Is America just a glorified third world country?

Published: November 19, 2016

An anti-Trump protester holds his protest sign outside a rally for Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump in Cleveland, Ohio, March 12, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS

I slept the night Donald Trump was elected president of the United States (US). Not out of a sense of peace, but a resigned knowledge that nothing I did now would stop the waves and currents of history. I didn’t know the outcome, and I almost didn’t care; because whatever happened, ordinary Americans would have to deal with it. I was one of them, whether I liked it or not.

My friends had stayed up after midnight, watching the election coverage on their laptops.

“Look at how many states are red!” my friend Amina exclaimed, horrified. “The Republicans are leading the House (of Representatives).”

She was worried and she was rightfully so. A majority republican house and senate were far more disastrous than even a republican president, because it meant larger policy implications for minorities like ourselves, for women, for the poor and for anybody who was anyone in the US, simply because national policy affected us whether we liked it or not. Whether we voted or not.

I slept the night Donald Trump was elected. Not out of indifference, but a hard headed sense of reality, and an implicit acceptance of what would happen. I didn’t know if Donald Trump would win. But I expected it.

I remember when I woke up that morning, tired from staying up the night before, tired from all the schoolwork I inevitably had to do regardless of who won, I felt a shift in the air. It was instinctive, almost primordial, but I felt as if something was drastically different. I felt not as if the world had changed overnight, because the world had been changing in my lifetime, it had been changing before my very eyes, far before November 8, 2016. But I felt as if there was no going back now.

I palmed my cell phone. I had a headache that comes from lack of sleep. I opened Google and typed in ‘US Election 2016’. And I saw that Donald Trump had won, and Hillary Clinton had lost.

Google had colour-coded it. The red far exceeded the blue.

There was no denial, no panic and no pain. I laughed. I laughed as if to say,

“He really won, didn’t he?”

When I left my house, the sky was overcast, grey; the weather stuffy and cold. The clouds teemed with rain. I regretted leaving my hair down because it would now frizz. Nobody said anything, but I saw it on their faces; a scowl, a worried misery, an almost subtle underlying frustration with what had happened.

Seeing passive and unfriendly faces in Philadelphia was nothing new. It was going to rain, it was the middle of the week, and I was in one of the poorest cities in the US. But today was different. Nobody said anything, but we all knew what had happened.

When I reached the protest against Trump, I was late. People had congregated since noon to express their feelings about what had happened. I saw a girl, whose mascara dripped muddy tracks down her face, holding a sign against Trump. I saw individuals preach and gesture and weep. I saw people say how shocked they were, and how they wish this had not happened.

Berkeley High student Ariana Melton holds a sign during a protest in response to the election of Republican Donald Trump as President of the United States in Berkeley, California. Photo: Reuters

People in Seattle, Washington carried not my president and fight racism placards during the anti-Trump protest. Photo: Reuters

Their emotional display was foreign to me. I empathised with them, and I understood, but I could not reconcile myself to their shock and surprise. Did they not realise they were in America? The nation built on the enslavement of millions of Africans and the genocide of Native Americans? Had they forgotten the wars George W Bush flagrantly started in the Middle East on the false premise of weapons of mass destruction?

I knew how it was to be a person of colour in the US, a category which does not even exist in Pakistan, because we lack white people against which to differentiate ourselves. I knew how it was to be hated, disdained, and humiliated on an almost daily basis. I knew how to smile at white people and nod as if everything was normal, because that was what they expected of us. If you didn’t, you could lose everything you had worked so hard for. You could lose the hard-won sacrifices your parents made to live in this country, the fruits of the American Dream, which people now wondered even existed anymore, or if it ever existed in the first place.

Trump brought everything to the fore. What Americans thought but were too polite to say out loud, he shamelessly stated. What Americans acted on but denied drove their actions, he openly did. What Americans wanted but justified with liberal rhetoric, he acknowledged was racist.

The people in America now weeping over the Trump victory — a democratic victory, despite his tyrant complex, which is more than can be said for the dictators of Pakistan past— don’t realise that the US was heading towards this crash course. In the past few years, we have seen the deterioration of post-racial Obama America. We had a black president and yet black people were still shot dead in the streets. We had national health care and yet 45 million Americans lived below the poverty line. We had graduates with PhDs who could not find jobs, much less pay off their student loans.

The US resembles a third world country in many respects. Water isn’t drinkable in Flint, Michigan, and residents on Pine Ridge Reservation use generators to get a few hours of electricity a day, the healthy American middle class has been replaced with the enraged white working class, laid off industry jobs and paid minimum wage. I see children selling candy on the streets of Philadelphia, no different from child vendors knocking on car windows on the streets of Karachi.

The only difference is Americans have not fully accepted the precariousness of living in what is supposed to be the wealthiest and most democratic country on earth.

