While democracy - yours oldest, ours largest - connects us, we have a lot of differences. You may be one third our population while we are one third your landmass, yet the complexity of language, culture, viewpoints in India is exponentially more than yours.
Today however you are facing what we faced two and a half years back. On November 8 a majority of you - 47.7 percent who did not vote for Donald Trump (against 47.4 who did), felt what 68.7 percent Indians who did not vote for Narendra Modi felt on May 16, 2014 when he became Prime Minister.
Many Indians felt lost, dazed and disoriented as they could not fathom that such a divisive figure – much like Trump - with allegations of riots and political assassinations against him, could become PM. Many feared the worst but secretly hoped to be proven wrong.
Since that fateful day however, things have happened in my country, some good and some bad, that had never happened before. The good is something we expect of governments, but the severity of the impact of the bad brings it to spotlight.
An open intolerance of the ‘other’ has swept over my great country. People have been killed on the mere suspicion of carrying cows meat. Many cow protection vigilante groups dispense street justice with impunity.
Good educational institutions have been attacked, students viciously targeted. Conservative ideas and people have been allowed to govern important public offices. A regressive form of patriotism holds court in India, making jingoism and warmongering reach unprecedented levels. A war with Pakistan seems like an inevitability.
Worst of all, millions of people have emerged to blindly defend the PM’s every transgression, attack any and every dissenter (see comments to this article). Conversation between opposites have almost stopped. It does not help that social media segregates newsfeed
based on what you’ve liked before, thus widening this gap as we unknowingly begin to live in our own bubbles.
The last two and a half years has seen a pitched battle against forces spreading hatred and intolerance that seem to have grown exponentially during this time, against television anchors who scream like their earnings depend on their decibel levels.
These two and a half years have led to learnings, some of which might help you deal with Trump and what he might knowingly, unknowingly unleash.
1. Donald Trump is the Symptom: There’s perhaps never been a man with a more reprehensible mind, with such an absence of grace to hold such high office in the US than Donald Trump. Yet, he is merely the symptom of a malice, a problem in your society, in your democracy that you must find and cure. You can remove him, but another like him might take his place. So fight and cure the disease, not the symptom. Introspect, like Michael Moore
and Jonathan Pie
and in the future ensure that such things do not come to pass.
2. He IS your President: Claiming Trump is ‘Not My President’ will only weaken your democracy. You may not like it, but Donald Trump IS your democratically elected President. He did not stage a coup like the many USA has sponsored across the world. Stop denying what he is, and keep a close watch to ensure that he delivers not just for those who voted for him, but the whole nation. Because that is what a democracy is about: a candidate might be elected by one group but after coming to power s/he is supposed to serve everyone. So, hold him accountable, prevent him from implementing anti-people, anti-nation and anti-world pogroms. Use your democratic powers to hold your president in line. At the same time, if he implements policies that are for the larger common good, go ahead and support him even if your political leanings are the opposite him.
3. Judge Trump For his actions, not words: Yes, words are a barometer to a person’s soul and by that definition Trump might have a very dark soul. But, there is a small chance that he might not prove as bad as expected. It is hoping against hope, but do trust his reconciliatory victory speech for the time being against your better judgment. Maybe that was just a sham. Yet, he hasn’t yet done those things he claims he will. Don’t judge him based on future crimes. Right now, give him the benefit of the doubt.
4. People will show their true colours: Our PM’s conservatism and Islamophobia have been known to all before he was sworn to office. This is perhaps what encouraged people and groups that emerged in my country to unleashed chaos in various corners. Murderous cow vigilantes weren’t the only one. People with known bigoted impulses suddenly became heads of institutions, took decisions that fit in the agenda of the ruling party, but against the nation. A large group of people: intellectuals, actors, sportspersons, directors etc., changed colours to suit the ruling dispensation. A lot of problems in my nation have been cause by these people and not the Prime Minister. Hence watch out for Trumps minions for signs of closet racists, opportunists in all shape and sizes who will emerge now to lay claim to the pot of gold at the end of the sycophantic rainbow.
5. Not everyone who voted for trump is a bigot, racist: You may not know it, but your nation is on the brink of a civil war. Even if it isn’t literal, divisions in your already fractured society would emerge that could drive people further apart. This has already begun and those who voted Hillary, accuse those who voted Trump as being bigoted, racist. This is actually a very idiotic simplification of extremely complex human beings and their impulses. We in India have been doing it for two years and a half, and the results have been devastating. Our society has fractured much more by these blanket accusations. Those who indeed voted for Narendra Modi, went into their defensive shell after such accusations and became more protective of their leader because now their very sense of self was attached to him.
Liberal and left circles are as much to blame for this name calling. Do not let that happen to your nation. Remember that not all who voted Trump, voted FOR him but might have only been voting against Hillary, a candidate who like Michael Moore articulated was a war monger who cosied up to the worst
of wall street. Don’t hate people for voting Trump. Understand them, engage with them today, understand your own impulses. Don’t force fence sitters to jump on the side of the bigots by you calling them so.
The real battle won’t happen out in the open, but be lost among larger issues. Just to give you one example, our Prime Minister has constantly tried to take over the independence of the judiciary, especially the Supreme Court. This hasn’t raised as big a hue and cry as it perhaps demands, but if successful, the stakes for the nation could be devastating.
Hence, while you look at the big picture, do keep an eye on the minor details. If even a portion of your fears come true, you are looking at such cataclysms the likes of which your country wouldn’t have seen in a long time.
If you are on the side of fairness, justice, equality and liberty – no matter what your political leanings – a long and bitter struggle awaits you. As the opposite forces are unleashed merely by Trump taking office, your nation will see pitched battles in different fronts.
Keep calm, patient, preserve your energy, organise and pick you current battles well. Because the fight that lies ahead, has at stake everything that is beautiful in the world, is a fight for the very soul of your nation.Satyen K Bordoloi is a scriptwriter and independent journalist based in Mumbai. He writes on cinema, Indian politics and social issues.
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