Referring to the US president’s second impeachment, a Republican congressman snapped at a reporter, ‘This is political theatre.’ He was walking away while speaking, ending the interview before it began. What he said was pithy and about all a defensive Republican in America can say these days.
But he might have a point. This impeachment can be seen as a type of theatre, an entertaining performance, since the Senate vote won’t take place until after the disgraced president leaves office in a week’s time – even if he has to be forced out kicking and screaming like a toddler. In this way, the actions of the Democrats in the House of Representatives might be seen as symbolic. That is fitting, after all, as the actions of the rioters who stormed the Capitol last week were largely symbolic. Did they really think they were going to stop the process of bringing in a new president? A playoff of symbols is a common feature of good theatre. The congressman’s remark could have been a back-handed compliment.
The irony is that the Republican congressman is playing a part in the same theatrical performance that he himself scoffed at. His is the character that operates in a narrative resting comfortably in theatre of the absurd – an abstract world that rubs up against the real world and makes us question the purpose of human existence – the meaning of life. This congressman’s character is a minor one, akin to Boy in Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. Boy is a messenger, a character questioned by the two tramps, revealing more about their characters and their delusions. The ending of this impeachment play might not leave us with grand philosophical questions, but it is making many of us question the strength of our democracies.
Putting aside symbolism, another way still of looking at this act of impeachment is through the lens of criminal justice. Clear to anyone who has been following post-election news from America, the president has been inciting protests by claiming, despite the lack of any evidence, that the election was fraudulent. Moreover, the act of inciting violence can be found in the president’s tweets and in his comments outside the White House, from where he encouraged a ‘fight’ and spoke about bravery, while repeating the slogans of the election being ‘rigged’ and ‘stolen.’ If Tr**p were an ordinary citizen, he’d already be arrested and awaiting his trial on charges of terrorism and citing violence against the government. This impeachment is a theatrical performance that mirrors the judicial process that is not taking place, a cathartic type of theatre on par with the great works of classical Greek drama.
A final note – I deliberately haven’t referred to this congressman by name since other Republican politicians have been saying the exact same thing, reading the same lines from the same script.
With fears of election-day violence, America has joined corrupt and disreputable countries around the world. Thank you, Mr President – this is on your watch.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that this presidential election might be the most important one of our lifetimes. How so? I’ve narrowed this down to two reasons, both of which have been touted by political pundits, newspaper columnists and the like. This is my take in the context of the films and books that influence my thinking.
Reason 1 – democracy is at stake. Over the past four years, the world has watched a wannabe autocrat in the Whitehouse fight against the institutions of American governance and the freedom of the press. Among the many examples of this, what first comes to mind are Tr**p’s public criticisms of the FBI, the CIA and most recently and most alarmingly the Centers for Disease Control. Michael Lewis’s The Fifth Risk has been one of several books to expose of the Tr**p transition team and the way this president set up his antigovernmental administration, a heady mix of inexperienced individuals and those with a grudge against certain branches of government.
And the media has had it worse. On top of frequent references to the media as ‘fake’ and ‘public enemies,’ let’s not forget the many instances of reporters being targeted and arrested while trying to report on demonstrations. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Netflix has recently produced The Chicago Seven, about the kangaroo trial of seven anti-war protesters during the Democratic National Convention in 1968. From aggressive policing to an openly racist and bias judicial system, echoes of Tr**p’s treatment of the media resound.
Reason 2 – the planet is at stake. Not only has the 45th president of the US started the process of pulling America out of the Paris Climate Accord, he’s a supporter of the fossil fuel industry, a climate change denier and has reversed over one hundred acts of legislation by the EPA during Obama’s presidency. A couple of good books I’ve read recently that cover this president’s treatment of the environment include Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine and David Wallace-Well’s The Uninhabitable Earth.
There is perhaps a third reason why this is such an important election. But I’ve changed my mind a few times about the real importance of this. Okay, here goes. America’s reputation is at stake. As I would like to see a more balanced world, with a more equitable distribution of wealth, the US doesn’t need to keep its position as an economic superpower. I would be even happier still if it were not a military superpower. Despite these misgivings, I’d like to see America retain some of its influence in the world as a source for good. (Hard to imagine at times, I know. Sorry if I sound like Jimmy Stewart in Mr Smith Goes to Washington.) Voting Tr**p back into office is at the very least condoning criminality at the highest level of government. With all of the noise and distractions to come from this Whitehouse, it’s easy to forget that Tr**p was impeached by The House of Representatives for trying to bribe a foreign government. Even Tr**p’s lawyers admitted that this is what he did, but argued to the Senate that this was not an impeachable offence. There is also the matter of Tr**p’s tax records, the cases of fraud against his businesses and the allegations of sexual harassment and abuse. A Tr**p win tonight (or tomorrow, depending on your time zone) tells the rest of the world that America wants to be represented by a man clearly unfit for the job, in addition to of course his being a vulgarian, a defender of white supremacists, an habitual liar… I’ll stop myself there – you’ve heard it all before.
