Opinion Op Ed 15 Oct 2016 In US & India, b ...
Irreverent, provocative, opinionated... Shobhaa De has been challenging status quo for four decades... and is at her best when she punctures inflated egoes. Readers can send feedback to www.shobhaade.blogspot.com

In US & India, belligerence in the air

Published Oct 15, 2016, 1:21 am IST
Updated Oct 15, 2016, 7:13 am IST
Money is all it takes to win elections anywhere.
‘Is every programme about food nowadays?’
 ‘Is every programme about food nowadays?’

Does America really want an incorrigible pig for a President? The world will get an answer to that question less than a month from now. And it may turn out to be pretty startling. There is universal agreement that Donald Trump is a despicable pig. What if the pig wins? I ran into a young, New York based NRI at the pujo baadi on Ashtami day last week. Given his strong American accent, I figured he’d grown up in the Land of the Free and would have opinions on the impending presidential elections. He did. As an investment banker with a special interest in real estate, he was pretty sure

Mr Trump would lose... not just lose, but be thrashed. He was already worried about the sinking real estate story both in America and India. When I mentioned the average Joe from the Midwest identifying with Mr Trump’s myriad “pigisms”, the young man reluctantly agreed with me. Unfortunately, I had to leave it there — the noise of the dhaaks from the pandal was drowning out our animated discussion. So... this chap was clearly not a Trumpet.

 

I have yet to meet a Trumpet. But I believe millions of Trumpets exist. Not just in America, but across the world. When Mr Trump dismissed his own unbelievably crass comments as being nothing more than careless locker room banter, he spoke on behalf of countless louts like himself. He is an unapologetic, undisguised pig and his “oink oinks” have many takers. If that horrifies his critics, they’d better come up with a far more damaging counter-strategy than just digging for anti-women dirt from his past. Pigs wallow in dirt. Dirt is their diet. Mr Trump’s fans are screaming “Gimme more!”

 

Then there are others, like my cousin in America, who believes that Mr Trump has done himself in good and proper. She told me it’s such a sure and clear win for Hillary that Ms Clinton can safely take the next three weeks off, go to the Bahamas... relax... and come back in time to waltz in to the White House on November 8. This airy comment led to a lively debate on Facebook, which saw several people presenting their own take on the pig. One person described the American voter as a “foolish” person, which led to more feverish comments getting posted. By then, the pig was partially forgotten. And the exchange got personal.

 

I put myself in Melania Trump’s place and asked myself what I would have done. I believe she did the smart thing by apologising on the pig’s behalf and condemning those crass, sexist comments. She’s a smart, ambitious woman. Silence would have made her look like a weak First Lady in awe of the pig — the President.

Yet, she couldn’t possibly defend the indefensible. She did the next best thing — and I think it worked great. Ivanka Trump is in a less influential position, though the pig’s remarks about his own daughter were shocking in the extreme. What was Ivanka going to say? “Hey... I hate my father. He is loathsome and vulgar. But you know what? He’ll make a great President!”

 

This is by far the most perplexing election in history. Both candidates are obnoxious, but for different reasons. The popular perception is that Ms Clinton got trumped during the ugly second presidential debate in which the pig grunted and grunted and stalked her on stage in a manner so crude and aggressive, it’s a wonder it was tolerated at all. If this is the low level of discourse, what can anyone expect from either of these two candidates? How have they made it to this position at all? The obvious answer is money.

Money is really all it takes to win elections anywhere in the world. Forget ability. Forget fair play. The person who shows up with the biggest bags of moolah, gets the vote. It’s the same story in India. The winning combination seems to be identical — foul mouths and moolah.

 

Closer to home, the Prime Minister’s Dussehra address in Lucknow was micro-analysed by vigilant opponents, looking for hidden threats and meanings. The Congress Party was desperate to distract attention from Rahul Gandhi’s “khoon ka dalal” comment that is likely to follow him to his grave, regardless of the hasty damage control undertaken by fawning minions. With Diwali around the corner, there is optimism in the air as we eagerly hang on to signs big and small, that at least for a short while, there will be a respite of sorts. It doesn’t help that Narendra Modi declared “war is necessary at times”, leading alarmed political watchers to asking an obvious question: necessary for what? Linking war to Buddha’s message by cleverly playing with words (“Yuddha-Buddha” come on! Nobel Laureate Bob Dylan will die!), the Prime Minister made it clear that India was ready for anything — war, included. This is hardly comforting for citizens struggling to cope with spiralling prices and everyday disasters. Nobody wants a war. But then again, since when did people’s sentiments count?

 

Whether it is the grunting pig in America or a roaring Gujarat lion in India, belligerence is in the air. We should be worried. Very worried.

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