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India and China—two pieces of the same puzzle

I. India

In India there is something called cow vigilante violence. It purports to target cow-smugglers, to protect cattle. Cattle slaughter is banned in most of India. Between 2010 and 2017 63 cow vigilante attacks occurred in India, most of them after Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power.

In August 2016, India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed his displeasure at rising incidences of cow vigilantism and condemned the practice, but selectively condemned vigilante attacks inflicted on Dalits but not on the Muslims who incurred 84% of the attacks.

Modi is a Hindu nationalist who has no use for Muslims in his country. Of course violence against minority groups in India is practically part of their culture, and it not always singled out Muslims, but they have become a suitable whipping boy, useful in the same way the president has made them useful—as a method of divisiveness and bigotry.

Donald Trump visiting India is as weird as Duterte visiting Turkey. Not that weird at all—kindred spirits and all. One wonders how world leaders discuss bigotry and intolerance as actual policy—it’s unlikely that we’ll ever find out, but it may be occurring now.

II. China

I’ve often felt that, regardless of who sits in the Oval Office, the average American would require a good deal of time to notice the president's disappearance, abduction, or death. With Trump my belief is even more firmly set. But there are times when we need a president, one with intelligence, wisdom, and maybe even a sense of humor. We are approaching, inexorably, a crisis in this country—a pandemic which will not be killed by warm weather (as Trump suggested) but which could last until it burns itself out a year from now.

At times like these real presidents address the American people, not with campaign promises or false optimism, but with a prescriptive assessment—what is the government doing, what should we citizens be doing, is the medical establishment prepared for an onslaught of victims? It seems obvious now that the coronavirus will not be contained by national borders and that deaths in the hundreds of thousands are not outside the realm of possibility. Some experts predict that up to 70% of the world’s population will contract the virus, though many will never report it, and more will suffer a minor illness. If we settle on the lower side—half the world population—three-and-half billion people with a 2% mortality rate comes out to about 70 million deaths.

Unfortunately Trump lacks the credibility to address the American people; moreover, he has purged the White House of every credible spokesperson who might be able to carry on in his stead. In the experts' places sit a bushel of loyalists with no particular skills other than their willingness to worship at the president's feet.

Reagan after Challenger, Bush after 9/11, Obama after Sandy Hook—we don’t need a president every day, and we don’t need Trump any day—except when we do. His trip to India to suck up the adulation of a violent fellow racist and bigot once again points out how out of touch he is, and how adrift America is with no one at the helm.

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