I’ve realised that I’ve only made reference to non-fiction books and a film based on true events. Let’s not forget the importance of fiction and poetry at times like this. I’ll close with a quote within a quote from Emily Nemens, the editor of the Paris Review, commenting yesterday on election eve: ‘As Manuel Puig put it, “I like to re-create reality in order to understand it better.” May we all understand the world a bit better once this week is through.’
While it would be a stretch to say I found the US Democratic convention inspiring, what is more important is that I – and millions of others – found the Republican convention laughable and ludicrous in its touting of flagrant falsehoods and scientifically improbable promises.
It’s easy to assume that this divide in style between these two political conventions has been brought on by the character of Tr**p, but there has long been some of this distinction between the two parties. Robert Reich, recently wrote in The Guardian: ‘The Democratic party is basically a governing party, organized around developing and implementing public policies. The Republican party has become an attack party, organized around developing and implementing political vitriol. Democrats legislate. Republicans fulminate.’
While I agree with this, the Democrats’ convention replaced a lot of their typical policy speak with some battle talk. This time the Democrats appeared to have followed the advice of Churchill who once said, ‘Never let a good crisis go to waste.’ While I hesitate to call the coronavirus pandemic a ‘good’ crisis, it’s a crisis, which has laid bare the failures of populist-led governments across the world. Many of the speakers at the Democrats’ convention highlighted Tr**p’s disastrous handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. Other crises where brought into the mix, reminding people that this president pulled America out of the Paris Climate agreement and continues to create division through racist immigration policies and support of institutional racism in America’s police forces. True, these points against the Tr**p Party (formerly the Republican Party) have been said countless times before but often embedded in the jokey monologues of Steven Colbert, Seth Meyers and the like or in the sarcasm of news columnists both sides of the Atlantic. It was refreshing to hear these criticisms in measured tones without the laughs (these are serious issues after all) from Democratic politicians and dignitaries, one after the other, showing signs of unity. I was also pleased – and like many breathed a sigh of relief – when it was all over and Joe Biden had not committed any lapsus linguae.
Speaking of language, the Tr**p Party convention produced more than its share of linguistic wonders. Here are just a couple of my favourites. Senator Tim Scott warned that Biden and Harris will turn America into a ‘socialist utopia.’ Clearly the senator doesn’t understand that utopias are good things. Coming from the Greek ou, meaning not, and topos, meaning place, utopia literally means ‘no place’ and by extension, thanks to Sir Thomas More who might be spinning in his sepulchre, means ‘an ideal place.’
In the final speech of the convention, the tweeter in chief accepted his party’s nomination by saying, ‘I profoundly accept this nomination.’ His speech writers must have known that Tr**p, the self-described ‘stable genius,’ could not humbly accept anything. Other high collocates for the word accept, include graciously and gladly, neither of which suits the fiery tongue of this presidential vulgarian. Having thrown out these other words, I imagine the speech writers going for a presidentially serious tone and following a thesaurus thread from serious to deep, ending up at profound. At least they had the grammatical wherewithal to add an –ly to make profound an adverb even if the resulting phrase – like this president – makes little sense.
For the first time in my Facebook life, I’ve unfriended someone because of their politics. I didn’t do this easily. I tolerated this old school friend’s comments about Democrat Congresswomen Maxine Waters and Nancy Pelosi as being ‘unhinged’ after they rightly (in my opinion) attacked Tr**p on several counts. Of course, the current US president is far from ‘unhinged’ – a ‘stable genius,’ to use his own words. In this case, my tolerance was enabled by my enjoyment of irony.
I also overlooked this now former friend’s lambasting ‘crazy liberals’ for wanting to knock down a statue of Abraham Lincoln. I agreed – that does sound crazy, and it would have been if it were true. In that case, I forgave my old classmate for being misinformed and posting this falsehood on Facebook in error. Mistakes happen.
