This is not Germany in the 1930s
People will have to come to terms with him somehow. They are starting to do that, with "the door is open" congratulations, or the "I only do it because I have to" kind.
I almost never watch TV. Today I did for about five minutes, and in those five minutes I saw a female black novelist being questioned by a BBC presenter (also female), "But could it not be that he (Trump) did not mean the things he was saying?" What?? What kind of question is that? Next to the novelist sat a white-haired little man - don't know who he was - claiming the KKK was "marginal" and complaing that "you folks always focus on that (the racism), he said so many other things". That was enough of TV for me.
Trump will not build a wall [edit one day later: not sure about that anymore], and he won't ban entry to the USA to all Muslims. He might not even do anything overtly racist for a while. [edit one day later: I believe now that he will do overtly racist things pretty soon] The truth is, nobody knows what he will do. Some even think he will find the work of being a president too hard, will screw up and be removed. That sounds quite a desirable scenario to me.
It might not be so much about what he will do, but what those he surrounds himself with will do. The door will be open from his side, too. To big business, to tech companies, to big money in general. The door will not be shut on people if they are misogynists or racists.
There is a chance that jobs will be created and the economy will improve. Who knows, Trump might even have good intentions (although the 'good' here is relative, and his understanding of what that is might actually be the main problem), and after gaining popularity by pandering to the mood of the people, might now want to restyle himself as some kind of Messiah.
If you look at newspaper websites, you can already see this "different story" emerging. Oh, he might not be so bad after all. Ah, it's all different now. The "election campaign" was nasty, brutal etc. not Trump. Give him a chance! We need to work together with him..
You know - I think in a decent society, the simple fact that he said things that were outrageously demeaning to women, people of colour, LGBT people and religions other than Christian, should be enough to forever disqualify him to be in any position of political power. He should never have been elected, now that he has, whoever has any power, should make sure that he will be removed from this position as soon as possible. It is a sellout of a society that they let somebody spout such awful things and still allow him to take the highest office in the most powerful country of the world. It is, in other words, a complete farce. I was recently reminded that in Germany there is a law against Volksverhetzung and I've seen now that since 1986 the UK has a similar law against incitement to racial hatred. That threshold was crossed a long time ago. Is there not something similar in the USA?
No chance for the woman
People speaking out in favour of Trump often have this argument, "but the alternative was so bad". Unacceptable. "She's a warmonger". This last one I have heard from people I respect.
I read that Clinton supported the Iraq war, but later regretted it. She wanted a "no-fly" zone in Syria. This would be a measure to stop the bombing in Aleppo. Would it really have meant war with Russia?
She is part of the "establishment". But above all, she is a woman. And every fault that is found with her, will count 10 times more than if it was found in a man, just because by popular belief it should not be present in a woman at all.
I know about Hillary Clinton that she wants to improve healthcare. I know that she champions women, and that she would have been a fantastic role model to young women growing up. I know she is hard-working, intelligent and competent. I know she would have had tough decisions to make, and that she is capable of making them.
Would she have carried on with the "neoliberalist" agenda? Would she have legitimised drones that kill innocent people in Pakistan? We will never know that. People say now, give Trump a chance! What if Americans had given Clinton a chance??
We know that neoliberalism is broken, everybody knows that by now. But if there is one person capable of keeping it alive a bit longer and squeeze just a little more out of those less fortunate, then it's probably Donald Trump.
It is not that everything had been awesome before this election, far from it. There are so many things that have already gone horribly wrong in this century. 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq was an extremely bad start. The ongoing and worsening crisis in the Middle East. The Syrian civil war. ISIS. The displacement of over 50 million people across the globe. This happened, or started, before Trump was elected. But none of it was helped by the last Republican candidate in office, either.
As for the Trump presidency, I struggle to see anything good coming out of it and in fact fear for the worst. I cannot see how inequality, racism and misogyny are not going to increase drastically, if not worse things are going to happen, like imprisonment and deportation of people of certain religions or ethnicities. I am definitely worried about the use of technology. Technology to track and identify people, and also to influence them and control them. I am also worried that down the road there will be new conflicts, new wars. - Really, I do not even want to think too much in detail.
I just realised that I am writing as if the Trump presidency was in fact an inevitability. But what if it wasn't? We really don't know what is going to happen in the next two months. I just saw some videos of protests in US cities. I feel for these young people, and though this piece by Tim O'Reilly (whom I much admire) makes a very good point, I feel it is right of them to protest. In fact, the majority of US citizens did not vote for Trump and, I assume, don't want him as their president. I don't know about the how but I wonder if there is not a way to indeed impeach him, as some of the protesters demanded. I just don't know how successful it could be with Trump having so much money behind him.
But in case the presidency will come into being, and perhaps even if it is not, we are entering dark times. Or, darker times, because the dark times had probably started a while ago, and we had not been aware, or refused to pay too much attention.
What can one do? What can I do?
