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We found our nerve to return to normalcy

By SULEMAN DIN
January 22, 2021 19:30 IST
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'This is not a government that will be an ally to supremacist ideology or strongman politics anymore, here or anywhere else,' asserts Suleman Din.

IMAGE: US Vice President Kamala Harris applauds President Joe Biden after his inaugural speech at the Capitol, January 20, 2021. Photograph: Reuters

After four years of sheer lunacy, I still needed to see the inauguration to believe it was happening. I had to -- just two weeks ago, I tuned into CNN to watch the Electoral College vote proceedings and almost witnessed a coup instead.

We Americans are now conditioned to expect the bizarre in our daily news. So Wednesday's events -- President Joseph R Biden's call for unity and decency, the soaring, healing words of youth poet Laureate Amanda Gorman, the multi-racial faces and voices on display and even a regular press conference sans insults -- gave a sense of hope and normalcy, for the first time in what honestly seemed like decades.

And now, there is a general understanding among my fellow Americans that as part of the return to politics, as usual, the country needs a reckoning.

 

While the Biden administration did its best today to tap dance around questions about impeachment, the Americans I know expect a Nuremberg-style public legal accounting for all that was inflicted on the country by Trump and his cronies. You can be sure there will be quite a bit of wrangling, drama and protest. But it will come to pass.

Americans love a comeback story, and this is their comeback: 'And justice for all.'

Consider that millions of Americans didn't give in to the idea that the communalism unleashed by Trump was insurmountable; a divide remains, but it will not dictate tomorrow anymore.

Or that they did not accept bald-faced political corruption should become a way of getting things done.

That outright lies should replace plain truth, or that brutality against minorities can continue with no consequences. And in the last two weeks, even many conservative white Americans have come to an agreement that nativist domestic extremism needs to be treated like any foreign terrorist threat.

By comparison, as South Asians, we have long accepted all of these things as part of our culture and our politics. And so on this day, my thoughts went to the lesson Americans can demonstrate to the world: Come back, and restore your republic.

IMAGE: US President Joe Biden and First Lady Dr Jill Biden arrive at the north portico of the White House, January 20, 2021. Photograph: Alex Brandon/Pool/Reuters

It is high time for India to forge a new path from the one it has travelled these past few years and shed the supremacist identity politics that have warped its claim to being the world's largest secular democratic republic.

Many Indians were shocked and upset to see the Tricolor flying aloft at the pro-Trump rally that quickly devolved into a riot on January 6 in Washington, DC.

I found it surprising that they didn't recognize the familiarity of it all: The nationalist sloganeering, the excessive displays of testosterone, all leading to the goondas getting whipped up and loosed for tamasha after The Leader makes his speech.

What could be a more cliched expression of South Asian politics than that?

Indians who vociferously supported Trumpism and its fountainhead don't get to disassociate themselves once it exposed its full ugly potential.

It certainly wasn't Stephen Miller who came up with the phrase, 'Ab Ki Baar, Trump Sarkar.'

It is no secret that Trump's anti-Muslim rhetoric gained him instant adulation among the Modi trolls. He was worshipped. And that prompted certain members of the Diaspora here to spend stacks of dollars bankrolling displays of adulation no other visible minority immigrant community in the US enjoyed with Trump.

Does anyone in New Delhi even for a moment think that sort of surface-level, juvenile politicking will work with a sober, professional, Biden administration?

I've read several stories about Indians claiming a part of Kamala Harris's historical ascendancy to Vice President here, as a feel-good tribute. That her position will help with relations too.

It is indeed a great achievement that we should all celebrate as South Asians. But Harris is also African-American; and that whole story of hers, that whole struggle, has to be understood too. And that means contemplating the society that ultimately provided her with the opportunity to achieve her rank today and contemplating the society India is evolving into.

IMAGE: US President Joe Biden signs documents in the President's Room at the US Capitol after the inauguration ceremony, January 20, 2021. Photograph: Jim Lo Scalzo-Pool/Getty Images

Within hours of his inauguration, Biden with one pen stroke ended the travel ban that was, as Rudy Giuliani helpfully explained on Fox News, meant to be a 'Muslim ban'.

But still, in India, the marginalization of Muslims continues to expand into official policy, such as the latest crackdown on inter-faith marriages in Uttar Pradesh.

This obviously targeted over-reach has caught the attention of nearly every mainstream press, US foreign policy journals and think-tanks.

It is a good guess that such coverage will translate into concerns that will creep into and shape the new administration's approach to India.

Americans not only rejected Trumpism's attempted power grab, but law enforcement authorities are also diligently bringing rioters to justice and this administration has elevated white extremism to a national threat.

This is not a government that will be an ally to supremacist ideology or strongman politics anymore, here or anywhere else.

To rephrase a warning another president once gave the world: You are either with justice for all or against it.

The other lesson Americans can share with the world today is that a political supremacy movement, once in power, is nihilist by nature, and ultimately flames out due to its own excesses.

What always replaces it is the will of ordinary people, the everyday citizen who is a good neighbour, who wants a better life for his children and wants to get on with life peacefully.

We found our nerve to return to this normalcy after these past four years. We will have our reckoning.

It is incumbent on India to do the same.

Feature Presentation: Rajesh Alva/Rediff.com

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