Something has been creeping over us, over the last few months os years. Perhaps it all started in the aftermath of 9/11. It is pervasive like a toxic gas, this sense of entitlement of some, of disconnection of others, the multiple worlds within one, the distance that we cannot or don’t know how to bridge. This is about the large pockets of our societies who, feeling disenfranchised, cannot take responsibility for their own lives; those who lack the ideological maturity to look at the complex context, to examine the roots of this plant which has become diseased. Because it is much easier to point a finger of blame with the so-called ‘protest vote’ than to look at ailing communities and wonder which role we can play in repairing the damage, in re-routing the vessel.
I began writing this early in the morning after the American election, when it was just a rumour that a successful businessman, devoid of a moral compass, who had run a shameful campaign, exploiting the fears of blue-collar American and of small towns in the isolated, economically depressed Rust Belt, was on his way to succeed Obama as President of the USA. I can’t articulate my thoughts about the atrocities that were unleashed in this campaign: the ban on all Muslims, the wall blocking Mexico off, his disgusting attitude towards women, and the instances of mocking and isolating disabled people and their families at his political rallies. Sometimes, living in this world that we do and caring so much for it is not good for my blood pressure.
As for the polls getting it wrong again: closet voters are here to stay, people who will be too ashamed to vote for their candidate, but who will do it anyway, because they believe they lack a suitable alternative.
A significant issue is that many voters had trouble connecting with Hillary Clinton. Whether this was a personality issue, or the cloud of the email scandal hanging over her, or even her standing by her husband as those allegations took place all those years ago, we just don’t know. For some people, gender may have been a factor, but I think it boiled down to her being an extremely astute, very well prepared, member of the political establishment, whose policies were no substitute (in the eyes of the voting public) for her lack of rock star quality. Obama had that aura that made people behave like he was a cool new friend they wanted to hang out with. Clinton knew it was going to be a close call, and over the last few days there was an increasingly desperate attempt to roll out celebrities to validate her as a suitable candidate. When in reality, her policies, her experience, her calibre as a candidate, should have been enough.
Today I feel like we are standing on the edge of a new world, more divided, divisive and polarised. This story won’t have a happy ending (at least not for a few years), like a Capra movie where the community pull together to save a troubled hero from its fall. American has fallen. Many Americans have fallen to change the course of the world, and the most tragic thing is that disappointment awaits them, when they realise their lives are still what they were, their struggles and disengagement lying unchanged at their feet like a poisonous apple.
But we mustn’t despair – there will be opportunities in the four years ahead for political activism, in the US and across the world, for meaningful discussions, for agreeing some basics of the kind of world we want for ourselves and our children. And that, however big a struggle is, is the best we can aim for – a world of dialogue, the kind of world I care for.
In the meantime – please don’t forget. The world keeps turning:
‘It will turn out all right, they said.
I had been clenching my fists
and when I opened my hands
they had been full all along;
that we are surrounded by invisible, intangible,
And it will captivate our hearts at every turn
if only we let it
cast its magic upon us.’