A Break from Europe

8th November 2016

60 million people just voted for a man supported by the KKK, with the temperament of a particularly spoilt nine year old, who brags about groping women and dismisses facts and knowledge as elitist conspiracies. His opponent was an intelligent and experienced woman who I believe genuinely wanted the best for her country and its population (the desire being eminently compatible with a personal desire for power for its own sake: far from ideal but can anyone imagine a world where the US would have elected its first female president this week without that ambition and the forty years of tireless work that made it feasible?).

I sat down Tuesday evening to watch a woman be elected as President of the United States. I imagined her beating the polls, delivering a strong message of support for women and against divisive, insular politics (those that carried Brexit to victory). I foresaw four years of uneventful, competent, progressive lawmaking (before she was replaced by any centre candidate with the slightest charisma) and I could sense a coming moment when we might see women elected heads of state without the double standards facing female politicans today.

Instead, in a show of acceptance for the misogyny and racism of their candidate, the US elected him. And it has crushed me.

Of course, just as after the Brexit vote, we are accused of whinging and – in true Trump form – he has dismissed the riots as rigged by the media. 

I grew up inheriting the idea that our society was in the ascendant; that an inexorable force led to greater equlity. Greater wealth led to better education that dispelled dogma and inevitably gave rise to the self-evident truths of a fair and liberal society. My grandparents and my parents witnessed great strides of progress and my generation (I thought) would fill in the remaining gaps left while giving women the vote and decriminalising homosexuality; allowing my children to come of age in a free society where my daughter could (with enough ambition, effort and luck) imagine becoming a mother, a lover, a woman and the prime minister without comprimise.

But we have gone backwards. Borders are being closed, walls built. Sexual assault is not just tolerated but endorsed as presidential. Knowledge and experience is suspect.

Progress has stalled and stumbled backwards. I have lost hope that my generation will benefit from greater social liberty. I have lost the complacency that my daughter will be better off than my sister.

The pessimism that has fuelled Trump and Brexit, that pernicious belief that the world is getting worse was founded in falsehoods. Older white people who enjoyed economic and social progress have seen it stall and believe it threatened by the shrinking strength (relative to minorities). But in their own way, they have infected me with their negativity. By pushing through votes on an impossible return to the imagined glories of industrialisation and self-contained economies, they have condemned us to backtrack for many years to come.

We can take some comfort that a slight majority voted for their first female president; that almost half voted to Remain a part of an open Europe. But it is deeply disheatening to discover that such a huge number of us in the west are enticed by oppressive negativity.

Trump will be able to cause a lot of damage in four years, undoing much hard fought for progressive legislation and setting a poor example on the world stage. Our own relationship with Europe will be reversed and those younger than me will grow up in a divided continent. How much will they be able to salvage?

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One Comment Add yours

  1. Everyone is worrying, but it will work out. Its not until its all over that people will realise – the same was said about Rock’n’roll and hippies. Everything is inevitable as inevitable. Try talking to someone with a different point of view – Sol

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