Alfian Sa’at: Donald Trump Wants To Keep America Safe, But Who Would Protect The World From Them?

I remember making a joke when I was visiting New York last October: “It’s my last chance to visit the US before Trump becomes president and decides to ban Muslims.”

That offhand joke is now a real nightmare, and laughter has turned to bile in the throat.

I don’t intend to set foot on American soil again. The problem is that it’s easy to overlook the kinds of darkness that reside there because for a long time at least in a bipolar world, the US, compared to the Soviet Union, looked like the lesser of two evils. In addition there’s also something about soft power that throws a veil of gauze over sharp edges, that puts the horror into soft focus. America is in our earphones, in our cinemas, on our computer screens and smartphones, and all these help to domesticate its otherness. But alas that soft power is just a pretty collar on a dangerous animal and is not a leash.

There is an America, ostensibly, of Disney and jazz and Instagram. But there is also that other America of unending gun violence, mass incarcerations, a militarised police, a broken healthcare system, white nationalism, a history of Native American genocide and African slavery; an America that exports weapons, that installs puppets and brutal dictators, that undermines popular sovereignty and stages coups, that lies to the world about Weapons of Mass Destruction and steals oil and turns entire neighbourhoods into rubble. How much hatred there must be towards this factory whose main manufacturing products are widows and orphans. And how convenient that those who are anti-American are seen as people who are ‘radicalised’ instead of people who refuse to accept the narrative churned out by the American propaganda machine.

Trump has unmasked this other face of America, or at least made it more public than it ever was before. As a man voted in for being able ‘to say it like it is’, there is no better man for the job.

On the other hand there is an Iran, of unsmiling black robed mullahs and Hezbollah and Ahmadinejad. But there is also another Iran, of rose gardens and fountains and nightingales, of the poets Hafez and Ferdowsi, of some of the greatest films ever made by the likes of Abbas Kiarostami, Mohsen Makhmalbaf, Jafar Panahi and Asghar Farhadi. I remember once wanting to visit Iran but wondering whether it would in any way jeopardise any future entry into the US. What foolishness that was. It is both a gift and a curse to be reading and writing in this language. One has access to so much knowledge, but at the same time how susceptible one becomes to American imperialism, one of whose effects is to think of America’s enemies as our own. America fears what it cannot bend to its will. By sharing this fear we are also bending to America’s will.

America wants to be safe. But who will keep the world safe from America?


Source: Alfian Sa’at

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