It is a dark and disturbing time in which we find ourselves. America has collectively decided to put an egomaniacal fool in charge of its direction for the next four years and we are splashing about in the warm waters of the Toytown paddling pool.
Many will say over the coming weeks that Trump will fail to implement all but the most moderate of his ludicrous policies, and I believe this to be true. This however is only part of the problem, much as with Brexit, the emboldening of the worst elements of society has knock on effects that continue long after the event. Furthermore the efforts to combat climate change - let it be said yet again: the biggest threat that our civilisation faces - may suffer a calamitous setback. It has taken years, and difficult, fractious negotiation to reach the point where the Paris agreement of a few short months ago could be signed. A man who believes (if he really believes anything at all) that climate change is a Chinese hoax is unlikely to devote much time to addressing this grave situation. At best he gives fuel to the denialists and oil companies that would watch the world burn for those sweet profit margins.
The 'new normal' of political discourse is one of aggression, isolationism and distrust of the Other; this damages the fragile compact we have as a supposedly civilised society. The wider ignorance of history serves us not at all at times like these. We should have learnt these lessons many generations ago and yet here we are - the same fluctuation, lurching from progression to regression with every political cycle. The failure is ultimately one of vision. If politics were bold and the people that seek office were not as selfish, then genuinely long term solutions may be sought to our problems rather than shallow, short-term easy fixes to sway popular opinion at the expense of everyone long term.
A victory for racism, a victory for anti-intellectualism, a victory for bigotry. And yet a victory for the disregarded and abandoned classes of a nation that has long been rich enough to improve the lives of all its citizens had it really wanted to. A victory for those who have been led down an economic track not of their choosing; for a sector of society that has heard year on year that the situation is improving, the economy is recovering and everything is getting better. To those for whom this is not the reality, this must have seemed like a particularly cynical elitism, not to be trusted. And here we are, with the make-believe promises of an equally cynical manipulator. One who has brought legitimacy to the racists by stoking the flames of resentment and producing a scapegoat for every complaint, real or imagined.
Let us not imagine that race and privilege have nothing to do with the problems of our time, the battles against injustice conceived in the slave trading era are not yet over or won for huge numbers around the globe. The colonial age leaves its scars everywhere and the horrors of that time were the founding seeds of the resentment against the West that blossoms today. In America these are more visible problems due to the peculiar nature of the country's history: a nation built for the white elite on the backs of the black, native and minority population, all the while proselytising about Democracy and Justice and Fairness and Freedom. The recent seeming trend of a liberalising popular mood - the enfranchisement of minorites, civil rights, LGBTQ rights - has disproportionately benefited certain parts of society over others and long overdue. For those left behind a dark narrative has taken over, one that has no basis in proper statistics or facts, but even so a compelling one. 'They have taken over' - 'By giving in to the demands of a few social sideshows we have lost out'. This narrative has allowed perception to become detached from reality and this is where the scapegoaters have slithered in. 'Don't blame your problems on decades of poor economics and failed education policies - blame those brown people! Blame the gays and the Muslims, they're strange and mysterious - they must be up to something!'. Seems obvious from far away but when you are kept in a state of disinformation how can you be expected to react differently?
For people of enormous privilege and relative comfort, like myself, this will most likely not affect me in the slightest (notwithstanding my anxiety levels). Far away from the front line of racial violence, happily ensconced in a cosy, albeit Brexiting, amnesiac Britain. White, male, middle class and comfortable. Life is easy for people like me, this is an uncomfortable truth but a truth I must face nevertheless. The real losers at any time of political extremism are women, minorities, threatened groups, the disabled and the otherwise disenfranchised members of society. Discrimination, incarceration and death are already the daily reality for non-white Americans. Can anyone really imagine that situation improving now?
My initial shock has subsided pretty quickly, I feel the chilling fingers of apathy once again creeping around my neck.
And this is precisely the problem.
It is hugely important that we, the white, educated middle classes, constantly remind ourselves how lucky we are not to face the horrors that could now be unleashed on the most vulnerable. Indeed we must go further - if we believe that no one should suffer discrimination based on their race, nationality, gender, religion or sexual orientation then speak out now. Speak loud, use your privilege and your platform to oppose bigotry in all its forms. It is apathy among the privileged that allows these social evils to flourish. Some may feel that this is not easy to do, especially in this climate of 21st century dissociation; it is very difficult to feel that our individual voice, vote or contribution can affect the outcome of the behemoth processes that control our lives. This feeling of impotence must be crushed. It is the noise, the hum of individual opinion that sculpts the landscape in which bigger decisions are made. Without the constant clamour of our individual assent or dissent there is no oxygen for bigger ideas and movements to consume. We must not walk blindly into the mistakes of our past and the only way in which most of us can influence that is by not being silent in the face of injustice.