What finally tipped me over the polite Facebook friendship line was my friend’s commentary on Tr**p’s 4th of July ceremony at Mt Rushmore. During his speech, Tr**p announced, ‘I am here as your President to proclaim, before the country and before the world, this monument will never be desecrated,’ even though there is no movement intent on desecrating the mountain sculpture. America’s most infamous president slid his way down more slippery slope arguments with, ‘Our nation is witnessing a merciless campaign to wipe out our history, defame our heroes, erase our values, and indoctrinate our children.’ But that wasn’t enough. This orange president added, ‘In our schools, our newsrooms, even our corporate boardrooms, there is a new far left fascism that demands absolute allegiance.’ (These are just some highlights – the full speech can be found at the US government website)
On Facebook, my high school friend posted a photo Tr**p at Rushmore with the caption that it was a ‘great speech,’ the president’s ‘best speech ever’ and advised his friends to ignore what they’ve been hearing in the ‘lying left media.’ Saying that this was a great speech, if I’m generous, is a matter of opinion. Advising people that reports on this speech are lies because most of them questioned the veracity and reasoning behind the president’s bizarre comments is simply wrong. In democracies, reporters scrutinise the comments and proclamations of their leaders. I welcome the media outlets that are constantly fact-checking the current US president.
Back to Facebook. After a Tr**p supporter agreed with my friend about the Mt Rushmore speech, the friend replied, ‘Yeah, Trump loves America. Obama hated America.’ Even though it is hard to imagine that Tr**p loves anyone or anything aside from himself, I don’t doubt that in his own way this US president – or any president, including Obama – loves his country.
It was clear that this ‘friend’ was actively engaging in propaganda. I kick myself as I should have seen this with his posting about the Lincoln statue. That was no mistake. I was being taken for a fool. I went to my list of friends, found this old school friend and I clicked on ‘unfriend.’
I can only hope that others reacted the way that I did or at the very least have seen these postings for what they are. I’m reminded of a famous Mark Twain comment: ‘It’s easier to fool people than convince them that they have been fooled.’
Of course, the person I should really unfriend is Mark Zuckerberg. While I don’t literally follow him on Facebook, using his platform does make me a friend of sorts. As plenty of pundits have pointed out, Facebook’s practices could help Tr**p to get re-elected. After all, Facebook sold its algorithms to political campaigns helping to get Trump elected the first time and played a part in the outcome of the UK referendum on the EU. In a recent article on Facebook, investigative journalist supremo Carole Cadwalladr explains how Facebook is dangerous for democracy. After suggesting that if Facebook were a country, it would be like North Korea, Cadwalladr clarifies, ‘Zuckerberg is not Kim Jong-un. He’s much, much more powerful.’
Another Guardian writer, Rashad Robinson notes that not only did Facebook contribute to Tr**p’s election victory in 2016, ‘in 2020, Facebook’s indulgent and laissez-faire policies have already enabled hateful harassment, rampant misinformation and disinformation, and the suppression of Black organizers.’ After investigating Facebook’s content policies, Robinson concludes that ‘the rules are often so vague as to even allow for someone as clumsy as Trump to weave right through them.’
Having said of all this, I don’t see myself leaving Facebook. Not yet. This powerful form of communication is the only way I can participate in certain writers’ groups and in groups dedicated to political and social activism and (ironically) understanding. During this Covid-19 lockdown, Facebook has provided a forum for people in my town of Ely to share vital information and to help out their neighbours. It also enables me to keep in touch with friends, relatives, former colleagues and students across the world – people who don’t use email or write letters. Quitting Facebook would be akin to saying that I’m no longer going to allow any post to come through my letterbox. Even though the internet has reduced the amount of post I get, it still comes in and I still need to deal with at least some of it. Like the post I receive, a lot of what is on Facebook can be ignored.
By unfriending my Tr**p supporting old school friend, I’ve taken it a step further. I’m not only ignoring what is being sent, I’m telling the postal courier to not bother delivering anything from this person to my door. This act of defiance might seem small against the colossus that is Mark Zuckerberg’s empire, but it is satisfying. Moreover, it reduces my traffic on Facebook. I know that I’m not the only one doing this when confronted by these right-wing propagandists. And that too, I find gratifying.
As I write this, hundreds of protesters are being arrested in Paris. In my years of living in France part-time, I’ve witnessed dozens of protests – participated in a couple myself – and have been inconvenienced by countless strikes. But I’ve never seen anything as violent and inexplicable as the current wave led by the gilets jaunes, so named for the yellow safety vests, required by drivers, that they wear as they pace down the streets, stopping traffic and causing chaos.
