering outcome for America.
– Dr A Rahman is an author and a columnist.