Subcontinental Divide - 2016


Mr. Trump, Thanks for Four More Years... of, er, Something…

By Ahsen Jillani

On the night of November 8, I broke all the rules. Normally I go to a couple of election parties and eat free food and get pictures made with tired looking candidates. This time I stayed home in my pajamas and posted all kinds of political diatribes on Facebook and then started reading the results on my phone. At 9pm, I gave up and, reluctantly, when no one was looking, turned on the TV; that lasted less than 15 minutes. The so called “live" tickers under the screen were really 30 minutes behind even the internet sites. I suspected something was up at a national level, but instead went to bed at 11:30.

It's one thing to make racist, sexist, xenophobic, lewd, crude, childish comments if you are a reality TV personality with a bunch of hotels around the country. It's quite another to be running for president hated by the media, the entertainment elite, the academics, the intelligentsia, most forward thinking people, and—ahem—even your own party. It's kind of pointless to present another armchair analysis of why Trump will be spinning in the chair in the Oval Office shortly. In summary, the working class white male who felt neutered by Washington spoke up—and was joined by many women, many blacks, and surprisingly, many Hispanics. Or maybe America wanted to have a little fun and entertainment in Washington. Or maybe we really believe promises made by non-politicians since we are disgruntled by the business as usual attitude of both major parties.

But 24 hours out I was thinking, Trump really may be how America is seen by the world now—a rude, brash, aggressive, overbearing, egotistical, self-absorbed entity that is polarized not by religion or race or gender as much as by tremendous economic disparities. If some friends advocating for third party candidates (who are always destined to get 3% of the vote) were ever correct, it was their assertion that the two parties were one and the same. With rare exceptions, the rich movers, shakers, and policymakers on both sides of the aisle don't really want diversity taking place in their neighborhoods, affecting their families, or threatening their wealth and lifestyles.

Diversity is what happens far far away from where the movers and shakers live, walk, go to the country club, yoga and gym. Chang, your Chinese waiter. Ahmad, your gas station guy. Dilip, your employee in the cubicle. Jose, your landscaping guy. Diversity is driving to the Ecuadorian food joint in the eastern part of town for a little adventure. I used to live in a condo in the rich side. When I moved to the poorer and diverse east side, all my rich Democrat and Republican friends stopped coming to visit. It was about security. It was the weird looking people. It was the Mexican music. It was the store signs in Chinese, Vietnamese, and Spanish. It was women in hijab and halal meat shops. It was “We Speak English" signs on shops. A lively street festival is diversity and a celebration. Having friends in these “diverse" neighborhoods…well, I'm a little busy this weekend.

So that brings me to that other side of the coin—the international cry-ins (or cry-outs). For me, it started with my sister-in-law. She had been crying for 24 hours. Her two Ivy League educated daughters were still crying. Her Ph.D. candidate son was crying in New York. Liberal journalists were crying. Hollywood royalty was crying. The Statue of Liberty was crying.

When I got off my home office cot to respond to the criers, I slipped on a global puddle of tears. People sent me memes with safety pins. If I was Muslim or transgender, they had a hug waiting for me. Some of these women wanting to hug me didn't look too bad, either. When I realized the innocence, idealism and vulnerability of Americans, I cried myself.

Many conservatives have recently pointed out to me that democracy was great, unless things didn't go your way, in which case, anarchy and destroying property was great. Others said that the rich and entitled millennials could afford to protest because they didn't have jobs to go to.

Liberals and conservatives sent me pictures from high-end colleges. Some students needed counselors; others needed therapy dogs to hug to calm their nerves. After a while I started thinking that every lost boyfriend, dead pet, flunked class, and soured friendship had turned into some global mass hysteria because your Muslim classmate Ahmad would be imprisoned and your beloved Mexican gardener Jose would be mercilessly thrown over The Wall. Many criers even called for the dismantling of the Electoral College—something that happens every time there is a close contest.

America is a Republic and not a democracy. It never was a democracy. Once our candidates wrap everything in a made-in-Taiwan American flag and an apple pie full of preservatives, we buy their canned promises and feel like we made a difference. PACs and Super PACS are increasingly confusing the already stumped voters.

Election cycle planning has become so sophisticated that special interests aligned with candidates can practically portray someone as a pedophile and know that no recourse can be taken by Election Day. The FBI director was implicated in something similar in planting doubts about Hillary when voters were trying to make crucial final decisions. But no matter the outcome, big business finally activates posthaste post-election to submerge its sticky fingers in the biggest treasure on earth—our tax money.

Trump or Hillary, Hillary or Trump. It's all about which big business/industry gets the loot this cycle. Lots of blue collar whites (and many non-whites) bet on Trump to change this pattern. That was the phenomenon.

Thank you, Mr. Trump. I want a job on The Wall project, and other fantasies you sold to America. Here's my money, spend it already.

Ahsen Jillani voted against Brexit.