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Many thought this moment would have never occurred in our present universe, but here it is anyway. The president of the United States of America has signed off on an executive order, which suspends immigration from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Yemen and Sudan for three months. This includes those with valid American visas. In addition, he issued a four-month suspension of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program. In other words, no person of Syrian nationality looking to enter the United States as a refugee would be allowed for at least the next four months. However, as far as refugees are concerned, those who belong to a minority religious group in the country of origin — for example, Christians in Syria — would be given priority. This is not the first step toward the end of Western liberalism as that would mean a compromise in the liberal values so championed by the Western world. This is the end of Western liberalism as we know it.
There isn’t much that one can expect in terms of compassion and bare minimum morality from any so-called populist authoritarian leader of a nation, let alone Trump. In a way, it is actually great to see the long-established Western liberal order being shaken up to the core by Trump in the United States, Theresa May in the United Kingdom and Marine Le Pen in France, among others. People have been complacent for far too long, rejoicing in their own joy and comfort while letting the rest of the world slide into the dumpster that is unchecked neoliberalism and incessant war. Far too many innocent lives have been lost in order for people of the Western world to wake up to the reality that they have — knowingly or unknowingly — created.
However, this may not be a “hopeful” reading of current events for you as it does not have the Hollywood ending you perhaps desire. More importantly, the benefit of the situation has to be seen in conjunction with all the destruction and overall losses that it will bring with it, in my view. It is interesting, the history of Western liberalism. Many in the West, from every corner of the political spectrum, see the values of Western liberalism as being championed by the West since the inception of the Western world. As Samuel Huntington argued, there is a fundamental discord of values between the West and the rest of the world — my people and I are just not cut out to value free speech, free expression, democracy and other gifts that the West is allegedly endowed with naturally. It may come as a surprise to the reader but much of what one sees as Western liberalism today is exactly what was found in societies across the globe, from Iran to India to China. While Western democracy took its form in Athens, experiments with democratic practices were being undertaken in many parts of Asia and the Middle East. Ignorance is nowhere nearly as dangerous as pride, and this is just one example.
What happened to our humanity? Our leaders continue to fall for one of the major signs of fundamentalist behavior; emphasizing just one aspect of a person’s identity above all else. One can be a Muslim or a Christian or a Jain but also enjoy the works of Shakespeare and Turkish coffee, so what is the rational justification to focus on just one of the above and define it to be one’s supreme identity focus point? One thing that is clear from all of this is that we as humans fail to learn from our history.
Yash Kothari, College of Arts and Sciences ’17, [email protected]
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this essay misstated Shia Muslims as a minority religion group in Iraq.