HOW TO TAKE THE POSITIVE FROM TRUMP’S PRESIDENCY

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I know. You’re scared. I’m scared too. I’ve had an uneasy feeling about the two dominant WASP-y countries since at least June 23rd. This transmuted into sheer terror when a KKK-lover, through the trick of the electoral college, ascended to #PEETUS (I know, I know.There should be an O – though maybe not a wooden one đŸ˜‰ But the first three letters is what he is in my head now and forever more).
There were a Seth Myers and an SNL sketch around the time he was elected that rang true though. Liberal white people have had the first taste of what it has been to be someone of colour/an immigrant/a Muslim in the US and UK for at least 15 years. This modern fear and paranoia of the other wasn’t created by Trump. This was created by George W. Bush and Anthony Charles Lynton Blair. An evangelical white Christian who took his instructions from God and a wannabe Catholic (at the time) eager to prove his zealotry. Both of whom implemented anti-Muslim profiling and the horror threat that is Guantanamo.
If we go back further and we look at the inherent inequality in deregulation, free market capitalism and the rise of the cult of the individual, we can see that we afford the likes of Farage and Trump too much credit and power. They didn’t create those conditions – they have just used and exploited them. And it is true that when situations don’t directly affect us, we mostly have, as white liberals in Western societies with the relative comfort of life that entails, to quote Milton, preferred ‘Bondage with ease than strenuous liberty’.
Because here’s the thing. For some political elite (and I’m not just talking Trump here, again, it affords him too much power, and while he’s proven himself all too happy to take as much power as he can, let’s not attribute more to him than he is about to have), the democracy experiment has gone way too far. We must remember that in its original concept, it was a methodology whereby patrician male Greeks decided the fate of their fellow citizens. What we have now has transmuted far beyond their expectations, and what we have now is a model that doesn’t sit comfortably with most of the ruling elite – both Left and Right. The Neo-Liberal experiment alone would attest to that.
Until conditions are made unbearable for us, we do prefer to wear our bondage with ease. Many women have expressed their fear at a Handmaid’s Tale-esque looming dystopia. I’ve heard of harassment of black friends in NYC, supposedly the ‘great melting-pot’. But racism and misogyny, anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant rhetoric is not a new thing – a whole political party was born out of the latter in the UK, for goodness sake. This did not just ‘happen’. Its growth is down to factors that lie way beyond Trump and Farage’s collective abilities, in austerity policies, a placating of the public, especially the middle-class, educated public at the expense of blue collar workers who are seeing the world they expected to grow old in – the miners, the unskilled labourers – move beyond their reach with no alternative offered in its stead. It does not excuse the alignment with racists, misogynists and bigots. But it does explain it. And, in a sense, one can understand the outrage of having been conned.
But why any positivity over Trump’s election and ascendancy to (piss)POTUS? Well – here’s the thing. There are many people both sides of the Atlantic whose bondage is no longer bearable. I’ve seen more calls to resistance in a few short months than I’ve seen in a whole lifetime of political observance. I’ve finally seen the penny drop with many of my white liberal friends that, hey, things haven’t been so great over the last decade and a half with their Muslim and black friends (although the penny hasn’t quite dropped about who instigated this in the UK – but for sure, it escalated under a Tory party so right-wing and power-crazed that they have literally thrashed their Great Leader Thatcher’s legacy in that she was strongly pro the single market. Oh the irony of ironies).
And the reality is – there hasn’t been such an opportunity for positive change since 1945. I’m not talking change you want to bereave in, hope that doesn’t quite fulfil its overblown promises. I’m talking real, structural, lasting change. We have exciting ideas like universal income that need to be robustly discussed. We have the realisation and the evidence of the gender and race pay gaps, and for what feels like the first time in my lifetime, a possibility to address this (despite the best efforts of the Breitbart fanboys). Unoccupied buildings are being taken over in Dublin and Manchester as the conviction that everyone deserves at least one home, and that there is an immorality to empty buildings when people are dying on our streets. We know our planet has finite resources, despite the climate change deniers, and that there is a better, kinder way forward.
And I’m not going to lie or disseminate here – change is not easy. Having been through a period of huge change myself over the last few years, where I’ve narrowly escaped bankruptcy, had a nervous breakdown, become a yoga teacher (not related necessarily, but the latter has helped enormously!), been through harassment and effectively eviction by my ex-landlord, made some of the greatest strides forward in my career as an artist to date, being able to work more than ever in my chosen path, and now, feeling stronger than ever having been forged in the fire of change – I know that change isn’t easy. And, despite how awful at times that change was – horrible, foetal position inducing, exhausting, energetically debilitating – I am immensely grateful for it. The GrĂ¡inne of 2017 is a better, stronger, 2.0 version of the GrĂ¡inne 2008 model. There is a strength in being made vulnerable that cannot be emulated by a show of strength. I made it out the other side of my fears and despair with the help, love and support of some tremendous friends, my tribe, my community.
