Source: AP

Both Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have ‘justice’ and ‘human rights’ in their DNA

Biden and Harris bring with themselves hope and a determination to ensure change, writes CEDRIC PRAKASH .


One of the most endearing and enduring images post-election of the 46th President of the United States Joe Biden will surely be that of CNN host and political commentator Anthony Kapel “Van” Jones. When asked a direct question about what he felt about the election results, Van Jones is caught on camera, weeping live on-air and watched perhaps by millions all over.

A tearful Van Jones with his voice cracking said,

It’s easier to be a parent this morning, it’s easier to be a dad, it’s easier to tell your kids character matters. This is vindication for a lot of people who really have suffered. ‘I can’t breathe.’ That was not just George Floyd. There were a lot of people who felt like they couldn’t breathe. “This is a big deal,” he continued, “for us to be able to get some peace, and have a chance for a reset. I want my sons to look at this. It’s easy to do it the cheat way and get away with stuff, but it comes back around. This is a good day for this country. I am sorry for the people who lost, for them, it’s not a good day, but for most, this is a good day.” 

Moving words flowing directly and spontaneously from his heart. He could not have captured the mood and enthusiasm of the nation on the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, in a more poignant and emotional manner.

It was indeed a breath of fresh air.

On all counts, it was a historic election as  Joe Biden was pitched against the incumbent President Donald Trump who was seeking a second term.

After four turbulent years of polarisation, divisiveness and hate, their positive forward-looking words are those of hope.

All were sure that it would be a close race; independent media and top political analysts were not willing to make any hazardous guesses. In the end, it went down to the wire.

After four days of anxious wait, the US (and the world) finally had a result. Joe Biden had won the key battleground state of Pennsylvania in a close finish and was declared the president-elect.

A few hours later in a televised speech which was watched the world over, Biden said,

“I pledge to be a president who seeks not to divide but unify. Who doesn’t see red states and blue states, only sees the United States. And work with all my heart with the confidence of the whole people, to win the confidence of all of you. And for that is what America I believe is about. It’s about people. And that’s what our administration will be all about.” 

Both Biden and Harris have pledged to end an era of ‘demonisation’. After four turbulent years of polarisation, divisiveness and hate, their positive forward-looking words are those of hope.

Biden’s running mate and now Vice President-elect California Senator Kamala Harris, has many ‘firsts’ to her credit; she is now the first woman, the first Black woman and the first American woman of Indian origin; the first daughter of immigrants (her father was from Jamaica and mother from Chennai) who will serve as vice president.

Kamala had close ties with her grandfather P.V. Gopalan, who was a Secretary of the Government of India under Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.

Joe and Kamala are both steeped in family and the values that embody a family.  

In her acceptance speech, embracing the diversity which is America, Harris in her opening words said,

Congressman John Lewis before his passing wrote: ‘Democracy is not a state. It is an act.’ And what he meant was that America’s democracy is not guaranteed. It is only as strong as our willingness to fight for it, to guard it and never take it for granted. And protecting our democracy takes struggle. It takes sacrifice. But there is joy in it, and there is progress. Because we the people have the power to build a better future. 

In doing so, she redefined the spirit of democracy- the ability to fight, to struggle, to progress and to change.

Joe and Kamala are both steeped in family and the values that embody a family. They have consistently referred to their families throughout the campaign and particularly on election night, when Biden said, “Folks, in the last days of the campaign, I began thinking about a hymn that means a lot to me and my family, particularly my deceased son Beau. It captures the faith that sustains me and which I believe sustains America. And I hope, and I hope it can provide some comfort and solace to the 230 million — thousand Americans who have lost a loved one through this terrible virus this year. My heart goes out to each and every one of you. Hopefully, this hymn gives you solace as well. It goes like this. ‘And he will raise you up on eagles’ wings, bear you on the breath of dawn, and make you to shine like the sun and hold you in the palm of his hand.’ And now together on eagles’ wings, we embark on the work that God and history have called us to do with full hearts and steady hands, with faith in America and in each other, with love of country, a thirst for justice”

.Kamala remembered her own mother, “my mother, Shyamala Gopalan Harris, who is always in our hearts. When she came here from India at the age of 19, she maybe didn’t quite imagine this moment. But she believed so deeply in an America where a moment like this is possible. And so, I’m thinking about her and about the generations of women — Black women, Asian, White, Latina, Native American women who throughout our nation’s history have paved the way for this moment tonight. Women who fought and sacrificed so much for equality, liberty and justice for all, including the Black women, who are often, too often overlooked, but so often prove that they are the backbone of our democracy.” 

