India Loves Trump For Some Reason, Is Welcome To Keep Him If It Wants
On his trip to India, Donald Trump did the two things he loves the most about being president: appearing before crowds of people who love him the most, and hugging, literally, a fellow elected authoritarian leader bent on turning his multicultural democracy into a sectarian ethnostate. Trump was greeted warmly by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and treated to a rally in the largest cricket stadium in the world, with about 100,000 people in attendance.
Monday, the two Great Men traveled to visit an ashram where Indian independence leader Mohandas Gandhi once lived, and the Washington Post points out that while tens of thousands of Modi supporters lined the roads, the rally and following events fell a tad short of what the American strongman had predicted: "Trump had boasted at a rally in Colorado that 10 million people would greet him upon his arrival."
Then Trump and Melon went to the Taj Mahal to do the mandatory walk around while oohing and ahhing at the 17th century mausoleum. Trump said the building was "Incredible, truly incredible," and managed to refrain from speculating how much money the place could bring in a night if renovated as a hotel. It is not known whether Trump was informed the Taj is often considered a monument to the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan's undying love for his wife, Mumtaz Mahal -- we'll assume not, given that Trump didn't make a joke about how weird it was the guy would build such a big monument. Trump just doesn't seem to think spouses even like each other that much.
The rally was a great big production, with the crowd bopping along to "Macho Man" and other Trump rally playlist hits. Nearly all those in attendance wearing "Namaste Trump" hats were very excited at first, although about half the stadium emptied out before Trump finished speaking. Not that you can blame them -- the crowd had been sitting in the stadium for hours beforehand, it was hot, and they probably wanted to get back on the buses to go home.
During his speech, Trump struggled with the phonetic pronunciations of Indian names on his teleprompter, getting tongue tied as he apparently encountered them for the first time in his life. Real stumpers like the name of internationally-known cricketer Sachin Tendulkar, as well as
Ahmedabad, the city where he was speaking, to Swami Vivekananda, an Indian philosopher, greatly admired by Mr Modi. He also called the Vedas - ancient Hindu texts - "Vestas".
We remember how cute Audrey Hepburn looked riding around Rome on those Hindu scriptures.
The fumbling didn't matter, though, because right-wing Indians love Trump anyway. Or at least they love Modi and his agenda of Hindu nationalism, which among other fun things, includes preventing Muslim refugees from becoming citizens, cutting off the the Kashmir region from the internet and free press, and writing out any evidence of non-Hindu influence from the nation's history. Nehru who? Trump isn't expected to do anything of substance on the trip anyway, although he proudly announced some US weapon sales to India, and we imagine he and Modi will swap tips on eliminating internal enemies.
During the visit to Gandhi's home at Sabarmati Ashram, Trump made a game attempt at sitting at a spinning wheel like a visiting dignitary ought to, and managed to avoid saying that in addition to winning Indian independence, he also admired other great works by Ben Kingsley. He signed the guest book with praise for Modi, with no mention at all of Gandhi, in contrast to what Barack Obama's wrote about Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. in the guest book at another Gandhi memorial:
Thank heaven some rando on Twitter pointed out that Trump's inscription was actually better, since Obama was just showing off to make himself look like a big man who knows stuff.
Also on Sunday, Trump met with Yogi Adityanath, the chief minister of India's biggest state, Uttar Pradesh. Adityanath is a "radical Hindu monk known for his anti-Muslim rhetoric," according to the Washington Post, and he's said some wonderful things that could have been uttered by Steve Bannon or Trump himself if you switched around a few words:
In 2014, Adityanath promised to cleanse India of other religions. "This is the century of Hindutva, not just in India but in the entire world," he said.
He has also accused Nobel Peace Prize winner Mother Teresa, a Roman Catholic nun who worked with terminally ill patients in the eastern city of Kolkata, of being part of a conspiracy to convert Hindus to Christianity. In 2015, after Bollywood star Shahrukh Khan, a Muslim, spoke on the "growing intolerance" in the country, Adityanath compared him to Hafiz Saeed, a founder of terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba in Pakistan.
The BBC reported earlier this month that Adityanath explained in an interview that when India and Pakistan were partitioned in 1948, Muslims who decided to stay in India had done "no favours" to India by staying there instead of moving. So that's nice.
All in all, it was a very successful trip to signal unquestioning support -- apart from trade disputes -- for the leader of the country that's home to the most Trump Organization properties outside the USA. And in a tacit recognition that Modi's Hindu nationalism is the very best, Trump sent out several Google-translated tweets in Hindi, which is not spoken by all Indians, but is by the ones who matter.
(A reader consulted with a Hindi-speaking coworker, who confirms that this sounds about equally robotic in Hindi.)
Donald Trump cares, is the point.
Next it's on to Delhi, where people have been rioting over India's discriminatory immigration law. Trump will probably suggest dropping bombs or at least raking up the streets.
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