By Kit Roberts
AS THE dust settled from the storming of the Capitol Building and troops took to the streets to lock down the area for Biden’s inauguration, a stream of crass and ill-informed comparisons began inevitably to flow in.
It was, people said, like nothing you would expect to see in an American city, but more like scenes from Baghdad or Kabul, with tooled-up US soldiers patrolling the streets as the threat of terror hangs over the city.
That the image of US soldiers patrolling city streets immediately evokes images of Fallujah or Basra says a great deal about the complacency with which American democracy has been treated.
Fighting for freedom is an export, not a domestic concern, even when literal fascism is banging at the doors of the heart of American democracy.
It may be a different kind of exceptionalism to that trumpeted by the far right, but it is exceptionalism nonetheless. At the lowest ebb of American democracy since the Civil War, many commentators and politicians backed away from owning this entirely home-grown disaster.
These lazy comparisons abdicate responsibility by using Middle Eastern countries as a yardstick by which to measure the failings of a democracy. It draws entirely inappropriate parallels which whitewash decades of political and military intervention. There is an unearned tone of superiority.
It is not the influence of dictatorships or paramilitaries in Iraq and Afghanistan that has caused this domestic crisis. The level of disinformation pumped out by former president Trump and his administration has shown how a flexible attitude towards the truth can wreak havoc even in a stable democracy.
The lack of regulation of tech companies, allowing them a monopoly on media platforms whilst not subjecting them to the same regulation to which the press itself must adhere is an American creation. Ideological echo chambers foster a toxic misunderstanding of America’s place in the world.
In countries like Iraq and Afghanistan, people have been tortured and died for meaningful elections that reflect the will of the people and represent their interests.
Egypt rode a wave of optimism for the future that is now dashed by military dictatorship and unlikely to change for many years. Even Tunisia, the only country of the Arab Spring to have merged as a functioning democracy, is facing political deadlock in parliament and riots in the streets.
The difference is that as bad as things have gotten, America still has the institutions intact both to regain its constitutional balance after the Trump years, and to affect progressive change in the future. But to do that it must own the fascist aberration it has created.
Despite the victory of Biden and Harris, the last four years have been a crusade to destroy the very institution from the person elected to uphold it. The problems which led to the Capitol Storming existed before Trump took office, and they still exist now that he has left.
Trump’s presidency has lifted the veil on deep set realities in America that many of its citizens, such as ethnic minorities, women, the LGBTQIA+ community, have known for years.
Drawing comparisons with Iraq, or Afghanistan is a refusal to own these problems. If America cannot admit its own failures, it cannot hope to overcome them.
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