The Year of Living Dangerously
Guess what – it was my birthday this week! You know what I got as a present? President Trump! As you can imagine, this was one of those presents where you just can’t muster the Oscar-winning talent to fake a smile. In short, I was devastated. But who am I kidding? We all were.
For us Brits, this was the second big slap in the face this year after the UK voting out of the EU. How sad that the year my son, Felix, was born in the most progressive and un-conservative way, there is a lurch from the western world back into conservative rightwing darkness.
When the Brexit vote happened it was a wakeup call. I realised I’d been living in a bubble and outside the air was toxic. What’s happened across the Atlantic admittedly doesn’t feel as close. But it is close, because America has the power to affect the course of the world’s evolution.
Take the Bush Jr. era for example. I remember my housemate at the time, James, calling while I was in a shopping mall to tell me that the World Trade Centre had been attacked. I ran to the nearest electronics store with TVs playing the news in the window and watched the twin towers collapse on multiple screens. The world changed.
The republicans called on world leaders to go with it to war in the Islamic world and labelled it the “axis of evil”. This kind of rhetoric gave way to a “with us or against us” era of bullying on a global scale. The UK joined the fight under false finger-pointing to weapons of mass destruction. France refused so McDonald’s restaurants in the US changed the name of their French fries to freedom fries. Yes, really. The US took down Iraq and before you could say "inconvenient truth" Saddam Hussein had been put to a quick death. Years of Islamophobia followed, with Muslims taking their place in the tabloid press as the panto villains of the 21st century, because hate sells more papers than truth.
But then Obama came along and won the presidency. He told America that those who've been told for so long by so many to be cynical and fearful and doubtful “to put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day”.
What amazing words they were. I mean, really, has anyone else spoken to the world with such profoundness in our lifetime? When he took to the stage in Chicago and said that speech he did that thing we’d needed for so long, he tapped into what we wanted - an end to the anger, we were all just so tired. But he dazzled us. And for the first time in so long, we could relax and know we were in good hands. He may not have pleased everyone in his time in office, but the world sure did feel like a nicer place with him around.
But when Trump announced in his campaign that he wanted to ban Muslims from entering the US I thought he’d shot himself in the foot, but his ratings surged. I remember saying to my mum recently that we’d had too easy a time with Obama and the world was due for another period of darkness. Well here it is folks. Trump is next in line to the White House and the shadow is already consuming everything, with protestors currently outside Trump Tower and race attacks on the rise. Planned Parenthood will take a beating too. I’m just so happy I had Felix and got the hell out of there!
What angers me is that people say this and Brexit are the result of disenfranchised people, those who are fed up of the political system. It really pisses me off how this excuse is banded around with every political development. When in history have people not felt disenfranchised?? This is the nature of a system that allows the few to govern the many. You will not please everyone. As a single father I want to be entitled in he UK to a parental order for my son, but I'm not because until there is enough need for it it wont be debated in Parliament. So I feel disenfranchised! Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying we should put up and shut up. But I would never challenge the system by voting in someone like Trump to take down the establishment altogether because, for all its faults, we need it.
That said, I’d rather him than, say, Ted Cruz, because believe me nothing is more dangerous than a man who thinks he’s in the oval office by God’s will. Trump wouldn’t be interested in God’s opinion unless God said something nice about him, because all he wants is to be popular. This bromance with Putin only developed because Putin complimented him, but in the process Trump's cosying up to a homophobic old-style-Soviet politician whose tactical mind is far superior to his own. What if the US ends up on side with President Assad in Syria? It will destroy America’s relationship with the Middle East for generations. Young Syrians will once again grow up in anger, playing children's games under the shadow of drones and ripe for radicalisation.
But Trump doesn’t care about any of this. He doesn’t care if my son or the kids of anyone reading this are caught in the blast of a terrorist attack on London Underground or the Paris Metro as revenge for America’s foreign policy. Why? Because he just wants to be adored. This is exactly what a world leader should not be. They should put their country’s best interests before their own.
Then again, one glimmer of hope is that if the Republicans step up after all the glitter of the election win has settled and demand Trump acts in a way that turns people against him, and then Trump realises there’s actual work to be done, I could really imagine him telling them to go fuck themselves.
But even if he did turn out to be an enemy of the Republicans, I’d still think he was vile. This is one reason so many Americans are devastated now. I’ve never been one for US patriotism, but I do sincerely believe it is one of the greatest nations in the world and I’m proud that my son was born there, through the support and kindness of doctors, nurses, scientists and lawyers that barely raised an eyebrow at such a alternative way to create life. And to go from the founding fathers through the abolition of slavery and the Great Depression and the subsequent growth, only to arrive at a man that boasts about grabbing women by the pu**y, is nothing short of heartbreaking.
So to my American friends, of whom there are many, I want to tell you that we know exactly how you feel. We had the same love for our membership of the EU and it was ripped from our hands by the evil on our doorstep. At first you will feel hurt. Then you feel anger. Then comes defiance and refusal to accept the decision, looking for something, anything in the legal system that will provide a loophole. But slowly over time the news will lessen its coverage and go back to reporting on other stories, and the realism of President-Elect Trump will set in as life goes on. You are not alone in this journey. You are supported by friends across the Atlantic. But on your home turf just look to Hillary Clinton, who I thought conceded with such grace, and remember what she said:
“…the rule of law, the principle that we are equal in rights and dignity, freedom of worship and expression. We respect and cherish these values too and we must defend them."