It was the spring of 2013 when I first came to the United States with a dream of experiencing a better life than I used to have back in India, to grow as a person. I came here as a software engineer, working in an entertainment giant right in front of Times Square. Before coming to the USA, I stayed around 5 years in the financial capital of India, Mumbai, but the speed of life that I experienced on the first day at the Port Authority Bus Terminal was unparallel. My manager told me that as a New yorker I have to be tough and fast and smart as I have never thought before. I was all at awe living in the financial capital of the world. I wanted to visit 9/11 memorial in the downtown Manhattan. That is where I got my first shock from the American capitalism. Till that time, I had only heard about it; first time I experienced it. I still remember the visuals of the destruction of the twin towers. I was so young, but I remember it clearly. Thousands of people died. Blacks, whites, Indians, Bangladeshis, Christians, Hindus, Muslims, Africans, Europeans, Millionaires, Wage workers and what not; they were from across the globe. I went there in memory of those who lost their lives. But at the entrance they put a notice that there was a minimum mandatory donation of $5 to enter the ground zero. I was taken a back. The government was making money on the people’s grave! The souvenir store beside the ground zero was selling souvenirs of 9/11 at an exuberant rate. People were profiting from a terrorist attack! I understood the meaning of American capitalism.
Slowly but steadily I started learning American politics. I came from a family where I used to discuss politics with my dad from a very young age. So, I had the sense of politics but did not have the familiarity with the American version of it. I started to learn what the Democratic party stand for and what the Republicans stand for. But slowly I started learning that nitty-gritty of American politics is beyond these two parties. There is a systematic brainwashing and social engineering happened with the mass so that only few big corporations can drive the society. A vast section of the mass sees a red menace is coming to destroy their country. I saw a huge billboard in the middle of the Times Square stating number of people have died around the world under different communist and socialist regimes; it included Afghanistan to Vietnam. I laughed hard that they put the figures of how many people died under Ho Chi Minh but did not bother to mention the lives lost in Vietnam due to America’s war. They don’t care why Bob Dylan had to write the line “how many deaths will it take till he knows…”. But they see the ghost of socialism running behind them to destroy their American dream.
Busting the Myth
“America is the greatest country on the earth” is the biggest myth that I have ever heard in my life. If I did not come to America, I wouldn’t have known that a large section of American population knows very little about the outside world. They live in their cocoons. I was astonished when I first heard that there are people here who still believe the earth is flat or they literally believe in Creationism. If I were not in the USA during COVID, I wouldn’t have known that people can protest against wearing masks and masks can be a political issue or they can believe that COVID is a hoax and a conspiracy by the socialists. I don’t think even anyone in India believes in such stupid theories. They are driven by products. The corporations keep them busy in consuming products which they don’t need. They are more obese, more diabetic, less critical thinker, less healthy than citizens of most of the developed countries. When generation after generation is busy in consumerism, 0.01% of wealthiest people in the country are holding up more than 50% of the wealth. At the same time, I see homeless people sitting on the footpaths of New York City. Civilizations are full of contrasts, isn’t it?
The trickle down economy that started in the 80’s, the fall of communist bloc in the early 90’s, an American free market neo-liberal economic hegemony was in full swing keeping the young generation away from politics and busy in consumerism till its bubble busted in 2008. The 2008 recession was an eye opener for quite a lot of American people who were purely crony capitalist. The way the recession was handled, showed the citizens that even during a crash, big corporations will be saved first and not the poor and the middle-class citizens; the same old trickle-down theory. In 2008, when Barack Obama became president, people of the USA, especially the black and poor people had a high hope on him. But he failed to break the shackles as well. He couldn’t get the army out of middle east, his tenure saw the maximum number of prisoners behind the bar, a rise in private prison industry and a continued increase in wealth inequality. In 2011, America experienced Occupy Wall Street movement. A movement that America was seeing after decades, after civil rights movements. I was meeting people, getting to know the American culture, I was studying American history, civil war and I could sense that people were frustrated. They were frustrated because they have the two parties, which are both very corrupt, both follows neo-liberal pro-wall street policies, both believe in American hegemony and monopoly on the world order, even eight years of a black president couldn’t break the jinx and they don’t have any third viable option. On top of that they fear every minute that socialism will engulf and destroy their country.
Rise of Trump
Middle of the current decade was very interesting in World politics and America was no exception. It is the time when the surge of far-right politics started to spread across the globe. From Narendra Modi in India, Boris Johnson in UK, Bolsenaro in Brazil, Erdogan in Turkey to Donald Trump in the USA. If we quickly recap the history starting with Reagan’s trickle down policy triggering the ultimate fall of socialist blocks in the world followed by a celebration of neo-liberal free market economy and liberal democracies mingled with corrupt crony capitalism resulting in a worldwide recession created a major vacuum and distrust in the society. But there was no organized socialist block to capture this vacuum. Increase of radical religious terrorism, mainly Islamic terrorism during late 90’s and the first decade of second millennium had already started to breed xenophobic tendency in the general mass. It was the perfect opportunity for the far-right extremists to capture the power through democratic means with popular support. Thus, the stage was set for Trump’s inauguration.