I really want to finish off this post. I hope I will manage to jot down some more thoughts.
This on people who voted for Trump, to a certain extent those who voted for Brexit, and certainly those who have or are going to vote for AfD in Germany: I fail to understand these people, and I will stop trying to understand them. I made a serious attempt with an AfD supporter. It didn't go well. It hurts that this is somebody I have quite strong ties with. I have to live with the tension of still loving them, but also - for the moment - having lost them. I know there is nothing I can do to change their mind.
As I've seen somebody remark, there is no point wasting any energy with trying to understand them. They have got what they want now in America. They might be getting more of what they want across Europe. I'd always thought virtually everbody will be against fascism after our parents' and/or grandparents' collective experience of it. I am now coming round to the horrible realisation that quite a few people want it or are okay whit it, or with parts of it. The "parts of it" faction is the one I really despair with. Thinking you can have the "reassurance" that no Islamic terrorists will enter the country (as one example) by putting your faith in right-wing populist leaders, and by that create a situation of maximum instability and promote the suppression of women and minorities. Thank you very much.
Then the recurring question: What can I do? Is there anything to do? Of course, I am not even in America. But there's this move to the right in many parts of Europe. I will use my postal vote in the German election next year, that's for sure. But apart from that?
Some immediate measures I personally will take:
- Be very wary of what I will let into my mind. Unlike many others, I know that I can very easily be influenced. I will watch even less telly. I will avoid the mainstream press. That makes me quite reliant on Twitter and the interwebs as a whole. In some respects Twitter might be a filter bubble, but just a few replies away there's some people with very different opinions, so I think you can do worse than getting your information off Twitter. I've never managed to be in any way active on Facebook, and I am glad for that now.
- Finish reading Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini - Defense against the Dark arts!
- Boycott: I'll stop buying from Amazon. (I should have done that long ago!) There might be more to follow.
- Pushing the feminist agenda as much as I can (cannot give any details of that at the moment, would take too long and also needs some more investigation)
- Spend much time offline, both with learning stuff, and with things that lift the spirits (music, meeting friends, and reading books; lots of books). Re-reading parts of this book would be good for a start
- I will not let anybody tell me to calm down about Trump or the rise of right-wing parties in general. I will calm down only insofar as it helps me to be more alert to fend off its effects whereever I can. I want to sleep alright! That is something I still have difficulties with. Trump does not deserve a chance. While my opinion might not matter much in the grand scheme of things, nobody will ever convince me otherwise.
I would like to become politically active in some way. So far I don't trust my personality much to be very effective. On the other hand I have seen some things in my life change quite substantially over the past years, so I am hopeful more change is possible. Nevertheless, I think proper political activism is not for me at this point. But if I can support others in fighting for worthwhile things, I will want to do that.
I love the #stopfundinghate campaign. It is so great to see it has already had some effect. I hope so much it can go a long way.
Back to America. A chance remark by my husband made me aware of something that gave me a glimmer of hope. He has started reading a book called Einstein and the frontiers of Physics by Jeremy Bernstein. Einstein, together with fellow physicists wrote a consequential letter to Roosevelt in 1939 that would trigger the development of the Atomic bomb. He wrote another concerned letter 12 years later, to his friend, the queen of Belgium. This was at the height of the McCarthy era:
"While it proved eventually possible, at an exceedingly heavy cost, to defeat the Germans, the dear Americans have vigorously assumed their place. Who shall bring them back to their senses. The German calamity of years ago repeats itself; people acquiesce without resistance and align themselves with the forces of evil. And one stands by, powerless."
Jeremy Bernstein then comments: "Einstein was fortunately wrong. McCarthy was sent into disgrace and democracy continued to flourish. As a nonnative American, Einstein had been too quick to underestimate the tradition of freedom in the US."
Please, America show us all that this is still true. Send your president-elect into disgrace. He is not McCarthy, he has a lot more money, but you cannot give up your freedom just like this. Yes, your freedom had been compromised already, and perhaps some of you thought "any change is better than no change". But you must realise that this is not the way (and it was only 18% of you who voted for Trump anyway. How can he become your president?).
And all of us, perhaps we can wake up from consumerism now, from all the tracking and advertising on the web, being trapped by our mobile phones. I have a feeling my phone has recently become more of a good servant, rather than swallowing up much of my spare time. If this can be true for most of us, that would be great.
But we have to be vigilant. Always. I want to be that more than I used to be. Don't let anybody tell you it's going to be okay. It is not going to be if we leave things to themselves. And Trump does not deserve a chance.
Some things worth reading/listen to:
- Autocracy: Rules for Survival by Masha Gessen
- The Guilty Feminist Podcast EMERGENCY POST-TRUMP EPISODE: The Patriarchy strikes back:
Part 1 Part 2
- How we fight by Tom O'Reilly
- An older post, but worth reading again and again: Everyone I know is broken-hearted by Joshua Ellis
There would be many more, but they are the ones that made the most impression on me in the past few days.