May, You Live In Interesting Times

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May, You Live In Interesting Times

I was an enthusiastic participant in the original Pussy march in London on 21 January 2017, along with an estimated 5 million people worldwide – there were over 400 anti-Trump marches in cities across the world that day. It was unlike any other protest march I had previously joined, both in its organisation and its atmosphere; it had been entirely planned via social media which made it feel somehow ‘word of mouth’, organic and democratic. Although there was an organising committee and co-sponsors, it felt like a really populist (in the best sense of that word) occasion, and it is the first march I have ever been on which didn’t feature ubiquitous identikit SWP placards. All the banners and signs I saw that day were home-made, original and overwhelmingly witty; this felt like it was a march of mainly engaged, confident and articulate people. The atmosphere was positive, inclusive, good humoured and warm, despite the freezing winter weather. At that point, Trump’s election as president felt unreal and absurd, like part of the plot of a far-fetched dystopian sci fi film which had somehow bled off the screen and into real life, but there was also such an optimistic spirit in evidence that day that it also felt fixable.

 

My assumption at that point was that, once Trump was actually installed in the White House, the grown-ups would take charge. I’m just about old enough to remember Reagan, who was also something of an iconoclastic loose cannon on the campaign trail, but whose worst excesses seemed a little tamed once he took office. He was regressive, divisive and, quite frankly, dim, but there was always a sense that there were experienced advisors around him. The fear of nuclear war was very real during his presidency but I always assumed that there were cooler heads around the president and that their wiser counsel would eventually prevail.

However, as far as I can tell – and it is difficult to keep up with the rapid personnel changes around the president – Trump has fired all the grown-ups and either not replaced them at all, or replaced them with his own minions. First rate sycophants with fourth rate minds. He does not listen, he will not take advice which differs in any way from what he already thinks (although I use the word ‘thinks’ advisedly) and he takes capriciousness all the way to the point of perilousness and beyond. The Trump Blimp is absolutely spot on – here is a petulant baby, full of hot air and trapped in the day glo orange body of a dangerous and powerful world leader. On any given day, literally anything could happen in his world which could result in extreme danger to ours.

 

There were actually two marches in London today; one organised by Women’s March London, who were behind the January 2017 march and another hosted by Owen Jones and organised by Stop Trump. I was drawn to the first, which was titled Bring The Noise: as they explained:

 

Bring pots and pans; bring drums; bring musical instruments; bring your voices. We’re taking pots and pans from the domestic space of home into the public space of politics – their purpose transformed for participation, engagement and joyful noise as we bring Cacerolazo

 – ‘Casserole protest’ – to the heart of the city.

 

For someone who was born and bred in London, I am spectacularly bad at Londoning. I’m scared of the entire underground system, and I’m not great in crowds so it took me a while to walk across the city to find the march. By the time I did, it was well formed, joyous and noisy; there were plenty of home-made placards, plenty of wit, plenty of focused anger and plenty of pots and pans. Rather than join the front or middle, I stood at the side of the road to wait for the tail. It took 23 minutes for everyone to pass me, which gives some idea of just how many people there were (later estimates suggest that around 250 000 people were protesting in London today). I’m glad, in retrospect, that I had the chance to do this; in January 2017 I was in the middle of the group and so didn’t get the chance to appreciate the scale, or see all the banners. The march finished in Parliament Square, home of the glorious Trump Blimp and I am really glad that I will be able to tell my as yet unborn grandchildren that I witnessed it in all its orange magnificence. I listened to some moving speeches and poems (although I couldn’t see much, being a small woman at the back of a big gathering) before having to leave in search of shade and water.



The overall mood of the day seemed to me to be as positive, enabling and inclusive as last year, but this was an angrier march too, with a more focused, more determined undercurrent. There were representatives from many organisations (yes, I did see SWP placards this time); if nothing else, Trump has succeeded in uniting a lot of people. There was, of course, a heavy police presence – plenty of helicopters and blue lights  – but it was not heavy handed at all, as far as I could see. The officers were mainly observing passively, and giving directions to bewildered tourists, and seemed good natured and relaxed. I like to think that this is because they agree with the aims of the march, but of course I have nothing other than my sunny and/or feckless sense of optimism as evidence for this belief.

I know the PM has few people other than herself and her government to blame here, but I couldn’t help but have a pang of pity for her. We were on the streets, in the beautiful sunshine, venting our displeasure clearly, cleverly and with cacerolazo, while she has to be in the same room and breathing the same fetid air as this monstrous, maggoty excuse for a man. She has to witness his boorish buffoonery at close quarters, and remain civil and welcoming. I guess this proves that you reap what you sow. I guess this is karma for insulting your 27 closest allies and putting all your eggs in a tangerine, shit shaped basket. I guess this is how her future will look, presiding over the break-up and break down of the increasingly ironically named United Kingdom. Bowing, scraping  begging. Humiliating. 

 

There isn’t, apparently, an old Chinese curse which says ‘May you live in interesting times’ – there is no equivalent idiom in Chinese and the phrase was first recorded in the 1930s. It is a saying which has often puzzled me – I’m easily bored, why wouldn’t I want to live in interesting times? – but these last few years have helped me understand more profoundly the meaning; I would now quite like to have a few calm years with no alarms and no surprises. Please.

