Over the last years the world has seen the United States of America, grow more divided with every passing month. The election of Donald Trump, and the subsequent turbulent and catastrophic presidency, highlighted the large polarization and rupture that exists within American society. From the riots that followed the tragic death of George Floyd, to the mass-shootings by right-wing extremists, up to the culmination of violence in the storming of the Capitol. What happened on January 6th is deplorable, sad and quite frankly deeply disturbing, while simultaneously predictable and expected. I might not be American but given the way I was brought up every monumental event in the world is concerning to me; especially one that shakes the very foundation of belief in democracy.
The United States of America was for long a beacon of democracy and liberties. Following the civil war, the country had very clear moral standings and the social conscience was one which based itself on fairness, justice and economic innovation. Its constitution, on paper the most enlightened document of its time, set up a system of governance and of law under which these two principles could thrive. The concept of capitalism, a high regard for individual freedoms and the pursuit of the American dream were all protected and supported by that very document. The US had been drawn into both world wars due to their strong moral convictions to stand up for what was right, and in the international sphere they were rather benevolent in attempting to diminish poverty. As a study by Yale university shows, following WWII, where the economy boomed as a result of cunning political decisions, higher education became a top national priority, with 4% of government budget being allocated to it for 16 consecutive years. By the late 50’s the US had the most educated workforce worldwide, and strong labor unions to ensure that these workers were granted their rights. Consequently, the US was able to claim the largest middle class the world had ever seen. What was occurring can be summarized by a simple equation: More prosperity = more spending = more production = more hiring = more prosperity. This virtuous cycle was so remarkable that in the last century thousands of people fled from the wars in Europe and from the misery in South America to seek refuge and opportunities under the umbrella of the late American democracy.
With globalization came peril to the system so finely tuned. The largest companies did not take long to realize that they profited from outsourcing labor and production, thereby significantly lowering their costs. As this became a trend, the wealthiest percentile of America profited greatly, but as workers lost their jobs and wages stagnated, labor unions lost their significance and inequality considerably increased. As Robert Reich argues, the system of taxation shifted against the middle class in the US. In the name of job creation, and the idea that levying taxes on billionaires would cripple their ability to create jobs, the middle class was suffocated under high tax brackets and simultaneously falling wages. As government revenues decreased, they began to disregard the education systems which had been their strength for so long. As they cut more and more funding programs, tuitions became less affordable and people were deprived from further education, and in fact from sufficient basic education. As will be seen, taking the right and freedom of education from people is like castrating the mind; you take their ability for development as well as their drive to do so. Thus, a negative equation is introduced; Wages stagnate = workers buy less = companies downsize = tax revenue decreases = governments cut programs = tuition for higher education increases = workers are less educated = unemployment rises = wages stagnate. As this vicious cycle took root in America, factions of people began to feel completely misaligned with the agenda of the politicians that were supposed to represent them. The emergence of social media, and ever more privatized news networks, resulted in this misalignment leading to widespread misinformation. While white supremacy has always existed in the US, social media exacerbated
this trend, as uneducated people were being fed ideas of their supremacy. Additionally, with twitter, political decisions on policy which were formerly concluded behind closed doors, were now largely publicized, establishing this perverse and corrupt narrative which led to a lack of trust in the majority of the elite. The so-called red necks, corrupt police and legal officials, all adhered to a misconstrued populist platform which established a very powerful ignorance on the nature of what America is and on their global role as a superpower. This ignorance then spread to some powerful and wealthy individuals which saw in it a justification for controversial policies and biases. While Obama was signing agreements on efforts to halt global warming, while senators were discussing NATO treaties and world trade agreements to benefit the America’s economic standing, all that these marginalized groups wanted was to be seen and understood. They believed that America’s elite was broken and corrupt. They believed that the government was terribly misrepresenting them to exclusively benefit the rich. They believed America’s greatness was in peril or in fact lost. Perhaps that’s what they saw in Trump and his beliefs, a simple message for their simple demands; to make (their) America great again.
It is easy to rule ignorance when there is no moral compass, and it is even easier to manipulate the illiterate when presidential statements are summarized in tweets. When a people are uneducated, a leader has the ability to replace their logical reasoning with emotions fueled by lies and manipulations. I have always said that no amount of dialectic can persuade an unwilling ear. Yes, Trump’s actions are disgraceful and highly unpresidential. But his actions only had such severe consequences because a faction of American society was ripe for the cultivation of such hatred. After years of lacking educational quality and opportunities and years of exposure to misinformation and lies which chipped at their human morality, it only took a powerful and famous man with an appealing narrative to distort their decency for good.