Can Lady Liberty Return Her Gaze to the World?

 

For about 130 years, the Statue of Liberty has gazed at the wide expanse of water with a message of hope & liberation: 

  • “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

The message is timeless but could the direction of her gaze be different, we wondered back on August 20, 2016:

  • “This week we wondered whether Lady Liberty is now gazing in the wrong direction, whether the Lady should turn around to direct her torch towards another set of shores, towards today’s masses who are tempest-tossed and yearning for freedom from their misery.”

  • “What “teeming shore” should Lady Liberty gaze at to find these “tired, poor masses”? The shores of the Great Lakes of America – beginning from the shore of Lake Ontario in upstate New York, across the shore of Lake Erie in Pennsylvania & Ohio to those trapped in hollowed out Michigan between the shores of Lake Huron & Lake Michigan and then across to Wisconsin. Lady Liberty should not merely gaze at the shores of these great lakes but look a bit inland to West Virginia, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois & Iowa.”

What misery afflicted these shores of the Great Lakes?

  • “They are the grandchildren of the Americans who built America with the proud dignity of their hard labor. They have been tossed into irrelevance & poverty by the tempest of globalized trade that has shut down the industries they built and decimated the jobs they had in those industries”

The situation seemed bleak, so bleak that CNN’s Fareed Zakaria asked J.D. Vance, the author of Hillbilly Elegy and a proud scion of this class:

  • … these cultural norms & behaviors, these social pathologies of the Scots-Irish are at the heart of the problem? Do you think there could be a kind of government fix or market fix? Or you feel like this is a deep cultural problem?

We wrote then:

  • “We couldn’t believe what we were hearing [from Fareed Zakaria]. To describe the “cultural norms & behaviors of the Scots-Irish” as “social pathologies“? “

How far had core Americans fallen in their own land? Fareed Zakaria was only a committed flag bearer who radiated contempt that all his “people” felt. The “people” Zakaria represented were the global elitists who have placed him where he is.

Their contempt, vocalized by CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, seemed like the darkest hour of core America’s night. Fortunately, just as the proverb says, it was about to lead to a new dawn. 

President Trump won the election in November 2016 and a new dawn broke not just on America but also on the world. Look around America and you can feel optimism radiating across states & communities.

The rest of the World once again realizes that there is nothing like America. Europe is stuck in an economic & political rut; China is slowing and facing momentous fiscal challenges. This is the America that leads from the front, confidently & with a touch of bravado. This is an America the World respects again as President Trump says.

Guess who else said that this week? The Financial Times of London published an article by Gideon Rachman titled Donald Trump leads a global revival of nationalism. Rachman wrote:

  • ” … the world is seeing the emergence of a “nationalist international”. Nationalist political parties are on the rise across the west …”

Why this emergence? Rachman was clear:

  • Donald Trump is central to this development. … in fact, he is emerging as the informal leader of an international movement. By shifting American politics in a more nationalist direction, Mr Trump has changed the tone of politics everywhere.”

What is a major change of tone, according to Rachman?

  • “Their emphasis on the enduring importance of the nation-state clearly resonates with voters. Demands for tougher control of illegal migration flow naturally from that idea — since the question of who is entitled to citizenship is central to national identity….The central demands of the new nationalists, such as control of immigration or protectionism, have a legitimate place in democratic politics.”

Is this nationalism movement confined to the west? No said Rachman:

  • In Delhi, recently, I had a long conversation with Jayant Sinha, a government minister. He argued that the Modi government rejects universalism, in favour of a defence of India’s unique culture. “People feel their heritage is under siege,” he said, “in that sense we are part of a global narrative.”

Don’t get carried away, though. Remember, this is still the Financial Times of London. It may not be as obdurate & as contemptuous of America as its sister publication The Economist. But neither the Financial Times nor Gideon Rachman are in favor of Trump’s America or in favor of voters around the world standing up for nationalism.

And what about Fareed Zakaria, the man who displayed raw contempt for “cultural norms & behaviors, these social pathologies of the Scots-Irish two years ago? True to form, Zakaria left America in this  Fourth of July week and enjoyed the company of the people who have treated Scots-Irish far worse than he has.

No, we are not kidding. Zakaria launched this Fourth of July week in London with a roundtable with Zanny Minton Beddoes, the Editor of Economist, George Osborne, the former British politician & Alistair Campbell, an advisor to the ancient British prime minister Tony Blair. What an arrogant fest of anti-Trump rhetoric was that? Zakaria must have been so proud of how far he has come – the son of Rafiq Zakaria, a man who fought the British rule in India alongside Mahatma Gandhi, now sitting with the British elite & turning his nose at nationalism!

So do not dismiss what Gideon Rachman wrote in the Financial Times. Rachman may not approve of nationalism but, at least, he understands it & seems to respect its power.

Given the optimism in America, is it time for Lady Liberty to once again turn her gaze to the World? Perhaps yes. And certainly yes, if President Trump carries the Republicans home with renewed control of the Senate and the House in November 2018.

Have a Happy & Wonderful Fourth

 

 

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