Trump

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Amber Heathers
This article first appeared on Amber’s personal blog

Oh for crying out loud. I mean really. Come on 2016, are you actually for real? Adults dressing as clowns then dashing about high street; every decent celebrity dying, talks of tea & jam fueling Britain’s economy, Brexit, Theresa May as Prime Minister, Nigel Farage & Bob Geldof sailing across the Thames while firing insults at one another; Boris Johnson as foreign secretary; and now President ruddy Trump.

What on earth is this? Have I smoked something I shouldn’t have and fallen into the most hilariously terrifying dream? Surely this is all made up, right? Please say it is.

The last time I genuinely felt happy about an election outcome was probably 2008. I was 18-years old. Just a naive university student with trivial understanding of how the world worked. Our local student bar opened its doors all night long. Alcohol was served from 7pm to 7am to celebrate US election night. As the hours passed, Barack Obama moved closer to securing the White House.

The atmosphere overall was one of optimism. Left-wingers and right-wingers came together, cheering on history as it unfolded before our eyes. In our collective naivety, the students of Aberystwyth university spent that evening celebrating joyously as we watched an event we were convinced would end racism within the United States (oh how innocent we were).

Like our American neighbors across the pond that night, the crowded bar in that small Welsh university town believed real change was approaching. The dream of progression felt so attainable you could practically smell it.

At the time, it seemed like an overly jolly night on the tiles with a few too many ciders and a merry atmosphere to boot. Today, the very memory of that evening makes me want to curl up into a ball and weep until the world ends.

In the years since, elections and votes in general have ranged from disappointing to downright terrifying. Alright, so some rather great laws have passed in that time (the legalization of Gay marriage being one example), yet despite the small pockets of positivity, disappointment has overwhelmed the happier times. The UK’s coalition government of 2010, the Conservative win of 2015, Scotland failing to secure Independence, and the European referendum of last June to name a few. All a series of shitty moments, gradually leading up to the shittiest moment of all; Donald J Trump securing the White House.

No matter how I choose to look at the world since waking up last Wednesday and seeing that surreal headline sprawled across my iPad, I can’t bring myself to perceive it in a positive light. Some have told me to calm down, to just “wait and see”, to hope that all my fears are nothing more than the gloomy pessimism of a left-winger’s mind, yet I’m failing to achieve this.

One of the most powerful and influential countries on the planet has just put a misogynistic, racist bully in charge of their highest office. Here’s a man who boasts of grabbing women by the genitals, has been accused of rape, called all Mexicans rapists, labelled all Muslims terrorists, insulted the grieving mother of a dead soldier, mocked people with disabilities, flirted with the idea of firing nuclear weapons and has acted like an all round shitty human from start to finish. How the hell is it even remotely possible to look at the decision made by the American people on November 8th and think everything will be ok? Seriously, please tell me, because right now, I’m riddled with fear.

There’s no way to deny it, the western world has been slipping further to the right for quite some time
now. Racist headlines, xenophobic rhetoric becoming a part of mainstream thinking, far-right parties evolving into major contenders in the elections of many European countries, consensus hatred and apathy toward refugees fleeing countries bombed by our own governments, Brexit, and so on and so forth.

Maybe the West has always been right-wing. Maybe my assumption that most living within this corner of the globe were progressive was nothing more than the bi-product of a young, naive mind. Maybe the dream of living in a world where bigotry diminishes one year at a time was wishful thinking.

In the passing days since Mr Trump won the 2016 election, there’s been the usual mutterings of blame and theories as to why this happened in the first place. Few seemed to predict the outcome of Tuesday night. There was even a moment on Fox News where the presenters uttered in disbelief that Clinton may well not become the 45th president. The world scratched their heads in disbelief when the reality of what was happening began to sink in.

Now there’s finger pointing and attempts to find conclusions in how and why this vile life form managed to secure a job as leader of the free world. As usual, most the ideas and accusations fired have hints of truth to them, yet don’t explain the full story and are more often than not far too simplistic.

One argument is that Trump raced toward victory because of the immensely flawed electoral college system. Indeed, this is part of the reason, as Clinton did actually win the popular vote. She led by 200,000 votes after all. Most of Clinton’s voting base were based in denser populated city states, meaning that despite the higher number of overall votes in her favor, Trump still managed to secure a comfortable victory.

This explains part of the reason, yet we must also take into account the fact that Clinton running for the Democrat party also contributed to the fact that we now have a clueless plank set to move into the White House. Clinton, unlike Barack Obama during the 2008 presidential election, didn’t have a big enough movement behind her. Obama had a boat load of activists and volunteers, followed by unimaginable support from political groups and movements all across America. Clinton simply didn’t have that kind of backing during this election to carry her to a safe victory.

