I loved watching world news, but this habit had stopped last year, when global media began to normalize Donald Trump (because he was a serious contender for the American presidency, news producers would argue). I really hate to see his face, let alone hearing him speaking. Eventually I stopped watching CNN because it had gone into hiring his sympathizers to be pitted against distinguished academics and progressives, and have them yell at each other.
I have stopped watching Channel News Asia because Asian news channels tend to normalize him and taking him seriously. I’ve stopped watching BBC and Australia+ because I have to see that bloated rotten orange. Now I am not also in the mood to see Indonesian news.
It didn’t take long for the world to know who would become Jakarta’s next governor. Many Jakartans and Indonesians were in despair by 3 p.m., when the result projections started to shape up. It wasn’t a neck-to-neck race as predicted. It was another big disappointment after the British referendum to leave the European Union last year, and after the American presidential election. Once again, hate won.
It wasn’t meant to be. The Jakarta’s gubernatorial election was meant to be a race between three politically mainstream men. By the end of 2016, it was clear that it had become a vote for diversity in Indonesia: Does Indonesia accept an ethnic and religious minority to govern its capital city and largest city? Or does it mandate a Muslim man (albeit another ethnic minority) to hold the position?
Again, ugly politics had to get in the way, showing the face of archconservative Islam, of violent Islam. Hatred against Ahok became synonymous with hatred against Christians and against Chinese-Indonesians. With every passing day, it became harder to think that “Oh, they are just angry with Ahok’s arrogance, and actually have no problem with other Chinese.” Several Chinese-Indonesian personalities, like political analyst Yunarto Wijaya and comedian Ernest Prakasa, received racist threats every day, and women supporting Ahok received misogynist slurs every day, even rape and murder threats.
The upcoming governor Anies Baswedan is a very different man to Donald Trump. His supporters, on the other hand, are very similar to Donald Trump’s supporters. Many of them strongly supported Prabowo Subianto in 2014. Many of them believe that President Joko Widodo is a communist. Many of them believe that Ahok orchestrated the migration of millions of Chinese citizens into Indonesia. Many of them believe that feminists, queers, and progressives should be purged because they are harming Indonesia’s morality. Many of them believe the military should dictate Indonesian politics again.
“Those fascists want a homogeneous, patriarchal, and religious nation. They don’t necessarily want the minorities to go away, only that the minorities know their place.”
This is why so many Indonesians equate the situation in Indonesia to that in the United States and United Kingdom. This is why so many Jakartans are despaired. Seen from the tranquility of Melbourne and Canberra, it seems that Jakartans are hysterical. It seems that mainstream Australian press used the election story to sell the horrors of sharia and Islamic radicalism. It seems that Ahok brought his own ruin by not reaching the swing voters earlier, and by acting rude in the land of Muslim Betawis and Javanese.
But for Jakartans, the fear is real. They know that the reparation and improvement of Jakarta will not be as good again for the next five years. They know that the intolerant organizations and figures will have more breathing space. They know that the next government of Jakarta will focus on poetic slogans and Islamic populism than on real solutions.
I do not know anyone who’s a supporter of Anies Baswedan. Most of my friends support Ahok because, like them, he is a Christian Chinese-Indonesians. My Jakartan friends like Ahok because they believe Jakarta has become a better place under Jokowi’s leadership, then under his. Their neighborhoods became cleaner, dealing with bureaucracy had become easier, and they felt safe. My friends who don’t like Ahok are socialists, since they are against his eviction and reclamation policies, and they believe that he works for the rich and the middle class, but not for the poor.
I live in Bandung and personally am not a fan of my mayor. He’s made too many sexist jokes online and I don’t feel Bandung has become a better city under his leadership. But it’s clear that Ridwan Kamil is the next target of the fascists. Already, smear campaigns against him are going around, claimming he’s a Shia, and that he permitted too many churches built in Bandung. I still don’t know why he is disliked by the far-right.
Like in the U.S. and the U.K., those fascist want a homogeneous, patriarchal, and religious nation. They don’t necessarily want the minorities to go away. They want the minorities to know their place. Fascists love Chinese-Indonesians who deal with them and normalize their fascism through mass media. Fascists love women who are homophobic and support the religious patriarchy.
I know that not all Chinese-Jakartans like Ahok. The left-wing students and activists. The centrists who believe his daredevil attitude ruined decades of their delicate communication with Muslims. Skeptics who believe he’s overrated and put on pedestal. People who are afraid that there are always troubles as long he’s in power. Corrupt and lazy people who believe his leadership and regulations are making their lives inconvenient, since they were used to bribery and abusing licenses.
Dark days for our world continue. It would be fine had Ahok, like Hillary, were defeated by capable, earnest, and mainstream conservatives, but no. But he was defeated fairly by millions of people who believe in intolerance, in homophobia, in misogyny, and in racism.
And believe me, they hate us even worse. They hate our sexuality, our respect for women and minorities, our trust to people from different backgrounds, and our vision for a better world. They believe we are the ones who are ruining Indonesia.
Read Mario’s take on sex, race and fetishizing and follow @mariorustan on Twitter.