On our morning run to school I tend to educate my kids using a subtle holistic approach. Yesterday as we were going through our daily dose of BBC Radio News & flipping between the latest Punjabi Bollywood Bhangra release (Burj Khalifa to be precise) & if you haven’t heard it that’s culture appropriation music & geography covered in one song, I asked my 17yr old budding political activist about Barrack Obama’s first speech of the campaign trail which media outlets had described as “scathing”.
She replied in her typical nonchalant manner “Mum I don’t trust any politician anymore”. Why is that I prodded further? She replied “You know we really like Alexandria-Ocasio-Cortez but her rapid rise from “waitressing to keep the family afloat” narrative makes me suspicious.
How did she do it? And I really like her & want her to become the US President in the future but didn’t we have high hopes with the first Black President? What if today we are excited about her live streaming of playing “Among us” & it turns out that she is an imposter just like in the online game?
Could it be just an act to grab gullible young voters like myself who find her so relatable? Following, that unexpected rant I realised two things.
Firstly that our woke snowflake isn’t as gullible as we used to be in that age & secondly that the predicament we face right now which Francis Fukuyama explains in his new book “Identity” is bang on. He describes the identity crisis we are in & how the politicians of our times are exploiting it for their personal ambitions.
He accurately points out that after the excitement of new democracies springing up everywhere between the 1970’s to the 2000’s, now we are looking at fascist dictatorial style governments everywhere. He borrows the words of the political sociologist Larry Jay Diamond who describes us facing a “global recession” of democracy”.
My daughter is correct that on the one hand we have loud brash unapologetically politically incorrect sexist racist leaders plonked onto the map. And on the other hand we have young dynamic women challenging them every step of the way. We know that the extreme right is wrong in the way they blatantly use hate politics to exploit our fears of losing our cultural values but we are also suspicious of those who are fighting for the rights of marginalised communities because many have held our hands in the past won our hearts & then let go of the principles they sold to us when they reached their destination.
The extreme left is making us equally nervous as they jump onto the bandwagon of every issue that the young are passionate about. The rapid trajectory of women or minority leaders makes us wonder if they were planted there to cash our emotional vulnerability. We live in a time of real economic hardship for families in cities like London & New York.
As I wrote this, MPs in the UK Parliament voted against giving food vouchers to children of vulnerable families over the holiday period. Over a million children depend on this much needed financial help from the government.
One new Liberal Democrat female MP Daisy Cooper stood up & declared that she was ashamed to be an MP today. Another very young female MP Zahra Sultana slammed the government & asked the simple yet pertinent question “How do you feel no sense of shame?”
The governments excuse for callous decisions globally is that they have millions to spend on this & millions to spend on that. Our added misfortune has been that these extreme right wing leaders have arrived on the scene coinciding with the worst pandemic of our time & Britain’s exit from the European Union. Voters across the US are faced with a difficult choice & that if the fact that they don’t have much to choose from in the upcoming elections.
Biden is banking on the fact that people just don’t want to see Trump in a second term. That’s not an option that’s choosing the lesser of the two evils. But will Trump hate be enough to make Biden win? His rather lacklustre performance in the Presidential speeches hasn’t gone unnoticed.
The nervous laugh is further overshadowed by a very strong woman leader as his VP. People also might be forgiven for thinking that if a great VP is a convincing tactic to lure voters then how would Biden explain his complacency over Obama’s disastrous intervention in Syria? Was he not complicit in the crime of the destruction of millions of homes?
One could argue that at least Trump wages only verbal wars on Twitter. But as a young American voter sighs & explains it is a choice between the lesser of the two evils. We just can’t take Trump’s virtual world of news anymore. The New York Times fact check of the Presidential debate confirms what we all have known for a long time that much of what Trump says is either exaggerated misleading or as Obama put it just a lie. The public are prepared to put up with difficult times but they expect leaders to have the courage to be at least honest with them.
For us sitting miles away in the UK or the Indian subcontinent, Biden is the only hope of a return of a centre-left politician. Right wing US politicians are the perfect big brother role models for leaders in countries like Pakistan, India & Brazil to emulate. The special relationship between Boris & Trump is a cause for great nervousness for British sensibilities too.
Many suspect that Boris is encouraged by his brother from another mother across the Atlantic. Meanwhile, back home the real challenge facing Trump is not Biden’s tv charisma but the dip in Donald’s staunch following as the voter list in Ohio looks less white & much younger this year. His adopted state of Florida isn’t as excited about him as they previously were. While Black lives matter is still very much a middle America issue that Trump or his supporters have never cared for, it’s the lack of confidence in his ability to provide economic relief during Corona that will hit him the most, not to mention the fact that his own dismal track record as a businessman has finally been revealed to his voter base too.
With not so many days to go & voters still confused one can only say that the days of lies, megalomania & showmanship of loud men who deliver little relief are numbered. The trust of the disengaged & demoralised voter will have to be earned & shouldered responsibly.
As I picked up my daughter from school and showed her this piece she exclaimed “Mum I really love Alexandria-Ocasio-Cortez but she is so perfect!!! Can she be real?” And that’s the real challenge the Democrats in the US will face. Can you live up to the high hopes we have of you? Will you take us out of the darkness of Gotham city? We the voice of Democrats are ready & willing to give you a chance yet again but it may well be the last.
A visionary woman who has never capitulated on matters that are against basic human rights and morality. She is a strong proponent of sustainable improvement in Pakistan through education, engagement, inspiration, innovation and empowerment opportunities for all (especially the youth).
Reham Khan an internationally recognised personality within the Media, Journalism & Broadcasting industry (particularly in Pakistan, United Kingdom, and India) Reham Khan is a single parent & a human rights activist who is considered a leading voice against child abuse & early marriage. Khan is also a film producer with her debut film “Janaan” a box office hit in Pakistan & the first Pakistani Film to make it to the top ten films in the UK.
She is also the author of the most controversial book coming out of Pakistan in recent years in which she took on the incoming government head-on & faced death threats for her brave expose of Pakistani elite society & politics. She is an odd case of One Right versus the Many Wrongs happening in our society today. She is described as the survivor with a smile.