POST US ELECTION, WHAT CAN WE DO?
Like millions of other people in the US and abroad, I was full of hope on Tuesday. Hope that Hillary Clinton would be elected President and there would be a God almighty crack in that glass ceiling. Hope that the US would be a leader and advocate for tackling climate change. Hope that, come January, the most powerful person on the planet would understand – and not be played - by the menace that is Putin. Hope that the extreme right would not feel emboldened by the public endorsement of a man who has been referred to as a con artist, sociopath and demagogue. A man with the frailest of egos and largest of shadows. Hope that Trump would NOT have access to the nuclear codes come January 20th.
What I learned on Wednesday was that hope is not a strategy. If we want that inclusive, decent and equal society, if we wanted to remain in the EU, we all have to do more, especially me. I've a formidable campaigning background that I talk little about. I know how it works but have steered clear of all political involvement in recent years.
For those of you who are not supporters of Hillary Clinton, let’s get this out of the way. Yes, she was a flawed candidate and she’s made plenty of mistakes. But all politicians are flawed. Politics is about compromise, patience, building consensus and painstakingly working to get things done. To some people this seems unprincipled and a sell-out. But the brutal reality is it's how we get things done. Personally, I was more than uncomfortable with the idea of Bill Clinton being back in the White House after the way he dishonoured his marriage vows and demeaned the Presidency. But I don’t believe that Hillary should be punished for his indiscretions. And I figured he’d get his just desserts by having to walk behind his wife for four if not more years. I'm mischievous that way.
But I also supported Hillary because I understand that no political leader is perfect. That I don’t have to agree with every single one of their policies. Abortion, that flash point in American politics, can for example be reduced in many other ways than through a Supreme Court judgement. I understand that women in public life are held to a far higher standard than men. And I admire Hillary’s grit, determination, persistence and tirelessness. If I’d had to deal with one quarter of the abuse she’s had to put up with, I’m not sure I’d still be standing. This is a brave woman who could face down Putin, if this is what were needed.
In supporting Hillary, I understood that America would remain deeply divided, and there would be a powerful protest movement against her. I understood that powerful forces within the GOP leadership (and let me be crystal clear that I do not mean all Republican supporters) would do everything they could to go after Hillary. And in so doing cause huge suffering and damage to the country as well as to Hillary personally. On one level, I think she’s well out of it.
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Nevertheless I hoped and I prayed that, when faced with a candidate like Trump, America would do what I considered to be ‘the right thing.’ I knew there is a disenfranchised and disenchanted group – predominantly but not exclusively white non-college educated men – who wanted to ‘be heard’ and give the system a good kicking. Exactly as they did here in the UK over the EU referendum. But I hoped that a majority of Americans, for whom I know decency is core to their cultural values, would turn out and vote in sufficient numbers to ensure that a man of Trump’s ilk would never ascend to the highest office. I hoped that Americans understood what was at stake, both home and abroad. That there will be devastating consequences as a result of Trump’s bromance with Putin and his lack of (basic) grip on foreign policy. Not to mention how he will deal with the terrorist threats posed by Isis.
But a staggering 46% of the electorate did not vote. Some were shamefully disenfranchised. Others, for whatever reason, could not make it up off their couch to vote in this, the most consequential of elections. Others justified their vote by saying that they hadn’t ‘voted for him personally;’ they’d marked their cross against his name for reasons that had nothing to do with supporting his bigotry, sexism and racism. Whatever way you try to split it, those people, demonstrated, through their vote, that they condoned Trump’s views. It may not have been their intention but they have enabled and emboldened the far right and nationalist movements across the world; Russia is laughing as is Isis.
Actions have consequences.
As I said there are people who voted for Trump who say this was for reasons that have nothing to do with hatred, racism, and misogyny. They’re sick of being called a racist, a bigot, a sexist and being tarred with the same brush as a few ‘bad apples.’ If that’s you, I believe you have a moral responsibility to hold Trump accountable to acceptable standards of behaviour. It's your job to call him out. This powerful article by Jessica Shortall pretty much represents my views. I urge you to read it.
Because as Edmond Burke said:
The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good (wo)men to do nothing.”
