When the pandemic hit a year ago, some people panicked. They flocked to stores to stock up on supplies, buying up millions of rolls of toilet paper and other household essentials. Later many regretted those decisions and suffered what psychologists and marketers call "buyer's remorse."
Millions of Americans made another decision last year that they may be beginning to regret; they voted for Joe Biden. After one month, there are signs of voter remorse syndrome.
When the Biden administration finally took over the White House, millions of Americans enjoyed a sigh of relief, lots of hopes for a new beginning and for getting America back on track. Biden promised a major new deal on his campaign trail; the country had suffered from two pathogens: Trump and COVID-19.
Biden's major challenges are fixing the economy, getting a grip on the pandemic, following the science on climate change and again taking a leading role on the international stage, standing up for human rights and freedom.
Unfortunately, the first month or so of the Biden administration has been long on symbolism and short on substance.
Over 40 executive orders have mainly revoked Trump's disastrous ones. There have been a lot of firsts: the first Black woman elected on a national ticket, the first Native American potentially leading the Interior department, the first Black secretary of defense, the first Latino potentially leading the Department of Health and Human Services, the first Hispanic heading White House security, the first woman heading the U.S. intelligence community.
But in America, what we really need are people with actual ideas regardless of race or gender, believing in actual changes more than in symbolism.
Like millions, I voted for Biden to get rid of the racist, misogynic, divisive Islamophobic Trump, who banned Muslims from coming to America. Now Biden has lifted the ban, when no Muslims want to come to America anymore. Fixing Obamacare, raising the minimum wage, closing Guantanamo — all are still Biden's big promises.
Last week the Biden administration, which wanted to make human rights a cornerstone of foreign policy, published the long-awaited intelligence report that implicated Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) in the killing of journalist and dissident Jamal Khashoggi. However, Biden caved in and stopped short of punishing the prince, the man who ordered the killing. Business as usual.
Biden called the ailing Saudi king to assure him of America's special relationship with the kingdom. The Biden administration justified its decision — or no decision — with the tired old rationalizations and justifications that the U.S. has been using for years to give the medieval monocracy a pass on human rights violations.
As the New York Times reported, the administration "concluded that it could not risk a full rupture of its relationship with the kingdom, relied on by the United States to help contain Iran, to counter terrorist groups, and to broker peaceful relations with Israel."
The 35-year-old unstable Saudi prince will be with us for a long time — longer than Uncle Joe, for sure. Biden has started his Middle East foreign policy with illegal bombing in Syria and the sale of $200 million in weapons to General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, of Egypt — another dictator who came to power on a tank, toppled the first civilian-elected president in Egypt, committed a massacre and is killing and imprisoning journalists while kidnapping dissidents' families to put pressure on them to stop their activities abroad.
The paranoid general eliminates any political space for Egyptians but is still our favorite dictator.
Biden is now allowing another murderer, MBS, off the hook. The crown prince is waging a devastating war against impoverished Yemen, killing thousands, starving millions. MBS has been supporting and bankrolling Arab dictators' wars against their people. It is OK with Biden because MBS might be normalizing relations with Israel and letting Saudi women drive.
Americans use the mantra of human rights, democracy and freedom only against our enemies — China, Russia, Venezuela, Iran, etc.
For our oppressive but friendly dictators in the Middle East, we look the other way. Anything else is too costly, given our addictions to oil and Israel.
Ahmed Tharwat, host and producer of the local Arab American TV show "BelAhdan with Ahmed," writes for local and international publications. He blogs at Notes From America: www.Ahmediatv.com. Follow him on Twitter: @ahmediaTV.