A glimmer of hope in a Trump presidency
Donald Trump will be sworn in as the nation’s 45th President. Despite the partisan debate that has smothered the presidential election, Trump could be the catalyst who brings real change to Palestinians who long for a just peace and an end to the Israeli-driven conflict. It may happen, but it may not. But clearly it has not happened under his predecessors
By Ray Hanania
President Obama wrote about the “audacity of hope” in motivating him to believe that the impossible can be achieved.
What’s really sad is that the “impossible” Obama has been talking about encompasses things that are fundamental human rights such as civil rights, an end to racism, justice, equal rights, and accountability.
“Audacity of Hope” was the title of Obama’s July 2004 speech to the Democratic National Convention, a title taken originally from his former Chicago pastor and religious mentor the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, who spoke about the “audacity to hope.”
The phrase referred to the reality of the oppressed who despite the most brutal of conditions and challenges that they faced in striving for their fundamental rights as human beings continued to cling to their hope that things could and would change.
He asked Americans during his speech, “Do we participate in a politics of cynicism, or do we participate in a politics of hope?”
In pushing the candidacy of the leading Democrats at the time, of presidential nominee John Kerry and John Edwards, Obama continued, “John Kerry calls on us to hope. John Edwards calls on us to hope. I’m not talking about blind optimism here, the almost willful ignorance that thinks unemployment will go away if we just don’t think about it, or health care crisis will solve itself if we just ignore it. That’s not what I’m talking. I’m talking about something more substantial. It’s the hope of slaves sitting around a fire singing freedom songs; the hope of immigrants setting out for distant shores; the hope of a young naval lieutenant bravely patrolling the Mekong Delta; the hope of a millworker’s son who dares to defy the odds; the hope of a skinny kid with a funny name who believes that America has a place for him, too.”
That powerful vision and spirit, re-defined eloquently by Obama during his speech at the convention (click here to read it), gave many Americans momentum to back Obama four years later in 2009, believing that he could bring real “change” for Americans.
Unfortunately, Obama did not bring real change at all, especially for Arabs and Palestinians although he did put a strong spotlight on the discrimination faced by Muslims, the majority of whom are non-Arab.
Donald Trump provides a new narrative, one that lifts the blinders from our eyes about our challenges and forces us to recognize that the battle for justice requires more than just hope. I call it the “Complacency of Hope.”
The Complacency of Hope is about the reality of hoping, in which too many people cling to hope but do nothing more. Rather than standup to oppression, we learn to tolerate it or we react with emotion rather than progressive activism that produces results.
Hope has led to a new level of apathy that substitutes for laziness but achieves the same results. American Arabs have done nothing to free Palestine, the heart of all the troubles that have thrown the Middle East into disarray and created opportunities for Al-Qaeda and ISIS and so many other extremist religious movements. What we don’t have today is a secular strategy for success, one that relies not on hope and prayers alone but that stands on a foundation of actual actions.
We need to act, not just hope. We need to develop strategies, not simply pray. We need to ask ourselves if we, as Arabs, are doing enough to champion justice, righteousness and defend our fundamental rights as human beings.? Are we confronting the racist and discriminatory system that smothers many Americans today and forces them to embrace injustice out of fear and as a result of bullying from foreign countries.
You can see the trends. Foreign activists and lobbyists pushing American Congressmen to defend the rights of a foreign country over the fundamental civil rights of Americans, simply for criticizing “Israel,” a foreign nation.
Palestinians suffered as much under Obama as they did under former President George W. Bush and under former President Bill Clinton.
In my column at the Arab News today, I write about how Trump represents an opportunity to climb out of the abyss of anger and emotion and instead find a way to fight for our rights as Palestinians and Arabs. The so-called movement that has challenged Trump is the same movement that has imprisoned us in this nation, a movement that tells us to support them and “hope,” yet never delivers on our needs and rights.
The anti-Trump movement is not driven by the movement to free Palestine or defend the rights of Arabs. It is carefully and selectively choosing to walk around Arab and Palestinian rights to embrace an illusion of justice, protecting “Muslims.” But they are not protecting the rights of Arab Muslims or Palestinian Muslims and they definitely do not care about the rights of Arab Christians and Middle East Christians. Those Christians have been long abandoned by the so called “progressive American movement” and those Christians are suffering immeasurably at the hands of religious fanatics in the Middle East and around the world.
Trump is cold water in our faces. Maybe he can wake us up from our slumber, our “Complacency of Hope” in which we have been misled, once again into believing that the liberals and progressive are truly concerned about our rights as Arabs and Palestinians.
They don’t care about us, but they lure us into a false sense of hope to put us in a coma as we wait forever for justice to arrive. But it doesn’t arrive because they are not bringing it to us.
We have to bring it ourselves. We need to take action. We need to come up with the strategy to make change. Real change. Change that will mean justice, freedom and peace.
Sometimes the only way to do that is through traumatic change and confrontation and sadly, even violence. If Israel has shown us anything, unfortunately, it is reinforced that violence may be the only way to achieve peace.
Israel clearly does not want peace based on justice. It wants the land. It wants the ethnic cleansing of Palestine and it will kill Christians and Muslims to achieve its goals.
Something must awaken the sleeping Arab World and possibly a Trump presidency of reality and conflict will push Arabs to finally fight for what is their right, and to ignore the lies and empty promises of happy talk American elected officials who will say anything to keep Arabs mired in their emotions.
(Ray Hanania is an award winning political columnist for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia and a former Chicago City Hall reporter. Email him at email@example.com or visit his website at TheDailyHookah.com.)
Other columns by Ray Hanania