Rarely, during my lifetime, have I come to know that curfew has been imposed in the United States? And perhaps, it was during the revolutionary movement of Martin Luther King that the US may have come under this kind of siege. The US, which has been behind almost all wars and controversies in other countries of the world, is itself now going through a period of turbulence, confusion and division among masses. The United States boasted of Greatness, in Wealth and Leadership but instead of addressing problems in the word like a Leader, it aggravated, delayed, promoted violence and strife in the world and bent upon dividing and ruling. But if we analyze the present situation, the country is itself in discord now. Just a pandemic has shattered it.
As the country mourns and burns, President Donald Trump continues to ignite the flames of hatred and division in the country. His menacing, polarizing rhetoric has sent some searching for parallels in history. He, for his part, thinks of himself as an Abraham Lincoln. He has repeatedly compared himself to the highly admired 19th-century US president. He has also claimed in a recent interview conducted in the shadows of the Lincoln memorial, that he has been “treated worse” than Lincoln, even though the 16th US president was assassinated basically for ending slavery.
Ironically, the only true comparison between Trump and Lincoln rests in their divergence. Lincoln alienated many white landowners to end slavery and unite the country. Trump, for his part, is alienating people of colour to divide the country and get re-elected. The US may have suffered dearly under Lincoln, but it got only better afterwards, much better. Under Trump the country is suffering, and it is getting worse. For three years, under the ploy of To Make America Great, Trump has pursued peevish policies towards the Muslim World, healthcare, immigration, climate change, Europe and the pandemic, to pander to his pedestal and appease his privileged class of millionaires and billionaires. In the process, the US has become anything but not Great again. Rather it is worst now particularly in terms of discrimination, thereby raising questions on its claim as the Greatest Democratic State. And also the economy is in tatters, unemployment is high – with 41 million jobless and the stock market is shaky, presenting a murky picture.
Trump in order to hide his failures is crying in all directions. He has accused the Obama administration of an unclear set of crimes under Obamagate. He has cast doubt on the integrity of the forthcoming presidential elections. He has repeatedly attacked China and accused it of deliberately spreading the novel coronavirus and causing a pandemic. He has also defunded the World Health Organization (WHO) and officially ended US membership in it. And unable to convene the G7 annual summit in June, he has lashed out, calling the group “outdated”. He has called people protesting the police killing of African American George Floyd “thugs” and warned that when “the looting starts the shooting starts.” Regrettably, his aim is to present himself as the protector of the white majority.
Never has the US leadership been so foolhardy and impulsive as it is today. The situation in the country looks at present miserable, angry and utterly sick because of foolish policies and politics. It has concentrated upon creating civil disobedience and war like situations in the other countries but while doing this, their ship has also got derelict at home. A pandemic is a mandatory test in national competence. It is a test for individuals, who have to change their life and withdraw from public events to slow the spread of a disease through crowds and social networks. It is a test for companies, which must change their protocols to protect their employees, sometimes by banishing them from the office. It is a test for institutions, which must decide whether to uphold traditions and festivals for the sake of public morale, or to cancel events, tournaments, conferences, and concerts. And it is, above all, a test for the state. Only the national government can oversee the response to a national outbreak by coordinating research on the nature of the disease. Only the state can ensure the national regulation and accuracy of testing, and use its fiscal and monetary might to stimulate the economy if the pandemic threatens people’s income and employment.
Throughout the world, the most effective responses to the historic threat of the coronavirus have come from state governments. China imposed a lockdown upon tens of millions of people in Wuhan and other cities. In Singapore, the government built an app to inform citizens how to contain the virus and what public spaces to avoid. South Korea opened a number of drive-through centers to accelerate diagnostic testing. India and Pakistan even handled the Pandemic in a prudent and better way. But in the United States, the pandemic has devolved into a kind of bizarre caricature of US federalism. The private sector has taken on quasi-state functions at a time when the executive branch of government drained of scientific expertise, starved of moral vision and has shown the signs of a failed country. In a country where many individuals, companies, institutions, and local governments are making hard decisions for the good of the nation, the most important actor of them all—the Trump administration—has been shamefully incompetent.
The world wide impression has imperceptibly grown that if the US failed to deliver for its own people during a Pandemic, so it cannot project its authority or claim to ensure the safety of the people of other countries of the world where it pokes nose unnecessarily.
Tailpiece: A friend from the US told me once that every year a group 11 persons meets and decides that what and where their plans are to be carried out and implemented in world during the year. And now the same Group may have to meet and plan how to save their country.