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A Letter From Illinois to India

by Prof. Rajmohan Ghandi / Jun 29, 2020

Rojmohan Ghandi opinion article

If the availability of a safe vaccine against COVID-19 is hardly imminent, the first Tuesday of November this year, which is when the 59th U.S. presidential election is due to take place, is four full months away.

While polls may be overturned a dozen times between now and November 3, the outlook for Trump at present, as I type these lines in Urbana, Illinois, 225 km south of Chicago, is no longer as bright as it was. This change in the political weather has something to do, clearly, with COVID. 

I should state, before proceeding further, that the aim of this piece is to ask if happenings in the U.S. might at some point be reproduced elsewhere, including in India.

If, understanding Covid's threat, Trump had mobilized America to face it, he could have consolidated what until Covid seemed a fairly strong political position. However, Trump's marketing impulses - his anxiety regarding stocks and shares on Wall Street - led him to downplay and even deny Covid's threat.

On occasion, Trump denies his denials. Yet his unmasked face reveals Trump's true attitude to COVID. He wants to wish the virus away so that America can think of brighter things. 

However, as the number of COVID-induced deaths grows by the day, and as reopened businesses shut again, a crucial segment of this polarized nation, hitherto undecided or in Trump's corner, seems to be slipping away from him. This segment may be responding to hard facts. No furious wand, no shouts of "Fake!" - seem capable of blowing away the reality of a procession of caskets.

Reflection by Americans during the COVID-compelled solitude has apparently not gone in Trump's favour. Combined with the video of the George Floyd murder, that reflection has produced another American development, one far more significant than the erosion in Trump's support: acknowledgment by white Americans of the depth and breadth of racism in the U.S.

A culture defined thus far by its optimism, and by its pride in the feats of "the greatest nation on earth and in history" is suddenly looking frankly at itself and its history. More than that, white Americans are speaking publicly about cruelties perpetrated, and continuing to be perpetrated, on blacks and other non-whites.

Read the full opinion piece at