Because the problem is, Clinton just isn’t that popular candidate. As a matter of fact. She’s pretty despised by an awful lot of people. Democrats included.

Clinton has had a history of dishonesty regarding LGBTQIA+ rights, her stance toward the Trans Pacific Partnership, and has even been caught on camera explaining to bankers that politicians should have a separate “public” and “personal” persona.

The Clintons are a family known far too often for bending and breaking the rules; taking in millions of dollars in speaking fees & charitable donations from questionable sources, using her private email server while acting as secretary of state, and suspiciously generating nearly $100,000 after investing just $1,000 within a ten month period.

Her support of the Iraq war, her key role in the decision to overthrow Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi (destabilising the region and paving way for ISIS), and her neverending appetite for foreign intervention has also contributed to her lack of popularity.

While millions swooned over the idea of Barack Obama in 2008, Hillary Clinton received nowhere near as much support as a result of her pro-war, pro-establishment, questionable nature.

This means that even though voting turnout for republicans last week weren’t all that much different to the 2008 and 2012 figures for John McCain and Mitt Romney, Trump still managed to secure enough overall states to become the 45th President of the United States. I’m not saying anyone else
would have done a better job (including Bernie Sanders, as many are saying), however the fact that Hillary Clinton was running most certainly didn’t help when it came to the numbers.

These aren’t the only reasons of course, and they aren’t the only speculations put forth since Tuesday night. Another one bandied about is the belief that Trump won the presidency because of the nation’s disappointment in the Obama years. A lot of people went into the 2008 election convinced that Barack Obama would bring about a totemic level of change to the American political and social landscape. Although he did indeed manage to achieve some great feats during his 8-years in power (Obama Care, legalization of gay marriage, to name but two), Congress went out of their way to block as many of his attempts at progressive change as they could.

The neverending pushback from Congress left many disappointed, let down by their own expectations of America’s 44th President. As a result, the American people looked upon the Democratic Party of the last 8-years – a party which Clinton was apart of – with disappointed eyes. In November 2008, they were seen as the party who would deliver a brighter future. Today, seeing as less than expected has changed, less enthusiasm and support is held toward them.

Another argument put forth – one which I’ve heard far too often over the past week – is that the liberal left are solely to blame for Trump’s victory.

This is not only a claim made by the right, but also by the left themselves as well.

The idea goes like this; the way those on the left have treated those on the right has inevitably pushed them so far to the extreme that they ended up silently protesting by voting for a xenophobic bully who brags about assaulting women and hasn’t the slightest clue on how to run a country.

Now look, I’ll be honest and admit I think there are problems in the ways the left communicate with those who don’t agree ideologically, much in the same way as I think there are problems with the ways in which those on the right treat those who don’t agree with them.

Yes, the left need to adopt new ways of understanding and listening to others before labeling them racists or whatever (just like how I think the right need to stop automatically labeling people on the left as “sensitive”), but come on now.

Do people genuinely think the left have insulted right wingers so much (kinda ironic, considering how often I hear anti-liberal folk talk about how easily offended the left supposedly are) that they felt as though they had no other choice than to run to the voting booth and elect a hate-filled bully into high office? Really? So because liberals and the left in general came across as accusing and easily-offended in their eyes, that forced them to go ahead and vote for someone as rotten as Trump?

The liberal left do need to begin addressing the ways in which they speak to the right – ways which may well assist in polarising opponents in some respects – yet you can’t blame liberals for Trump getting into power. Instead of screaming “they made me do it!”, how about we accept that Trump is in the White House because people voted for him in there on their own accord.

Enough with all this “triggered people made Trump voters vote for him!” or “they silenced the right-wingers into choosing a racist because they called them all racist in the first place!” Maybe I’m exaggerating, but that sounds a bit like a member of the Klu Klux Klan saying “I only joined because my classmates kept calling me racist!!”.

I’ve always been a believer in the idea that you can’t change a mindset by insulting someone – that you have to do it through empathy and civil discussion – and I will admit that the left have been guilty of not going about the right way of doing this at times; myself included in that criticism. But saying they are solely culpable for Trump because they didn’t educate or empathise with enough people is bouncing the blame over.

Tump voters put Trump in the White House, not the people who voted otherwise.

Now is the perfect opportunity for those of us who play ball on the same ideological field to begin assessing and evaluating how we interact with those who disagree with us. It’s time to find new ways of communicating views to the world and understanding those whose mindsets differ.

Because I can appreciate that at times progressives have been guilty of labelling others as racist/sexist/homophobic/transphobic/etc when it isn’t necessary, and I can appreciate that we’ve failed to explain why people like Trump are not out to make the world a better place for anyone other than themselves.

