PUBLIC EYEMICHAEL CHUGANI
Column
by

Will Americans say ‘No we can’t’ to the idea of a bigot in the White House?

Donald Trump’s demagoguery threatens to resurrect the country’s dark post-9/11 days for those with the ‘wrong looks’

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 10 May, 2016, 4:32pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 10 May, 2016, 4:32pm

What will it be like living in America with Donald Trump as president? It’s a question I dread but must face as a tan-skinned American with so-called Middle Eastern features.

No, I’m not Muslim. My parents were Hindu Sindhis from western India. I’m Hong Kong-born and don’t follow any faith. But in Trump’s America, just the wrong appearance will make you a target.

I was living in the US when Osama bin Laden sent planes crashing into the Twin Towers. It was a suffocating time for Americans with the wrong looks. Turbaned Sikhs, whose religion differs greatly from Islam, became targets. Some took to wearing oversized baseball caps to conceal their faith. Women with headscarves lived in fear. Pilots ejected Arab-speakers solely because fellow passengers felt uneasy.

It took painfully long for most Americans to overcome their post-9/11 Islamophobia. Say what you will about America, but its collective conscience knows when to do the right thing. Leaving aside a black man in the White House, how else do you think Indian-American Bobby Jindal – yes, a man with Middle Eastern features – won election twice as governor of redneck Louisiana?

Pundits laughingly wrote off Trump as unelectable. Look where he is now.

But bigotry is easy to stoke, easier still for demagogues. It took Trump mere months to reawaken the Islamophobia that the national conscience took 15 years to stifle. His supporters are already seeing his pledge to ban Muslims as approval to resurrect the darkest days of post 9/11.

Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank wrote recently of a white woman pouring liquid on a head-scarfed woman, calling her Muslim trash and a terrorist. No, she didn’t have Middle Eastern features. She was a US-born African American but her Muslim headscarf made her a target.

Pundits laughingly wrote off Trump as unelectable. Look where he is now. I hope my gut feeling is wrong but it is gnawing at me, saying his bigotry against Muslims, Mexicans, and women is a path rather than a roadblock to the White House.

CNN host Fareed Zakaria wrote that he is appalled by Trump’s demagoguery, not because he is a Muslim but because he is an American. I suspect many Americans will sit out this election. I shall too.

Yes we can. That was the slogan that propelled Barack Obama to the White House. I am not religious but I know that people who are share a belief that bigotry has no place in their religion. Maybe come election day, Americans of all faiths will say “No we can’t” to a Trump presidency.