The ‘anti-racism’ protests in the US are taking on ‘Shaheen Bagh’ type characteristics with public spaces being ‘liberated’ and turned into ‘autonomous’ zones. Unlike in India, where the protests were allowed to play out their own contradictions, President Trump is threatening to send the military to clear these areas if the local administrations fail to do so. The entire narrative, he hopes, is feeding into the polarisation required to get him re-elected. The popular concept of ‘freedom’ among a large number of conservative Americans has been for a long time an extreme interpretation of the Constitution – such as the absolute right to bear arms, to private property and to free speech. As such, ‘communism’ has been the most reviled ideology because it implies state control over all of these things.
Ironically, much of the ideological content being provided to the ‘anti-racism’ protests is being given by the extreme Left in exercising these very aforementioned rights. The ‘autonomous zones’ that have been created have not just been supposedly ‘liberated’ from the ‘militarised police’, but are being controlled by gun-toting vigilantes enforcing the new rules, supposedly for ‘self-protection’. Sadly, the concepts of ‘defunding’ the police and ‘community led management of crime’, which raise certain pertinent issues, are being hijacked by the ‘anti-Trumpism’ of certain groups who, like the left in India, are happy to amorally latch on to any issue to serve their own ends.
Americans as a people need to realise that they cannot hope to have anything like a system as exists in the Scandinavian countries, for instance, without re-examining the ‘right to bear arms’. Till such time it is possible for any mentally disturbed or radical ideologue to buy half a dozen guns to carry out mass killings, the police will need to be heavily armed. The potential for violence in every police interaction with the public is so great that it becomes easy for things to get out of control. The Republicans have always been against a ban on ownership of firearms, but it is the failure of the Democrats to act upon their convictions when in power that has led to the present pass. There were many hopes from Barak Obama, but he mostly talked himself out of every opportunity to make a change. Now, the anarchic outburst of protests against racism will further entrench the arms-lobby in its beliefs. These divisions in American society are not just about race, but also about long-cherished values that are increasingly becoming irrelevant in a changing environment. What concerns many is that a lot of the good may get thrown out with the bad, tearing the fabric of democracy in an irremediable way.