Yet while I can appreciate that the left have failed to publicize their worldview efficiently enough in several respects, the fact so many are beginning to adopt the notion that liberals are screaming “bigot!” at any given opportunity is starting to make me slightly concerned that many may start to use this as a means of silencing those questioning and calling out language suppressing and enforcing dangerous stereotypes.

I’m growing troubled over the possibility of people using the whole “you’re being over sensitive” rhetoric to justify calling all Muslims terrorists, trans people via their birth genders, poor people scroungers, black people thugs, gay people perverts, refugees parasites and so on.

Calling all Muslims terrorists contributes to a mindset which results in innocent men and women getting stopped at airports, beaten up on the streets and in some cases murdered by paranoid folk. Referring to trans women as men and trans men as women results in gender variant individuals getting battered by insecure folk, restricted from public spaces and made to endure crippling gender dysphoria (for the record, gender dysphoria is a tad different to getting a tad miffed. Hence why trans people go through the social & physical agonies of changing their genders in the first place). Calling the unemployed scroungers amplifies a hatred toward them which forces governments into cutting their benefits and making them more unfavourable within the eyes of employers/authorities/society in general. Labelling black people as thugs encourages distrust, makes them appear more guilty and is what results in more black folk getting arrested/shot/imprisoned/murdered on a daily basis. Referring to gay people as perverts makes for more beatings, distrust, alienation and disgust. Calling immigrants parasites strips them of their humanity, resulting in homelessness, antipathy and abandoned by nations whose governments were responsible for blowing their homes to smithereens in the first place.

The language we use and the ideas we share contribute to the suffering and oppression many minorities endure. I’m not talking about hurt feelings here, I’m talking about lives that are ruined because of attitudes and ideas spread throughout our culture.

There’s a considerable difference between offending and oppressing. When talking about racism or sexism or homophobia etc, we aren’t talking about about making a comment which ruffles the feathers of some touchy soul (though why anyone would want to specifically offend another without consequence sounds like the yearnings of a prick if you ask me. But that’s neither here nor there). When referring to oppression, we are talking about a series of actions/mindsets/language which persecutes or undermines an entire group of individuals on a social and institutional level.

Despite there being a clear difference between offending someone on an isolated level and oppressing an entire group, since Wednesday’s election, I’m beginning to see the whole “generation snowflake” and “you’re all just triggered babies” rhetoric get bandied about far more frequently than usual.

Racism, sexism, homophobia and prejudice in general are issues we all need to discuss and question; regardless of our ideological stance. Sure, some have indeed been quick to label others as bigots without giving much time or thought to the people they are accusing, and sure, I genuinely don’t think this achieves anything worthwhile. Yet if we someday reach a point where people start to assume by default that those who are victim to oppression or hatred are just “offended” or “sensitive”, then there may well be problems.

What if the “overly-offended” claim gets used to gag any discussion regarding oppression or prejudice? Could our society become so accustomed to this belief that we could eventually see a day where attempts at combatting bigotry are consensually perceived as whiny children yearning to be nannied from cradle to grave?

Or maybe my concern is irrational. Maybe I’m overreacting. Maybe I’m assuming the worst right now because of how I’m hearing all this talk about how the rise of Trump is apparently thanks to a liberal culture who silences and shames those who disagree with such ideologies.

I presume some are using the whole “liberals did it!” claim because they are getting “liberalism” jumbled up with “neoliberalism”.

Being “liberal” usually means supporting progressive political ideas and liberties. “Neoliberalism” on the other hand, is the economic model which transfers control of economic factors to the private sector. Neoliberals want a free market where everything related to capital is privately owned, leaving the state to focus instead on regulating those said markets, creating social fairness within them and internalising external effects.

Sounds dandy when you put like that, however in recent decades, the free market has grown into a destructive, heartless monster. A monster which exploits the poor, drains the natural resources of our lands, cripples social mobility, amplifies class inequality, benefits only a fortunate few (e.g. anyone who’s rich), and makes life increasingly difficult for those who don’t prosper from such a system.

Hillary Clinton is seen by many as a walking embodiment of the modern neoliberal market. The fact she’s top buds with a whole tirade of millionaires who’ve essentially being buying her out for the entirty of her political career meant that voting for her was essentially seen as a vote for the economic system which crashed the world economy back in 2008.

Despite Trump also being a part of the capitalist system so many despise and have suffered from, his “every-man” way of speaking, plus his habit of saying whatever springs to mind separated him in the eyes of many from the stuffy political elite who caused financial Armageddon 8-years prior.

The hatred and distrust brought on by politicians puppeteered by the neoliberal elites of our land are what is seen as the cause of Trump’s election. Yet somewhere along the way, it was decided that progressives were also to blame.

