For years the USA had portrayed itself as the oasis of unity in diversity. The land of migrants and opportunity, where every hardworking migrant can achieve their life aspirations. The country, where dreams become a reality – the American dream. With the discovery of seaways to South America by the European explorers, colonisation and slavery, the USA has become a multi-cultural melting point and the beacon of diversity, where migrants from all works of life – irrespective their race, religion, culture, linguistics, ideology – come together in unity and diversity to create the most powerful nation of the earth. That unity without uniformity and diversity without fragmentation makes the USA a unique nation amongst nations and a country which others look up to. The uniqueness, and quintessential features that have elevated the USA to its Olympian heights and given it enormous power and control globally, can only be sustained and effectively used to the USA’s advantage if the country has a democratic and unifying leader. Those leadership qualities are something one hardly finds in President Donald Trump
In a clear case of Unity in diversity, Nepal, a multicultural, multi-ethnic, multilingual and multi-religious nation, with 125 different castes, 129 different languages have been living harmoniously since ancient times. Malaysia made up of different cultures, religions, languages, etc is another case in point, where Unity in diversity is inculcated in the psyche of the citizens. Despite having two official languages (English and French) with many cultural, religious, racial, etc, differences, Canada is today one of the best countries in the world economically, culturally, socially, politically etc. The European Union is not left behind. Having fought many wars in the past, the EU realised that their unity lies in their diversity. The European Union has not only adopted ‘United in Diversity’ (Latin: In varietate Concordia) in 2000 as its official motto, it worked tirelessly to promote it. It brought other member states with 23 other languages into its union and created a common currency and economic, social and political integration amongst its members. Today, the EU, one of the strongest unions on earth is reaping the fruits of its diversity.
To gain the Unity in Diversity dividends, a country or union must go farther than a mere acceptance or tolerance of social, cultural, political, physical, linguistic, religious and ideological differences. It must understand and accept the reality that those differences enrich human interactions and lead to greatness, if well managed and harnessed.
When President Barack Obama came to power on January 20, 2009, as the 44th – and only black – President of the United States, he spent much of his eight years in office preaching reconciliation and inculcate the positiveness of diversity. The once toxic and polarised socio-political climate of the USA started to change positively. That tolerance pendulum suddenly swung to the divisive direction immediately President Donald Trump came to power in 2017.
Some political analysts have labelled Donald Trump’s victory against his top-rated political nemesis Hillary Clinton, as the biggest political earthquake in modern history. Yes, a political tsunami you may call it; not because of Trump’s silver hair, but the newly elected 45th President of the United States hardly hid his shrewd business ethics, aggressive nationalism, narcissism, racist and sexist behaviours and other divisive tendencies unfit for a leader. The Trump’s unexpected election victory made some to question the political maturity of the USA electorate and how deep Obama’s reconciliatory message had in the life of an average American. But little does one question the political, manipulative and marketing skills of Donald Trump, without which he would not have ended up in the White House.
Although Trump’s victory generated protest world-wide, causing thousands of people to swarm the streets across the USA and beyond, the protest has hardly affected his actions, policies and utterances as the President of the most powerful nation on earth. Rather, criticisms seem to have done the opposite. He masterly energized his base.
Today, the United States of America is hardly a united country. Unity in diversity, which has sustained the country since ages has been reversed. The country is divided along political, family, tribal and religious lines. A study by the Public Religion Research Institute indicates that 91 per cent of Americans say they are polarized and 74 per cent feel they are extremely divided.
The same sentiments have been echoed by the Gallup Poll. The poll found that 77 per cent of the US citizens feel the country is more divided. A Washington Post-University of Maryland poll also discovered that 7 in every 10 Americans like the current political mayhem to the Vietnam War. Research further shows that the political situation in the country is sickening as the Pew Research Centre indicates. The centre has found out that many Americans are experiencing bouts of depression due to worrying political trend. Distrust, fear, intolerance have become part of social parasite sucking the taproot of the USA unity. Neighbours relocate to a different area, neighbourhood or state due to lack of trust, fear of other neighbours or social toxicity.