Here in the UK, we have very limited influence over events over in the States. What we can do is take care of our own back yard whilst offering support to our American friends. We have an emotionally illiterate Prime Minister with limited ability to relate to the people. There is little prospect that she has understood or will address the legitimate concerns of ‘those who want to be heard’ within our own communities - primarily but not exclusively, the white, working class man. We have a self-serving Foreign Secretary in Boris Johnson, who is more interested in the main chance i.e. the ultimate prize of Prime Minister should Theresa May be ousted. We don't have an effective opposition to hold the Government to account. And we’re en route to leaving the European Union, when closer relations with Europe are what's needed, given the perils of a Trump presidency.
The EU has its origins in the aftermath of World War II which resulted in a human and economic catastrophe which hit Europe hardest. WWII demonstrated the horrors of war, and extremism, through the Holocaust and the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. There was a desire to ensure this could never happen again, particularly with the war giving the world nuclear weapons. Now we have Brexit and Trump.
That said, we may have lost the battle on Brexit, but we haven’t lost the war. Although it would be fair to say we’re not in the best of positions right now.
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So what can we do? We’re not politicians and leaders in powerful positions, with influence at the highest level.
Here are 9 things I believe we can do right now:
1. Support Our American Friends
We can help our friends get over their shock, grieve, rest and recover their resilience by letting them know we stand united in support and solidarity. Reach out to your friends across the pond who I know from my own communications on social media are reeling right now.
Many of us are or have been in shock, a natural part of the grieving process. Some people are in a state of disbelief. Some are depressed. Some are angry. Some are in tears. And far too many people are scared and fearful. This is not acceptable.
There are distinct stages to grief that we need to move through – quickly – because time is of the essence. Self-care is important.
If this means expressing our anger through non-violent protest, get out on the streets and protest. It’s not going to change anything right now but it’s a legitimate channel for anger. If this means drowning your sorrows in a bottle of wine, do it. (Just once mind, there's work to do). If this means talking through your feelings with friends, do it. If this means getting a pile of newspaper cuttings with Trump’s picture and ripping them to shreds, do it. Do whatever it takes to help you move through your grief – fast – so long as it’s not going to cause harm to you or others.
Because we have to get to a point of acceptance – which let me be clear does not mean acquiescence.
3. Deal With Our Own Shadow
We all have a shadow side to our personality. The ugly, nasty side. There's also a collective conscious laying bare its very ugly face right now. It’s revealing a country and a world that is divided, resentful, hurt and conflicted. Whichever side of the arguments people are on – be that for Trump or Clinton, for Leave or Remain.
Deepak Chopra explains this brilliantly in a recent Facebook Live in which responds to the US election.
We have to find a way to move beyond our own shadow. One of the ways we can do this is to reflect on our values and the kind of world we want to live in. And then think about how we can engage in the personal, social and collective transformation necessary to deliver this vision. Because, with the exception of psychopaths and sociopaths, we all share a common humanity and set of values at our core.
4. Understand Why The Electoral Result Happened
To accept a change (by this I want to emphasise I don't mean acquiesce) and move forward, it’s essential to understand why something has happened. I don’t mean raking endlessly over it. Hard as it is, we have to find understanding and feel empathy for people who took a different position to us. Because I believe what unites most people is fear, even if I struggle to understand their point of view.
These three articles, including from writer and film maker Michael Moore and photographer Cody Weber will I hope, facilitate this process of understanding.
- 5 Reasons Trump Will Win
- What I Have Learned From Photographing 400 Towns In Iowa
- I’m A Muslim, A Woman and An Immigrant: I Voted For Trump
This is not the whole story but it’s a useful start. We have to understand the point of view of 'the other' if we are to end the divisiveness and bring about positive change.
5. Get Real
We have to confront the brutal reality of the situation whilst remaining optimistic. I wrote about this in an article earlier this year on the Stockdale Paradox. We have not hit rock bottom yet. I’m sorry to be so frank. But I will get to the optimism part shortly.