(Having said all of this however, liberals in America are often ideologically married to neoliberalism, plus the leader of the Democratic Party was a neoliberal. So I can see why the two are usually viewed in unison by so many).

People are blaming are blaming the liberals for this mess. People are also claiming that the reason America now has a clown in charge of the world’s largest military fleet is not just down to progressives shouting right-wingers all the way to the extreme, but more to do with the filter bubble brought on by news outlets and social network.

While those on the left saw nothing but articles focusing on how vile a buffoon of a bigot Trump is, right-wingers were subjected to articles focusing on how much of a war loving establishment puppet Clinton is.

The liberal left saw no way of Trump winning, whereas the right were certain Trump was the better of two evils.

An echo chamber erected from the digital coding of Facebook and Twitter, silencing both sides from one another. No one knew what the other was thinking, meaning neither side could prevent or deter the outcome.

Who knows if any of these claims are right, or if any of them explain the bulk of why we now live in a world where that twat from The Apprentice is essentially one of the most powerful men on this rock.

All I know right now is that I’m terrified. I’m terrified because I’m beginning to see just how right-wing the world around me is. Every few months, something happens which genuinely makes me recoil in horror as I realize just how anti-progressive this globe genuinely is.

Once upon a time, I believed the nations of the world grew gradually more progressive in their attitudes. I honestly thought bigotry was slowly being eroded from our lands. That as the years came and went, we’d all become more loving and tolerant toward each other. My stupid, infantile mind assumed that time would strengthen civil rights in ways never before seen. As of today, however, I realise I couldn’t be further from the truth.

The world of today is a cold, mean place.

Our governments invade and destroy entire nations, only for our citizens to mock and despise the very victims we create through such actions.

Western governments chizzle away at civils rights.

Newspapers openly fabricate racist headlines for the masses to lap up alongside their morning cereal.

UK/US troops are sent out to Middle Eastern countries year after year to engage in meaningless conflicts.

There’s no such thing as good guys or bad guys anymore. Just hatred, blame, lies, bullying and distrust. Everything feels well and truly screwed.

Since Tuesday night, however, there have been many in America who’ve stood up and declared that Trump is not their President. They’ve taken to the streets to protest the horror of what’s happened. To which the Trump supporters have reacted against by moaning about how they should all just “chill out and go home. Gosh, what babies. He won, you lost. Shut up and respect democracy!”

These protesters are protesting not because they are “whiny little children”, but because these are the people who are going to suffer greatly under a Trump administration, because they aren’t fortunate enough to ride out four whole years of this nightmare without suffering the consequences of an extreme right-wing government, and because they ARE respecting democracy by exercising their right to protest.

And for those who say “no he’s in, he’ll probably calm down”. Yea, maybe he will, I mean I doubt it, but whatever, I’ll admit there’s a slim possibility that a lot of the awfulness was nothing more than a boatload of bravado. However I do indeed recall a time when people said the same thing about him getting elected as the leader of the Republican party.

Everyone assumed he only said all that crazy racist twaddle because it would boost his publicity. “When he’s running for the top job”, they all said “he’ll try and appear to a wider audience, so he’ll tone it down”.

Except he didn’t. He was just as awful as he was prior to winning the leadership bid. So forgive me for being skeptical on that claim.

What I think will happen is Trump will have such trivial knowledge when it comes to running high office, he’ll let everyone around him run the show instead. He’ll let vice President Mike Pence – a man who signed one of the worse abortion laws in country, signed a bill which made it perfectly fine for businesses to discriminate against LGBTQIA customers and illegally tried to cut off federal aid to refugees living in Indiana – and Stephen Bannon – a anti gay, anti Semite, white supremacist who owns a far right news outlet – run the show.

While Trump may fail to bring about all the horrors he promised on his campaign trail, the thought of Pence and Bannon taking control is what’s keeping me awake at night right now.

I’d love to keep an open mind, and oh how I’d love to be proven wrong right now. I’d do anything to be made a fool of right now, to see Trump go on and steer America in a direction of true greatness. Of course I don’t want minorities to suffer at the hands of a clueless bully and his far-right gang of homophobes and racists. I dream of a day where all these fears of mine are exposed as nothing more than the paranoid nightmares of a foolish liberal.

For the time being, however, I’ll remain fearful. Fearful for those who now have to endure four years of Trump, who have to go to bed each night wondering how long their medicare will last, how long it will be until their rights are stripped from them, how long it will be before they lose everything because of the outcome of last week’s election.

All we can do now is try to learn from what’s happened. Listen to what those who voted this fool in have to say, find out why so many have turned to far-right rhetoric in a bid to bring about change, and figure out a way of sorting out the mess which seems to be scattered all around us.

 

 

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