Monday, February 20, 2017

A Malaysian in Trump's America

HERE I am in Trump country. That of President-elect Donald J Trump.
After today, he will be known as President Trump — rivaled by none of his predecessors in the way he had run his campaign.
But wait a minute. This is California. Southern California, to be exact, where a lot of people look like me.
e is “kinda rejected here”, said a tanned Californian in t-shirt and bermudas. Only in these parts do folks wear summer clothes in winter.
Winter is warm by temperate standards in this state.
This is my fifth visit here in the last two years since my daughter, Shaira Nur, enrolled at a university to continue her American Degree program.
When we first arrived here in January 2015, there was very little going on in the run-up to to the US  presidential election campaign.  There was, of course, the usual buzz, the nascent excitement. There was also not more than the regular hype when I returned in the summer of that year.
By winter last year, the gubernatorial and state legislative elections were going on. There was no spectre of Trump descending on American federal politics at that point.
Things were picking up when I was back home in Malaysia and by the time I was back in the summer, Trump had won the GOP presidency nomination in an election that was just so incredibly bruising to his fellow Republican candidates and Americans at large.
I was back home when he won the US presidency.
I had no interest in the man until his Republican presidential candidacy. I had watched how awful a person he was in the face-off with the other candidates. And his vilification of minority groups and immigrants. Man, was he a mean SOB.
It worsened during his “Make America Great Again” election campaign which was decidedly hateful, racially inflammatory and divisive. By this time, I despaired. How did this maniacal, out-of-control and horrid guy make it this far? It didn’t help that  the majority of his supporters seemed to be white Americans – disenfranchised, angry, bitter, racist, bigoted and all that is ugly.
Worse when Muslims, immigrants, people of colour and other minority groups were targets of violent acts by right-wing Americans claiming to be his supporters.
I despaired because I saw America going back to those dark times of racism and bigotry. Regressing and retrogressing big time. I wondered what was wrong with America? Hasn’t history taught them anything? Weren’t they supposed to have come a long way?
Of course, it should not matter as, hey, it’s America’s problem. But I have a daughter studying here. She is Muslim and a foreigner – two things Trump had inspired Americans to hate in his campaign. And I am a regular visitor by now. Will I be stopped at Immigration the next time?
However, as it turned out, not everything was despairing because not everyone was happy with the outcome. America was in shock as many were in disbelief. His victory had sparked protests across the nation. Among them were by students of California State University Fullerton (CSUF) where my daughter is enrolled.
Also, California is a blue state and happily Democrat.
You don’t have to be an American to know that there had never been an election quite like the 2016 presidential election. I have good memories of President Barack Obama’s unprecedented, ground-breaking and historic election into office. It was to be celebrated. The euphoria was contagious.
So today will be the 58th inauguration of Trump and Michael R Pence as president and vice president respectively. On record as the most controversial inauguration in American history
The President-elect and Flotus-to-be, Melania are already in Washington DC. Celebration has started.
These last few weeks, the buzz has been about the inauguration or rather, the planned mammoth protests against the inauguration and, more significantly the boycott by nearly 60 House Democrats.
Some of the Democrat lawmakers had decided much earlier to not attend the inauguration as a message of protest against Trump’s politics of hate and divisiveness.
But what got the number ballooning was Trump’s insulting and what was deemed as an utterly disrespectful response on Twitter to a statement by America’s deeply respected civil rights icon, Atlanta congressman John Lewis.
Lewis, had told NBC in an interview that he was not attending the inauguration as he saw Trump’s presidency to be illegitimate.
The Democrat from Georgia reasoned that Russian interference helped get Trump elected and destroy the candidacy of Hillary Clinton.
In his typical style, the President-elect responded: “Congressman Lewis should spend more time on fixing and helping his district which is in horrible shape and falling apart (not to mention crime infested) rather than falsely complaining about the election results.”
“All talk, talk talk – no action, no results. Sad” he tweeted.
John Lewis, one of the original Freedom Riders, is famously known for his participation in the 1965 march in Selma, Alabama where he was beaten by police. That day is remembered as “Bloody Sunday”.
Trump’s response riled up so many House Democrats who decided to join the boycott of  the inauguration ceremony. Many expressed their disgust and dismay on Twitter.
Many felt it was so wrong particularly as his attacks were on the eve of Martin Luther King Jr Day.
Judy Chu, Representative of Pasadena, California’s  27th District in the US,  made this point clear when she was interviewed on ABC about her decision.
In her statement that she issued on Twitter earlier, she said her decision to not attend was not made lightly. It was taken after much thought.
“While I do not question the legitimacy of Mr Trump’s election, I do object to his treatment of other Americans, particularly those who disagree with him. In a diverse democracy like ours, patriotic dissent is vital. That is why the values of pluralism, grievance, and criticism are enshrined in the 1st Amendment’s protections of religion, speech and press – all three of which have been targets of the President-elect.”
Chu said Trump’s personal attacks on Lewis were “just the latest example of behaviour unbefitting a president”.
“I, like millions of other Americans , will choose not to attend the inauguration of President Trump. Instead, I will continue to focus on my efforts to ensure a more just and equal country for ourselves and future generations of all Americans – regardless of race, religion. ethnicity or orientation”.
Many of the House Democrats boycotting the inauguration said that they accept Trump’s election and his presidency.
But, they are not celebrating it.
And that, to me, is a decent explanation.
Today President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama will witness his successor sworn into office on the West Front of the State Capitol.
The new 45th Potus has promised everyone there a fantastic time.
So. here I am back in Trump country.
But thankfully in an overwhelmingly blue State where a lot of people look like me and where many do not accept Trump’s presidency. And where the winter is warm like a cool summer.
(For The Mole - Friday Jan 20 2017)