It may be time to take a deep breath; an exercise in global pranayama
The sort of exchange that has so far marked the American political campaign is almost as civil as the English and Russian football team’s thuggish fans duking it out on the sidelines of the Euro.columns Updated: Jun 24, 2016 22:16 IST
The summer solstice arrived this week and along with it, the International Day of Yoga (IDY). The government appears to have expended as much energy on this now-annual exercise as it has on trying to secure a welcome mat into the Nuclear Suppliers Group, which promises as many twists as you would get at the yearly gathering in Times Square.
But despite visits to the United States that have become a record for a sitting Prime Minister, Narendra Modi’s yogic outreach may not have stretched into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. On IDY itself, when the White House spokesperson was asked about this day marked on the United Nations calendar (which also includes International Albinism Awareness Day and International Day of Family Remittances, in June, among many others), he responded: “How is that not in my briefing book? Where is the International Day of Yoga tab? Come on, guys. We can’t just take the year off because it’s an election year. We got to be focused on the priorities.” He was “teasing”, and subsequently launched into the usual platitudes that make for the India-US platform.
The issues that the White House spokesperson addressed during that briefing, however, show how temperatures have been rising globally and not necessarily because summer has officially arrived. The terror attack on the Pulse nightclub in Orlando two weeks ago drove much of the conversation, with the recoil that incident has left — from the US Congress’ inability to place restrictions on the availability of guns, to a redacted transcript of gunman Omar Mateen’s call to an emergency dispatcher; each given its partisan spin. Just as divided are opinions on other matters that featured, like American vice-president Joe Biden’s criticism of a Libya policy crafted by a State Department then headed by Hillary Clinton or his pessimism over a political solution in Syria. Not to forget the ugliness of the Brexit debate and the killing of a British MP. The middle ground’s vanished into thin air.
Such a chasm exists in India, as well, as bridges are being burnt. Even IDY itself, however benign it may appear, hasn’t escaped the carping. As the multitudes gathered and focused on striking a pose, there was a collective gasp, for there it was — a concentration camp. Some twisted themselves into asanas of anxiety since it was so reminiscent of ranks of Nazis gathered for some Sturm und Drang. While an exercise regimen and a regiment may differ by just a letter of the alphabet, some believe the term Great Dictator suits Modi to a T. A Rexit only fed their phobia.
In America, the summer will only get hotter in this summer of discontent. The Republican candidate for the Presidency Donald Trump has set off enough fires to sear the country. As reports of an abortive assassination attempt on him filter through, one can only wonder at the violence that may violate the party’s convention in Cleveland next month. The Democrats’ Philadelphia gathering could also be threatened. In fact, some Bernie Sanders supporters will be full of beans, literally. As one supporter said, “The Sanders delegates, their bellies full of beans, will be able to return to the Wells Fargo Center and greet the rhetorical flatulence of Hillary Clinton with the real thing.” Actually, if the disruption remains limited to such juvenile acts, it will be good thing.
The sort of exchange that has so far marked the American political campaign is almost as civil as the English and Russian football team’s thuggish fans duking it out on the sidelines of the Euro.
In 1989, the band Jefferson Airplane (which once upgraded itself to Starship) released its schmaltzy single Summer of Love, a song that soaked into the nostalgia for 1967. Summers like that of 2016 will be framed more by Tweets and flames by trolls rather than any harmony.
This is turning into the summer of loathing, an Us and Them binary, where a sense of warmth ignores its possible potential for the positive and instead gets people worked up. Perhaps, it may be time to take a deep breath; an exercise in global pranayama.
Anirudh Bhattacharyya is a Toronto-based commentator on American affairs
The views expressed are personal