I cheerfully acknowledge Mr. Haque’s impressive credentials and his experience. However, I believe he missed the call with this article.
One of the things that concerned the Founding Fathers of the United States was the “tyranny of the masses” or government by public whim.
This is why the U.S. is not a democracy and never has been. It even says so in the Pledge of Allegiance: “… and to the republic for which it stands…”
The crafters of the Constitution were also concerned by the possibility that more populous states could rule the nation as they saw fit, simply by virtue of their size. This is why the Electoral College was included in the Constitution. The Founding Fathers believed it was wiser to have the President (and initially the Senate) elected by the states. Complaints notwithstanding, the Electoral College worked exactly as intended in 2016. Hillary Clinton’s oft-cited victory in the popular vote totals was due entirely to two states: California and New York. Donald Trump won the total popular vote in the other 48 states by an even wider margin.
The dichotomy we currently experience in the United States is a clash between two opposing wannabe tyrannies. Each side seeks to impose its will on the whole population and the rights of the people are seen merely as obstacles. Among these rights are those guaranteed by the First Amendment. Free speech is possibly the most endangered right in America.
Yes, the people who came to North America from Europe were imperialists — and slavers. Beginning in the 16th Century, European merchants would buy slaves from other Africans and bring them to the New World to work for other Europeans who had emigrated to the Americas. The slave trade was already established by the time of the first Jamestown settlement. In fact, South America and the Caribbean were the first ports of call for slavers and many of the early slaves in the colonies actually were shipped from there, not Africa.
This doesn’t excuse centuries of barbaric behavior but it does offer some context. What would become the United States was simply another market for an existing trade.
The author seeks to compare us to Europe, that bastion of democracy and stability. Get real. Much of Europe is already embroiled in right-wing resurgences and resistance to immigration. Great Britain itself is tied up in what may be a disastrous exit from the European Union and England is itself divided over Brexit. Catalonia is trying to free itself from Spain; Germany is trying to keep a coalition of rival factions together long enough to figure out what’s going on.
While we may not have the social safety nets of some European countries, we have more actual individual rights than they do. An American woman can do things that would land a British lady in Her Majesty’s prison.
Yes, there is racism. But only a person who is completely delusional thinks that racism stops at the U.S. borders. Racism and ethnic discrimination are alive and well in many parts of Europe. Perhaps Mr. Haque would remember General Ratko Mladić, convicted in the Hague of genocide just last year.
Yes, there are deep divisions in the United States. We have the third largest and one of the most racially and ethnically diverse populations in the world. We are a nation of 50 sovereign states, each with far more autonomy than states in other countries. The views of the coastal states like New York, Massachusetts and California are very different from those of Texas, Georgia and Idaho. One of our biggest failings is the failure to understand this.
Even within the states there is conflict. Proposals have already been floated to split California up into multiple states. Some think that will result in more political power but they fail to understand that Californians aren’t all from Hollywood or Marin County. There are deeply conservative regions, too. The same is true in Washington state where the people in the eastern part of the state are getting tired of being ruled by Seattle.
Yet somehow we persevere. Somehow, the differing visions of America manage to work things out, in spite of our politicians and pundits.
The future is uncertain. That’s true for every country. Are we collapsing? Not really. Will we have to make changes? Absolutely: life is change and we live in times that promise substantial changes in the not-too-distant future. But we have always embraced change, albeit with reluctance at times. However, many of these changes will confront every country in the world.
I make no pretense of being an apologist for the United States. We have many problems and at the moment we don’t seem to be in any hurry to find solutions. But we’ve muddled through for 230 years so far and I honestly believe we’ll make it for a while longer.