As Martin Luther King said, light always drives out darkness, and this current darkness will end, but there may be a lot of pain for a lot of people before dawn comes. Meanwhile, I hope Theresa May is extremely unhappy in living through interesting times, though. I hope Trump’s life is nothing but extremely interesting for the rest of his days. I hope they, and the other right-wing enablers who have unleashed the current darkness, intolerance, hatred and fear across the world never have a peaceful day again.

by Teresa Durran

 

You can read more from the Ungagged collective on our writing page, or listen to left views on our podcast

 

And you can download free anti-Trump posters and placards here – it’s not too late!

The Trumpist Welly Boot, Dog Walking Into Fascism

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The Trumpist Welly Boot, Dog Walking Into Fascism

Walking my dog this morning in a suburban Scottish park, I got into an argument about the UK visit of the President of the United States.  How fascism spreads – it seems to hit the middle class dog owners first.

The person I argued with is usually affable.  They usually nod in agreement at my disgust at whatever political storm is brewing here in Scotland, in the UK or in the world.

Today was no different until we started talking about Trump.  We spoke about how the SNP were doing (we are both pro- Scottish independence and a bit cynical at times, over how the SNP are doing).  WE spoke briefly about what was happening in Northern Ireland – always an obvious topic because of my accent, and then we got on to Trump.  And this is how it went.

Me:  Good to see so many people protesting Trump today.

Her: Oh, I don’t know.  He’s honest at least.

Me: (silence for an uncomfortable moment) The man is a fascist.  Mussolini was “honest!”

Her:  Maybe that’s what we need.  A bit of fascism.  The world is out of control at the minute.

Me:  (silence and facial expression, and stuttering to show my disbelief – then composed myself)  Have you heard the Sun tape this morning?

Her:  I have.  And it sounded as if he was right.  I mean, May is a terrible Prime Minister.  Boris would at least be a new broom sweeping clean. If we had him negotiating Brexit, we’d be out by now.

Me: (Stopping walking, turns to face her with incredulous look on my face) You voted Remain!

Her:  Yes, but we are where we are.  May is going to crash our trade.

Me:  He’s a racist!  He is a misogynist!  He has already started a trade war with us that is costing jobs here at the very least!

Her: He’s broken no laws.

Me: Mussolini broke no laws.  The Nuremburg Race Laws were not broken by the Nazi’s…

Her:  You are being ridiculous.  Trump isn’t Hitler.

Me:  You are right.  But he has passed anti-muslim laws, and has separated children from their families…

Her:  They shouldn’t be there!  Immigrants shouldn’t cross borders…

Me: That is just ridiculous..!

Her:  He’s right… Europe isn’t like it was when I was young.  The culture is being changed by these people flooding in…

Me:  You mean brown people…

Her:  Exactly.  Even here [suburban, middle class, 99% white] I see a real change. The fabric of Bearsden is being changed.  We are losing our culture…

Me:  (it’s before breakfast… I am stunned by this!)  Our culture..?

Her:  Yes.  I mean, I live near the local primary school.  The amount of people in hijabs…

Me:  I cant believe you are saying that!  A few years ago, people used to say the same about Irish people… I would have been accused of “changing the fabric of Bearsden…!”

Her:  Yes, but that’s different.  That was wrong.  But they are changing our laws…

Me:  (realising I am talking to the nouveau-raciste) The only laws that have changed are ones that target people of colour… I wonder how many Windrush folk in Scotland were deported, or threatened with deportation?  How many of those hijab wearing womrn have been spat at or shouted at?

Her:  Ack, that doesn’t happen!

Me:  Really?  As a white, middle aged man with an irish accent, I’ve been shouted at and called names countless times by those who are full of Bearsden Culture… I cant imagine how those of colour have been attacked…

Her:  Well we aren’t going to agree.  Trump is good for Scotland.  Look at the business he has brought here…

Me:  He’s squashing business here!  He has imposed import taxes on lots of our products!  He is costing us business.

Her:  He protects his country.  That’s the sort of leader we need.  We need a Trump here.

Me: (losing is a bit) Like Tommy Robinson?  Farage?  Boris?

Her:  Exactly.  That’s what Scotland needs.

At this point I was on the verge of shouting.  It was 8am.  I needed to get away. So I hitched my dog on to its lead to walk off, with the parting words,

“You’ve given me the fear.  I really am scared by what you’ve said.  I wasn’t going to go to the protest against the racist, proto-fascist misogynist today in Glasgow, but I know I need to.”

Her:  We should be welcoming him.

I shook my head and walked off.

Mussolini talked about changing society to a fascist one, not by sending in the jackboots.  To paraphrase him, he said a chicken will scream if you pluck it a handful of feathers at a time.  But pluck it feather by feather, it won’t notice until it is too late.

I noticed the mottled pink, scarred,  flesh showing through this morning in suburbia.

See you on the streets.

 

Neil Scott

You can read more from Neil on his Ungagged Writing page and hear him on our podcast

 

Ditch the Donald, Dump the Trump

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Ditch the Donald, Dump the Trump

free protest signs

Want to carry a super cool protest sign for when the orange menace visits the UK, but you aren’t very artsy? We’ve got you covered. Our art department (the brilliant Red Raiph and Debra Torrance) have created a whole range of  Dump the Trump posters that you can download and print off to use absolutely free. After all, he deserves an appropriate welcome.

 

We’ve got full colour, black and white for cheaper printing, images to scrawl your own slogans on, have a scroll through and take as many as you like:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Again, you are welcome to download as many of these images as you like to use for your own protest signs, give them to friends, use them as posters, share them online, whatever you like, absolutely free, but if you’d like to make a donation, you can find our collection tin at paypal.me/ungaggedleft