Monday, 10 October 2016

The way things are going

Maybe I'm over-dramatising it a bit, but it feels a little like the end times are coming at the moment. I'm sure it's been worse - during the Cuban Missile Crisis, for example - but during my own lifetime I can't quite remember feeling this sense of dread at the way the world's politics seem to be moving.

It feels, for a start, like everything is shifting dramatically to the right. Right-wing political parties are gaining ground across Europe. Barriers are being put up, literally and emotionally - even an enlightened, modern country like Norway is building a fence along its border with Russia, for example. We all know what happened over Brexit. Russia, with a President who seems as close to a dictator as is possible without being named as such by other leaders, is moving nuclear missiles within range of Berlin. They're falling out with the US over Syria, to the point where relations seem as bad as they've been at any time since the Cold War.

Then there's us. (Not all of us, of course, but enough of us that it's horrible.) We seem to be dehumanising refugees to the point where putting up walls seems an acceptable solution to their appearance. I'm pretty sure that anybody with a shred of humanity, if they found a helpless child abandoned outside their front door, would do their best to help that child without a thought for where they'd come from, what colour their skin was, that they needed food from your larder and a blanket from your bedroom. Number those children in the thousands, though, mix them in with similarly needy adults and put them on the news, and the response seems oddly indifferent. Cruel, even; it's apparently OK even for a Prime Minister to describe these people as a 'swarm'. It all seems a bit shitty, frankly.

The most worrying thing of all for me though, is the forthcoming US Presidential election. I normally regard these with only a passing interest - as with party politics in Britain, there's usually a nagging suspicion that basically not much will change regardless of who's in charge. Witness Obama being thwarted at every turn on free healthcare or gun reform. This time, though, with the Americans going to the polls a month from now, one of the possible outcomes is genuinely terrifying.

I'm always slightly wary of commenting on matters of another country's politics - you could argue it's analogous to complaining about a bloke three streets away's lawn being too long - but in this case the prospect of Donald 'can't we just use nukes?' Trump becoming President is too scary, and seems too likely, not to allow some sort of comment from any quarter. You would complain about a lawn three streets away if the lawn owner's proposed solution to his problem risked razing the entire neighbourhood to the ground.

Quite apart from his alarming attitude to foreign policy, there's the fact that the man is, plain and simple, a pig. Is this really the sort of person Americans want sitting in their most powerful seat? The latest stuff to come out - I'm sure you've all heard about the video - is merely the latest in a long line of appalling insults and abuse. He's an Islamophobic, racist, misogynistic, bullying atavist who'd be suitable only as an exhibit in some kind of weird exhibition of antediluvian masculinity, fit only for scorn and laughter, if he were not dangerously close to becoming President of the United States.

He's dismissed much of this latest stuff as ' locker room banter' even during an apology for it. 'This is not the man I am', he explains. Which version of him are you to believe is genuine - the private, unguarded one or the one who's trying to persuade you to vote for him? He's losing backing from within the Republican party, but still many of his 'rank-and-file' supporters seem unmoved. In the case of some of them it'll be down to good old, down-to-earth, honest stupidity. But there's the much more frightening prospect that a significant percentage of the US electorate, whether stupid or intelligent, whether educated or not, whether well-travelled or parochial and insular, share at least enough of his views to be prepared to vote for him. Or perhaps simply hate Mrs Clinton.

I don't know. But I've learned a lesson about thinking that things would be OK, that sanity and humanity would prevail, from our own referendum. As much as I'd like to think that his is merely the side which makes the most noise, the polls still have them close, and it kind of feels like the world's holding its breath waiting for this one to play out, hoping desperately that the 'right' outcome is arrived at.

Can you imagine a world with Trump in the Oval Office, Putin at the Kremlin, Britain isolated from Europe, Kim Jong-un in charge of North Korea and The Muppets moved to subscription-only TV? Three of those things have already happened, one is definitely going to. That leaves Trump as the one that can still be stopped. Please, America. Please - I know she's not perfect, but no career politician is - please vote for Clinton.

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