In all the hullabaloo over Donald Trump sweeping America’s presidential poll, the world missed another American verdict. California, Massachusetts and Nevada voted on Wednesday to legalise recreational marijuana, which already has legal sanction in Washington DC, Alaska, Colorado and Oregon. The vote reflects growing social progressiveness in America. Surveys indicate over 60 per cent support for legalising marijuana in America today; in 2000, only 31 per cent respondents said yes.
Americans are rethinking individual rights. Across sexualities, they supported same-sex marriage being recognised. The vibrant energy around this demand, reflected in cinema, novels, activism and art, echoed in the US Supreme Court which legalised same-sex marriage in 2015, President Obama exultantly tweeting #LoveWins. The right to an equal, dignified life extended to the right to work, even in America’s most sensitive organisations. For decades, Americans struggled for gay people to join the US military. In 2010, the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act” ended restrictions on military service by gay, lesbian and bisexual personnel, with transgenders allowed since June, 2016.
While fighting for the equal rights of its own, American social consciousness has also extended to those presented as its enemies. It was the indignant voice of American society, shocked by extreme torture applied to terrorism detainees, which finally reached its executive’s ears. Through the 2000s, even when the US was at direct war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Bush, and later, Obama administrations had to agree to demands for banning waterboarding, the torture technique originating in the Spanish Inquisition. While campaigning, Trump said he would bring it back, scoffing, “They can chop off heads and we can’t waterboard?” But that sentiment might not garner great support in America now. America’s social conscience isn’t dulled — it’s taken path-breaking steps towards redefining individual and collective dignity. The world must watch as these steps now head towards an American president who threatens to unsettle all that was hard-won and also all that was taken for granted.