Women’s March – Nice

In truth, the march had been cancelled. Following the terrorist’s attack in Nice only some seven months ago, the city had decided not to give a permit to the women’s march yesterday. Some of us didn’t know about this. Others knew and were defiant. Unfortunately, others stayed at home or went to marches in Marseille or Montepelier. In the end we had about 100 protesters, mostly from America and Britain, but also from France, Holland, Turkey and South Africa. That was enough to gather around the statue of Apollo, take photos of each other and send them to Twitter and Facebook before heading out to march along the Promenade des Anglais up to the Negresco and then back on the other side of the street to return to Place Massena. This was naturally followed by political banter in nearby brasseries and cafes.

This march may have been on a small scale, but as it was linked in ideology and spirit to marches around the world, especially the one in Washington, it was a big deal. The women I spoke to felt it necessary to be there. When someone as devisive and aggressive to the world and insulting and hateful towards women as Donald Trump emerges, the only choice is to fight back. I hope I never lose my own sense of connectedness to the world and willingness to fight when confronted – even from miles away – by such a menace.

On the eve of the Trump era

Let’s be honest. None of us knows exactly what’s going to happen once Donald Trump becomes president. As he’s never held public office, there’s nothing to go on. We don’t know if he can manage governmental institutions, though his management of his businesses and of his transistion team are far from exemplary. We also don’t know what underlies his thinking. His dealings with international relations even as a president-elect show his propensity to offend American allies while praising those who have been hostile toward the US. He chose to run on the Republican ticket, but on social issues, he’s not touting family values like a Republican, and his proposal to fund infrastructure comes straight out of the Democratic tradition of public spending. While some of his ideology may have surfaced with his cabinet picks of businessmen, climate-change deniers and army generals, if their confirmation hearings are anything to go by, their views are often at odds with Trump’s campaign proposals and promises.

The only thing that remains consistent and visible for all to see has been Trump’s character. He is bombastic, thin-skinned and untruthful. He has expressed opinions that are clearly racist, misogynistic and against freedom of the press. Whatever his policies may turn out to be, he has already embarrassed America by coming this far.

I’m writinblackg this now perhaps as a place-marker, noting my own awareness of a time before the Trump era started. America has been far from perfect in my lifetime, and my decision many years ago to emigrate from her shores is one that I’ve never regretted. But now, I fear the country that is so internationally influencial is at the beginning of its own Dark Age and might take the rest of us along with her. While some of my Facebook friends are changing their profile pictures tomorrow to one of the departing president and his family, I have chosen a picture of darkness to represent the many things we don’t know about this new presidency and darkness for what we do know about this new president.

Democracy at its best/worst

The editors of the Daily Telegraph ended the year with a commentary about Brexit – no surprise there. The UK’s vote to leave the EU was the big story for Britain in 2016. While it’s also no surprise that the Telegraph editors believe that this is a good thing, they did manage to surprise and irritate me with their closing remarks: “In 2016, we saw British democracy functioning at its best. It must be protected for future generations to enjoy.”

Really? Was that democracy at its best? In 2016, the British people saw what a mess democracy can be. Many asked, ‘If we have democratically-elected members of parliament, why do we have to have a referendum in the first place?’ The answer to this for many has been simply ‘democracy.’ Others of us with a working memory will point out how the referendum decision came about when PM David Cameron was trying to appease the hard right of his party and not lose votes to UKIP – in other words, it was a politically-motivated abuse of democracy.

Putting that aside, let’s treat the referendum vote as an exercise in democracy. This exercise didn’t show ‘democracy functioning’ as much as it showed a dysfunctional democracy. Part of this dysfunction could be seen in the belief in lies and misinformation that democracy does not protect us from. Nor does democracy guarantee that people won’t vote from positions of racism or xenophobia. The referendum campaigns exploited this, along with the freedom of speech that democracy supports. Filling the air with vitriol, this exercise in democracy brought out the worst in many people, leaving families and whole communities divided. It also led to the murder of MP Jo Cox, an act that has come to epitomise the extreme views of the hate-fuelled debates.uk-eu-flag

I don’t understand how any thinking person, whether they voted to leave or remain in the EU, could possibly claim that this was democracy at its best.

Equally irksome is the Telegraph comment about democracy needing to be ‘protected.’ I think we all know that this is a reference to those who want to overturn Brexit or have a soft Brexit. These people have been accused of being ‘undemocratic’ by some of our politicians and by many in the gutter press. Wanting to correct the error that is Brexit, or wanting to have a partial departure from the EU is hardly undemocratic. On this latter point, given the simplistic in/out nature of the referendum, where issues such as EEA membership or soft Brexits were never an option, continuing the debate is a necessity.

For those of you who regularly follow my blog or my Twitter account, you’re probably wondering why someone who retweets from The New European, The Guardian and The New Yorker would even bother with a right-winged paper like The Daily Telegraph. Two reasons: one, their Saturday paper has an excellent puzzle section – two codewords, three crosswords and various number puzzles for my better half; reason two, I think it’s healthy to consider the views of others that are different from my own, especially if the writing is intelligent. Needless to say, the Telegraph editors have failed this time to demonstrate that intelligence. Instead, they have chosen to appeal to the same emotive fervour which replaced reason during the referendum campaign. So, my closing remarks come from the US journalist Bill Moyers, who once said, ‘The quality of democracy and the quality of journalism are deeply twined.’