The polarization prevailing between the Democrats and Republicans is not helping the situation, with most Democrats simply cannot stomach President Trump’s unconventional leadership style. Republicans, on the other hand, either out of fear or due to ideological slavery, wholly follow the Trump’s, sometimes, unconstitutional, path, even though some of his party members deeply disagree with him. Suddenly, the political reality in the US has become a matter of do-as-I-say, and hardly where freedom, democracy and constitutional rights are the guiding light of the society. What has happened to the unity and diversity of the USA, which has sustained the country for long?
Has it become so difficult for our leaders to show and live by examples? Imagine the drama that ensued between Trump and the US House of Representative Speaker Nancy Pelosi on February 5, 2020, during the State of Union, which sent a severe warning to the entire world that feud between Democrats and Republicans has gone too deep. Trump snubbed Ms Pelosi’s outstretched hand and in return, she tore the copy of his speech at the end of the address in front of cameras, drawing anger from the Republicans. All these transpired due to ideological differences between the duo. But in a country with good leadership, our differences can be our strength.
The emergence of different racial, ethnic, religious and linguistic groups in the USA is not a new phenomenon. That has been the strength and uniqueness of the USA. But not today. The Republicans view the country from a traditional perspective, while Democrats believe in progressiveness, according to Lee Dustman, a senior fellow in the political reform programme at the think-tank New America.
“The Republican party sees the true national identity of America as in the past, a time when America was a white, Christian nation. It’s a traditionalist vision. And then we have another party, the Democratic Party, which has a very different vision of America. It’s a more secular place, it’s more progressive, and it celebrates diversity,” Dustman explained.
But show me any American who does not have migrants roots. Not even President Trump, who preaches schismatic politics and blames foreigners for all the ills that have befallen the USA, can disentangle himself from the migration web. Trump’s grandfather Fredrich Trump was born in Kallstadt, Germany in 1869, and his mother ( Mary Anne Macleod) came from Scotland in 1929. President Trump’s first wife Ivana Zelníčková came from Zlin, Czechoslovakia. Trump’s third wife Melania Trump (née Knavs), was born in Novo Mesto, Yugoslavia (present-day Slovenia). Melania Trump’s Slovenian parents (Trump’s in-laws) Viktor and Amalija Knavs, obtained USA citizenship in August 2018 through what President Donald Trump had called “chain migration,” which he vehemently criticised and vowed to abolish. On 2 November 2017, President Trump sent out a twitter message to his 80 million followers:
“CHAIN MIGRATION must end now! Some people come in, and they bring their whole family with them, who can be truly evil. NOT ACCEPTABLE!”
Biologically, Donald Trump’s youngest child Barron William Trump, his only child with Melania Trump is of German (father’s side) and Scottish (mother’s side) descents. Trump’s son-in-law Jared Corey Kushner is the elder son of Charles Kushner, the son of Jewish immigrants from the USSR.
With all the diversities and makeups, one can understand the outrage that welcomed Trump’s “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime-infested places from which they came” twitter message aimed at his three female political opponents, all American citizens. Nor Trump’s distortion that the Somalian-born American senator Ilhan Omar wanted to “reshape the USA like the anarchy Somalia. No government, no safety, no police, no nothing. Just anarchy” less irresponsible and racist a statement. Certainly, not a statement expected from the President of supposedly the most democratic and multicultural country in the world. Call such twitter messages – and so many other demagoguery texts and statements attributed to Trump – racist and anti-immigrant, if you like; they hardly erase the danger facing the USA as it goes down the divisive trench of diversity – the same very characteristic that had long sustained the great nation for years.
And no group of Americans is victims of divisiveness and Trump’s new dichotomy policies more than the minorities – the Blacks, Latinos, Asians, women, homosexuals.
A highly diverse country like the USA, a melting point of racial, religious, linguistic, cultural, ethnicity, political differences, needs a unifying leader. One hardly finds that in President Trump. Rather than harnessing the gains and greatness in the Unity in diversity, Trump is doing the opposite in the name of Make America Great. Is President Trump’s Make America Great gospel tearing the country apart?