At last, America catching up?

The two news items currently making the headlines in America are the nomination of Mrs Hillary Clinton as the first ever woman presidential candidate and the condemnation of a rapist at the Stanford University in California.

The country which not only sanctimoniously lectures the world but also threatens and takes sanctions against countries on issues such as gender equality, human rights and religious freedom has gone gaga about the nomination of Mrs Clinton – whereas it should have been taken as a matter-of-fact affair. Now, courtesy the propaganda machine, the whole world’s attention will be brought to focus on the fact that a woman is – possibly — soon to lead America.

What’s the big deal? The big deal is that this will be made to look as if it is a universe-shaking phenomenon, a first that has never happened anywhere else before. And many millions will swallow that, forgetting that there are precedents galore that should bring some sense of humility to the bloated American ego, but alas doesn’t.

Indira Gandhi in India, Golda Meir in Israel, Margaret Thatcher in Britain, Mrs Bandaranaike in Sri Lanka, Dilma Rousseff in Brazil are among some of the most astute politicians who have steered their respective countries at crucial times. They are not America’s, but the world’s firsts if one is to be objective. But from the American perspective, no, it is Mrs Clinton who is the first – though not quite yet.

A vicious political campaign

As a post by the CNN news service noted some time ago, ‘It may be a long, raucous and rambling road to the White House, but choosing the next American president is anything but simple’. In fact America’s two main political parties — Democratic and Republican — choose their respective nominees through party-sponsored contests in each of the states and U.S. territories, a process that starts in February and takes up to five months. Once each party has a candidate, they spend the rest of the summer and autumn campaigning until the general election on November 8.

Early on during the current campaign it became clear that Hillary Clinton for the Democrats and Donald Trump for the Republicans were going to emerge as the favourites in the race for the nominations. This has already been clinched for Donald Trump, and Mrs Clinton has now reached the threshold. However, all is not done yet, because her rival in the Democratic Party, Bernie Sanders, is yet to let go.

The big first and surprise has been Donald Trump, a real estate mogul whom very few experts predicted he would be so successful because of his controversial positions on refugees, his plan to build a wall on the US-Mexico border (paid by the Mexicans!), his criticism of journalists, even finger-pointing at one during one of his recent speeches. The latest is his criticism of a judge who is of Mexican origin, who is hearing a case against Trump University.

Still, he has appealed to same raw emotions in a large swathe of the American electorate, and his popularity is as undimmed as he is unfazed about the charges being levelled against him – even by his own fellow Republicans. The Republican Party has given an image of itself as divided from the beginning of the campaign, and it has stuck despite Trump’s rise on the national scene. So the next big thing for him is the White House, which he is confident of occupying come January next year as the President of the US.

Trump has lunged at Hillary Clinton with his barbed words, and has received back in equal measure from her. She is considered to be more savvy on foreign policy matters, despite the mess-up at the Libyan embassy with the loss of American life, and the email controversy that continues to dog her. She has been accused of using her private email address for official purposes as well when she was Secretary of State, and has deponed in the Congress on this issue, but is not considered completely cleared in many American eyes.

Further, and paradoxically, she is not getting the support of younger American women who, along with other Americans, seem to prefer Trump’s economic stance over that of Hillary Clinton, given that he is a very successful and rich businessman. Hillary Clinton has given a foreign policy speech that Trump has already responded to, and she is due to deliver an economic policy speech.

Raking up the opponent’s past sexual adventures or those of the partner, and below the belt punches are common currency in America’s political campaigning, and they have not been missing in the current one, nor have we heard the last. The most benign thing that can be said about all these shots parried is that at least the violence is only verbal; generally there has not been physical violence in America’s elections, although social violence is endemic there – another of those American paradoxes.

Hillary Clinton: will she, will she not? Either way, surprise awaits Americans on November 8.

* * *

The Stanford rapist

This is the label which has been stuck to Brock Turner, the 20-year old student who perpetrated a brutal sexual assault on an unconscious 24-year old woman at Stanford University earlier this year and has been condemned to six months of imprisonment, listed as a sexual offender, and given a probation of three years.

‘Campus sexual assault’ is considered to be a known phenomenon across America, which also has invented the term ‘date rape’. Much of it has apparently been hush-hush though reported. However, the uniqueness of the present case is that the victim, only identified by the pseudonym ‘Emily Doe’, has written an impassioned letter to the judge, which apparently he read before the sentence was pronounced, in which she described in great detail about what happened to her and her profound feelings. Her plea has ‘gone viral’ – another catchy cliché –, and so has the letter written by accused’s father to the judge. In it he says that the sentence is too harsh for the 20-minute action of his son in his only 20 years of life, and regrets that in prison he will not have his favourite beefsteak!!

No need to say that twitterers, bloggers and other social media activist have railed against the father’s insensitivity and callousness. Not unsurprisingly, there have been death threats against the judge – the sentence being considered too light for such a sordid aggression that has left the woman permanently scarred both physically and emotionally, as her letter revealed.

Now we wonder whether Ms Leslee Udwin, the British filmmaker who made the documentary film ‘India’s Daughter’ about the 23-year old nicknamed ‘Nirbhaya who was raped and killed in New Delhi a couple of years ago will rush to make a documentary – or be allowed to – about the Stanford rapist and ‘campus sexual violence’ in America. In order to depict the ‘pain of the rape victim’s family, agony of the rapists’ families, the chauvinism of lawyers, psychopathic nature of the rapist who has no remorse’.

And if she doesn’t, rest assured that it is not the otherwise vociferous Indian secularists who will raise their purist voices.

* Published in print edition on 10 June 2016

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