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     Volume 9 Issue 45| November 26, 2010 |


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One off

The American Journey (Part I)
Autumn Sonata

Aly Zaker

My journey in the Americas this time began on the ninth day of my arrival here. This is because I have had such diverse experiences here over the years that, I can recount my trips with the special highlights of each different sojourn. I travelled south to a small town in Pennsylvania called Malvern on the ninth day of my visit to the States. This was 'the' high point of my visit this time. Malvern, being in the south of New York, had still hugged on to the receding colours of fall. On a wonderfully sunny day I was taken to a conducted trip at the periphery of Malvern where a bicycle trail ran through the most beautiful landscape that I saw of the American fall. I was simply floored by the riot of colours. A brook ran alongside the trail and the colourful landscape was interspersed with an occasional leafless tree reminding one of the impending winter. Back to day one, I was greeted by the exhilarating experience of northerly wind of late autumn as I came out in to the open from the artificially heated concourse of the JFK airport; the crisp feelings of the northerly wind on my skin, the pollution free air that you breathe in are rare first greetings. But then each time a new and rare experience features as a high point on a given trip. Just as this time it was with the trip south, to Malvern in Pennsylvania.

First of all, let me tell my readers that, this is not a travelogue. It's the images one accumulates of a place often visited over years. USA is one such place. The visits started in the eighties through a visitor ship programme of the USIS whereby I got to see some outstanding new American plays in various theatres of the United States. And thereafter, there was no looking back. I have visited this country a number of times for various reasons. This time it was for a break from the monotony of my daily chores back home. So I docked in a beautiful home of a very dear relative of mine in a village just beyond the northern suburb of New York City. This is a beautiful village with an undulating landscape, colourful trees in the fall, lots of sun and the blue of the sky sprinkled with birds of all kinds, squirrels and, occasionally, herds of deer.

East coast of America is a haven of nature's endowment in autumn. This autumn was no different. While in the States this year, I witnessed one of the most important political events of the American life, the mid-term election to the Congress and the Senate. As was predicted the results of the congressional election was not conducive to the Democrats. In the Senate, of course, the democrats did better. Some of our Bangladeshi friends who were progressive and thought of bringing the USA out of the quagmire of the selfish isolation from the rest of the world, at least in image terms, were absolutely flabbergasted. But then they confessed, subsequently, that they were too emotionally attached to their ideals centring on the Democratic Party norms than the reality. They realised that there is more to it than the matters of principles and ethics. One of my very dear friends lamented over the fact that President Obama had gone out of his way to push through the health care plans that President Clinton had tried and failed to introduce. Why did not the common voters, a vast majority of whom were directly affected by the enormous cost of health care, did not think this measure to be of beneficial for them is an apparent enigma? To this I have my own conjecture. The overtly capital intensive American economy was stronger than its polity or the people. Private capital as a constituency played a very crucial part among the common people and could not be ignored. In fact they had by their propaganda and forthright intervention made a deep seated impression on the common minds than any amount of policy sermon could muster from their arsenal. Now and here is the thing that worked in America. What future would have in store is only for the future to tell. And...! Only 'tell'. Who guarantees if it'd deliver? So they make the most of it while the going is great, Costco, Best Buy, Burlington court factory, Wall Mart and a host of super malls are forever attracting hundreds and thousands of marginalised buyers. They are flocking in, on top of the world, laughing, joking at each other, polishing off all kinds of fast foods and are off to their next catch. To them, future is an unknown phenomenon, who cares what is in store for the future for them? Now is the time.

This is the crowd that has been completely won over by the corporate America. Politics of President Obama or his progressive predecessors have failed miserably here. Here's when I tend to believe that just as affluence has created apathy toward politics in America, it has, also introduced a sort of egalitarianism of affluence in that society. “All affluent people are equal.” My relative in New York, totally given to democratic norms, is astounded, but that is the reality. He can't figure out why the poorer section of the American population did not understand the benefit of the health care plan? They will, when the corporate America takes another beating from another deep depression. It is then that the Americans would realise that there is some meat in using discretion in terms of personal expenses. However going by the statistics, I don't personally think that Democrats have much to despair. Obama's average personal rating during the mid-term election had stood at 52 as opposed to that of George Bush which was 49.2. The highest approval rating of Barak Obama on 22/9/09 was 69 as opposed to 90 for Bush on 21/9/01. This figure alone would prove an erratic trend in Bush's popularity rating just as erratic and thoughtless was his politics to say the least. There is another sign that the supporters of Obama could take succour from. An analysis of the voting pattern in this mid- term election clearly proved that most of the winning congressional votes came from conservative, white and devoutly right wing Christians and the free thinking democrats may have taken things for granted. The Obama group failed to assemble their core voters in the hustlings.

This, of course, is American politics and I have only a peripheral interest in it. But America for me is larger than politics. For once I intend to sum up my American experience in three episodes. I hope my readers will bear with me.


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