Print Edition - 2016-11-27  |  Free the Words

Lessons learned or bridges burned?

  • Despite earlier incendiary speeches made by the president-elect, we hope Trump’s future steps will be measured
- Umesh Raj Regmi, JOHN E WHEELER, Kathmandu

Nov 27, 2016-

The election of Donald Trump as the 45th president in the United States has created various doubts. Hillary Clinton was expected by many to be the first female president of the US, but Trump emerged victorious. This has somewhat cast doubt on the credibility of the American media and opinion polls. This election campaigns were exciting and aggressive. There were many personal attacks. Although the elections was a democratic exercise, its results have generated concerns and fears amongst Americans and non-Americans alike.

November 11 is marked as the Veteran’s Day in the US to honour citizens who have served in the military and protected the freedoms, rights, and quality of life that Americans enjoy today. Coincidentally, this year it fell on the week of the election day. Every American expects that the elected president will defend the same freedoms, rights, and quality of life. Unfortunately, that expectation is not always met.

However, there are some daunting questions:  which Americans are eligible to take advantage of these freedoms, rights and quality of life? Is it only citizens who were born in the US or is it also those who were born outside but became naturalised citizens? What about those who are legal US residents but not full citizens yet? And how do Americans deal with people who do not share their ethnicity, gender, religion, lifestyles or skin colour? American Declaration of Independence in 1776 was a pragmatic document recognising that all men (back then) are created equal and  are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. The US was founded on the principle that all humans have equal standing before the law, and it is the responsibility of the government to provide an environment that is accepting and supportive of the goals and aspirations of every member of the American society, regardless of race, ethnicity, cultural background, religious belief, or any other personal preference. 

For Americans

These are lofty principles indeed, and the US citizens would certainly expect that their elected leaders would respect and uphold them. However, in the last few years leading up to the presidential elections in November 8, many people around the world have become concerned about the level of disrespect and lack of civility exhibited during the US presidential campaigns. Irrespective of one’s political preferences, no one deserves to be abused, mocked, or scorned at just because their views differ from someone else’s. But it appears that not everyone agrees.

Fortunately, the peaceful transfer of power for which America is known is now ongoing, and hopefully the recent return to public civility since election day will become the norm once again. Unfortunately, however, the damage caused by this most contentious of elections in recent history has already been done, bringing to mind the single-most devastating event in the nation’s history:  the Civil War of 1861-1865.  Despite the efforts of the then Republican President Abraham Lincoln, the US was nearly fractured into two very different halves, splitting apart not only the government but also friends and even families, many of whom found themselves on opposite sides of the fence. Lincoln was able to patch together the US and salvage the Union, unlike his modern-day counterpart, who has succeeded in doing just the opposite.

Americans’ hope now is that the three branches of government—executive, legislative, and judicial—which were wisely established by the country’s founders, will be able to oversee the US government so that no office or individual would be able to wield power without being subjected to the established system of checks and balances. Even though the divisiveness of this year’s election has resulted in lost friends, isolated family members, and deep levels of mistrust among people, Americans should remain optimistic that their nation’s belief in freedom of speech will provide an environment in which differing opinions can once again be openly discussed, and that respect and civility will once again be practised by all and towards all members of the community, irrespective of ideological or political affiliation.

Let’s hope that the scars caused by emotional wounds during this election can at least be forgotten, if not completely healed, and that all Americans can once again learn to openly communicate with and fearlessly trust those with whom they differ. Let’s also hope that even during times of heightened emotion such as these, all will eventually learn to practise equality and fairness towards each other so that every member of society from every country on the globe can enjoy the cosmopolitanism, freedoms and quality of life.

For non-Americans

Many people from countries like Nepal have been panicking about uncertainties over US immigration policy, its official development aid and working opportunities there. The hope of developed countries with Trump is also dim. The foreign policy that the new president will adopt is eagerly awaited.  For example, there are concerns about climate change, military adventurism, nuclear proliferation, terrorism, trade policy, boundary management, among others. Despite the incendiary speeches made by the president-elect before the election, we hope his future steps will be nifty, responsible and friendly towards all foreigners who would like to study and work in the US with good and fair intentions. We wish Trump well in his endeavour to clean Washington’s politics that has left countless Americans behind and to make America a truly great nation consistent with the ideals of its founding fathers. 

 

- Regmi is associated with the Nepal Youth Foundation; Wheeler is director of the ESL Programme at Southern Methodist University, US 

Published: 27-11-2016 08:29

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