Trump or Modi, democracies cannot despair
We cannot normalise demagogues in the name of popular mandates.
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Donald Trump's victory speech, many are saying, was "gracious", minus the poison he had spewed during his vicious, and now immensely successful, 18-month campaign.
Exactly as protests by disgruntled students, immigrants, single women, and many from the minority communities sweep across America to resist The Don, the president-elect's website is seeing a spate of his earlier stances being deleted with the speed of light, to be replaced by maudlin ramble on unifying America.
Every one of us who witnessed the 2013-2014 election campaign by Narendra Damodardas Modi remembers that lag - between first words spoken before the election, the trail of blistering bluster against Muslims in a country that has the biggest population of Islamic people, and the rectifying, gratuitous erasures that followed, words meant for a statesman, a prime minister, the prime minister of the world's largest democracy.
The lags were works of wonder. Each time PM Modi retracted and redacted the words uttered by Gujarat CM Narendra Modi - whether on pink revolution, hum paanch humare pachhees, send them to Pakistan - history was airbrushed systematically. But only to be repeated.So much has been done in the name of CM Modi, winked at, mildly reprimanded, spectacularly agonised over by PM Modi. (Photo: PTI)
The PM's words were meant for consumption and circulation in/for/by those who opposed his words, policies; the PM's words were an exercise in selling the brand that he had/has become.
The PM's words were not meant to curb those who had been egged on already, encouraged on a daily basis by Union ministers, spokespersons, mercenaries on hire, cadres, and even the PM's earlier avatars, which cumulatively have built up actionable intent to realise, translate those words into lived lives of many.
Hence, from ghar wapsi to love jihad, from beef murders to biryani gangrapes and murders, from lynching Dalits to gunning down atheists, from social media hounding of Bollywood actors who spoke of intolerance to harming them financially through covert means, from disrupting releases of movies that cast Pakistani actors, to witch-hunting intellectuals who wrote about Bastar, or are fighting hard to preserve the secular fabric of India, to punishing news channels and magazines and journalists through varying degrees of vindictiveness - so much has been done in the name of CM Modi, winked at, mildly reprimanded, spectacularly agonised over by PM Modi.
The rectifying words - always with a potent delay, like a relay race of speech and action, in which the two are permanently locked in a game of deathly irony. So much irony, it's hard to breathe.
But that's PM Modi. President-elect Donald Trump is a billionaire who has newly discovered his blue collar funny bone. He who laughed and smirked at the poor, like a decadent aristocrat whose affluenza has blinded him towards any sympathetic understanding, any compassion towards the less privileged - that would be 99 per cent of America - is now a white, working class hero.
He, whose sexual assault bragging and casual rapey take on life, women, natural resources, citizens, immigrants, planet Earth, had made the equally hypocritical GOP leaders "unendorse" him, only to shake their wobbly, entitled heads to say that they actually can't, is now acting wise and is posing as the grand unifier of a fractured America.
Both Trump and Modi have been elected in free and fair democratic elections. To Trump's credit, he literally trumped the entire American media, which was resolutely against this tax-evading, xenophobic, sexual assaulter.
That cannot be said of Modi because by the end of 2013, in the wake of the so-called "Modi wave", Big Media in India embraced saffron like it were the colour of the future. They mid-wived Modi. They screamed hysterically: SARKAR! Modi sarkar, so comforting in its deadly fusion of extreme crony capitalism and religious majoritarianism. It energised the very nerve fibres of the sluggish beast that is India, quickened its heartbeat with a maniacal energy.
It's Trump sarkar today. The news channels have swallowed irony up and now they live off it. What's news minus the irony?To Trump's credit, he literally trumped the entire American media, which was resolutely against this tax-evading, xenophobic, sexual assaulter. (Photo: Reuters)
Mega editors are saying that journalists mustn't despair because with the pantheon of Trump, Modi, Xi, Putin, Assad, Erdogan, May - yes, there's an incidental woman too on the list, so much for inclusivity - means that it's a helluva "newsy" time. Yes, just as 1914-45 was newsy.
Exactly as Donald Trump deletes the menacing, non-presidential, pestilential bits from his website, asking everyone - and he means EVERYONE - to donate and attach themselves to the cause célèbre that's The Don, websites are resigning and redesigning their portraitures of Trump, elevating him from a caricature, a lump of goo, an orange marmalade of racist, rapey lies, to someone presidential, by the dint of democratic mandate.
Beautiful phrase - democratic mandate.
Of course, the protests in the wake of Brexit-plus-plus-plus-plus that is the American election 2016 can set a dangerous precedent. Dangerous because tomorrow if a black female is picked as the president - yes, all hail democratic schizophrenia, but that day too may come - there may be protests on the streets.
The Trump presidency - with the Republicans capturing the Senate, the Congress, having a hold on Supreme Court judges - will be one since 1928, which saw the Great Depression of 1929 within one year of its installation, when unequivocal shift of power was obtained, yes, by the sheer dint of democracy. Free, fair, and absolutely monstrous.
No, this isn't a tirade against democracy or its universal franchise. It's most evolved and egalitarian method devised by human being to self-govern. But this is a pointer, a meditation of what comes after? What comes after an election?
Because every election leaves many disgruntled. When David Remnick in the New Yorker dubbed the Trump victory as an "American Tragedy", when New York Times cautioned everyone with its biting, resisting editorial "Donald Trump's revolt", that didn't mean they were disrespecting democracy, but that they were questioning if democracy is a means to an end - the equality and dignity of all - or an end in itself.
Because the work doesn't stop at concluding a well-fought democratic election. The work just begins there, once again, all over again.The black man in the White House built by black slave labour, will exit this theatre of the absurd in two months. (Photo: Reuters)
For example, the premature Nobel Peace Prize was the chip on Barack Obama's shoulder; but trying to live up to it made him take a few history-altering decisions, such as with Cuba, Iran, Vietnam.
The future is here, and the eight years of Obama presidency, a time when liberalism, and the white supremacist backlash against it, peaked, is coming to a close.
The Harvard professor of constitutional law, a bold president and a reluctant politician, the black man in the White House built by black slave labour, will exit this theatre of the absurd in two months.
Trump in White House. He'll preside on a court of climate change deniers, evolution deniers, military reactionaries, war on terror enthusiasts, McCarthy-era relics, certified Islamophobes.
No, the little shake-a-leg-and-light-diya with Hindu Republican Coalition fellows wouldn't stop the everyday racism that Hindus in America, thanks to their brown skin, would face, much like their Muslim, black and Hispanic brethren. How can adhering to an exclusive, model minority code of conduct shield NRI Hindus from racist slurs?
Yet, when sections of these very Hindus become social media warriors for each and every one of PM Modi-facilitated anti-minority exercises, praise RSS' exclusionary worldview, they bring upon themselves the phenomenon of Donald Trump.
Democracy is work in progress. Democracy is caution during euphoria and resolute commitment towards equality - of dignity, of law, of opportunities, of freedom irrespective of gender, religion, caste, skin colour, sexual orientation - during despair.
We cannot despair. Whether it's Trumpland or Modiland, the fight towards a better world order must be on.
We cannot despair. Just like we cannot normalise demagogues in the name of respecting democracy.