Saturday, 25 February 2017

Obama’s win gave young America hope, Hillary’s loss gave it a voice

T
here are moments in history that one remembers not only as fact independent of circumstance but as moments that are whole inclusive of all their surroundings. In these moments one will recall not only the historical fact they had lived through but the exact place they were at when they heard it. I think it is safe to say that for most of the modern world Donald Trump’s scalding victory is one of those moments we will not soon forget. The reactions around the world differed, some laughed sarcastically, others uttered concern but there was one distinct sound heard by all, it was the sound the United States made as it gasped at the blow dealt by its own democracy. America had shot itself in the foot, shell-shocked it was frantically trying to assess the amount of damage its choices had caused. 


The American people woke up to a disquieting realisation, one that hit the young generation harder than it had the rest. Trump’s victory meant that his rhetoric of hate and racism was one that echoed harder and farther than many imagined, it reiterated that America now stands not for freedom or liberty but for segregation and constraint. This was the generation that grew up listening to a rhetoric of hope galvanised by the Obama campaign, this is the generation that had hoped and was now witnessing the embodiment of all they hoped against materialising. The images broadcast the sheer pain and disappointment in their young faces, as they stood in shock, after the election results were announced. It was incredibly moving because one could see through their expressions that it was not Hillary’s victory they sought, it was the triumph over Trump’s ideals they longed for.

This massive blind-side was a result of many factors still being analysed and discussed weeks after Trump took to the stage and in a somewhat subdued demeanour recited the words he had never uttered during his two-year campaign. The world watched a softer Trump, a more gracious and docile Trump who seemed overwhelmed and more surprised than the rest of us at this favourable result. 

The failure of the media to portray the darker side of America has led to the underestimation of the impact Trump’s hate-filled campaign would have. The Trump campaign capitalised on a misunderstood, somewhat forgotten America that the younger generation had no idea existed and, if they did, not in such a vast majority. Identity politics geared towards this materially deprived and culturally isolated America, which has grown substantially under the radar as a result of economic instability and lack of educational funding, gave them a label and certain admirable traits factoring in an ethnic heritage and in turn succeeding in creating a single crushing entity aimed at the prior government. They were fed up with the hyperbole of the Obama administration that promised economic stability and better employment opportunities, and saw Hillary as an extension of the same arm. 

Witnessing the results of the US presidential elections was reminiscent of Egypt’s 2012 elections when an exhausted and angry Egyptian people chose to either abstain or vote against the old regime resulting in the victory of the Muslim Brotherhood representative, Mohamed Mursi. The shock culminated in an immense rally that saw hundreds of thousands of, mostly young, Egyptians rallying for his impeachment. Today we are witnessing a sight, that has not been seen in the United States since citizens rallied to impeach Richard Nixon some forty years ago. People rallying across the country to impeach Trump, their chants reaffirming that Trump is not their president.

Young Americans who saw their country as a symbol of cultural and religious diversity and truly believed it to be the land of the free are now dealing with a different reality. A reality that has chosen hate, misogyny and racism as its core values and that has spoken loud and clear for the rest of the world to hear, albeit considering America’s foreign policies its image to the rest of the world is one that is not far from that. Nevertheless, it has now, with Trump at the helm, become outspoken about it. It seems that after 8 years of the Obama administration preaching unity and inclusion for all a backlash was brewing under the fires of wars thousands of miles away and a highly globalised world moving at hyper-speed, leaving most of America reeling and finding solace in a sense of warped nationalism. 


The long-term effect of Hillary’s loss could be more beneficial to the future of America than one might think. For if Obama’s reign placed hope in the hearts of the young and instilled in them a belief that differences must be embraced then Hillary’s crushing defeat has awakened them to the harsh realities of a hopeful indifference and raised their voices in opposition of all those ideals that would not only darken their future but the future of the entire world.

This article was first published in The Gulf Today newspaper on 22 November, 2016
Arabic version of this article appears in Al Khaleej newspaper http://bit.ly/2fXBixl

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