Saturday, January 13, 2018
By Julian Zelizer
During a conversation with David Letterman on his new Netflix program, former President Barack Obama issued a stern warning for the current commander in chief: "One of the things that Michelle figured out, in some ways faster than I did, was part of your ability to lead the country doesn't have to do with legislation, doesn't have to do with regulations, it has to do with shaping attitudes, shaping culture, increasing awareness." Although Obama was extremely hesitant about directly commenting about President Donald Trump, the message he sent was clear.
And it comes in the wake of the upsetting news that during a private meeting with legislators at the White House, President Trump referred to African nations as "shithole countries." The President tweeted out a denial that he ever said this, with two Republican legislators saying that they couldn't remember. Illinois Democrat Richard Durbin, who was in attendance, responded that Trump did use the term and said things that were "hate-filled, vile and racist." And a Republican, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, said he appreciated Durbin's statement -- and had challenged Trump's comments.
It would be a mistake to dismiss the comments as a "distraction" because, with Trump, they are the main show. His rhetoric sends a message to the nation and to the world about the values that we treasure and that the nation will stand for in 2018. As we learned again this week, the President is willing to use crass and hateful rhetoric in public and in formal events in a way we have not seen in the contemporary era, or at least not from presidents who were acting in the way we hope to see. To be sure, Americans understand that their presidents are very human and can speak in familiar ways when they are in private. They curse, they scream, they yell and sometimes they say mean things.
Speaking to a military adviser, President Lyndon Johnson called Vietnam a "little pissant country" and in racist phone conversations he can be heard uttering racist rhetoric. The architect of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965 was not shy about using the "N Word" when talking with southerners, or comparing African-Americans to ungrateful children after the riots of 1965 and 1967. Following the Watts riots in 1965, Johnson complained to the president of the Steelworkers Union that African Americans had to learn they have "obligations as well as rights." They needed to be more "responsible." Much of his daily conversation was too R-rated for children. "I do know the difference between chicken shit and chicken salad," he reportedly said. Baby Boomers will remember just how shocked they were during the Watergate investigation to learn through the transcripts of the White House recordings that President Richard Nixon swore, personally insulted his enemies, and used anti-Semitic language behind closed doors. Nixon referred to Henry Kissinger as "Jew-boy."
Foul language in the White House didn't end there. Talking about a primary challenge from Sen.Ted Kennedy, President Carter famously told a group of legislators that he would "whip his ass" while President Clinton was famous for his curse-filled tirades in private meetings But even after the famous "expletives-deleted" transcripts from the Nixon investigation, the country expected that, in public and in formal political events, presidents would abide by a certain level of decorum and refrain from using harsh expletives. Sure, some presidents were caught cussing on a hot mic (such as when George W. Bush was heard calling reporter Adam Clymer a "major league asshole"), but those were exceptions.
The hope for many Americans was also that presidents would stop using the kind of demeaning language heard in the White House tapes of the 1960s and early 1970s -- that was the lesson of the "Expletives Deleted" controversy. Being presidential meant no longer engaging this language in public or even private settings, within reason, in the aftermath of the civil rights and feminist movements.
This administration has not fulfilled those hopes. The problem really isn't Trump's use of curse words, but the words he chose to use and the context within which they were uttered.
President Trump, who launched his campaign by calling Mexican immigrants rapists and criminals, was reported to have said that all Haitians "have AIDS" (the White House denied the statement) and that Nigerians "live in huts." When he said during the campaign that US Judge Gonzalo Curiel should recuse himself from the Trump University lawsuit because of his Mexican background, Speaker Paul Ryan called it the "textbook definition of a racist comment." Trump's comments about Muslims in the US and around the world, perpetually painting them as a dangerous and hostile population, are too extensive to list in one article. Trump has repeatedly made disparaging comments about women, from Rosie O'Donnell to Hillary Clinton to Mika Brzezinski. His refusal to come down hard against the Nazis in Charlottesville -- saying that "both sides" were to blame -- was in itself a powerful speech act loaded with racial implications, all of which builds on a long and controversial history where he has been accused of racism.