The Trump victory drove this reality home for us. If many of us were in denial, now we have a president-elect to confirm what America had already become.

But young people know this best, because we saw it first. We were promised everything, but got nothing in return. And we will continue to fight for our sanity and survival in this country because we have no choice.

We deal with history, not because we desire it, but because we have no choice but to face it. We won’t stop living, hoping, and fighting. There is time after the end of the world. That time is now, and nobody can take it away from us.

Iman Sultan

Iman Sultan

The author is a freelance writer and activist, currently based in Philadelphia. She tweets @karachiiite (

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Lalit

    and overnight US becomes a third world country as election results didn’t favor my would have been a sparkling democracy had the results been otherwise …nice logic.ever heard of sour grapes..Recommend

  • Anon

    Hope you are returning back soon to the “Land of Pure” which your Quaid E Azam has created after paying heavy prices and fighting with “cunning Hindus.”Recommend

  • Mohammad Ahmad

    Please don’t waste your time comparing USA to Pakistan or other Third World countries. Some valid points, but this is taking things way too far. Try living in a Third World country for a few years. I have and it was not a pretty sight. Of course America has its underbelly, which country doesn’t. Recommend

  • ab1990

    why do muslims keep criticizing usa but dont leave to their native countries? Hypocrisy at its best indeedRecommend

  • vinsin

    So you moved from one third world country to another. Your link on genocide tells that no genocide happened instead natives died because of diseases. Pakistan on built on the enslavement of millions of non-Muslims and the genocide of non-Muslims.Recommend

  • Keyboard Soldier

    The white American male voted against Muslims. With Jeff sessions (Attorney General, KKK supporter – perhaps a secret member), Gen Flynn (National security advisor, wants to bomb Pakistan to oblivion) and Steve Bannon (Chief Strategist, known hater of Islam) in power, Islam as an organized political force would seize to exist.

    The American judicial system (with three new supreme court judges to be appointed by Trump) would make it extremely difficult for Muslims to practice Islam. They will have to convert or leave.

    This is coming in the next 8 years.Recommend

  • Ravi Blr

    If it is so bad in US, why don’t you go back to Pakistan? There is no racism in Pakistan, as per you. Of course Pakistan treats its minorities terribly, but then you would not be a minority, would you? Unless you are a Shia, or Ahmedi, or Ismaili…,Recommend

  • Patwari

    Like it or not US put a man on the moon. Remember?
    Like it or not, you are a third rate blogger. Like it or not
    you need to pay more attention to your homework. Like
    it or not, you also contradict yourself. ” I slept the night
    Donald Trump was elected……I woke up that morning
    tired from staying up the night before” Huh? Wha?
    Did you sleep? No? Yes? Maybe one eye open?
    Like it or not If the water is bad in Flint, Michigan, is it
    bad in Miami? L.A.? Houston? Dallas? New York?
    Boston? It’s drinkable there. And, if, on some remote
    part of an Indian Reservation, miles from nowhere, they
    are using generators,..then what about New York? Whose
    lights you can see from outer space. Or Denver, or Salt lake City,
    or Chicago or Detroit. Where electricity is available 24/7.
    Could be you have a third world country mentality.
    Get a life.Recommend

  • Rohan

    Whatever USA is it is better than a failed state which laughably calls itself the land of pure.Stop playing the victim cardRecommend

  • Critical

    This little activist doesnt have any idea about what third world country exactly is…

    First of all,being a NATO member, USA will always be a first world country and and as a NAM founder,India will always be a third world country even if the fortunes change in the next century

    Third world country is a symbol of pride for the countries who didnt try to join forces during the Cold war and prevented World War III…

    Rest of the article is the same recycled bits from other blogs…

    Women’s right..misogyny…Nazi…Hitler….racism..white male privilege..

    Just add some verbs to these nouns and voila you get an anti trump article…

    FYI,As much as I hate Trump in power,one should introspect why he came…If Hillary cant defeat this reality star,then how is she going to convince others to become a president…Recommend

  • Iman

    Hi Mohammad! Thanks for reading and commenting. The point is the underbelly in the USA is expanding and the institutions in place – economic, govt., social, even media, etc. – can no longer sustain it. Trump winning is a failure of the two-party system, and it also signals a huge shift for both the Democratic and Republican Parties (latter of which Trump has destroyed and thrown into crisis).

    I would suggest reading the works of Huey P. Newton, leader of the Black Panther Party, who predicted the death of industry jobs long before that happened and the shift in the US extracting labor from multinational corporations and not American workers.

    Again, thanks for commenting!Recommend

  • Iman

    Hi Patwari, thanks for commenting. Water was actually cut off to Black Detroit residents in 2014 (read more about that here- All of the cities you mention are undergoing gentrification, i.e. unequal development that marginalizes and displaces working class white, Black, Latinx and other people, who normally have lived in those cities for generations.