The Joe Biden administration will be committed to the environment and to address climate change. He has promised to enter the Paris Agreement on day one of his office. The manifesto on his website for the campaign included the following:

1. ‘Ensure the U.S. achieves a 100% clean energy economy and reaches net-zero emissions no later than 2050’

2. ‘Build a stronger, more resilient nation’.

3. ‘Rally the rest of the world to meet the threat of climate change’

4. ‘Stand up to the abuse of power by polluters who disproportionately harm communities of colour and low-income communities’

5. ‘Fulfill our obligation to workers and communities who powered our industrial revolution and subsequent decades of economic growth’

Biden says his policies would protect workers affected by the transition to cleaner energy sources, such as coal miners and power plant workers, as well as invest in their communities.

On the night of his election, he emphatically reiterated his pledge on “the battle to save our planet by getting climate under control”. Welcome Climate for Change!

Both Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have ‘justice’ and ‘human rights’ in their DNA.  Given her track record Harris is very forthright on justice issues. A year ago, in Iowa she saidI have spent my career as a prosecutor. I’ve only had one client in my entire life, and that has been the people. Unlike other people, unlike others, I have never represented a corporation. I have never represented a special interest. I started my career fighting for the people. In fact, the first time I walked into a courtroom, I spoke five words. ‘Kamala Harris, For the People. ‘And those words, ‘For the People,’ capture our system of justice. Because there are two points when we say for the people. One, in our system of justice, we have rightly said that a harm against anyone is a harm against everyone — that no one should ever be made to fight alone. And for the people, when I stood there, and when I stand here today, also means all the people. Regardless of race, regardless of gender, regardless of sexual orientation, regardless of the party with which they are registered to vote, regardless of the language your grandmother speaks. It means all the people. And it was for the people that a large part of my early career was about fighting against those who molested children and raped women — because it was about saying that those survivors deserved justice and a voice that gave them safety without judgment. For the People”.

Biden resonates in a similar way; for both of them, justice was on the ballot- a determined way to ensure change.

The Joe Biden-Kamala Harris administration will be great for the people of India – but not for the ruling regime! Both of them love India – have close connections and know exactly what is happening in the country.

Both have expressed concern about the human rights situation in India- particularly on freedom of speech and expression and freedom of religion  

In a recent policy paper, among other things, Biden plans to increase the number of high-skilled visas, including the H-1B, and eliminate the limit on employment-based visas by country, both of which are expected to benefit tens of thousands of Indian professionals impacted by some immigration policies of the outgoing Trump administration.

Both have expressed concern about the human rights situation in India- particularly on freedom of speech and expression and freedom of religion. Both leaders have on record, taken positions that make it clear they back a liberal India and care about it.

One can be sure that Biden-Harris will not give this regime the free pass that Trump did. Biden has expressed disapproval of the CAA and the National Register of Citizens (NRC), and Harris’ words on the abrogation of Article 370 should alarm New Delhi, “We have to remind the Kashmiris that they are not alone in the world. We are keeping a track on the situation. There is a need to intervene if the situation demands.” So, there is bound to be a paradigm shift in the US-India relations: deeper on one level and challenging at the other.

Yes, America and the whole world certainly needs the restoration of her soul: a ‘climate’ for change based on unity, hope, faith, compassion, justice, family values, a healthier environment; but above all, as Van Jones puts it so succinctly “to tell your kids character matters”, that one can now breathe more easily…

Courtesy: Indian Currents.

(Cedric Prakash is a human rights and peace activist- writer. Views are personal.)

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