Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Thoughts on Brexit and 'The Donald' in the White House...

There are now two things that bug me constantly; it's as if there are two nasty-looking vultures sitting on a fence behind me at any one time, reminding me of the situation. Occasionally, they might fly off, but not for long; they return often and sit smugly on their perch. The vultures in question represent two big political decisions made, not by governments, but by people – the citizens of the United Kingdom and America. One of those decisions was the UK's vote on 23 June to leave the European Union, to me a very bad decision. I'm living with it, of course, like a lot of people, but it nags at me, mainly because I feel that we, the people, were conned by the likes of Farage, Gove and, of course, that blundering buffoon Boris Johnson, and now we're going to pay the price: a plummeting pound being just one of a number of problems the country now faces as we lurch towards the triggering of Article 50, supposedly next March.

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Brexit, however, was overshadowed by the American public's decision to vote in Donald Trump as its 45th President of the United States, although the reason behind both Brexit and Trump's success at the ballot box was disillusionment. A lot of people refer to those who voted for Trump and who wanted out of Europe as 'the great unwashed', but while some might load the phrase with derision, others argue that 'establishment politics' – on both the left and right – has ignored the welfare and the wishes of huge swathes of people who today find themselves jobless or living on the breadline and without any true political representation. They are, in fact, a growing under-class of people – in the UK referred to as the white working classes who, in the EU vote and the race to the White House, have finally woken up and had their say.

In many ways, it is unfortunate that the far right has proved to be their 'saviour' and fed them with half-truths and downright lies; you just have to look at the claims of Farage and Johnson and Gove to see that they were conned and will, ultimately, pay the economic price.

More worrying still, however, is the notable swing to the right that global politics appears to be taking, epitomised by Nigel Farage, Donald Trump, Marine Le Pen and an increasingly more right wing Tory party in the UK.

My problem with right wing politics is that it chooses to focus negatively on the vulnerable and the minorities and it blames the problems of society on specific groups, normally in an effort to deflect attention away from the real causes of strife (bankers and corporate greed). In Hitler's Europe it was the Jews who were blamed and then carted off to concentration camps. In Donald Trump's 'brave new world' it's Mexicans and Muslims, and in the world of the 'Brexiteer', it's foreigners in general 'coming over here and stealing all our jobs'.

The end result is that we find ourselves living in a society that's moving backwards. In the case of Tory Britain, a society reverting back to the 19th Century with many homeless people on the streets of London unable to afford the extortionate rents charged by their unscrupulous, right wing landlords; and, if Jeremy Hunt gets his way, increasingly ill and infirm people unable to pay for their healthcare.

Why is it, I wonder, that Republican Americans want to rid their country of Obamacare? You would have thought that giving greater access to healthcare that doesn't leave individuals penniless and on the streets was a good thing, but no, it's bad according to right wing politicians. Why is it that the Tories in the UK want to dismantle the NHS and hand lucrative contracts to people like Richard Branson? There is, of course, just one word that answers these questions: greed. And that's when we get down to the nitty gritty of the political systems around the world: they're divided along the lines of the 'haves' and the 'have-nots' and the greed of the former who have no intention of spreading the wealth generated, but instead want to keep it for themselves. Look no further than at Philip Green for all the evidence you'll ever need, but there are many others.

And so we are now entering a phase of uncertainty with Donald Trump, a right wing businessman, leading the American people and, no doubt, applying his business 'principles' to the way he governs his country and, dare I say, the way he approaches the world. Trump's blatant racism during his campaign for the White House – his views about Mexicans and Muslims and women – and everything we have seen over the past however long it's been since he was named Republican presidential candidate, does not bode well.

After Brexit in the UK there was a rise in racially-motivated attacks as some 'Brexiteers' felt that their vote to leave the European Union (a vote against immigration in their eyes) meant that they could mistreat those of a different skin colour or those with an Eastern European accent. Fair game, they thought, as the vote to leave the EU had, they believed, 'legitimised' such behaviour. I would be very surprised if we don't see similar attacks in the USA where, of course, there are more guns freely available to crazy as well as sensible people, meaning the end result might be more serious.

But perhaps it is unfair, and indeed, foolhardy of me to sit at my desk voicing my anti-Trump rhetoric. Perhaps I should be a little more careful what I say because, ultimately, what do I know other than what I've read in British newspapers or listened to on British radio, or watched on television? And we all know that the media has it's own agenda.

I have an American pal, an ex-military man, and he quite rightly puts me and others straight when it comes to Trump's victory. He questions why we find Trump's success so terrible and scary and awful when we don't live in the USA and have no idea what it's been like for the average American under eight years of Obama. All we see, of course, is a 'cool' president who is on speaking terms with Beyonce and Jay Z. But my pal tells me, in all seriousness, that millions of people are out of work, that Obama's foreign policy has been terrible, especially the deal with Iran. He says that Obamacare doesn't work and that people can't afford it. He also reminds me that the Americans didn't criticise our decision to leave the European Union. "Did we say you're crazy? No, it's your country and we respected your vote." Fair comment.

And, as he rightly pointed out, if the Americans had stayed out of the Second World War we, the British, would be speaking German – ironically, I'm in Germany as I pen this addendum to my article and, oddly, I'm feeling a little ashamed that I can't speak German, as I was saying to a taxi driver just 30 minutes ago.

"We have made our voice heard. Try respecting our voice," says my pal, which is all well and good, but, like over here when we had the Brexit vote, there were many people who didn't want out of the European Union who are still smarting from the result. In America too there are people who do live in the USA, but feel that Trump as president is nothing short of an American tragedy. One of those people is David Remnick, whose article, An American Tragedy, was published in the New Yorker on 9 November.

Remnick doesn't mix his words. "The election of Donald Trump to the Presidency is nothing less than a tragedy for the American republic, a tragedy for the Constitution, a triumph for the forces, at home and abroad, of nativism, authoritarianism, misogyny, and racism. Trump's shocking victory, his ascension to the Presidency, is a sickening event in the history of the United States and liberal democracy."

But let's try and look on the bright side and see the positives of the situation rather than moan, like the true Brits we are. The Americans, it has to be said, are much more positive and upbeat about life. Is there an upside to a Trump presidency? Well, if he can somehow move away from some of the vitriolic comments he spouted during the election campaign, if he can unify the country and govern, as he says, for all Americans, if he can establish a more cordial relationship with the Russians and in the process maintain world peace and if he can 'Make America Great Again', then hats off to him. All we can do is wait and see.

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