In February of this year, I was on a plane returning from India. In transit at the Dubai airport, I found myself caroled into a packed hallway, waiting to pass through security. I was literally breathing down the next person’s neck and the fear that crossed my mind was that of a stampede.

Chatter of a deadly virus spreading across China was in the air. Mild anxiety was palpable. Some people had masks on, most did not. I for one thought those wearing masks were overreacting.

In March, life as we knew it came to a grinding halt. The city I call home became the epicenter. People in me neighborhood were dying and the constant din of ambulances became a reminder of the carnage ensuing. High anxiety evaporated everyone from the streets. A pandemic had taken hold changing the city that never sleeps - forever.

A few months later, the gruesome murder of yet another black man by the police, brought throngs of people into the streets. Rioting, looting and mass protests took people’s anxieties to new heights.

For a moment the youthful non-violent protests signaled hope for change and optimism and reduced some anxiety. The stone cold response from the federal government all but extinguished that.

As November approaches an election looms. The anxiety I felt at the peak of the pandemic pales in comparison to the anxiety I feel now. As after an impeachment, a sex scandal, a conclusive corruption investigation, nepotism, a pandemic, record deaths, economy in taters, skyrocketing unemployment, the pardon of loyal felons, riots, mass protests, storms and fires, an alternative is not guaranteed.

Many in America still believe the president is a victim of a “Deep State” witch-hunt. Fringe conspiracy theories like Q-Anon gain mainstream support from the powerful, calling for unwavering devotion to “the leader”.

In my last piece I expressed grave concern on how the Republican party, which is now a certified Trump cult, is attempting to suppress the vote. Now it seems they are trying to suppress hope by peddling the only thing they have left, fear.

Those who detest the present administration and all it stands for, are anxious that fear will prevail and hope will be smothered.

Those who worship their great leader, are actually fearful of a fabricated lie that the suburbs will burn and be invaded by “colored” folks. The age old fear that enveloped the residents of Levittown, Long Island in the 1950s, the anxiety that resulted in “white flight”, is now being stoked again to win an election.

To pander to all those the president had in the past unabashedly vilified, political theater was on display.

Three Muslims, one Hindu and a Hispanic Christian were paraded in the “people’s house”, as citizenship was awarded by the president welcoming them to the “greatest country god hath created”. The same president who had never shied away from openly engaging in xenophobia, racism and bigotry was now welcoming “colored” people to the country he alone had made great. The optics of hypocrisy could not have been more jarring.

Some say if you disengage from politics you would not be polarized and suffer from anxiety. If all media went dark for a month the world would come together. If Trump were ignored you would not feel rage. And those who feel disenfranchised, discarded and excluded from American success, conclude elections are not for them, as no matter who comes to power, their destiny remains unchanged.

The reality is, if you disengage, you forego your solemn duty as a citizen to stay informed. A democracy only works when all its citizens engage. If you have children you have an obligation to their well being and future. If you don’t, you still have to be engaged as your rights could be trampled upon for being who you are and your air and water could be polluted as corruption favors the powerful. If you remain disengaged you are devoured by authoritarianism and greed.

Many Americans do not engage and therefore end up voting against their interests or not voting at all.

I know I speak from inside a bubble. My words will most certainly be read by those who largely agree with me. I would be deemed “liberal” as I oppose those presently in power. I would be considered “left” as I refuse to accept a worldview defined by fear and lies. I would be considered “secular” as I reject populism and blind nationalism that seeks to idolize flawed debauched leaders. All I hope for though, is that I be considered “reasonable” when I dissect what I see.

Aided by irresponsible social media, sycophant media bullhorns and so called self appointed “influencers”, alternate realities with distorted world-views have become the mainstay. The noise they create is deafening and the images they push are disturbing and disgusting. In a world where decency is no longer a virtue, deceit and distortion is what one constantly fights to find clarity. Not many seek clarity lost and engulfed in their social media smog.

Those who express disbelief of the support Trump still enjoys are asked to consider that his supporters are not all racists or “Deplorables”, as they were referred to as in 2016. They are good well meaning people who have the same daily struggles as anyone else. They work hard and only want what’s best for their families, the nation and its citizens, despite their political beliefs. They like everyone else also believe in concepts of justice, peace, virtue, empathy, love, decency, honor, honesty, grace and goodness.

If this is true, especially after the conclusion of the RNC, the choice is clear.

As four more years of high anxiety will decimate this nation, socially, economically and most importantly psychologically.

Anand Kamalakar is a Brooklyn based documentary film director, producer and editor. His latest film SALAM can now be seen on Netflix.

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