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Doomsday and damaged democracy

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agarwalvj
agarwalvj
Born in village Kotah (Saharanpur), Vijendra Agarwal, left India in 1973 after Ph.D. (Physics) from IIT Roorkee but always remained connected with his roots. A researcher in Italy, Japan, and France, he came to the US in 1978. He served as faculty and academic administrator (Assistant Vice President, Associate Vice Chancellor, and Dean of the College of Science and Engineering) in several universities, and an Executive Fellow in the White House S&T Policy during Clinton administration. Following his voluntary retirement in 2014, he and his wife co-founded a US-based NGO, Vidya Gyan, to serve rural India toward education, health, and empowerment of girls and overall development. An Indian at heart, his passion for writing has no boundaries. This includes policy, politics and people, and social/cultural activities promoting community engagement. Currently, he is the Brand Ambassador for Times of India and frequently blogs on Linkedin on various topics.

The largest democracy, India, witnessed doomsday on June 25, 1975, when the democracy was crushed by the then India’s Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by declaring a state of emergency. Nearly 45 years later, on January 6, 2021, the doomsday emerged for the oldest, but now badly bruised and damaged, democracy- the United States of America. An unprecedented history was made for all the wrong reasons because of the most egregious act of “insurrection” incited by the sitting President Trump. Let me admit that I had not known what insurrection meant until the events unfolded on January 6.

We must ask why? Put it simply, in both cases, the greed and hunger for power blinded the leaders of the free world and they cared less about the damage they were causing to the democracy and decency of their people. I never knew that the political power can corrupt one’s moral and ethical thinking as much as it did.

I was shocked and terrified in 1975 on my way from Japan to France during about a month-long stay in my own country. I felt “silenced” with no sense of freedom like tens of millions around me.

In the United States since 1978, I had never expected the unexpected. The horrible spectacle by “domestic terrorists” storming and taking over the Capitol in Washington was unprecedented. They desecrated the Capitol, the sacred symbol of democracy, and interrupted the proceedings to formally vote on the legitimate win of President-elect Biden.

The biggest difference then and now is that we are in an extraordinary age of Internet communication and social media like Facebook and Twitter. India’s democracy was severely damaged in 1975, but the world cared less because India was among the “third world” countries then. The U.S., supposedly the most powerful nation, was no different than a third world country on January 6. It happened because of the last four years of anarchy and lack of consistent leadership by Trump. Today, the world is laughing at the United States. The Americans themselves are discussing and debating on what is yet to come in the remaining 10 days or so before Biden takes the oath of Presidency on January 20.

There are discussions privately, publicly, and in the world media about President Trump’s state of mind. People are asking for his voluntary resignation, removing him forcibly, and/or impeaching him for the second time. What a disgrace for a country with a sustained history of freedom and democracy since 1776. I could never imagine that the Speaker of the House (Nancy Pelosi) will publicly assert that Trump is deranged and dangerous, and incapable of serving as President. She is asking Vice President to revoke article 25 which would enable him to assume Presidency, which perhaps is unlikely to happen. By all accounts, the impeachment process is likely to begin in earnest in the House with the Democrats in the majority. Such action may further divide the already heavily divided America and Americans.

Everyone’s well-founded fear is how much more damage Trump may cause in his remaining days of Presidency. I cannot speak of the whole nation but even his own party men and women are beginning to distance themselves from Trump following an open call to his supporters inciting violence, riots, and arguably sedition on January 6. The world knew for almost a year about Trump’s imaginary conspiracy theories and his preconceived ideas of rigged elections. He refused to accept numerous court verdicts about the elections being fair with no evidence of voting fraud. Yet, Trump was blinded by his greed for power that he never conceded.

Now there are theories that the violent riots on January 6 were organized not only by Trump supporters but many individuals belonging to the groups from the Left, Right, and/or the Center causing death and destruction. They must and I am sure will be held accountable and punished as appropriate. What matters most is how the leader of the free world, at least until recently, the sitting President of the United States be held accountable and “punished” for inciting the riots and seizing the Capitol.

Where does divided America go from here? I had hopes that Trump will concede and ask his supporters to accept and respect Biden as the next President to rebuild America, heal the differences, and bring Americans together. I am afraid that the events of January 6, equated to coup d’état and blatant acts of arson, looting, damage, destruction, and death, will make it to be a distant dream. But, as Americans, we must never lose hope with Trump gone into oblivion in a matter of days.

America’s last four years under Trump were full of many embarrassments on the world stage including his failed leadership in managing the worst ever public health crisis due to the coronavirus pandemic. Despite the highest number of deaths due to COVID-19, America was beginning to be hopeful with two vaccines on hand to guard against the pandemic. Who would have imagined that another crisis was brewing on January 6, the darkest and dangerous day for the American democracy?

While I don’t believe in using “never”, it may surely be decades before America will regain its moral, ethical, and economic authority of being the world leader. India took decades to emerge from being a third world impoverished country to be included among the G-20 group of nations and being one of the few “firsts” with her own vaccine against COVID-19. Likewise, the U.S. under the right kind of leadership in the future will surely restore the pre-Trump eminence and greatness with a thriving democracy and decency of her people.

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agarwalvj
agarwalvj
Born in village Kotah (Saharanpur), Vijendra Agarwal, left India in 1973 after Ph.D. (Physics) from IIT Roorkee but always remained connected with his roots. A researcher in Italy, Japan, and France, he came to the US in 1978. He served as faculty and academic administrator (Assistant Vice President, Associate Vice Chancellor, and Dean of the College of Science and Engineering) in several universities, and an Executive Fellow in the White House S&T Policy during Clinton administration. Following his voluntary retirement in 2014, he and his wife co-founded a US-based NGO, Vidya Gyan, to serve rural India toward education, health, and empowerment of girls and overall development. An Indian at heart, his passion for writing has no boundaries. This includes policy, politics and people, and social/cultural activities promoting community engagement. Currently, he is the Brand Ambassador for Times of India and frequently blogs on Linkedin on various topics.
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