- What the attempted coup in the US can teach us
What just happened in the USA when supporters of Donald Trump attacked the Capitol was important, not just because it seems to have been a turning point in the elections but for many other reasons, one of the most obvious and striking being how closely these events and their reasons resemble what happens in Pakistan. It is worth noting them.
It is interesting that whether it is involved or not– the USA and the West get blamed for most things in Pakistan, most particularly by the right wingers. Blamed for the suspicion towards vaccines (with reason that one, thank you CIA, mostly responsible for the suspicion), for all ills of modern culture, for every religious remark that is blown up into blasphemy.
At least in the USA they have their systems which have been upheld in the final analysis. They have a basic reverence for their Constitution. They have an army that refuses to get involved. And now they have a new government. It is doubtful that that new government will be any better for the world than its predecessors were, but that again is a different matter. We in Pakistan need to look to ourselves. To build our own strengths, to respect our own ability to do what is right. To make progress a reality and not just something that is worn like a fake medal by our leaders
The refusal to accept the new leadership, the insistence that elections were tampered with, not only was this entirely familiar to us in this country, but it is pertinent to note the reason why Donald Trump’s tactics did not succeed: the fact that most people in the USA do believe in its basic institutions, and are not pleased when the Constitution is threatened. They don’t mind organizing coups in other countries but are rather touchy about coups taking place in their own. But that is a whole different subject.
That belief in the Constitution and the threat to the Constitution was probably the biggest reason Trump now finds himself eating crow . The other reason is that much as Mr Trump would have wanted it, the army refused to get involved in his plans. In the US, the military is generally left out of such matters, and the military itself was keen to keep it that way. Interesting, eh? And not as familiar as the rest.
The heavily armed crowd that raided the Capitol came as no surprise. Americans have always been fond of guns, the country’s gun culture is not just something you see in Western movies. They own guns, several guns per household, and from the look of things they always will. That and the fact that the National Rifle Association (NRA) has been a huge backer of Donald Trump and his election campaigns. That made it inevitable that Trump would play puppet to the NRA’s string. Very early on in his tenure as president he got rid of a restriction that made it illegal for anyone with mental issues to buy a gun. He made it possible for those evading arrest to buy guns by changing the definition of ‘fugitive from justice.’ Businesses making and selling guns, and shooting ranges are now designated ‘essential businesses.’ Characteristically, he promised to do so but took no action against the gun lobby and gun safety. He also made it much easier to export guns to other countries. The world needed that like a dose of cyanide. Yet how could he go against the NRA’s wishes when the Association is said to have donated $30 million for the 2016 elections, and it is now being calculated just how much they paid for this one that he lost?
We need to check who pays for our leaders’ electioneering.
Naturally Trump’s supporters, those who battered their way into the Capitol possessed guns and they used them, bats, fists and whatever came their way to break into the building. Guns were drawn in the building, a woman was shot and later died, a long gun and nine firearms were recovered by police, and several people were arrested under suspicion of carrying illegal guns. The entire Capitol episode was orchestrated. That is obvious. People travelled to DC from areas far away, from Florida, Texas.
None of this is new for us. It is as common for persons to be armed in Pakistan, thieves breaking into homes, drive by shooters and other thugs. Just as the build up of guns, their sale and possession particularly during the pandemic was ignored in the USA, it is ignored in Pakistan, as is the fact of who buys them.
Still, the fact that people bought guns, more guns than usual was not just with the aim of attacking the Capitol. It is not just with the aim of aggression that people arm themselves. It is also frustration and injustice that make people think in terms of self-defence, and there is no lack of frustration and injustice in Pakistan, particularly now with the pandemic upon us. With businesses closing down and their livelihoods collapsing about people’s ears, what can they do but strong-arm their way to support in the absence of support from those responsible for providing it?
With the leadership of this country, those in power and those who aspire to it both concentrating solely on that golden throne, on abusing each other and holding rallies– even in the midst of a pandemic when it is wiser not to congregate, the people of this country have little choice but to take what they can. The example set for them by their political leaders is hardly a peaceful, rational one.
While leaders blame each other, people all over the world do what they think is most in their interests, and while democracy is for the people by the people, people left to their own devices have never known what is best for themselves. They need a leadership that cares for them.
That leadership must care regardless of the colour of their skin. Trump’s following is predominantly white. Clearly it will be a while before racism is stamped out in that country, and the previous government’s legacy of racism, misogyny, will linger until someone else manages to remove the legitimacy it was granted.
Are all people granted respect in this country, be they women, poor, Shia, Sunni, Hazara or Christian. Is it possible for anyone to claim this in Pakistan? Have not racism and misogyny been granted a similar legitimacy in Pakistan, with so many Hazara people killed and the Prime Minister of the country refusing to pay them the respect that is their due? The latest while writing this column is that the PM is accusing the Hazara of blackmailing him by asking for his presence.
At least in the USA they have their systems which have been upheld in the final analysis. They have a basic reverence for their Constitution. They have an army that refuses to get involved. And now they have a new government.
It is doubtful that that new government will be any better for the world than its predecessors were, but that again is a different matter. We in Pakistan need to look to ourselves. To build our own strengths, to respect our own ability to do what is right. To make progress a reality and not just something that is worn like a fake medal by our leaders.