The Meaning Of A ‘Trumped-Up’ America – OpEd


Sadness has engulfed me. Perhaps a morning-after of the US-Elections.

Feeling that half of America failed to understand the other half — the urban has neglected the rural. I thought of my early days as an undergraduate in Ohio in the early 1980s when professors gave me readings such as Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, O’ Neill’s The Hairy Ape, John Reed’s Ten Days That Shook the World, Bellamy’s Looking Backwards, and Michael Harrington’s Socialism. I was into understanding America the Real, The Rural Real, The Social Realism of America. The Steinbeck America of The East of Eden, The Tennessee William’s and most importantly, as it pertained to my early experience, The Appalachian America. That was The Willy Nelson Farm Aid America, of early Billy Joel’s Allentown America, and the Coal Miner’s Daughter America. I understood all those, albeit theoretically what the reality was and how through literature as human experience, I emphasized and often shared this sadness of the poverty in the Appalachian, with my professors.

That was Reagan’s America I was in then — when MTV was still at its infancy. When globalization and “the magic of the marketplace” was Reagan’s slogan. In my classes, my professors were preaching a socialist America and opposing the Star Wars program, as well as speaking up against Apartheid. I was a passionate and angry young man then — I marched with the Amnesty International and frequented talks by the Socialist International whilst trying to find answers ranging from the meaning of life to what a perfect socialist society would look like, and in-between reading like a best-seller the work of those of The Frankfurt School.

That was it: Social Realism.

Today, in 2016. It is America of the Speculative Fiction, of Hunger Games, of Harry Potter, of pulp fiction, of David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest, and the like of Quentin Tarantino’s America I was feasting myself. The cultural enrichment stuff of the Post-Post Modern, Post-Truth, Post-Transhumanist America of the Manhattan genre I was lavishing myself with. I knew that is only one view of America. The Liberal, the Democrat, the Cyber-Punk, the Urban, The Urbane, and the Metrosexual and Saposexual America of the Brooklynites and the gangstas of the Bronx-America.

I felt a sense of an uneasy swing of delight – between the rural Neil Young America I cherish and Kurt Cobain’s America I too am trying to understand as an educator as well as a transcultural philosopher. I resorted to reading stuff like J.D. Salinger’s Franny and Zoey sometimes and glad that the opening scene of the James Cameron’s “Interstellar” movie had Steinbeck’s Grapes-of-Wrath imagery of the “dust-bowl” — the Great Depression of the 1930s, besides a great line from Dylan Thomas’s “Do not go gentle into that good night”.

So here I am today — in-between consciousness. Between the surreal and social real America. Here I am back to understanding why people voted Trump. Why Americans are surprised, although 46.7% did not vote. Why the MTV America must now not only understand but empathize the other America — the America not represented by the glitzy-hyper-intellectual America of the cities. The farmland and factory America — this is the America that wanted to be heard. Those whose jobs have been lost, whose farms no longer yield livelihoods — the forgotten America. Blinded by the bright city lights.

Here I am wondering what the next four years will bring. I feel for the Mexicans, the Asians the LGBTs, the Muslims – and the groups of people who felt appreciated, safe and protected under eight years of Obama Rule. The young are protesting in at least 15 major cities with those in Portland, Oregon getting violent, as reported. Those protesting may have been hoping that they will have free education for four years, had Hillary Clinton won. Utter despair, a state they are in – taking their anger the streets a day after Trump won. But those are perhaps city kids primarily. Those who did not realize that there is another America – the America whose children did not get to go to college and sit in classes talking about Socrates, Plato, Marx, Rousseau, and Thoreau. Those who went to trade school, those whose parents are farmers and factory workers or those who lost their jobs. That America that voted for Trump.

I wonder: is this an America of a clash of its own civilization, as Harvard political scientist Samuel Huntington wrote about, albeit in a global context – a clash of civilizations of the urban and the rural? Is this akin to the story A Handmaid’s Tale told by the Canadian speculative-fiction author Margaret Atwood of the emergence of a Republic of Gilead, populated by handmaids who tell the tale of an America whose days of the glory of multiculturalism and diversity is dead – replaced by a system of “friendly fascism”?