Trump insists on calling Sen. Elizabeth Warren "Pocahontas" and has gone after football players protesting police violence against African-Americans. Soon after Puerto Ricans suffered through a devastating hurricane, his instincts led him to tweet out that the inhabitants "want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort." So much for compassion. Just last August, he retweeted a meme showing him "eclipsing" former President Obama, sharing a post that came from someone on Twitter who posted anti-Semitic remarks. This, from a person who made his national political name by challenging the birthplace of the first African-American President, did not sit well with many people.
As David Leonhardt argued in the New York Times in his troubling catalog of the President's long history with racism, "He has retweeted white nationalists without apology. He frequently criticizes prominent African Americans for being unpatriotic, ungrateful and disrespectful. He called some of those who marched alongside white supremacists in Charlottesville last August 'very fine people.' He is quick to highlight crimes committed by dark-skinned people, sometimes exaggerating or lying about it."
The hope was that presidents would elevate our national discourse, not debase it. This has not been the case with President Trump, who has bombarded the country with a level of vile rhetoric that the nation has not witnessed before. The fact that he used curse words is just a minor part of the problem. There have not been any angels in the Oval Office. If cursing was the only issue, the response would not have been so explosive; nor would his actions have been so exceptional. Much more troubling is the kind of hateful invective that these curse words, which were grounded in both racist and nativist sentiment, express against social groups whom the President has repeatedly targeted.
In using this kind of rhetoric, Trump has been "unpresidential" in that he has allowed the words and ideas from reactionary extremist groups, that defend social inequality and promote hatred, to enter into the highest levels of power. We have seen these moments so many times since the 2016 campaign it becomes impossible to dismiss them as mistakes or aberrations. Even if the President continues to dispute the words he used in this particular private meeting, there is a long list of harsh statements that come directly out of the far-right universe.
In 2018, echoing anything that these groups say should be, by definition, unpresidential. The job of the president is to push back against these elements of society, even if they lean toward his or her own political coalition, to remain an example of the direction in which the country should move.
According to an autopsy report, Zainab was sodomized and strangled to death. Dr. Quratulain Atique, who did the autopsy, told CNN that there were torture marks on her face and her tongue was “crushed between her teeth.”
Pakistan Today reported Saturday that police arrested three suspects in the case, but the man seen leading Zainab away in surveillance video given to police by family remains at large. Officials said the suspect was between 30-35 years old.
It’s possible she had been dead for two to three days before she was found in garbage 100 meters from her home Tuesday, Atique said. Zainab’s parents were out of the country on a pilgrimage when their daughter was kidnapped and was staying with her aunt and uncle.
She was buried Thursday at her ancestral graveyard in Road Kot.
But that’s only part of the story.
Zainab was the 12th girl to be sexually assaulted and killed in the past two years from the 2-kilometer district in Kasur, Pakistan. The city is about 30 miles from Lahore, the capital of Pakistan’s Punjab province.
According to Australian news agency ABC, Eman Fatma, 4; Fauzia, 11; Noor Fatma, 7; Ayesha Asif, 5; Laiba, 9; Sana Omar, 7; and Kainat Batool, 8, were among the past victims.
At least five of the murders can be linked to one person, who is the focus of a manhunt involving hundreds of law enforcement officials, police said. At least 90 potential suspects have had their DNA tested.
"For the last two years, we are living in fear, parents are scared to send their kids outside," Zainab's father Muhammad Amin Ansari told reporters.
Mumtaz Gohar, senior program officer at Pakistani news agency Sahil, told The Express Tribune that in 2017, there were a total of 129 cases of child assault reported from Kasur. Thirty-four were abductions, 23 were rapes, 19 involved sodomy, 17 were attempted rapes, six abduction and rapes, and four abduction and gang rapes.
In 2015, an investigation into the Kasur district uncovered a major child sexual abuse scandal involving up to 25 men who blackmailed children into making sex videos between 2009 and 2014, according to CNN.
Pakistan's National Commission on Human Rights claimed that it published a report into widespread child abuse in Kasur following the 2015 scandal, but its findings were ignored by the district.
“The present incident is an example of the ineptitude of the authorities which have failed to address the issue in an appropriate manner to curb its future recurrence,” the NCHR’s reports stated.