    Pine Ridge isn’t a remote reservation, but was the heart of the American Indian Movement in the 1970s and the occupation of Wounded Knee. Marlon Brando declined accepting his Oscar for The Godfather in protest of the events there (read more about that here: Pine Ridge is near Standing Rock and Rosebud reservations, which have been the sites of the latest Dakota Access Pipeline protests – also a water issue.

    The social inequalities in the US are becoming deeper and deeper. What you say about the US being a privileged country is in fact true, but those privileges are only able to exist at the grave expense of other people – some of whom are in fact located in the US.

    The grass is always greener on the other side :) But these problems have existed for the past hundreds of years, and they’re only getting worst.

    Thanks for reading and commenting! Appreciate your engagement.Recommend

  • Allah Rakha

    Your article shows a bias and prejudice against the majority of the people who have accepted Donald Trump as their President, living in US, you feel insecure, you want your rights.. and let me just ask you what are you afraid of, if you haven’t done anything wrong or illegal..? And why is he going to target you.. are you concerned about your community as a whole? My dear, you are much better off living in US even though the Trump is in power, at least there is no bomb blast happening around the corner unlike your country or any other Muslim country. Women still have their rights much more than what you shall have in your Muslim countries. Your confusion is only a result of your imagination, driving conspiracy theories and depriving your belief in one of the world’s strongest democracy.. it’s not your fault.. it’s because Muslims won’t ever be able to understand Democracy. People like you will not be satisfied even if you all go to Mars and colonize it.Recommend

  • Patwari

    Every country has it’s problems. Every country. Including
    Your beloved Land of the Pure. [humongous problems]
    You should pack your bags and a take a jet-plane, to, say,
    Somalia? Yemen? Ethiopia? Mali? You will be weeping
    tears of joy, once you land there. It will be Nirvana.
    Exactly where you need to dedicate your life. [Be sure you
    are wearing a Burqa,…the tent like, black one. The mullahs
    there, do not tolerate any bareheaded women.
    And who gives a doozy why Marlon Brando did not
    accept his Oscar because the Lakota Sioux took over
    Wounded Knee and were moaning and groaning about
    inequalities. That’s all history. Water under the bridge.
    [Same place where Custer got hacked to pieces and fed to
    the crows and dogs??]
    There are severe current problems. Multiplied by a 1000
    because a racist, bigoted, white supremacist got elected
    as president of US. Your worse nightmare come true.
    Air Somalia and Sudan Airways are offering huge discounts,
    if you buy your ticket with dollars. Not the local moola.
    Grab this chance to show how dedicated you are to the

  • Patwari

    Because hindus, for some reason always blame
    Muslims for everything. Could be 1200 years of servitude
    under Mughals made them like this full of hate race? True.
    There are two billions of them at last count……..
    Get a life.Recommend

  • abhi

    Well said.Recommend

  • abhi

    This is not just about America, this will happen everywhere. The manual jobs will be gone. The future for mankind indeed looks bleak unless we comeup with some system where wealth can be shared (PS: communism is already failed).Recommend

  • Sane

    In Pakistan minorities are not killed for beef eating and not massacred by chief minister of any province. Minorities in Pakistan are much much safe than India. They share in public life independently without any discrimination. They do business, they are in private and public sector jobs like other Pakistanis. Stop your propaganda.Recommend

  • Patwari

    Really?…Hmmmn…are you sure about what you wrote?
    Perhaps you remember Joseph Colony in Lahore? Where
    more than 200 Christians were killed and their houses and
    businesses were set on fire. This happened just a few years
    ago. Or the Christian couple, beaten, tortured, hung and then
    burnt. by a village while the police stood and watched!! Just
    last Easter Sunday they blew up and killed 160 Christians
    who were in a park with their families, celebrating just a
    peaceful Sunday. Or the Christian Church that was blown up
    in Peshawar, just two years ago. About 230 Christians killed
    Never mind how many were wounded and died from their
    injuries 6 months later. Because they never received the care.
    Should we talk about the 47 Shias killed in a restaurant in
    Qissa Khwani Bazaar, in Peshawar? Or the 64 Shias blown up
    in Shikarpur. Or the 190 Hazara Shias killed in Quetta two years
    ago. Or the whole Shia neighborhood blown up with a truck
    bomb two years ago. 290 Shias killed. How about Safoora Goth
    Massacre? 45 Shia Agha Khanis killed…[ongoing Shia Genocide]
    This can go on and on and on… understand? Nope, you don’t
    So think before you write. Recommend

  • abhi

    Proof of pudding is in eating. While Pakistani Hindus are migrating to India because of bad conditions there, I don’t see any muslim in India planning to migrate to Pakistan yet.Recommend

  • Ahmad

    LOL Sane are you really sane? Just Google Minorities in Pakistan and you will see A LOT of stuff how Safe they are in Pakistan. Come on, Shabaash!!Recommend