It was nice knowing you
(Published on August 6, 2016 in Business Standard)
I keep close tabs on you, and you don’t know that I exist. That’s okay. I have loved you quietly—your beautiful constitution, your can-do spirit, your great lovely wild spaces, your music and your movies, especially Ice Age even though the new one sucks, your ability to think big, and your willingness to respect excellence and imagination.
But it’s true love, not blind love. I know you neck with the Saudis. I know you hold hands with Pakistan. I know you are an unequal society. I know that for every liberty you defend, you quietly abrogate another. I know you’re insular, greedy, spoiled, and you keep getting into brawls and making doody on other people’s carpets. Still, I love your team spirit and your protection of individual rights, and the fact that you appreciate the creative possibilities of challenge and disruption.
But even from my disempowered position, even though I’m the one with the feelings, I’m biting the bullet to say two things: 1) It’s over between us, and 2) It’s not me, it’s you.
Because, frankly, you’ve become mad as a bag of frogs.
You’re the richest country in the world, the mightiest, with the best incubators of innovation, technology, research, and intellectual progress. You gave us modern aviation. You gave us the Internet. You put the first man on the moon, for god’s sake. You currently have, in office, a man who represents the best of America—a smart, inclusive, funny, liberal-minded, melting pot of a man who, in a world gone increasingly bonkers, makes the US look really good, and sings beautifully to boot. No matter whether the rest of us love you or hate you, we take you seriously.
Look, I get the fooling around with the Saudis thing—you’re addicted to oil, you have double standards on human rights, you can’t help yourself. I get the necking with Pakistan thing—you don’t understand the region, or the mind-set of non-state combatants, you need local backup. I get the consumerist obsession—you have built your country on the belief that creating ever more desire for ever more consumption is the purpose of life.
But I cannot forgive you for your flirtation with The Donald. That just displays a degree of self-destructiveness that is going to wreck your life, and all your relationships.
It might be entertaining for us in the rest of the world to watch your slo-mo train wreck of an election, but it also makes our blood run cold. Thanks to our own recent experience here in India, we’re in a position to appreciate all the dramatic irony. Here, too, we elected an exclusivist, paranoid demagogue who talked development and walked the worst, basest instincts in people. We, too, had a large section of people who simply did not believe that he could actually possibly get elected. Everyone was going to come to their senses before voting day. Right? They were going to watch the tenor of the campaign—strong appeals to Hindu supremacist instincts, disturbingly vague promises of ‘development’. Right? Except they didn’t—or worse, they did, and they liked it. What we’ve got to show for it is massive unrest, violent vigilantism, ugly jingoism, and social regression—and lots of voters moaning that they made a huge mistake.
I can’t watch you go through that, so I’m breaking up with you for now. You’ll show your true colours in November, at which point I’ll reconsider. I may never mean anything to you; but I would love for you to continue to mean something to me.
With love for old times’ sake, but also some hollow laughter,