What started as a demonstration against a rise in vehicle-fuel taxes has snow-balled into a general protest against President Macron. While some protesters on the news complain about a litany of changes to taxes and pensions that help the rich more than the poor, others speak in vague mantras about Macron’s arrogance and that he should resign.
While my natural inclination is to support the underdog, I have mixed feelings. I can understand people protesting against a rise on taxes, but the fuel tax is to help fight climate change – there are other taxes and issues to fight. Incidentally, the climate change protesters were also out in force this week in France. I’m also uneasy with the claims that these protesters are supporting those who are ‘starving’ and ‘becoming poorer.’ I don’t doubt that a growing number are struggling to make ends meet or are experiencing real poverty. Yet, these demonstrations have coincided with the Black Days of shopping, where what started in America as Black Friday has morphed into Black Days, a long weekend of discounted shopping for clothes and electronics. The shops and boutiques of France have been packed. The irony – or perhaps it’s juxtaposition – makes me question people’s sincerity.
Perhaps I’m not as sympathetic as I ought to be because I’ve been appalled by the breaking of windows, looting of shops and setting cars ablaze. Such actions merely hurt people and the cause. What’s happened to peaceful protest (which could include non-violent civil disobedience) and voting in another government when the time comes?
Black days also come in the form of something larger, more sinister. In France, the extreme right and extreme left have hitched on to these protests, twisting them into justifications for their own forms of government. And the political opportunism doesn’t stop there. The sad excuse of a US president first claimed these protests supported climate-change deniers – like himself. Later he claimed that the protesters were screaming out ‘We want Trump.’ Of course, that’s already been disproved by several reputable sources. I mention it only because it allows me to end on a laugh.
Postscript – if I weren’t laughing, I’d be crying.
Last week, I visited Berlin with the intention of, among other things, dipping into the world of Cabaret and the writings of Christopher Isherwood. This might sound odd given that Isherwood’s Berlin was during the 1930s. But I haven’t been in this city since the early 80s, when I could only go to West Berlin, and I rationalised that the present day with a reunited Berlin might appear more like the days of Weimar Germany than my last visit.
We stayed in a hotel in the former East Berlin, with its 60s and 70s austere blocks of buildings and its wide roads, intended for tanks to topple any revolution. Aside from the timeless train stations and pillar boxes covered with posters, little else felt like Goodbye to Berlin, Christopher and his Friends or those iconic scenes from Cabaret. My imagination could have filled in the gaps if I hadn’t run up against a wall – the Berlin Wall, of course.
The remnants of the wall serve as reminders of the latter half of the 20th century and fears that the cold war would escalate into a combative war, or worse still, a nuclear war. My mind shifted far from the world of seedy night clubs and Sally Bowles. I was once again tainted by living in the age of Trump. With the reign of the 45th president, literal and metaphorical walls have become pervasive. While I write this, armed guards along the US-Mexican border have started using teargas against economic migrants and asylum-seeking refugees. These acts seem that much more ludicrous in the knowledge that illegal crossings at this border are at their lowest since they peaked in the early 2000s (Source: USGov Border Statistics).
I’m reminded of a poem I first read as a child. Robert Frost’s ‘Mending Wall,’ pointed to the absurdity of such walls with obvious political metaphors:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, “Good fences make good neighbours.
The physical wall that Trump is trying to build has been drummed up with the president’s usual bluster and hate-filled rhetoric. More concerning to me are those other walls being built behind the scenes and not necessarily from Trump himself, but from the far-right that supports him and have been empowered by him. Again, I return to Frost:
…I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
For Germany, and more importantly for western Europe, the tale has a happy ending. Not only did the wall come down – as ideological walls inevitably do – but it also helped to nurture the peace movement that continues in many forms across Europe today. One stretch of the old wall captures this spirit with paintings and graffiti.
As I return to life in France and England, I wonder what Christopher Isherwood, who became an American citizen and died three years before the wall came down, would have thought of all of this.
Dare I write about this subject at the risk of being trolled? Okay, I’m bursting to exorcise the feelings of revulsion I have been living with since Brett Kavanaugh was sworn into the Supreme Court.
Like millions of people, men as well as women, I believe Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony. More importantly, if I imagine that I did not believe her, I would still think that Judge Kavanaugh’s testimony was appalling. His display of petulance, self-pity and political partisanship is not befitting a member of America’s highest court.
