American Fundamentalism and Trump’s Hysteria
By: Manaal Ahmed (Daily Nation)
While we were all told the liberalism is the only way forward, it seems that the world has chosen to take a different course of action
Donald Trump’s win has led many to question the hidden sentiments of the silent majority. In fact, the unfolding of recent events – Brexit and Charleston church shooting – raises questions on the humanitarian facade created by the liberal governments. This coincides with recent terrorist attacks in Paris, Beirut, Turkey, Syria and Pakistan which indicates a rise of fundamentalist approach towards global issues.
Following 9/11, America proclaimed a war on terror but what it and the rest of the world failed to predict was that it will be plunged into terror itself. US – openly or via proxy – intervened in the politics of other countries and then succeeded in committing one blunder after the other in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan. The unanticipated results of such violence were massive radicalization of the public on both sides of the conflict. When ISIS rose up from the ashes of the Iraq war it brought along a new a reign of terror and shook the global community with its unorthodox approach to terrorism leading us to conclude that perhaps the ones being affected the most were those who didn’t hold any public office and weren’t heard on the media: the common man/women. Their fear had fermented – ever since 9/11 into something almost indistinguishable and barely impalpable, until now.
This hysteria and incessant need to secure the country from arriving ‘threats’ is partly due to the exaggeration of media. They painted a picture of extremist Muslims who hate and will kill all liberals and infect our free homeland with their conservative ideology. Or of the super smart Asian children who’ll steal jobs of the hardworking white nationals or maybe drug dealers from Mexico who’ll sedate the youth into dysfunction. They pieced together fragments of reality to create a story that froze us all in fear, a story that would sell. All these images seem almost comic however, that was the message sent out to the commoner.
Simultaneously, cosmopolitan leaders resided in their bubble where the world was progressing and more modern than ever, hence, it is more liberal than ever. What they failed to gauge was the affect of fear on the minds of the people. The media depicted a monstrous image of the east and ISIS and Al Qaeda did nothing but legitimise it. When it felt as if everyone was the same page and left wing ideologies were the guiding principles of the liberal world, Donald J Trump won.
Pop! Burst the bubble of liberalism that the world so comfortably resided in. Most were shocked at the hypocrisy of America – the most liberal country in the world. In fact, what they demonstrated was not stupidity nor ignorance but a want for change. Liberal leaders had chosen to conveniently ignore the silent majority. As they parade around with rainbow flags, the world forgot the simple truth, fear. Perhaps the rise of the right was fueled by the continuous failure of the left. Following the Orlando shooting, hysteria was on the rise and it spread like wildfire among the nation. They needed change, any change that gave them a sense of security in a time when people felt more vulnerable than ever. While Hilary played it politically correct and continued to assume that the world was inherently liberal and that there was a principle difference between the radicals and them. That’s why she lost; she ignored the fact that radical behaviors bring out radial reactions. I don’t condone extremism from either side, but the truth is the world is gripped tightly in it.
It’s necessary to point out that most of their supporters aren’t hardcore racist or white supremacist. In fact, they’re just simpleminded people who got caught in this war. While liberals championed human rights and equality, right wing ideologies such as big government policies, fundamentalism and nationalism grew dramatically. Seen in the case of the Brexit where immigrants were blamed for taking away jobs of the common white man and subsequently, the majority voted to opt out of the EU to gain control over immigration policies. People had chosen to side with the radicals because it’s the one that promised the biggest change. It was criminal on part of the left wing to blindside the majority and its growing fear. Their sentiments were never taken into account because they weren’t politically correct. One could argue that this was just a knee-jerk reaction to extremism. The people believed it would invade their homes so they decided to close their doors. While governments tried to distinguish themselves from the extremist, radical thought bred in their homes. In my opinion, it was inevitable.
It is also true that the perpetrators of the liberalism were the reason for its fall as well. The idea was great, it was promising and delightful to the common eye but the realities of the ideal were left unquestioned and unchallenged, almost as to preserve something that was so precious one had to forgive it flaws. So they forged the ideology and begun to implement it until its practical implications tore open the façade that was so delicately crafted. In truth, the world was never liberal. It was always dominated by conservative leaders and countries which had only just begun to transition into liberal democracies. However, the impatience of the left wing politicians sought to impose liberalism. Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh are just few examples. They neglected the entire process of becoming liberal and pushed governments to apply liberal policies or risk isolation. The UN, EU, World Bank, and World Trade Organisation were tools to needed to actualize the pressure. Alas, the third world joined the liberal revolution but was stricken with the grave complexity of having a conservative populous with liberal policies. Conservative parties were formed in an outrage and in order to ‘protect’ their identity the populous chose the most converse leaders. Enter Imran khan, Modi, Haseena Wajid to the scenario with a fresh wave of nationalism and radicalism.
That fear so morphed into a tool to push for anti-globalisation policies by leaders such as Trump and Farage. It was wielded as a weapon against all notions of cosmopolitanism and liberal politics. It was used to justify turning away refugees, for testing missiles and even for bombing thousands of civilians in the Middle East and Afghanistan. Subsequently a global trend towards radical ideologies began to catch on and leftist ideals which ruled most of the 1900s were abandoned in a wisp. The United States eventually joined clique of right wing politics by electing Donald trump as the leader of the country that was the fountainhead of liberal thought.
What’s surprising is that the world learned nothing from the fall of the British Empire. The colonies had revolted indeed because English culture and ideas for perceived as a threat by the locals. It was seen as an attack on their religion, culture and ideology and hence, the British faced a massive uprising in all of the colonies especially in the subcontinent. The British Empire was the original attempt at globalisation and a somewhat liberal world but it was rejected and torn apart as the colonies claimed independence. What is happening now resembles it in many ways. The liberals of the west tried to impose a system if political thought on the nations which were not ready to embrace it. As a result nations started to gravitate towards its antithesis: radicalism.
In the end we are all trapped in between fundamentalists, who both use the same tactics to achieve the same goals. For now, it seems, the world has spoken, named its choice as far as political approach goes. While we were all told the liberalism is the only way forward, it seems that the world has chosen to take a different course of action. In my opinion the flaw is not in liberal thought itself but its implementation in the context of current world scenarios. It remains a possibility but for another day.