On first glance, thriving and prosperous America — the bastion of freedom, the ‘land of the free, the home of the brave’ — has little in common with poor Myanmar (formerly Burma). Dig a little deeper, and we witness how both nations are in the throes of a toxic nationalist sentiment predicated on xenophobia and exclusion. The genocide of the Rohingya community in Myanmar has gripped local and international media in recent days, with Pakistanis protesting against the atrocities both on the international stage and on the streets of Pakistan. But perhaps, what has eluded our attention is the recent decision by Donald Trump to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program, or DACA as it is more commonly known. President Obama initiated DACA in 2012 as a makeshift attempt to deal with America’s ‘crisis’ of undocumented immigrants. DACA was geared towards the children of immigrants who were brought to the US before they turned sixteen, and who had no criminal records. These children, or ‘dreamers’ as they were called, were allowed temporary permits which did not amount to legal residency but prevented them from deportation. Trump’s cancellation of DACA has very strong similarities with Myanmar’s ethnic cleansing and oppression of the Rohingya. Since its independence, Myanmar has insisted the Rohingya community are not natives of Myanmar, but in fact ‘Bengalis’ who migrated into the country during colonial times. While there is some truth to it — our ‘benevolent’ British rulers did encourage labour to move to Myanmar which was then considered an internal affair since Myanmar too was under British control — the Rohingya have been a part of Myanmar for centuries, and as they attest themselves, are natives of the land. America’s exclusion of its own ethnic minorities — most of whom are in fact from Mexico — is thus strongly redolent of Myanmar’s exclusion of the Rohingya. This exclusion relies on an artificially created narrative which defines who the ‘natives’ of a land are. This narrative naturally juxtaposes these ‘natives’ with the outsiders who are considered unwelcome and trespassers. This narrative is evident in Myanmar’s campaign against the Rohingya and in Trump’s decision to cancel DACA. In fact, America has a long history of ethnic exclusion. From the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act to Japanese internment during World War II, America has repeatedly depicted its xenophobic and racist nature. Trump’s election as President is thus, the apogee of this racist sentiment and not an aberration — as liberal Americans make it out to be. America’s exclusion of its own ethnic minorities — most of whom are in fact from Mexico — is strongly redolent of Myanmar’s exclusion of the Rohingya. This exclusion relies on an artificially created narrative which defines who the ‘natives’ of a land are Myanmar’s violence against the Rohingya also highlights how ethnic oppression takes forms other than expulsion. Since 1962, the government in Myanmar has given the Rohingya foreign identity cards — very similar to DACA giving ‘dreamers’ permits — instead of the national identity cards assigned to the other 135 recognised ethnicities in the nation. These identity cards and permits then become visible manifestations of these groups’ minority and secondary status. Communities like the Rohingya in Myanmar and Latino immigrants in America are forced to live in derelict and impoverished physical spaces — a process known as ‘ghettoisation’. This ghettoisation is a common theme of Frantz Fanon’s writing, who talked of how colonial nations are in fact Manichean worlds — where the colonists live in spaces characterised by wide roads and boulevards, and the poor in squalid conditions characterised by anomie. Authorities also restrict the mobility and movement of these groups which are always under scrutiny by law enforcement agencies — a phenomenon best evinced by a recent white American police officer claiming ‘we only shoot Blacks’. It is thus very important to highlight the institutional and systemic oppression of minorities in nations such as Myanmar and America. We must always remain hesitant of beseeching America to come to the rescue of oppressed communities in places such as Kashmir or Myanmar, for the so called champion of liberty is itself guilty of oppression and of subjugation. We must also question false narratives of nationalism which are built upon ‘imagined communities’ as Benedict Anderson argues, and which feed the xenophobic sentiments underlying American exceptionalism and the genocide of the Rohingya. These narratives, in large part, fuel the violence against the Rohingya and allow Trump to label Latinos as ‘rapists and murderers, and Muslims as ‘terrorists’. Whilst we ponder over how best to come to the aid of the Rohingya, we must remain cognisant of similar strands of nationalism that exist in Pakistan. We cannot dismiss dissident voices simply as ‘anti-Pakistan’, for we have seen how this narrative of demonising those who feel differently than us is used by colonial powers such as America to hurt the weak. Thus, recent moves by the Pakistani state to silence critics and to curtail social media must be condemned. As far as Trump’s decision to revoke DACA and the Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi’s silence and tacit support of the Rohingya’s ethnic cleansing are concerned, we must continue to raise our voices against such forms of nationalism and oppression. This struggle will not simply play out on the international political landscape or in the UN — which has too often failed to raise a voice for the silenced. Instead, civil society all over the world — but especially in countries such as the US and in India, which continues to oppress Kashmir — must take the lead and bring their governments to task. An uphill battle, no doubt. But one that is much needed. The writer graduated from Aitchison College and Cornell University. He also studied at Oxford University and his interests include the politics of class, gender and race. He can be reached at email@example.com Published in Daily Times, September 10th 2017.