Trump, and the post I didn’t want to write

The meaning of 'Trump'


This was the blog post that I didn’t want to write – but also the one that I thought that, eventually, I would have to. A few days ago, Maddy wrote very eloquently about her fears and anxiety about the US presidential election. Like so many (my husband included) Maddy was holding on to the hope that Hillary Clinton, an intelligent, liberal, hardworking individual of integrity, would become president. She would be the first female president of the United States. It was about time a woman entered the White House, not just as ‘the wife’ but the president. But after Brexit… well, I felt that it would be better not to hope. So when I rose this morning and my husband told me the news that Trump had got in, the faint glimmer of hope that my soul was secretly holding onto, died.

Intellectually, I can understand why this has happened. There is a majority of humans (a slight one, but still…) that either consciously or subconsciously believe that competition, not cooperation, is the name of the game. That the desires of the individual reign supreme and that the needs of others are irrelevant. For many in this slight majority, all that matters is that the individual succeeds, no matter the cost to other humans or the planet.

Cooperation seems subtly, morally tricksy, you see. Because what if you help someone out and they don’t help you in return? What if they’re cheating the system, and you’re working your butt off and they’re not but they’re still getting the benefits of your hard work…? It’s not fair, is it? No, it’s not fair, but a large, well-run and caring society can buffer the effects of the odd person who doesn’t pull their weight. I care more that the vulnerable are provided for than I care about the fact that some are possibly cheating the system and getting benefits that they don’t really need (although with all the benefit cuts happening in the UK at the moment it seems impossible that anyone could actually be ‘cheating’ the system).

So… those who strongly adhere to the idea that it is better that a few (read: many) vulnerable people suffer so that all the cheats are caught and stripped of their benefits buy into the principles of conservatism, of republicanism, of tradition (these political philosophies also happen to further the agenda of the monster, neoliberalism). And one of the oft-used tricks of these political philosophies is to blame others for the individual’s dissatisfaction or not-as-successful-as-they’d-like standing in society.

“The poor and the vulnerable – especially those who do not share the same language or customs or religion – have always been a politically convenient scapegoat for a society’s various ills. It’s the oldest trick in the book.”

Giles Fraser wrote in 2014.

And as someone who lives and breathes books, I also thought that what Alessandro Gallenzi, founder of Alma Books (an indie press) had to say about the election result particularly pertinent:

“What you sow is what you reap. Decades of lack of investment in education and the arts, decades of dumbing-down and anti-intellectualism can only lead to mental apathy and political passivity.”

He blamed the result on an “intellectual sheepishness”.


The Future

So what of Trump and the future?

Well, in this thought-provoking article, the author, Kate Aronoff writes:

“The upshot is already clear: in short order, the United States could slide from hawkish neoliberalism into authoritarianism.”

Authoritarianism and Trump appear to be very happy bedfellows. Yet, of course, authoritarianism, with its close ties to totalitarianism is something to be afraid of. (Although I’m willing to concede that a benevolent dictatorship is something that could maybe work well for a country.) Authoritarianism is up there with neoliberalism in terms of its potential for monstrousness. Though, interestingly, if you look back on history, totalitarianism can still arise under a variety of political regimes (and -isms): communism, capitalism, nationalism, fascism. (Feel free to play “guess the dictator” at this point if you want.)

But intellectual analysis aside, emotionally, I once again feel like the world has turned upside down. Overnight a backward step, in terms of the rights of the vulnerable, women’s rights, the obliteration of racism, and the halting of climate change, has been taken. And I am soul-sick and weary.

So what can we do? Well, first, we must feel. We must allow ourselves the time to come to terms with our emotions. We must think, and continue to think about what we can do. Very many of us, who are just about coping with our day-to-day lives, and all the challenges that life brings, will have to concede that there is very little we can do. But for the many, many of us who believe in cooperation and not competition, and who want there to be a caring society and a planet that hasn’t been fried to a crisp in the future, we have to fight, and do what we can with the skills and time we have available to us. We also have to remember that the every day small kindnesses that we perform towards each other and the planet matter. But taking a step back, away from history, taking the omniscient position, I have to remind myself that over the centuries, our societies are becoming more liberal and more caring. It is just that there will most likely always be these semi-regular blips, spikes of selfishness and aggression if you will, that will cause us to despair.

Finally, I am reminded that simply continuing – and holding the principles of empathy, love and cooperation close to our hearts – is a way of ‘winning’. Simply enduring. And surviving. For now, it’ll have to do.



