America, Don’t Put Ideas in Our Head!

Shock. Disbelief. Worry.  

That’s what I felt when I saw the news reports about riots and break-in took place at the United States Capitol. How on earth such uncivil act happened in the US – the great power with its democracy that we look up to. It seems like the great power is not so great, and not so democratic after all. 

Just like many of us from a third world country, I used to think America was a paradise – the land of the free, the home of the brave. In the recent years, I  learned that it was far from a paradise, but I still had faith in the democratic foundation that it had laid out in the past centuries. 

Their democracy, civil and human rights values were exemplary for our journey to democracy. The United States has been supporting to our country in many ways since the transition to democracy in 2011. To promote democracy, the US has been inviting Myanmar politicians, civil society leaders, and civil servants over to their country to learn about democracy and state-building, governing system, community organizations etc. The country also provides different kinds of scholarships to Myanmar students, including myself, to enhance the knowledge in politics. Some of these programs go way back to the time before I was even born! Many of the popular MPs in Myanmar parliaments are alumni of at least one of the US exchange programs, or former students at the American Center. The US alumni community in Myanmar has created a network of like-minded, passionate people who try to make changes in their community. Although I am not a big fan of unnecessary statements that U.S Embassy issues about our country’s situations, it is an undeniable fact that the US and its promotion of democracy have a huge impact on us Myanmar people.

But this week, we witnessed the threat to democracy at the superpower. Many were shocked at the horrifying violence. When this kind of rampage happened in a country like America, what do countries with unconsolidated democracy do? What would authoritarian countries say? I am sitting at my desk, more than 8,500 miles away from Washington D.C, thinking what kind of impacts the riot will have on my country –  a country which has emerged from the dictatorship merely a decade ago and has practiced quasi-democracy, let alone a consolidated one, and worrying about the near future. 

So here’s some context on why I am worried. Myanmar held the General Election five days after the presidential election in the United States. The vote-counting took longer than the previous election due to the COVID-19 restrictions, just like the US. In similar fashion to President Trump’s denial to his loss, one leading opposition political party in Myanmar is having a hard time to accept the election result, in which it did not win. Hence, the party has been issuing several statements to condemn the election result, sending open letters to the election commission and to the president demanding a new election, holding press conferences every other week to report the election frauds that they have found, keeping the reporters busy and social media users entertained. Additionally, unlike the United State, the Myanmar military also attempts to interfere with the election results by releasing a list of areas in which election frauds were supposedly occurred. 

Despite all the condemnations and attempts to alter the election result in various forms, Myanmar’s new parliament session is due in three weeks. The incoming MPs will perform a series of important duties such as electing respective speakers for both lower house and upper house, proposing presidential candidates and eventually electing one. As the date of commencement approach, I sincerely hope that this riot in Washington D.C do not ignite angry folks in Myanmar to attack on frail and fragile democracy that we have. 

In a telephone interview, a CNN reporter asked the former Washington D.C Police Chief Charles Ramsey whether he had seen anything like “this” and by this he meant members of congress being evacuated, protesters climbing over the wall, breaking and entering the Capitol building. Ramsey said, “Not in the United States, but maybe in some third-world country.” 

I mean… remember in the popular Friends TV show where Joey scolded his friend, “Phoebe, don’t put ideas in his [Ross] head!” to stop Ross from dating Chandler’s ex-girlfriend with evil laughter Janice?

“America, don’t put ideas in our head damnit!” 

Nwe Khet

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