William Faulkner, in his banquet speech at the City Hall in Stockholm, on December 10, 1950, on receiving the Nobel Prize in literature, said: “Our tragedy today is a general and universal physical fear so long sustained by now that we can even bear it. There are no longer problems of the spirit. There is only the question: When will I be blown up?”
What in the world did he mean? “Blown up” by what? How?
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If you lived through the endless night linking the fears of Tuesday evening, November 8, to the terror of the following morning, wondering how to explain Donald Trump’s victory to your children, you have a glimpse of what frightened Faulkner so many years ago so far from his homeland. But can we still ask serious, even frightening, questions, as Faulkner did, any more?
“Does America deserve to survive?” Faulkner asked in 1955 at the news of a vicious murder and mutilation of a young black boy.
Just before this nightmare descended upon us I read that a European philosopher had said that if he were an American he would have voted for Trump. “It will be a kind of big awakening,” he had said. “New political processes will be set in motion.”
Perhaps, I thought to myself, but this man for sure does not live in the United States. He does not have a child who goes to public school in New York. He has not struggled to calm the raw nerves of an eight-year-old boy who is scared that all his Mexican friends will be rounded up and deported from the US.
The angry liberals
So where would we stand between the gaudy and juvenile Stalinism of what today passes as “the European left” and the delusional liberalism now publicly stunned by Trump’s victory in the US?
Liberal America is right now flabbergasted, incredulous, violent, recriminatory. It now openly fears that it might be ruled as Chile was ruled by Augusto Pinochet, Iran by the Shah and the Ayatollahs, Egypt by Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Russia by Vladimir Putin, Turkey by Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Palestine by Benjamin Netanyahu. How dare history even think about doing to liberal America what liberal America has done to the world?
Recrimination, finger-wagging, and continuing to be deaf and blind to reason and logic have resumed apace among these angry liberals.
Diehard Clinton supporters are accusing those who as a matter of principle opposed her record of corruption and warmongering of having paved the way for Trump.
Many Bernie Sanders supporters, myself included, made a strategic choice not to vote for Clinton if we live in safe states such as New York, where I live, and where she won, and vote for her in swing states such as Florida or Ohio, which they did and yet she still lost.
We the first targets of Trump's xenophobic thuggery and dangerous delusions, we the Muslims, the Mexicans, the African-Americans, women, we are here at the forefront of defying Trump's ignominy.
Liberal America refuses to recognise its dangerously delusional blinkers. The anger and violence they wanted safely deposited in Clinton’s White House to unleash on other countries is now launched on Sanders’ and Stein’s supporters who they falsely and conveniently blame for having denied them that treacherous peace of mind.
Their beloved Barack Obama gifted the Zionist settler colony $38bn in military expenditure over the next 10 years in a lovely liberal gesture to maim and murder more Palestinians, as would have Clinton in even more generous terms, were she to be elected.
That they don’t mind. But having Trump preside over their national destiny, that they will not tolerate.
The vulgarity of such accusations, however, is a diversionary tactic, consciously or unconsciously launched to pre-empt a far deeper soul-searching now necessary to hold and heal the soul of this nation.
Sanders and his supporters had been continuously warning against this outcome for months, when Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Donna Brazile, and the entire leadership of the Democratic Party came together to dismantle and sabotage his campaign, and send a deeply flawed candidate to face the monstrosity of Trump.
Bringing the US in the fold of humanity
But such recriminations, left or right, are at this point a waste of time and a distraction. Soul-searching yes, witch-hunt no.
There should be rethinking of the politics of race and gender, but not at the expense of suspending critical judgment on the global warmongering which Obama inherited from George W Bush and institutionalised chapter and verse, and which Clinton would have widely exacerbated.
There is no mystery to this result of choosing Trump over Clinton: This is almost the same population that over the past eight years twice elected an African-American to the White House.
What happened this year? In its jeremiad mourning for its favourite candidate even The New York Times had to admit what happened: “Democratic Party … attempted a Clinton restoration at a moment when the nation was impatient to escape the status quo.”
Sanders was the ready and riding answer to that historic call. But what did the Democratic establishment, The New York Times and The Washington Post included, do to Sanders?
Trump is rightly seen as “a twisted caricature of every rotten reflex of the radical right”. But to fight this banality, we need to go far beyond useless recriminations and reach much deeper into the troubled heart of America itself: a racist, misogynist, ignorant, paranoid, xenophobic, white supremacist America. No liberal sugar-coating of these facts will wish them away.
Faulkner thought “the basest of all things is to be afraid”. Then he daringly, defiantly and triumphantly declared: “I refuse to accept this. I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail.”
But how is that prevailing to occur? First and foremost, by collapsing the false binary between the safe inside and the troubled outside. The US militarism has just gone through two successive phases of two terms of Bush’s neoconservative and Obama’s neoliberal imperialism. It has left the earth in shattered chards.
The US will now need its most recent immigrants more than ever to help it learn how to survive this Trumpian calamity. We have been there: at the receiving end of the US-made Donald Trumps of the world.
We the tyrannised, we the abused, the dispossessed, the forsaken, we in need of US “humanitarian interventions”, we the refugees of wars US liberal imperialism has caused around the world, we the Palestinians, the Libyans, the Iraqis, the Afghans, the Latin Americans, the Africans, we are all here: Trump’s worse nightmare and battle-tested in fighting the bullies of the world.
We the first targets of Trump’s xenophobic thuggery and dangerous delusions, we the Muslims, the Mexicans, the African-Americans, women, we are here at the forefront of defying Trump’s ignominy.
Along with millions of other Americans, we the most recent immigrants are now safely home at the dangerous delusions of an angry mob of white supremacist zombies shielding its wild fantasies behind democratic politics.
The comfort zone of liberal fantasies of peace at home and warmongering abroad is now completely erased.
The underbelly of the US is exposed for the whole world to see. Let the calamity of Trump do for the US at large what 9/11 failed to do: to bring Americans back to the fold of humanity – with fear and trembling like everyone else, with insecurity fighting the indignity of an ignorant tyrant, seeking to secure a modicum of self-respect in the bewildered belly of this warring beast.
Hamid Dabashi is Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature at Columbia University in New York.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policies.