With only one week allowed for the FBI to investigate and with a Republican majority in the Senate, Kavanaugh’s appointment came as no surprise. The appointment of Clarence Thomas in 1991 after the compelling testimony of workplace sexual harassment by Anita Hill yielded the same results. But here are the key differences that stirred my disgust these past weeks. Firstly, Anita Hill was alone in her allegations; two other women have come forward in the Kavanaugh case. The Hill vs Thomas standoff was over 30 years ago, before Harvey Weinstein and before #MeToo – this time, the nomination process could have ended differently. The greatest differences of all have been the reactions of the sitting presidents. In 1991, President George Bush (senior) accepted the Senate’s decision to place Clarence Thomas on the Supreme Court without accusing Anita Hill of giving ‘false testimony,’ as Trump did of Christine Blasey Ford. Nor did President Bush publicly mock Anita Hill or say anything to discredit her during the judge’s swearing in ceremony.
This country of polarised ideals has escalated into a cold civil war. And it didn’t start with Trump. The conservative/liberal polemic has been deepening since the Clinton administration, when Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich went after all things liberal, especially the Clintons – a modern couple, where the lawyer wife earned more than her politician husband. This anti-liberal fervour took on another level with the Tea Party Movement, started during the Obama years.
Unlike these other waves of intense opposition, this time the initial surge is not in reaction to the presidency, but is being instigated by it. Trump has fuelled old hatreds and fears, using rallies to drum home the message, touring the political polemic into tribalism.
Some members of the Republican tribe, mainly women, actually believed Ford’s testimony, but said that Ford was ‘mistaken’ about the identity of the perpetrator. They ignore (or think we won’t notice) the fact that Ford said she was ‘100%’ certain that it was Brett Kavanaugh. In other words, these Republicans know better, but pretend that they don’t in order to remain loyal to their tribe. I don’t meant to oversimplify this – of course, there’s also political motivation. Once the questions about Kavanaugh emerged, other conservative judges could have been nominated in Kavanaugh’s place, but given the realistic time constraints and the mid-term elections coming up, the Republicans couldn’t risk having an even harder time still if there were more Democrats in the Senate.
If, dear reader, you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know that I too have strong political opinions. I’m a proud feminist and a liberal. I’d like to think that my feelings of being incensed over the Kavanaugh vs Ford spectacle have come from my intellect and not because I belong to a tribe that has been threatened. I fear that there could be a point in my future when my passionate views tip over into tribalism.
Is it a multi-circled Venn diagram or a spider-gram that will best illustrate the connections between Nigel Farage, Steve Bannon, Geert Wilders, Belgium’s racist-right politician Filip Dewinter, current UKIP leader Gerard Batten, Donald Trump and British Nazi Tommy Robinson? It would be too easy to draw circles and lines around the racist and fascist ideas these political figures have come to represent. What also connects these men is far more disturbing. They have all publically endorsed at least two of the names on this list and in doing so have helped to spread each other’s popularity and toxic beliefs. They’ve succeeded in making the hate-filled lone wolves across the West feel and act as members of an international pack.
This wider picture makes a lot of us feel out of control and helpless. Of course, we can always find like-minded people amongst our friends, co-workers and fellow liberal activists. We can choose to read the newspapers and follow on social media those who share our anger and disgust. These things might take the edge off, but it wasn’t until this past Saturday that I found a more satisfying way of confronting this barbarism – by yelling at it.
On a hot Saturday afternoon in Cambridge, a couple thousand protesters gathered to rally and march against another march planned by a group of Tommy Robinson supporters. For my international readers, Robinson is a former leader of the far-right English Defence League who is currently in prison for contempt of court. His supporters, including Steve Bannon, Nigel Farage, Geert Wilders and Gerard Batten, want him released from prison on grounds of freedom of speech. (See what I mean about Venn Diagrams.)
A small group (perhaps 200) of Robinson’s lesser known supporters appeared at the march in Cambridge. We easily out-numbered them – which is intensely empowering. Unlike Trump’s visit to the UK earlier that week, these racists/fascists were within earshot and I felt justified in participating. Will our screamed chants of ‘Nazi scum off our streets’ change the minds of these fascists? Of course, not. Will they think twice before they return to Cambridge for another march? Maybe. Just maybe. And that’s worth holding on to. Aside from the obvious therapeutic effects of yelling at these racist/fascists characters, I’d like to think these groups lose some of their influence and power to directly offend each time they’re pushed away.
It was last week. Yes, I missed it too. If it weren’t for an email I received with a couple of suffragette posters, I wouldn’t have known about it at all.