Trump is not going to change, just as a leopard doesn’t change its spots. His shadow is too large and he’s surrounded by too dark forces. The fact is that Trump's victory, following so soon after our own Brexit vote - which unleashed a wave of racism and intolerance here in the UK - encourages the far-right to be bolder and more aggressive. We’re likely to see a further increase in racist violence and bullying because the haters feel more confident and legitimised. We can expect growing support for far-right parties across Europe and with forthcoming elections in Austria, France, Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands. It is entirely possible that far-right parties/politicians will increase their representation and even enter government.
I believe we must reassess how we do politics. We have to figure out how we can have a modern economic system that doesn't throw whole communities on the scrap heap. The Left in particular must rethink how it engages with the white working class communities it's failed to support. We need to understand the need of the forgotten communities, without seeming to be meddling outsiders, either insulting their way of life or offering patronising solutions.
Opposition to immigration and multiculturalism might be the lens through which people are increasingly expressing their discontent. We can't condemn everyone who raises concerns about immigration as racist. Some clearly are, but others have genuine concerns and we should listen.
The Left also needs a far better attitude to business. There is a role for the state. And a role for business. Business is the backbone of our economy. When business prospers, good paying jobs are created and we all prosper. More than 95% of businesses employ less than 10 people, 70% of which are solopreneurs. Small business needs practical support to thrive if this is to change.
6. Treat Everyone With Respect
These are dark times. Dark cannot get darker - but it can stay dark for as long as we want it to. We have pretty much hit rock bottom in our divisiveness. We have to find a way to move forward with compassion for our perceived adversaries whether these are Trump or Clinton supporters, Leavers or Remainers. To restate, this does not mean acquiescence to views. It means thoughtful, kind, respectful behaviour.
Yesterday I came this post by Janey Imaani Chowdhury which I believe offers one – of many – ways forward:
I am a Muslim who lives in Virginia with neighbors who support Trump. So I went over to their house this morning with pie to let them that I am scared because I do know what this means for me and my children but I am here to build a relationship with them because I know we all want the same things. They invited me in to their house and told me about how they have been scared since 9/11 and how it has changed their lives forever. I can understand their pain and why they feel like this. We are all scared and trying to find a solution.
I feel like as a nation we made a big mistake, we keep shaming the Trump supporters instead of listening to their concerns. I am tired of seeing them as the other. It's not working. I am tired of being scared too. I am just ready to be bold and fight hate with courage and compassion."
We can reach out to somebody who has different views to us and build a relationship, in the same way as Janey did.
7. Be The Change We Want To See In The World
Everyone right now feels a sense of injustice. We would do well to refrain from ideological discussions. Far better we consider our personal and shared values because they’re what's reflected in the collective unconscious I referred to earlier. Reflect on questions like who am I? What is my why? How am I going to bring this to life? What is the new story for humanity? What is the new story for leadership? How can we engage in that new story without being resentful, or angry, or trying to prove others wrong?
How can we be the change we want to see in the world?
8. Recognise That This Is Hard – Really, Really Hard
What we are called to do is really hard. Really hard. Really, really, really hard. It requires an unfathomable level of resolve, courage, determination, patience, personal discipline. And then some.
But this is a moment of deep vulnerability for the US, as was recognised by Hillary Clinton through her gracious concession speech and by Barack Obama in the way he made it clear that he will do what he can to ensure a peaceful transition of power.
So if Hillary can get up a give a gracious concession speech when all she probably wanted to do was cry and hide under the duvet cover, we too can recover, re-group and prepare to fight another day. Because as Tim Kaine said:
The WORK remains."
9. Take Action
- Donate to causes that will advance tolerance, inclusion and peace. Give these as Christmas presents.
- Wear a safety pin, a small show of solidarity started post Brexit.
- Join a cause. I’m participating in the Jo Cox Foundation and More United.
- Ask me to join the main Pantsuit Nation group and if you’re here in the UK, the recently formed Pantsuit Nation UK.
- Help to boost the local economy by supporting local business.
Let me leave you with this final thought:
When they go low, we go high." Michelle Obama
Join The Conversation
Question: How has the outcome of the US election affected you? I love reading your feedback so please do share your views in the comments box below.
* Trolling is not tolerated. If you cannot be respectful, please don't waste your time commenting. If you disagree and contribute in a manner consistent with the intention in which I wrote this article, I very much welcome your thoughts.
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