Making America sane again
The attack by Trump supporters on Capitol Hill shows the serious impact of four years of misinformation and propaganda
When you elect a thuggish, noxious person to the highest seat of power, anarchy and chaos are but his expected mates. The world watched in disbelief as Donald Trump's supporters, many of them armed, stormed Capitol Hill two days ago. They attacked, ransacked, and clashed with security forces as they charged upon the US Capitol. Five lives were lost with rioters and marauders instilling fear in the most powerful country's most guarded area. Evocative images from the attack invite both derision and horror as we wonder how the situation got so out of hand?
A mob is crazed, it seldom listens to reason; it is easier to rile than placate. From climbing walls of the Congress and shooting into the chamber to pepper spraying the police, from breaking into offices to leaving notes for Nancy Pelosi, from stealing podiums to conducting photo-ops in ridiculous attires — Trump's supporters showed the world all that could go wrong when wannabe dictators are voted to power. They showed the might of fake news and propaganda as well as the unfortunate influence of misinformation and yellow journalism. We see the prowess with which Trump and his well-oiled PR machinery fed lies, fanned hatred, and created more divisiveness in the US than ever before. And there are lessons in this for all of us (even the idiot who was waving the Indian tricolour outside Capitol Hill).
When fascists have access to power, they never relinquish it without a fight. For all who expected Trump to meekly make way for Joe Biden, these attacks should have come as a shocker. But in reality, the riots were expected. From even before the US elections, Trump had openly claimed that there would be riots if he didn't win. He had made it crystal clear that no matter the electoral results, he would not accept defeat. He encouraged violence surreptitiously and, on many occasions, even brazenly on Twitter.
Even after the electoral process, the transfer of power has not been smooth or constitutional. Every step of the way, Trump has endeavoured to skuttle the transition. The man just wouldn't give up the White House! Call him mad, autocratic, sexist, misogynistic, a case fit for the loony bin, but there's no denying that for as many people who voted for Biden, there were that many who voted for Trump in the closely contested polls. A vile man in power for just four years was able to bring out all that is worst and detestable about America. In four years, Trump's fanatical right-wing supporters proudly displayed the Confederate flags at the US Capitol. Black lives really didn't matter and incidents of racism were at its peak. With a dunderhead as President, more people died in the US of COVID-19 than due to any other reason in history; a death every 30 seconds! In his four years as President, Trump had also meticulously broken down and weakened American institutions, filling up vacancies with his 'yes' men and women.
But many fought back as we witnessed an inspiring defence of democratic values, human decency, and ethics, from journalists, comics, actors, and artists. People spoke up breaking studied silence; for they knew that voting Trump out was truly the only way to 'Make America great again' and as a meme correctly quipped, 'sane again'. Ultimately, it was the American people who broke out of their stupor and realised the real danger posed by a madman. And their apprehensions were justified given the scenes that unfolded at Capitol Hill.
India is not America and Trump makes most of our politicians look most amenable. However, a case must be made for the times when there are misdeeds — shocking deaths, gruesome rapes, proliferation of fake news especially those that incite communal disharmony, large bank debts by defaulting corporates that are overlooked, instances of quashing of freedom of speech, arrests of activists, human rights workers, and journalists, an attempt to disenfranchise citizens over religion, an unending farmers' protest — during those times, no matter who is in power, we have a responsibility to speak up. Dissent is our prerogative, protests are our fundamental right, and we should be able to exercise both without trepidation. Do remember that what happened on Capitol Hill was an outcome of just four years of hate being in power; imagine the harm it can do if allowed to continue unchallenged for decades.
The writer is an author and media entrepreneur. Views expressed are personal