The last time the inauguration of an American president meant so much for me was when Barack Obama became President for the first time back in 2009. That seemed truly seismic and historic, and it was. A black president in a country with such a recent history of slavery, racial division, prejudice and ongoing institutionalised racism appeared to signal a positive change that could resonate world wide. If an unimaginable change could happen there then why not elsewhere. It felt incredibly important, signalling something positive after that first, awful decade of the new millennium.
Whilst I cannot speak about the impact Obama has had as a president what I can say is that he and his family have been a shining example of what we all would want to see in our political leaders. A man of compassion, willing to tackle injustice and inequality, no hint of a personal scandal and someone who knows how to reach out to all people.
Contrast that to today. We are hours away from the inauguration of man who admits to groping women just because he can, who will pander to base instincts just to get elected, who becomes aggressive and defensive if anyone dares to disagree with him. In short a man who lacks any of the qualities you want to see in a political leader. It's clear he is a leader in business where being cut throat and pursuing profit are advantages but let loose on the world stage I feel a sense of foreboding as to what havoc he may wreak.
So, for me, it feels a depressing day. A day when populism and manipulation of people's fears have given us a man clearly not equipped to lead one of the world's most powerful nations. Yet it does not stop with the U.S. Here in the UK we are also going down a path made ready for us by mainly men who manipulated the fears of people to lay the ground for a change so monumental that it will impact this country for decades to come. As in The U.S. we made a decision based on lies, prejudice and racism and those who disagreed are left as powerless onlookers.
It is probably the first time in my life that I feel that I do not have a political home and that is what makes the situation so depressing. The conservatives set up the referendum unnecessarily. We are now in the midst of years of economic and political uncertainty, the pound is plummeting (which is the only reason we are enjoying a short lived rise in the stock market), big banks are talking about leaving the UK, inflation is rising and on top of that the NHS is collapsing, social care is at breaking point and the future of the UK as an entity is in doubt. Despite all this, if an election were held tomorrow, the conservatives would win. The labour party under Corbyn looks increasingly unelectable and the liberals appear permanently and probably unfairly tarnished by their association with the conservatives from their time in coalition. Then there's our own version of Trump politics, UKIP. No wonder it feels a depressing period for so many of us.
Some times you need to get to the low points before things can get better. In the U.S. you feel that what may well happen is that some revelation about Trump emerges that is so damaging that he has to go or he is impeached for doing something so at odds with their own laws and constitution. Here my hope is that someone will emerge who can challenge effectively the course we are being taken on and galvanise the many voices that are currently quiet and accepting of our fate. We could really could do with someone like Barack Obama over here (and I hear he's currently unemployed!). There are politicians here who could challenge and lead but they need to be bold and reach out. They might be surprised at how many people are out there ready to get behind the right person. There is always hope,but at this point in time it feels that it is in short supply.
So good luck to the USA and the UK. A very uncertain future awaits both countries. It's a time, more than ever, for concerned citizens to be vigilant and to hold our politicians to account.
Friday, 20 January 2017
A dark day for democracy, let's hope not for the world
Retired from full-time work in education in 2016 and relishing opportunity to explore many neglected interests and places.Writing this blog as a way of exploring the experience of retirement as it happens but also looking at issues not restricted to retirement. Hopefully providing some entertainment and useful insights along the way and looking to communicate with others sharing similar experiences.