Friday, December 30, 2016

OP-ED: House of Wild Cards



Published by Global Affairs / Dec 2016


Written 2 days after the US Elections. Should've been published when it still had relevance.



To many he will represent the face of the Dark Side. The tragic contamination of the American Dream, a malware in the code; the alternate ending that never made the cut. Post Election America has currently misplaced the veneer of respectability needed to conduct business and assert its authority. And without these props, its least favorable attributes could become representative of its core values.

It is a twist; but not entirely unexpected. For there were undercurrents of inherent racism, growing paranoia, fear of the unknown already in play – fears that came from a very real place. And now those fears have assumed a tangible form.

What does this mean for the rest? The world seemed to take it personally. Even nations under the yoke of their own despots, puppets and monarchs; that had squandered human rights, relegated women and minorities to the medieval era and committed war time excesses felt America had gone too far.

But consider how the planet was already in a bad shape. Their President Elect did not put it there. And the people bought a racist, misogynistic pitch clamoring for change perhaps because that voice gave clear cut villains – the mainstream media and its associate biases and the establishment to take down.

So on that count he is in the clear. The incoming President did not break the world. But it is highly unlikely that he can offer it the hope it needs at the moment given how green he is regarding foreign policy matters; has made his kids a part of the transition team and how he appears to let emotions govern over reason.

His post win tweet that blamed the media of instigating the protests that had broken out in the aftermath served as a reminder of that. The second tweet that seemed to backtrack and praise the protestors did not help. Another arrived soon after mocking The New York Times for losing its subscriber base because of bias.

That he seems to be relapsing into old ways so soon after a gracious victory speech is a throwback to the original vision. The usual platitudes, ‘there, there it’s not the end of the world’ had failed that day. It had seemed like it on 9 November 2016 as a rush of dread, disbelief and uncertainty swept through the globe. American Talk show commentaries mirrored war time broadcasts. The look of horror was universal. And now that the unthinkable has happened the rest of the nations must scramble for a strategy. They must find a way to work around this glitch in the system and put personal differences aside.

The perception that the U.S. Foreign Policy towards Pakistan remains the same regardless of who wins the White House is doing the rounds amongst some Pakistani Americans who seemed bewildered at their countrymen’s reaction. This apprehension was as much about the ripple effects of Washington based swamp drains, should they ever be attempted, as it is about the forced conversion of the political arena into never-ending Reality TV.

Where do we go from here? No one really knows. They hadn’t prepared for this eventuality. Though it was one possible outcome however farfetched it may have looked at the time. It caught them by surprise, all except Russia and maybe India? One had allegedly hacked into the election; the other had its lobby pour millions into a billionaires’ campaign - allegedly.

Israel looked chirpy too. These 3 will probably be fine under the new guard. The rest are cautiously feeling their way into the new reality. This may be the first time people across the continental divide hope a candidate will renege on his aggressive campaign promises and backtrack on policies that threaten to widen the breach. This may be the only time third world nations felt the spotlight shift from their faulty moral compass. They see a nation divided; a world in flames and the leader of the free world now has the unenviable task of pulling the superpower back to the moral high ground.

Bigotry is a hallmark of decline. It cannot be recycled from the rhetoric filled speech that had invoked it for ratings. There are already unending reserves in the third word; and look where they are. The seeds sown in the West have already yielded its first harvest. And there is no way to prepare for that.

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