A citizen’s recommendations for a path forward
Well, it’s finally here. After four painstaking years of nail-biting, cursing before the television, and endless debates on the norms of civility, the presidency of Donald J Trump has come to an end. As many breathe a sigh of relief, while others vow to take up arms to defend their version of democracy, a vital question arises: How do we make sure we never go down this path again? While I don’t claim expertise in governance, this is one citizen’s advice to the rest of the nation.
Don’t underestimate the power of one vote
A dear family member of mine simply refused to vote during the presidential election of 2016; she didn’t see the value of pulling the lever for either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. Many others thought the same. A mere 55.7% of the voting-age population turned out for the 2016 election, according to the Pew Research Centre. This figure places US behind most developed nations.
Despite the large sum of money placed in the election, many just didn’t bother with early voting, mail-in voting, or voting during election day. We see what happened due to apathy, those saying that both candidates are bad, or that their vote doesn’t matter. Not only the US, but the entire world witnessed the multiple calamities that befell upon the nation once President Trump came into office.
Follow the Golden Rule
“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” After realizing that the Russian government interfered in the US presidential elections, how did the public feel about this? Judging by elite opinion-makers in The New York Times, devastation followed by righteous indignation come to mind.
Now, imagine how the people of Iran or Chile felt when the US government caused downfalls of their elected governments. Call it blowback or reaping what you sow, but we clearly see how the US fell into a similar position, albeit to a far lesser extent. This begs the question: Should our government continue to intervene for mercantilist interests, selfishly benefitting at the expense of others?
Nowadays, decisions are not taken in a vacuum. Take for example, the Iraq invasion. Questions were planted during news briefings at the White House, commentators spoke favourably for a liberation from Saddam Hussein, and eventually, the military was deployed. Everyday citizens can play a greater role in world affairs. If there is talk of a regime change on flimsy grounds, write to the newspapers, speak during town halls, even call your Congress person, take a stand. We cannot simply continue business as usual.
Stop chanting the mantra of American exceptionalism
The exceptional rise of the coronavirus, leading to fallout of the national economy, and the undercurrents of racism that often erupt into the open, should illustrate to all of us the futility of declaring that America is the exceptional nation.
Saying this gives rise to a sense of nationalism and irrational belief that anything America does is right, as this is the uniquely virtuous nation. Granted, post-World War II, the US has had the strongest economy and military in the world. The technological inventions, transnational alliances, and cultural exports have made this nation the sole superpower on Earth. However, this is not an infallible nation.
Learn the facts, then see how this nation needs to rapidly improve. Be it the gaps in social welfare, marginalization of minorities, prioritizing government resources for the military-industrial complex, or an excessively violent gun culture that is increasingly harming innocent people, America needs structural reformations to remain the indispensable nation.
If one is a true patriotic citizen, see how everyone around you can benefit, then make an informed decision.
A new era
The Biden presidency gives hope to many of us. A concerted campaign for renewed public health, a solid plan for economic recovery, and a return to multilateralism with rejoining the Paris climate accord -- these are some of the big items that can usher in a new era.
Like it or not, actions conducted by the US reverberate across the world. Therefore, the US president’s actions affect nearly everyone, and the aforementioned items can bring peace and prosperity across oceans. However, the citizenry cannot afford complacency.
Ensuring that each elected government official is held accountable, marking red lines that should not be crossed, and advocating for policies that benefit the masses, not just upper-class interests, these actions must be taken by the citizens of this land, to ascertain that we have truly left the dark ages behind.
Tamim Choudhury is a Texas-based communications specialist.