This inaugural week to pay tribute to democracy in Britain ran from the 2nd to the 8th of July. The date was chosen to mark the 90th anniversary of the 1928 Equal Franchise Act, which gave women the same voting rights as men. Women had gained the right to vote here ten years earlier, but that right was limited to women over the age of 30 who had property – in case you were wondering why we’ve been celebrating in recent months the centenary of women getting the right to vote.
I received my posters to celebrate democracy a few days before the start of the week. Vaguely curious, I put them aside, expecting to hear more about it through the media. But I saw nothing on it when I watched BBC or Channel 4. In the UK newspapers I typically read – The Guardian, The Observer, The Independent, The Times, The New European – there were no reports or commentaries to do with National Democracy Week. Without some sort of reminder and with too many other things clambering for space in my head, I easily forgot about it.
I do wonder if the lack of fanfare or even interest in National Democracy Week had anything to do with what was going on last week. England winning a place in the World Cup semi-finals and the rescue operation for the Thai boys and their football coach trapped in a cave dominated our casual news talk – and they have nothing to do with democracy. In the middle of the week, democracy appeared in the form of freedom of speech when London Mayor Sadiq Khan gave permission to anti-Trump protesters to launch an angry baby Trump balloon during the US president’s visit. Whether such permission should be allowed is still being debated as I write. The week ended with our PM presenting her Brexit proposal to her cabinet ministers at a secluded day retreat at Chequers. This involved an elite group within a minority government agreeing to a proposal that they know will likely be rejected by the EU. To make this exercise in democracy even more futile, two days after agreeing to support the PM, two of the ministers resigned in disagreement.
Perhaps National Democracy Week decided it was best to keep a low profile.
Having realised that the celebrations had passed me by, I went to the government website to see what I missed. I clicked on ‘events’ and was sent to another webpage, where I could click on ‘events’ to find events in my area. That brought me back to the first page where I had clicked on ‘events.’ I was in a loop. What an appropriate analogy for our modern democracy. It appears I’ve participated after all.
To quote Albert Einstein, ‘If I remain silent, I am guilty of complicity.’
President Tr**p arrives in Britain on Friday the 13th of July. (Supposedly – he could cancel at any minute.) When I first heard about this visit some two months ago, my gut instinct was to appear outside Downing Street with a placard saying ‘Women of the World Against Trump.’ This sign would sum up a number of issues ranging from ‘grabbing pussy’ to cutting off overseas aid for women’s health.
But two months is a long time in the hate-filled-mud-slinging world of this US president. Since the announcement of Tr**p’s upcoming visit, the US has pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal, the US Embassy has moved to Jerusalem (unravelling decades of diplomacy), some 2000 migrant children have been separated from their parents and put into detention centres, without tougher gun laws another 25 mass shootings occurred in America (including one yesterday at a newspaper in Maryland – hard to separate this from the anti-media atmosphere of this president), and now his Muslim travel ban has been given the go ahead. While all of this is going on, a slew of environmental protection laws are being axed. There’s simply too much to protest against and not enough placards to go around.
On the other hand, I wonder if I should show up at all. POTUS seems to thrive on attention, positive and negative. Since most of what he does is deserving of a negative response, I fear that giving him attention is going to produce more of the same. That is, we need child psychology for dealing with this man-child.
I also wonder about the power of protests. That sounds like a contradiction coming from me. Yes, of course, I was in London Saturday among the 100,000 plus anti-Brexit protesters demanding a people’s vote of the final Brexit deal. And it was a success. Our protest was the lead story on most of the news programmes that night and on the front covers of most of the newspapers Sunday morning. The initial analysis from the political pundits is that this protest sent a message to the minority of hard Brexiters in government and possibly the inert Jeremy Corbyn, along with jump starting some of those remainers who have given up the fight. That’s all fine and good.
A protest against Tr**p is another matter. It’s likely to be on the news, but what kind of message is it going to send? There’s no single solid message or legalisation coming up (as in the case of Brexit) to be impacted or potential votes to be lost by protesting against him. Tr**p has secured his Alt-Right base, held on to reluctant Republican support with tax cuts and corporate welfare and normalised his hateful and child-like rhetoric through saturation.
Returning to Einstein, I refuse to remain silent. But I think there are more effective ways than another street protest for confronting Tr**p and all his nastiness. From this side of the Atlantic, petitioning and writing to our own governments to stand up to this US president on particular issues is a start. So too is supporting the many NGOs, such as Amnesty International and NRDC (Natural Resources Defence Council), whose organised lobbies and legal teams have a fighting chance. With these ideas in mind, this time, I’m staying at home with my cardboard and placard stick.