I’ve been spending a fair bit of time recently looking back over my blog, doing some housekeeping and revisiting old posts. I’ve made some small – probably invisible – changes to improve things: I’ve tinkered with the menu contents and order, and given my About Me page a long overdue trim and tidy. Having regularly recycled earlier posts I was struck by how many I hadn’t done that with, for a variety of reasons. But when I read this one again it felt like it was reaching out to me to revisit it. The time felt right.
I originally wrote this the day after the 2016 US Presidential election. If you recall, this took place just under five months after our referendum on membership of the European Union. As I remarked at the time, both of these votes were seen as surprise outcomes and I shared my disquiet at how they had been achieved and at what they might mean for the futures of the UK and Europe on the one hand, and of the US and the World on the other. Subsequent events have shown, I think, that I was right to feel apprehensive.
The current coronavirus pandemic has, rightly, occupied a great deal of news coverage in recent months, but this has perhaps enabled other important issues to somehow become sidelined. Here in the UK the main news item for the past four years has been our departure from the EU – what has become known as ‘Brexit’ (how I detest that word!). We did finally leave the EU on 31 January and are now in what I believe to be a deliberately impossible timetable to negotiate a trade deal with the EU, let alone resolve the multitude of other issues which need to be determined: little matters like policing, security etc. The deadline for agreeing an extension to this is rapidly approaching and our government isn’t showing any public signs of even considering this as a practical option: this just reinforces the view of cynics like me that they have always wanted a ‘hard Brexit,’ with all the damage that will cause to our economy and ongoing relations with Europe. Again, the cynic in me thinks that maybe the coronavirus will get the blame for this.
Serious though that is, it pales into insignificance alongside what has been happening in the US. After all the divisive negativity of Trump’s election campaign, it appears to me that he has spent the past three and a half years following the same path of hatred and division. The scenes we have seen this past week have been particularly horrific but they are just the tip of the iceberg. The damage he and his policies have caused to his country is incredible, and I still find it mystifying that anyone can support this abomination.
The greatest crime both of Trump’s campaign and presidency, and of the pro-Brexit campaign and subsequent machinations, is – as I said in the original piece – the divisions they have caused between people. We weren’t born racist or hating other people: we were taught that. Having governments who fan the flames of these divisions is unconscionable, but that is where we are. I titled the original piece after a song by the band Imagine Dragons and included the lyric video for it to illustrate my point. I’ve just watched it again and, in the light of recent events, it feels chillingly prophetic. It does indeed seem that this is who we are, or have become, but is it really who we want to be? I don’t, and I hope there are enough who share that view to help bring about the changes we need in order to do better.
Congratulations to American voters on making Vladimir Putin the second-happiest man in the world today. And they are owed a debt of gratitude by the British Government too: no longer is there a need to worry about how to manage our departure from the EU, when the new US President will have blown up the world before Brexit has to be enacted. But, as Chaucer said (well, kind of) many a true word is spoken in jest, and I’m only joking. Aren’t I?
To my untutored, inexpert eye there are a number of similarities between the US election vote and the UK referendum. The main one is that both seem to have been used by their electorate to register a protest vote against the status quo, against a perceived ruling political class that has moved away from supporting the ‘hard-working people.’ Be careful what you wish for! Many politicians are…
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