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Tuesday, September 28, 2021

My dear Bernie, you have made history, challenged the holy cows of capitalism

You, Bernie Sanders, in the land of 'free enterprise and the pursuit of happiness' have made the word 'communist' acceptable again. As far as the word 'socialist' goes it has become not just acceptable but respectable too. Now that is creating history.

Written by Saeed Akhtar Mirza |
Updated: March 17, 2020 10:42:08 am
bernie sanders, US elections, 2020 Us elections, democratic primaries, joe biden, donald Trump, Michigan primary, Missouri primary, Mississippi primary, indian express US Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. (Reuters)

I hope you don’t mind me calling you Bernie. The reason I do so is because we are almost the same age and, surprisingly, your vision of the world has an uncanny resemblance to my own. So, I felt the need to write to you.

Before I get down to the meat of the letter, I would like to tell you a little story.

It was in early 2015 and I was being wheel-chaired to the immigration counter at JFK Airport. The reason for the wheelchair was because I was then seriously ill and my son wanted me to be checked out by doctors in New York. So, as I reached the immigration counter, the officer, a burly white man looked at me suspiciously and asked: ‘What brings you to the USA Mr. Murza.?’ I didn’t correct his pronunciation of my name, because I knew he had the power to reject my visa and turn me back, but I solemnly answered: ‘Three things’. He looked at me surprised and asked: ‘And what are those three things?’. I said ‘The first is to meet my son and his wife and my wonderful grand-daughter and the second is to meet some doctors that my son has arranged for me to see.’ The officer thoughtfully nodded and said: ‘Those seem to be two good reasons…what is the third one?’ I smiled and said: ‘To tell you to vote for Bernie Sanders’. The officer was surprised, paused, then laughed out loud and said: ‘Okay, three good reasons…my greetings to your family…and good luck with those doctors.’ I was then wheel-chaired into the land of the Free and the Brave.

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It’s a good story isn’t it Bernie?

I know that you lost to Hillary Clinton for the Democratic Party nomination, and there are all kinds of rumours of how that happened. She went on to lose to Donald Trump. But, let me tell you a secret. If I was a citizen of the United States, I would not have voted for either of them. However, a friend of mine, a locksmith in New York City, a liberal and a great guy, said he voted for Donald Trump. The reason? Trump had said he would have no more wars, he would bring the troops home and, he would ‘clean the swamp’ that was the Washington Establishment’ . On the other side was Hillary Clinton. To my friend, she epitomised the ‘swamp’. So, he made a choice.

Does that make sense to you Bernie?

But I write to you for another reason.

It has to do with the here and the now. It is about the recent televised election debates between candidates competing against each other and presenting their credentials to a larger audience. All of them were hoping to become the Democratic Party’s nominee for the final assault against Donald Trump. I had been following these debates carefully and let me tell you that most of the candidates followed the same predictable and jaded course. Except for three of them. the first was you of course. You remained steadfast with your position on various issues: on universal healthcare, on college education for all, homes for the homeless, minimum wages for working people and the removal of big money from politics. In fact, most of the other candidates, realising that these positions had generated an unbelievable and positive response from ordinary citizens, were forced to accept some of them too. It was quite funny seeing covert conservatives, backed by lobbyists and big bucks, overtly playing the liberal card and expressing their concern for the toiling masses.

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The other end of the spectrum of your onslaught was also shocker for me: You took on an establishment that for generations had never been questioned. You started with the holy cows of capitalism and attacked the power-brokers on Wall Street and the billionaires who prospered as most Americans suffered after the 2008 economic meltdown. Then you took on the fossil fuel, arms, pharmaceutical and big corporation lobbies that dictated American internal and foreign affairs policy. Your principled stand on climate change, your defence of some of the policies of The Cuban revolution, your opposition to the Iraq war, your attack against Mohammad Bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, your criticism of Netanyahu and his divisive policies and your even-handed approach to the Israeli/Palestinian issue were eye-openers to me. Was this really being debated in America? It was, and the people of America were listening. Even applauding. I’ll hand it to you, Bernie.

The second candidate who was different and also a revelation to me was a feisty and compassionate soldier called Tulsi Gabbard. I was amazed by her opposition to war and the concept of regime change that the United States insists on doing to remove leaders it does not like. If you happen to win the Democratic Party’s nomination and go on to beat Donald Trump let me give you some unsolicited advice: make Tulsi Gabbard your Secretary of State. She will be the most compassionate and understanding American foreign policy leader that the world has seen in a long, long time: she doesn’t deal in cliches of good guys and bad guys. The third candidate who was different was Elizabeth Warren. She seems to have her heart in the right place. And, in our scoundrel times, that is enough to make me appreciate her.

Now I come to the heart of the matter. Let me tell you of what I think you have achieved and how I think you have created history.

Ever since the end of the First World War, the words ‘communist’ and ‘socialist’ took on an ominous meaning in the United States and by the end of the Second World War, they were seen as a threat and then as a disease to be gotten rid of. An entire propaganda machine, backed by high finance, bankers, power-brokers and a pliant media juggernaut swung into action to deal with these venomous ideas. Communist and socialist became interchangeable words.

You, Bernie Sanders, in the land of ‘free enterprise and the pursuit of happiness’ have made the word ‘communist’ acceptable again. As far as the word ‘socialist’ goes it has become not just acceptable but respectable too. Now that is creating history. Besides, ‘toiling masses’ is no longer a term to be sneered at, working people can no longer be seen as a nameless, faceless herd to be led. They have become human beings again and taken centre stage. And, that is why I am on your side. You are leading a political revolution.

Now a word of caution.

I believe the power-brokers who create policy within the Democratic Party and the big financiers who back them are very unhappy with where you have reached in this final and crucial phase of the nomination process. That is why most of the remaining candidates withdrew from the race and backed Joe Biden. It is amazing. I have nothing against Joe Biden but it is so apparent that the man has memory lapses, is often incoherent, has taken political positions in the past that were inherently and embarrassingly anti-people and he is now being presented by the Democratic establishment as the man to beat Trump. It is incredible. It just goes to show how much of a threat this establishment thinks you are. Be cautious of these people…most of them are not your friends and go ahead and fight the good fight.

If you win the nomination, which I hope you will, I will work out a battle plan for you to take on Trump.

Till then and with warm regards
Saeed Akhtar Mirza

This article first appreared in the print edition on March 17, 2020 under the title “My dear Bernie.”

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