Demonstrators flooded the streets Wednesday and Thursday following Zainab’s death this week, many angry that authorities in the Punjab province have done little to keep their kids safe. Residents chanted, "We want the perpetrators brought to justice,” ABC reported.
But the protests quickly turned violent. Some demonstrators set vehicles on fire, destroyed buildings and at least two people died in clashes with police.
On Thursday, the hashtag #JusticeForZainab spread online as Twitter users around the globe expressed outrage and demanded justice. Some shared photos and video of the 7-year-old.
Early evidence, officials said, suggests the perpetrator was a family acquaintance, the Washington Post reported. As aforementioned, Pakistan Today reported Saturday that police arrested three suspects in the case, but the man seen leading Zainab away in surveillance video given to police by family remains at large. Officials said the suspect was between 30-35 years old.
Some lawmakers seemed to imply that Zainab's family was partly to blame.
“A child's safety is its parents' responsibility,” Rana Sanaullah, the law minister of Punjab, told the newspaper Dawn.
Here in this country, it is easy to tell when a little girl has been raped, murdered and cruelly discarded as if worth no more than unwanted trash. It is easy to tell because the men of Pakistan become angry.
Our news channels cover the crowds of men demanding #JusticeForZainab, the seven-year-old who was kidnapped from outside her house in Kasur earlier this week. Before allowing all the big chieftains — from the Chief Minister Punjab to the Army Chief to the Chief Justice LHC — to lip sync their profound grief as they read from the autocue that gets pulled up for each and every time a girl child’s life is cut short in such brutal a way. And always it is the same script that is followed. All these big chiefs order as if by magic that those responsible be hunted down and brought to justice immediately.
When the CM Punjab says, or in this case tweets, that those failing in their duties to arrest those responsible will face action — he doesn’t appear to understand that the buck stops with him. And as for the police, who by their own admission, are struggling to hunt down those behind 12 similar murders in the last two years, they decided to show how seriously they took Shehbaz Sharif’s words by killing at least two men from the protesting crowd.
And herein lies the rub. Pakistan is a country where crimes against women and girls only go punished when the big chiefs deem it so. When of course we all, and they too, know that what we need is not the flourish of a magic wand but the building and strengthening of institutions. As well as the recognition that Pakistan, like any other country, has a toxic substance abuse problem: the patriarchy. And that it is slowly but surely robbing this country of some 200 million of its vast potential.
So what therefore is to be done?
This is where the state, at all levels, would do well to invest in civil society. Naturally we are not talking of corporate sponsorship deals. But we do mean providing honest and sincere support to and working alongside with and taking the lead from civil society actors as well as those who have much research under their belt about how best to begin the long and arduous journey towards a gender sensitive society. This will be one hard slog; far more so than quibbling about which (imperialist) English language pronouns are the most inclusive of all binary and non-binary genders.
What Pakistan needs is a mainstreaming project of a different kind: mainstreaming of women into all spheres of society; both public and private. Meaning that we need to make public spaces here safe for all women — especially the hundreds of thousands who have no choice but to navigate these on a daily basis; without the luxury of documenting it on Instagram. But going beyond this, we need gendered interpretations by women themselves of both the law and religious edicts. For the former will only serve to strengthen the criminal justice system. And then we need to see about taking women all the way to the glass ceiling and beyond because she isn’t called Lady Justice for nothing. The latter, for its part, will strengthen the state against the religious right over the coming generations as will the normalising of women as religious scholars. This is not to overlook the intersectionality of non-Muslim and Muslim minority sect women.
After all, we are far too ready and willing to show off Pakistani women engaging in combat roles to defend this nation from enemies across our borders. But isn’t it about time that Pakistan defend its women from the enemy within. We certainly think so.
Chairman Pakistan Peoples Party, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, along with Aseefa Bhutto Zardari, paid a visit to Karachi Eat 2018, a food festival at Benazir Bhutto Park near Boat Basin on Saturday.
A Bilawal House Media Cell statement said that Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari intermingled with the visitors and many among them clicked selfies with the PPP Chairman.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari himself made a color design of Party's electoral symbol Arrow at a stall.
Governor Sindh Muhammad Zubair also visited the festival. Zubair stated that the holding of the social and cultural events in the metropolis speaks of the improved law and order situation. - APP