The Economist, 12-18 November 2016
|Next month, this man is handed the nuclear briefcase...|
Not going cycling means what? Well, I could moan about Donald Trump being the new president of the United States of America. I've done that. I could have a go at the Brexiteers. I've done that too and let me tell you, it still smarts, or, well, or what? In short there's not much more to write about. The newspapers are full of Donald Trump stories and so is the television news, the political programmes and, of course, the satirical shows. Facebook is jammed packed with stuff about Trump, all of it negative and some people are posting videos of extreme right Brits who think they have a mandate to wreak havoc among the ethnic minorities. They think that, at last, their day has come and perhaps it has and we all need to watch out. I say 'we all' as if I'm part of an ethnic minority. I'm not, but it's still a worry and, as I've said in a previous post, for me it's as if there are two vultures sitting on a fence behind me, day in and day out, representing Brexit and Donald Trump. It's true. You know when you're up and out of bed and doing stuff and you feel kind of positive about things, but there's something nagging at you, something unpleasant, and you can't quite work out what is? And then you remember: a dentist appointment, a hospital check-up? Ah! No, it's Trump, he's the President of the United States of America.
There's some good articles in yesterday's Guardian and one, by the novelist Ian McEwan, took my fancy. His opening paragraph says it all, let me quote it for you: "Charles Darwin could not believe that a kindly God would create a parasitic wasp that injects its eggs into the body of a caterpillar so that the larva may consume the host alive. The ichneumon wasp was a challenge to Darwin's already diminishing faith. We may share his bewilderment as we contemplate the America body politic and what vile thing now squats within it, waiting to be hatched and begin it's meal."
That, to me, sums up what many people all around the world are now thinking. McEwan adds that 'stunned disbelief, a condition at which we are beginning to be adept, is a form of denial that fades quickly, but not smoothly'.
But the truth of the matter, of course, is that Trump is the president and we've got to get through it. With a bit of luck it won't run for the full four years – now that would be a result. Already there have been major protests around the US – in big cities like Chicago and Portland and elsewhere – and there's a good chance that they will continue, let's hope they intensify.
Writing in the same newspaper, Richard Ford argues that "Moral leadership would be useful to us now. We've just had eight years of it. Goodness knows where we're headed next." Ford voted for Clinton because he thought she would make a far superior president. He thought he knew what was best for the 'other fellow' – "all those rural or rust-belt, under-educated, under-employed white guys, or Latinos or blacks who don't feel sufficiently noticed by their elected officials – but he was wrong. As a result, Ford feels he has lost his feel for the authentic and might be guilty of a lack of empathy for those 'out in the hinterland who feel so hard-pressed that they had to vote for a miscreant'.
He's now thinking of a bumper sticker reading, "Blame me. I voted for Hillary." Ford ends his piece by stating, "Goodness knows where we're headed next. It's time for us to resuscitate our deflated citizenship, time to pay more attention, own up, not just fade away, blame the other guy, and forget."
The Guardian, understandably perhaps, is full of negative words and phrases, like 'dystopia', 'unfettered surveillance', how Trump's world is 'too dark', even for Leonard Cohen, who sadly died this week. Then there's 'American nightmare' and, I must say, a great sentence from Emine Saner who writes, "True, not everyone who voted for Brexit or Trump is a rabid mysogynist racist, but these wins allow rabid misogynist racists to believe people are behind them. It doesn't have to be like that."
What I found surprising, however, was the coverage given to Trump by The Economist. I normally read it when I want reassurance as it provides balanced, calming, sensible, considered coverage of business and politics around the world, but not this week. While there were many articles about the likely outcomes of Trump as US president, they included some very worrying box copy about Trump having access to the nuclear codes. I always thought that while the US president has direct access to the codes, there were various checks and balances that would prevent him (or her) from simply pushing the button. But no, apparently not. It's down to the president alone, meaning that Trump could be lying in bed on a Saturday evening, 'adopting the position' and getting little joy from the process and might then decide, out of sheer frustration, to send a few nukes in the direction of Russia.
Here's the worrying text for you to consider: "In a ritual out of sight of the cameras on Inauguration Day in January, America's 'nuclear briefcase' will change hands and President Donald Trump will receive a card, sometimes known as the 'biscuit'. The card, which identifies him as commander-in-chief, has on it the nuclear codes that are used to authenticate an order to launch a nuclear attack. At that point, should he wish, Mr Trump can launch any or all of America's 2,000 strategic nuclear missiles. There are no constitutional restraints on his power to do so."
It's Remembrance Sunday and loads of crusty old politicians, former soldiers and members of the Royal Family are gathered around the Cenotaph in London, paying their respects to those who gave up their lives in two world wars and various other conflicts around the globe. I wonder what the Queen is thinking, standing there dressed in black and knowing that Donald Trump is not only the President Elect of the United States of America, but a volatile man who has made serious racist and misogynist comments during his election campaign AND!!! will soon take ownership of the so-called nuclear briefcase.
As The Economist put it in a leader article, "History is back – with a vengeance."