The election of Donald Trump as the next United States president has generated stimulating and vibrant debates across the country, particularly with regard to the treatment of minorities. My attempt is to analyze the intersection of law and race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability, and national origin within the current political context.
In a post 9/ 11 world, political and cultural edifices have been entrenched by imperial discourse have sanctified the convenient first world-third world dichotomy. Institutional politics and policies have facilitated the construction of the “third world” subject as an eternally feral being whose essential savagery is not amenable to socio-cultural conditioning. The rationale provided for the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, for instance, is those territories’ purportedly dehumanized condition that cries out for enlightenment, underscoring the constructed bestiality of non-Western, other cultures.
The construction of the “first world-third world” dichotomy in the wake of military interventions overseas vitiated progressive political and social change. This befouling of institutional politics insidiously bled into the dominant political discourse in the United States and was used to promulgate Islamophobia.
Although governance is a different ballgame, the rhetoric deployed and legitimized by Trump while on the campaign trial purported to create a totalizing or homogenizing center. In particular, non-Western cultural, religious, political, and social epistemologies were dismissed as “marginal” or reductively “fanatical by the discourse generated during the campaign. Some of the epistemologies that were demonized are institutions and modes of thought created by contemporary nationalisms; the consciousness of political, social, and cultural place that offers a critical perspective from which to formulate alternatives to an insulated modernity and its concomitant defeatism of developing nations; and the ushering in of an era in which a nation is NOT constructed around a common language, religion, culture, patriarchal image of womanhood, and an ethnically pure majority.
The increase in polarization and fragmentation that we witnessed in the wake of the presidential campaign and the election of Donald Trump as the next president of the US undermined the traditional notion of self-determination, rule of law, a return to the process of internal political dialogue, negotiations, and political accommodation in a democratic nation. In a nation that prides itself on women’s selfhood, autonomy, and ability to self-actualize, the blatant infantilization and objectification of women brought to the fore, among other things, that misogyny and racism are not things of the past. We still have a lot of work to do in order to repair schisms. Democracy does not limit itself to numbers or majoritarian rule, but to substance. There is no room for the subjection of religious minorities to a centralized and authoritarian state in a democratic nation. Self-promotion in the name of democracy, which is a given in autocratic and oligarchic forms of government, must be strongly discouraged by constitutional means and methods. In the recent presidential campaign, democracy was brazenly deployed to promote centralization and majoritarianism to the detriment of democratic growth and evolution.
Trump’s success lies in bringing out of the woodwork all those who have been frustrated with the establishment and the Davos set and getting them to vent their anger on those who are “different” either racially, ethnically, or in terms of gender and religious affiliation. The absolute urgency of revivifying economic growth and opportunities for people across the board is undeniable, but that cannot be accomplished at the cost of cultural diversity and the incorporation of cultural/ racial/ gender/ religious differences into our polity and history.
In the space of globalization/ transnationalism, cultures undergo a dialectical interplay and create interlayered and mixed identities. This process necessitates the reconception and cultural and linguistic differences into our sense of identity.
Nyla Ali Khan is the author of Fiction of Nationality in an Era of Transnationalism, Islam, Women, and Violence in Kashmir, The Life of a Kashmiri Woman, and the editor of The Parchment of Kashmir. Nyla Ali Khan has also served as guest editor working on articles from the Jammu and Kashmir region for Oxford University Press (New York), helping to identify, commission, and review articles. She is on the Advisory Council of the Oklahoma Commission on the Status of Women. Nyla Ali Khan is also a member of the Oklahoma Academy, a state-wide policy planning organization.