US elections through Sri Lankan eyes
| by Prof. S. Ratnajeevan H. Hoole
( November 18, 2012, Washington DC, Sri Lanka Guardian ) In the midst of the most bitterly divided political era of recent American history, Barack Obama retained his office for another term. Perhaps because of our common heritage of the left-leaning, non-aligned movement, Tamils and Sinhalese in the US generally supported Obama.
In contradiction to Obama’s liberal positions eschewing racism, lie the nationalist sentiments of his Sri Lankan supporters. Except for token support for Obama, the “Tamils for Obama” website is frozen in 2009 with articles like “Save the Tigers.” Fear of the Sri Lankan state is so real that there are few names given after their statements.
Similarly “Sri Lankan Americans for Barack Obama”chaired by Dr. Kamarlal Fernando, except for a few lines supporting Obama, praises President Rajapaksa through its website. Two reasons adduced are that:
1) “He defeated a ruthless enemy after 30 years of war” and “without his focus and vision this should not have been possible” (though they fail to mention the extrajudicial executions and the killing of thousands of Tamil civilians in the process and the focus of General Fonseka)
2) “As a Sri Lankan national, the President has the support of the majority Sinhalese (apparently meaning he is not a Tamil).
Our racist organisations seem to have supported Obama despite our racism because Obama makes it safe for us in predominantly White America.
Republicans opposing Obama on the other hand are insensitive, their insensitivity often swiftly turning into ugly aggression. They shouted abuse at Obama during his State of the Union address.After the second presidential debate in which Romney was widely perceived to have “lost,” his son, Tagg, wanted to “rush down to the debate stage and take a swing’’ at Obama. Whereas Americans have traditionally been deferential to the president, they have not been so to the black president. The Republican Party, once respected as the party of Lincoln, (Eisenhower and Reagan), is now swayed by the extremist Tea Party and favours politicians pandering to the far right.
Huma Abedin, a Muslim of Indian antecedents, is Hillary Clinton’s chief of staff. Abedin was targeted by Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann (a Tea Party leader and Republican presidential aspirant), to tie her falsely to the Muslim Brotherhood in an attempt to embarrass Obama.
Thankfully, such Americans are in minority. And that is why Obama has secured office once again.
Education and consistency
Ranking states by percentage over age 25 with college degrees, the 10 most educated states voted for Obama and the 10 least educated (excepting Nevada because of its Hispanics) for Romney.
It goes to show that the least educated are easily manipulated by a few shrewd Republicans who are ready to spin facts and manufacture falsehoods to project their vision. Consider homosexual marriage which is held up by Republicans as anti-Christian. True, it is but the less educated Christians do not think beyond that and are prey to manipulation. For Jesus Himself defines Christian marriage in St. Matthew, 19:4-6: one man with one woman till death. But many Americans opposing homosexual marriage are themselves divorced and remarried. Even evangelical leaders like Jimmy Swaggert and Jim Baker have messy marital histories.
Politicians and many US Churches too, therefore, would never prohibit divorce simply because half their followers would leave them. But targeting homosexuals allows them to create artificial boundaries for a ‘moral community’ which will use its vote to safeguard its values.
Unfortunately, the urgency inherent in communalism does not lend itself to a critical examination of political issues. Thus, many who oppose abortion are loudly for the death penalty. Those expressing concern for the unborn are callous towards the poor who die without medical coverage. And the staunchest proponents of the Second Amendment, the right to bear arms, would not be happy to see it practised in the Middle East.
A rare exception to America’s moral incongruency is the Roman Catholic Church which is consistent in its standards. So is the Episcopal Church (Anglican), perhaps the most influential and educated denomination, but in an odd way: It has no standards on marriage; one can be divorced and remarried or homosexually married and be a bishop. And the church is silent on abortion. No contradictions there!
Right-wing thinking goes closely with communalism and non-education. The “For Obama” Sri Lankan leaders in the US may seem educated and right-wing, but that is because they are spinning for the less educated among us or because theirs is a technical education with no liberal readings in our Sri Lankan scheme of learning.
Unthinking Sri Lankans?
I am happy that most opinion-makers in Sri Lanka have written against impeaching the CJ on grounds of the rule of law. Unfortunately, some of these persons see no contradiction in supporting the cold-blooded murder of the LTTE leadership and civilians as if that is divorced from the rule of law.
The UNP has condemned the murder of Welikada inmates. But they have not uttered a word about the Mullivaikal massacres.
Many Tamils rightly think that the Ban Ki Moon Expert Panel report should be acted upon. But they defended murders and child conscription by the LTTE.
Many Buddhists do not want animals to be killed on Poya Days, but do eat meat on other days and think little of Tamils being murdered on any day of the month. Likewise, good Saivite vegetarian Tigers killing Sinhalese. I am reminded of that vegetarian called Hitler.
Many Christian priests preached the “Love of God” while they supported Tiger massacres. One equated Prabhakaran to Jesus Christ. They are highly educated but were overawed by their tribalism into being unthinking or were spinning for Prabhakaran to mind-control the less educated of us.
Romney, being a wealthy businessman, could not understand the suffering of the poor. He could not put himself in another’s shoes because he was caged by his privilege.This is why he could not understand why the poor overwhelmingly supported Obama, suggesting instead that they are lazy people looking for a handout, even though they have no real problems. It is a lot like many Sinhalese asking what problems we Tamils have – I have a long list.
Education and wider reading will help us overcome our narrow thinking. Then we will come closer to understanding what politicians do not want us to see – that a government that attacks the application of laws that protect some will at some point attack the laws that protect the rest of us – as happened at Mullivaikal and now at Welikada.