As a child of the eighties I was brought up on a diet of what were seemingly destined to become classic movies.
Classic is of course a subjective term but my teenage daughters seem to be obsessed with the same films and you’re more likely to find them watching ‘The Breakfast Club’ or ‘Weird Science’ on a monthly basis than anything made in their lifetimes. There must be something in it.
One of my all-time favourites is ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’. It appeals to me on many levels; teenage rebellion, a central character that remains one-step ahead of authority figures and constraints placed upon him, themes of romance and friendship and a series of killer quotes and one liners most of which I can repeat from memory to this day.
“It’s true, I do have a test today. It’s on European Socialism. I mean really, what is the point? I’m not European, I don’t plan on being European so who gives a crap if they’re socialists? They could be fascist anarchists, it still wouldn’t change the fact that I don’t own a car.”
You’ll have to take my word for it that I didn’t just look that up but that I know it by heart.
Aside from the amusement and narcissistic teenage edge that comes across soundly in that quote, it provides a convenient segue to the topic of today’s post.
I’m not American, I don’t plan on being an American so who gives a crap if America wants to elect a racist, misogynistic, perma-tanned egomaniac to the office of President? I’m British and have no expectation of setting foot on US soil at any time in the near future unless you count vague plans for a trip to New York and to take the kids to Disneyland at some point before the decade is out. In any case, here in the UK with ongoing Brexit debates raging, I think we have more than enough of our own dysfunctional political challenge to manage.
In spite of this, the fact is that I do care. I care a lot. And so does everyone else I speak to.
As the Trump-Inauguration fades into memory and his administration settles into the job at hand, I find myself wondering how long it will be before his campaign promises start to materialise. The executive order to start the process of repealing Obama care was apparently signed before his first day was out. How long before ground gets broken for the foundations of the Mexican wall? Will the repatriation force start rounding up illegal immigrants before the month is out? Is Hilary being arrested and her email servers seized as I type this? How are Donald’s Russian-lessons going?
It was notable from the TV coverage of the inauguration showed that way less people were interested in attending the ceremony for Trump than for Obama given the vast gaps visible in the crowd from overhead. The empty seats along much of the parade route demonstrated apathy from Americans wanting share in the celebrations. The fact that virtually every face in the audience was white was clear for all to see from the TV coverage, and his inauguration address suggested nothing intended to win around the majority of voting Americans who chose Hilary.
In short, it was, and is clear that no amount of self-belief that Donald has in himself can overrule the fact that a significant part of America is preparing itself to suffer or endure his presidency.
Aside from Barack Obama seeming to have been a decent, sane guy, whose interests were greater than those purely related to his own achievements, advancement and a desire to say the unthinkable and then say it again, I have no idea whether he was viewed as a ‘good’ president by the American people.
He was re-elected to serve a second term and I suppose that doesn’t happen by accident (although George W. Bush served two terms as well so maybe that isn’t such a defining factor). I’m sure he had plenty who disliked him, but I never got the impression of him being a risk or a liability to America or the wider world.
I can’t say I feel the same about Trump, and that is the reason behind my interest (and worry) now.
For balance, I am ignorant as to whether Hilary Clinton would have been a better option as a president to live under, but I have no doubt that I would have slept easier knowing that she possessed the keys to the White House and the missile launch-codes. I have to hope now that regardless of how radical and nationalistic Trump seems intent on making his term in office, that the structures around him will ensure that he is kept honest.
As I get older, and as my kids near adulthood I find myself becoming inevitably more concerned about more than just the things that matter to me and those closest to me. We are all citizens of the same world and we all have a responsibility to the planet and to each other as none of us will be here forever. As such, it worries me when someone seems intent on ruining things for the rest of us.
The same responsibility applies to each of us in careful considering the choices we make, the initiatives we support, the companies we buy from and the things and people we vote for.
With Brexit, the slim majority decided upon a course of action that for everything I have seen was based on sound-bites and headlines spun by politicians that were either meaningless bluster or simply untrue. At best they were designed to appeal to a sector of society that is divisive, self-absorbed and inward-looking.
In putting Trump in the Oval Office, a minority of voting Americans has similarly bought-into an ideal based on spin, sound-bites and the spreading of fear. I don’t dispute that many Americans will be seduced by the idea that the rust-belt can be regenerated, economically deprived areas can be brought back to life and that everyone can get a fairer deal but this won’t come about by one man taking radical steps to blame, exclude and punish the ‘others’ who he portrays as being responsible for the decline. It’s not the Mexicans, the Muslims or even the corrupt politicians that are responsible for this particular ill in America, but rather the fact that the world itself has changed. “American jobs for American people” is a great statement but the reality is that the world moves on and it’s not simply a case of going back in time to a halcyon era where everything was okay. It’ll only be by making America ok for all Americans that the situation really improves, just as Britain won’t be made Great again merely by severing its ties to Europe.
By coincidence, on Saturday I found myself watching the movie ‘1984’ based on George Orwell’s fantastic book (another of my favourites). As was to be expected, the film wasn’t a patch on the book, but aside from the obvious and superficial Big Brother comparisons that came to mind, the events of the last few days echoed strongly with a quote from the book.
“Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two makes four. If that is granted, all else follows”
Winston Smith, 1984 by George Orwell
Throughout his campaign, Trump was relentless in continually rubbishing viewpoints that didn’t echo with his own, and denouncing things as lies that were blatantly true. Brushing off his ‘locker-room talk’ which was no doubt a significant factor in prompting the global protests by women (and men) on Saturday that dwarfed the attendance at his inauguration, was a further example of how little regard he has for the truth or for being responsible for his words.
As shocking as these denials and lies were in the course of the campaigning, it is the way that the deception and out outright insanity has continued since the start of his presidency. Incredibly Trump and his entourage now seem intent on denying the obvious facts that crowds at his inauguration were the largest ever seen, and that the press are in fact culpable of the deception and presenting ‘alternative facts’.
In this way, the similarities with Big Brother’s Oceania continue; it’s apparently no longer our right to believe our eyes or trust in what we know as reality.
I will continue to watch with interest and concern as Trump presides over America and the world. I am not American, but I am a citizen of the world and I do give a crap about what happens to it for myself and for everyone else, as well as for future generations. It is my duty, and all of our duties to not be fooled.
We know that two plus two equals four, and the freedom to know this as fact is a precious thing that must be preserved.
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