Writing Bubble



10 thoughts on “Trump, and the post I didn’t want to write”

  1. As an American, I just wanted to reassure that Trump’s policies are far more moderate and compassionate than you imagine, more moderate than I even like. He was not my first choice by a long shot, but I pulled the lever for him Tuesday. His plans will be a great boon to the middle class and the poor, lowering taxes, creating jobs, removing disincentives that limit employment (like the Obamacare requirement that employers must provide insurance to anyone who works 30 hours or more forcing many people to work 2 part-time jobs), improving safety and security, and adding paid maternity leave. The only thing that will be different is that he will focus such benefits on American citizens first. Just as we are advised on an airplane to secure our own oxygen mask before we help another, we cannot provide for the rest of the world when we are suffering at home. Give us a chance to recover from 8 reckless years (or 16 if that’s more your persuasion), and then we can once again be a beacon of hope to others. Also, your description of Clinton as intelligent, liberal, hardworking individual of integrity is correct up to the word “integrity.” It was her lack of integrity and stain of corruption that kept many from voting for her.

    1. It’s fascinating to hear the view of a Trump supporter, Mary Joan, so thank you for sharing it.

      One of the most unsettling things for me with both the Brexit vote and the election of Trump is that enormous gulf of worldview between sincere and honest people from either side of the political divide.

      It is genuinely baffling to me that Trump can be viewed as a moderate supporter of the middle class and poor, and Clinton a corrupt individual who lacks integrity and favours the rich. Trump is a tax-dodging billionaire. A pathological liar, who boasts of sexual assault and bullies (and/or sues) anyone who questions him. He has a long history of bribing public officials, defaulting on debts and bankrupting small businesses that supplied materials or labour to his companies. I just cannot process how such a man can be perceived as a champion of the struggling working and middle classes, and a man of integrity.

      I get how Clinton can be seen as too close to the establishment and the special interests that caused the financial crisis and have continued to nevertheless enrich themselves, but Trump seems to be the living embodiment of corrupt capitalism at its most ugly.

      Sorry to derail your blog with politics, Marija, but this Alice-in-Wonderland feeling of two tribes reaching such fundamentally different views of the same situation is genuinely scary.

      1. maddy@writingbubble

        I feel the world has been turned upside down too. And gone backwards. To have someone so openly racist, homophobic and misogynistic in a position of such power and prestige just beggars belief. I fear for everyone vulnerable – which very much includes many of those who voted for him. I think of everything though, it’s the fact that he’s a sexual abuser that gets to me most. I just can’t understand how anyone at all can think that his behaviour is acceptable. And the message it sends to our next generation is appalling. I feel so sad for America and everyone who looked up to it. Truly dark times. But I do love your words at the end of this post : “simply continuing – and holding the principles of empathy, love and cooperation close to our hearts – is a way of ‘winning’” Because we can’t let hate and fear win. I will be continuing with empathy, love and co-operation along with many, many millions of others. We’ll get there.

  2. What a lovely, sensitive expression of the issue – thank you for taking the time to put it down so carefully. I allowed myself a morning of rage and am now focussing on identifying which things I can change, to try and keep myself away from fretting about those I can’t.

  3. maddy@writingbubble

    My comment was suppose to be a comment on your post, Marija, but it’s appeared in a string of replies and now I can’t move it!

  4. I predicted this would happen and 2/4 of my children agreed with me. It is in part a reaction to neo liberalism, and a reaction where sections of society feel unheard. Check out a documentary on i player called HyperNormalisation.

    Im sad. I thought Clinton came out fighting in her concession speech, and then I took a step back. Chatting with colleagues today, we decided that most things do work for good. We don’t know what history will throw up next, and perhaps HC has been protected i some way. Its a supposition, I cant think how or why but perhaps a crisis of sorts… I don’t know. Where there is division there is always a vacuum and I am uneasy about the divisions in western culture because something a,ways rises to fill that vacuum. What is certain is that we live in an age of uncertainty… That in itself is frightening. More frightening is that real or perceived,(and they are real if they are manufactured) the divisions seem irreconcilable, becuase whoever shout longest loudest and vilest, whoever plays dirty bully seems to be winning!

  5. Thanks for this thoughtful and insightful post. I’m amazed that you were able to be so coherent at this point – I was still grieving and raging when you must have been writing this… I agree with Tom about the painful divide in the way the two opposing groups view the facts: I find it very difficult to see Trump as a champion of the working class but I know that’s how some of his supporters see him. Somehow we need to at least understand each other’s points of view before we can have any meaningful dialogue. Another previous commentor mentioned HyperNormalization and I agree that’s a useful analysis of what’s going on in the world at the moment, so worth a watch if you can bear it! I also thought this article was very good, and I think you might like it too for its analysis of this election in the context of neoliberalism, as well as some positive ideas about moving forward:

  6. I shared your feelings and emotions after both the EU referendum and the US election. And whilst we can all discuss and eek out the policies and reasons we may or may not agree with; the aspects of both the Brexit and Trump’s campaigns that disturbed me most was the vile outpouring of anger and denigration of other people which they continued to rouse up in spite of seeing and hearing the trouble on the streets amongst people. These are the streets we walk with our loved ones and now because of political diatribes in the mainstream, those streets are dealing with a new kind of fear.

  7. Pingback: The 100th Post! Blue Sky Tag (a Q&A with me), 5 Year Blogiversary & Giveaway « Marija Smits

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.