I cite my own experience as maybe a glimmer of a way forward and an insight into how change works. (Or as the saying goes ‘Everyone wants change, but no one wants to change’). If the last 40 years has been defined by the rise of the cult of the individual, we have the choice to strenuously exercise our liberty and work together for our common good. That’s our human choice.
We can give in to our worst nightmare, our inner demons, and I’ll be honest here – on the sexual assault, misogynistic bullying front, Trump certainly triggers a lot of mine. Or we can look at him in his emperor’s clothes, his all-together, and know that he is weak. His whole concept of some sort of white male supremacy is weak – because the whole notion of supremacy of one human being over another is weak. Weakness of intellect. Weakness of natural ability. Supremacy indicates: I can’t make it on my own/as a group without some unfair advantage over other individuals based on sex/race/sexual preference etc. Supremacy indicates: I can only thrive by the oppression of others. Supremacy indicates: I can’t see the humanity in those weaker than me in privilege – the poor, the sick, the disabled – because they reflect back my own weakness, my own vulnerability, my own human frailty – and I DON’T LIKE THAT (capitals inspired by #Trumptweets). Supremacy, ergo, is the ultimate display of weakness.
Or we can access our brightest angels and look around at our community, our diverse, rich, colourful communities, and we can decide right now that there is room for everyone to live and everyone to grow and reach their potential. But we have to realise that choosing our better angels of hope is not a choice for wimps. It requires action. While the marches on the 21st January are great and necessary, as the first step in dissent – it is but a first step. Write to your Senator/MP. Call them. Question why, here in the UK, in the 6th richest country which extolls the virtue of service to country, a third of all homeless are ex-military. Question why there are tax loopholes for those who could most afford to pay their taxes. Inequality of income is widening, and is not unconnected to the rise in homelessness, to the 2.5 million children living below the poverty line, to the easily manipulated anger at political elites (sometimes justifiable), which has led to #Trump, #Farage and their ilk. Question why the soon-to-be 45th President of the United States has yet to release details of his taxes. Question why there is not a psychological test necessary to deem fitness for office. (One of the things that I’ve experienced which ran counter to all of my beliefs until I was directly confronted with it, is that sociopaths walk among us – and we need to begin to understand as a society how to deal with them and integrate them in ways that are least harmful to the majority). Reach out to your community. Join action groups that advocate causes that are meaningful to you. Even if it is just one good deed per day – giving up that seat, talking to that elderly person, giving a compliment where it is least expected – do it. One deed a day per person is 365 good deeds in this naughty world. One good deed a day per person in the UK would add up to approximately 21,900,000,000 good deeds in a year (#maths). Positive action done incrementally and collectively can make change. Sand is the result of waves eroding rocks with millions of beats – and as I’ve just found out through my good friend Google, sand can also re-form into rock over millions of years. Our choice is to catch the wave and turn the tide before hardness sets in. John Lewis, the great civil rights activist and politician, said the other day to always choose love. And, given his experiences and age, forged by Circumstance and Time, I feel that is advice worth heeding.
Dear reader, I’m blathering on because, like you, I feel the trepidation. I’m awake and writing this because of that trepidation. I can admit that looking at that embodiment of angry, toxic orange-white supremacist masculinity on the TV/computer screen has simultaneously enraged and paralysed me. It’s triggered memories that I had consigned to the dustbins of experience. Not just because of him, but because of the legions of angry, toxic white supremacists who feel vindicated and emboldened by him. It’s caused me hours and days of questioning the very nature of humankind, that we can return cyclically to this sort of nasty political climate, despite the lessons of history. I know essentially I’m preaching to the choir. Like you, I feel the need to express what I’m feeling on this – and I am feeling a lot. It feels that the last 6 months have been so full of feelings and global emotion that it’s implosive. And, as they used to say about farting, but now which seems to be an apt description of Theresa May’s #Brexit policy – better out than in. But, just to reiterate: where there is life, there is hope. Where there is a human, there is a choice. And, if the last 40 years and six+ months and the late Jo Cox have taught us – we are better together. We are better when we work together. For our common and equally uncommon good.

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