I still remember the day Trump was taking oath, my wife and I were going to India for a family time. After taking the charge, the first thing he did was travel ban from some of the Muslim countries and issued stricter rules for work permit and visas. We were terrified in India. We didn’t expect any rule changes so early. I went to the visa interview after shaving my full-grown beard so that I don’t look like a Muslim. With stricter rules, with more documentation, with a probability of scrapping dependent work permit, frequent change in rules and overwhelming delay in the visa process created a heck of tension and sleepless nights for millions of people working on visa during next four years of Trump’s rule. I have seen people leaving the country with family after staying here for 14-15 years. Their American dreams were shattered. Those who were dreaming of an American life though DACA are in distress now. Children are caged and separated from their parents. White supremacists, KKK are openly out on the streets spreading venom and hatred and they have the backing of the president. That’s not an American dream. This is inhumane. He doesn’t believe in science. He doesn’t believe in climate change is an existential crisis. He wants to abolish Obamacare which more pro-poor. He uses racist slurs and only understands money. He doesn’t believe in woman’s choice on her body. The American society has been so much polarized like never before. Moreover, he has failed miserably to handle Covid. More than 210,000 people have died, highest in the world. He did not take it seriously. He called it a hoax. He doesn’t want to wear mask. Millions of people have become jobless. Poor Americans have been decimated and Trump has done nothing that is expected from a leader. He is playing in the hands of big pharma companies for vaccine. His trade was with China left the US farmers in debt. Economy is in shambles.
On the other hand, the democratic party missed a golden chance of nominating Bernie Sanders against Trump. As an immigrant, coming from a developing country I could resonate with Bernie so much. His progressive ideas, healthcare for all, education for all, the green new deal; all were so exciting. In 2016 when he first ran for the presidency, the young crowd found their voice in him, who understands the modern world’s problem, who listens to the young people, who believes in science, who will fight for the 99% and not the top 1%. As soon as his voice was heard loud and clear the establishment democrats labeled him as socialist and Hillary Clinton said him a communist. As I said, the general mass sees a red menace always looming over the country. The establishment democrats sabotaged his campaign with red scare and fell for Hillary Clinton. The corrupt Clinton in front was an icing on the cake for Trump to surge to the White House. The same story repeated again in this year’s election till now. Only difference is Bernie conceded defeat much early and rallied behind Joe Biden, the choice of the establishment. Last time many of the voters from the Bernie camp didn’t vote in anguish which gave an edge to Trump. Bernie understood that this can be a major mess this time. The main objective of this year’s election is to defeat Donald Trump. To address his supporters, Bernie made a joint taskforce with Biden to include some of his progressive agendas into Biden’s policy plan. Biden’s VP choice Kamala Harris has been targeted numerous occasions as a far-left ideologue due to her various stances on progressive ideas. But coming from a country where the lefts, socialists and the communists play a significant role in the politics, people like me can understand that Biden-Harris are anything but left. But red scare sells in the USA. I know so many people here who advocates absolutely same thing as socialism, but they are scared of the word.
Thanks to Bernie, socialism and democratic socialism has become new buzzword among the young generation who started taking up interest in politics. Bernie’s campaign might have ended but it started a whole new wave of progressive politics on the American soil. Leaders like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar and Ayanna Presley are the future of progressive movements within Democratic Party. But the movements like Occupy Wall Street, BLM have their chords tuned in to different progressive leftist movements happened around the globe. We should remember that the Black Panther Party and the Communist party played a significant role in the civil rights movement here apart from Dr. King Jr. Leaders like Malcom X and Angela Davis were and still are icons of the Civil Rights Movement. American lefts need to play a role in the various anti-fascist, anti-neoliberal, anti-racist movements in the coming years. But before everything else, the current fascist, racist, corrupt regime needs to be defeated democratically. American progressives need to come rally behind Joe Biden to save the country from losing it forever. There is no other choice in-order to save the country. Second term of Trump presidency will be a catastrophe. As a non-voter immigrant I can only wish and hope to see a non-Trump government in January. Centrists, liberals, leftists, progressives all need to rally against this monster unitedly. Lefts cannot make the same mistake of 2016 or what they did in Germany by not forming the united front against Hitler. The world is watching, if USA can lead the fall of global fascists by defeating Donald Trump. This will create a counter wave. Eagerly waiting to experience it.
There is another side of America, where people want to dream, they are compassionate, courteous, honest. They believe their children need to be in a better world and a better America. They don’t hate people because of their skin color. They are worried about the student loans. They are worried about their healthcare. They know the nature is in danger. They know the people in Wall Street are controlling their life even though they don’t mean anything to them. They don’t want to see people homeless. They want to see dignity for all. They know the janitors are as important part of the society as the CEOs. They want to have balance in income in the society. They protest peacefully against any social wrong doings. They want to live their American dream. I know this America very well. I have seen these people. They are confused between choosing a return of status-quo and a continuation of tyranny and fascism. Not voting only helps the fascists. I hope they make the right choice.