I don’t know. The end of 2020 will give us an answer. If we do not descend into chaos – of the rise of violent post-industrial tribes such as neo-Ku Klux Klan or neo-Black-Panthers. Or neo anything to respond to the rise of neo-fascism-ala’-America.

I am glad I am reading Steinbeck again, The Grapes of Wrath.

Dr. Azly Rahman

Dr. Azly Rahman is an academician, educator, international columnist, and author of nine books He holds a Columbia University (New York City) doctorate in international education development and Master's degrees in six areas: education, international affairs, peace studies, communication, fiction, and non-fiction writing. He is a member of the Columbia University chapter of the Kappa Delta Pi International Honor Society in Education. Twitter @azlyrahman. More writings here. His latest book, a memoir, is published by Penguin Books is available here.

2 thoughts on “The Meaning Of A ‘Trumped-Up’ America – OpEd

  • November 14, 2016 at 11:57 am

    …as all the other ‘journalists’, as a ‘master’ of communication and ‘teaching’ in more than 25 countries – you still are not able to see the facts in usa and you can’t count…
    >not half of the americans failed to understood the other half…<
    looking at the numbers there are about 320 millions usa citizens, about 240 of them have the right to vote,
    and now: about 129 million voted… this is leaving about 110 million of people or about 45% who DID NOT VOTED…
    NOT A WORD from you about the real poor people who are cut off from EVERYTHING including money, food, housing, education and many things more – they do not voted because they are still fighting to survive the next day…
    … your math is wrong and you should rather concentrate to get out of your comfortzone at the many colleges and step into the world of this 110 million people who could not vote because they are either belonging to that more than 46 million poor people, or they are belonging to that more than 10 million people who have nothing at all, no home, no income and not even are registered for free food…
    christian churches and private charities are handing out day by day food and drinks to them and try to give shelter to the most poor people in the usa – these people do NOT HAVE TIME to protest against the outcome of a democratic election…
    as some loud young students do who are afraid about there income, there well paid future and their place in society either in the middle or upper class
    … and if this poor are able to read and write they certainly do not read the books you are mentioning so enthusiastic.
    you should mention the failure of a system which worships power, money and which teaches the people to shoot first and ask later…

  • November 14, 2016 at 5:37 pm

    that is a good perspective on voter turnout in the US. you have a truth there. there is also another perspective, from the Washington Post. What do you think of this?:

    ” … Why is the United States so far behind the pack? There are plenty of factors. For example, in some countries — including both Belgium and Turkey — voting is compulsory. The laws aren’t necessarily strictly enforced (which is why you aren’t seeing 99 percent turnout), but it still has a major effect.

    Another is different policies on voter registration. Other developed countries have voters automatically registered as they become eligible. Alternatively, in many countries the government goes out of its way to find and register voters. However, in the United States, potential voters are expected to register themselves, and it’s often not a simple process. Understandably, this results in a far lower proportion of registered voters: Just 65 percent of the voting age population is registered, Pew notes, compared to 91 percent in Britain and 96 percent in Sweden. While turnout among registered voters in the United States is fairly high — 84.3 percent in 2012 — the lower levels of registration mean that overall turnout remains low.

    Timing is also a factor. U.S. elections are held on a Tuesday, when people generally have to work. For many, this is a huge inconvenience. “I’m at work all the time,” Eliza Holgate, a 19-year-old who works at a Golden Tan tanning salon in Utah, told the New York Times when asked to justify why she wasn’t voting. Other countries with higher voter turnout than the United States, including France, Germany and Japan, hold their votes on the weekends. In some other countries, such as India, Election Day is a national holiday.

    The 2016 election in the United States threw up other problems too. As Paul Waldman of The Plum Line notes, this was the first election in decades without the full protection of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. There are widespread accusations of voter suppression.

    However, when contrasting the U.S. election with Britain’s Brexit vote, it’s also worth remembering the differences between the two votes. The Brexit vote was a single-issue referendum. Voters were asked a simple question: “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?” Ahead of the election, many had feared a low turnout, perhaps even lower than Britain’s last general-election turnout of 61.1 percent, as it would be hard to persuade people who wanted to keep the status quo to vote. …”


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