What does it matter?
In the shock generated in the wake of the US election, one refrain I keep hearing from people was what does it matter to us? Sure, people feel bad for the USA and all, but we have our own problems to deal with. I can sympathise with this view. The UK is a scary enough place at the moment, what with Brexit, the rise of hate crimes and confusion that has followed in its wake. However, I feel like the rest of the world needs to be concerned about the election of Donald Trump.
Firstly, the rise of the extreme right in the USA will embolden other movements across the world. There’s going to be an increase in nationalism at a time when we really need to come together as a whole planet. Historically, this doesn’t end well. With nations turning inwards and refusing to communicate with others, it’s only a matter of time before some small incident could spark a war. That’s one of the real concerns with a Trump presidency. The US is one of the most powerful nations in the world with a large stockpile of nuclear weapons. We do not want it to be isolated and reactionary. Other nations too do not need to be closed off. We need people to speak to each other and not get angry over imagined differences.
A shift towards the far right will embolden the bigots everywhere. Although everyone who voted for Trump is not racist, all racists have a newfound confidence since the election. It happened in Britain. After the Brexit vote, there was a rise in hate crime and racist attacks. We need to realise we are all the same. Everyone is human. The people in power want to divide and conquer, stirring up fear of the ‘other’. Whilst this rhetoric may not harm you if you are a rich white man, it will hurt your neighbours, your colleagues, your mothers and your friends. The power of a community is diminished when the ‘allowed’ voices are silenced. More than anything, the election will spur bigots on to greater hate. In their minds, the dismal views are now seen as mainstream. It’s the same with sexism, homophobia, transphobia etc. Anyone who isn’t white, rich and male is in the firing line. Now Trump has won the election and Brexit has happened, attacks on anyone who is considered an ‘other’ will only continue and will get worse. Racists will consider these attacks to be legitimised. But their views are not mainstream. The majority of people are decent, kind and tolerant. We need to stand up to bigotry wherever we see it. not just for yourselves, but for the good of society as a whole and for those who may be scared into silence. Remember, we are still all people underneath it all.
Secondly, Trump doesn’t believe in climate change. At all. Doesn’t believe it’s happening, doesn’t trust the overwhelming majority of scientists who have said it is a real thing. It is one of the greatest threats that humanity is going to face in the coming years. We are already in the middle of it. We need to be working together to reduce the impact across the world. To have the leader of one of the biggest, most industrious nations on earth flat out deny the problem and bury his head in the sand is worrying in the extreme. Instead of investing in renewable energy and reducing carbon dioxide emissions, Trump is planning on scrapping restrictions on coal and gas. Of course, this will lead to more greenhouse gases at a time we really need less. It is not just the USA which will suffer under his short-sighted policy, it is the whole world.
We have been fortunate in the west to live through years of peace. We have been relatively prosperous and the governments have mostly been stable and centrist. After some time, we think there is nothing we can do to change them. They will not always act in our own interests but they will be benign. Interest has fallen in voting because people believe their votes do not matter. Turnout at this election was 50%, meaning half the eligible population did not vote. Apathy has allowed the extreme right to flourish, while the left does almost nothing. My hope is that the election of such a divisive, far right leader to one of the most prosperous nations on earth will act as a wake-up call for the majority of good people to be more involved and to resist the politics of hate and division. Racism and sexism never went away, they were simply buried. Now they will become more visible. We must resist and condemn them wherever we see them, so we don’t undo the progress we have made.
It may seem dark now. If you are reading this in America, I am sorry for the struggle you are going to have to go through. For people in the UK, know that we are engaged in the same struggle against people who want to deny the reality in front of their faces. It is simpler to deny climate change, rather than acknowledge it’s world-changing influence. It is simpler to reduce people to Us vsThem, rather than see people as incredibly complex with differing views. It’s easy to remove humanity from the people who get attacked. But simpler answers are not always correct. They are not always helpful.
Wherever you are in the world, the principles are the same. Instead of giving into fear and hate, go out into the world and be kind. As Jo Cox said ‘ We have far more in common than that which divides us.’