An insurrection is not a tea party
It's messy, rowdy, bloody, irrational, and bewildering. Yet, it happens, and can happen anywhere when the ruler and the ruled start considering each other enemies. It happened a few days ago in the US. But isn't the US a democracy? Isn't an orderly transfer of power the norm in the so called most, democratic, powerful, and exceptional country in the world? It seems not. How to explain this anomaly? Is it a wayward incident in the otherwise peaceful, adorable, God's chosen country? That's what the political leadership across the partisan divide would want the world to believe. But they and the world were horrified and rightly abhorred by the silly but dangerous act of a disillusioned president and some of his equally crazy followers to have struck the citadel of American democracy. I am sure the French and the Russian monarchs were equally shaken and baffled to see the mob storm the Bastille and the Winter Palace. While the American rulers got away with just a few feathers ruffled, the other two were not so lucky.
But that's no comparison, while the other two were absolute monarchies America is a democracy or supposed to be. Well here comes the tricky part. While a democratically elected president is awaiting his inauguration nearly half of America believes the election was rigged in spite of no evidence at all. But perception in politics and faith is far more important than evidence. The Christians believe Christ was God's son; how can one contest with blind faith? Same goes for half of the American electorate. Well, that says a lot about them; no wonder a crude philanderer, and a known con man like Trump gets elected in the first place. Were they so desperate to replace the old order? Well it seems so! The question is why?
Here is where the story gets murky. No matter what the written constitution says or claims, America was established on the unwritten understanding of white supremacy by the Anglo-Saxon, Christian slave owning oligarchs right from day one. Even if they themselves suffered the colonial yoke, they had no qualm in following the moral and cultural dictum of the European's infamous "white man's burden" for pursuing the colonial project. This justified the mass slaughter of the natives and confiscation of their lands. Guns and duplicity were the two main weapons. But the lands needed to be farmed; slavery was the answer, and all in the name of God, democracy and the self-righteous high moral supremacy. These two crimes against humanity committed between 17-19 centuries were the two most basic foundational stones of the future wealthy America. So, the dirty faces of racism and expansionism became part of America's DNA.
But fortunately this is not the whole story. With gradual advances in material condition, growth of social consciousness and the ideas of human dignity, decency, education, and other civilizational attributes, the crudity and aggressiveness of white settler mentality slowly receded alright but didn't vanish. So long as the ruling elite could provide full employment, housing, and other basic necessities for the majority, not much grumbling was heard. In fact, most Americans went along with the governments narrative of the necessity to control/police the world to keep America safe. But what they didn't realise or couldn't care less about was that it was only an excuse, exerting global influence by waging endless wars across the world became the most lucrative enterprise. Pursuing this policy over nearly half a century became the key priority of a collective of elites in Capitol Hill, the Pentagon, and Wall Street, cryptically called the military-industrial complex. They enforced a policy of neoliberalism at home and abroad that enabled massive income and wealth gains for a few at the top, but regular economic stagnation and deprivation for all else.
Rank of the middle class kept on dwindling, joblessness increased; medical care and education for the common people became unaffordable, while at the same time the endless cost for the endless wars kept on increasing by leaps and bounds as did national debt. Right after the market crash in 2008, people were disgusted with the established order and put great trust in Obama to change course, but he proved a disappointment. He gave in to the pressure of the three power centres that hold the levers of actual power in Washington. When Trump pointed out these failures and anomalies and promised to clean the mess, and stop the endless wars the disgruntled sections of the populace jumped on his bandwagon. Trump is no aberration; he is the cumulative result of long years of neglect of ordinary Americans by the elites. It will be a grave mistake to paint them all white supremacists. In the last four years constant vilification of Trump by the liberals and calling his supporters "deplorables" or "white trash" helped him to galvanise them into an organised grassroot fighting machine. America got polarised into two hostile camps boiling at the seams just beneath the surface of constitutional norms. And finally it burst open on January 6.
It delivered a stark message. No amount of civilities, constitutional talks, and empty rhetoric of healing by the elites will work. The hypocrisies, outright lies, and the widening wealth gap needs to be addressed. If America chooses it can be a wealthy, democratic, and a socially equitable welfare country like a few others in western Europe, the anger will slowly dissipate. Or it can go on acting like an imperial oligarchy dictating to the world, which can only imperil its own and the world's future. One thing is for sure; it can no longer be both. And it cannot pretend that nothing has happened and get back to business as usual. If a serious dialogue and accommodation across the divide cannot be worked out, Trumpism is here to stay with or without Trump. America needs to search for its soul.
Ali Ahmed Ziauddin is a researcher and activist. Email: [email protected]