(Anyone wondering – the feature photo is from Patarei prison, Tallinn.)
I’ve been writing this post since Wednesday, and still, somehow, I don’t know exactly what to say. At first I wondered whether I should write anything at all. Politics is one of those subjects that always tends to get a rise out of someone. I’ve seen many travel bloggers reacting to the Trump Trauma both pre and post election, and a lot of them have been targeted with disappointed, even hateful messages stating that they are travel bloggers and should keep to posting pretty pictures and stay out of politics. I wouldn’t want to compare myself to these bloggers – hardly even call myself a travel blogger – but it got me hesitating a little bit… However, my audience on this blog is so small that I feel like I can say most anything. Then again, if I had hundreds or millions of followers, shouldn’t I still express just what I feel? So screw it; the post is getting written.
I think most of us were shocked but not utterly surprised that Trump was elected President. After all, 2016 has seen a rise in the popularity of right-wing politics, with Brexit, right-wing governments elected and blatantly racist organisations emerging. In a sense, we are living in a time that is not very different from the beginnings of the world wars; it’s the time of economic depression, and some feel that their countries are not as strong as they used to be. Before World War I this strength was undermined by the disappearance of 19th century Nationalism; in 2016, immigration.
I’ve seen concern growing into full-blown fear over the past week as minorities, women and other people in vulnerable positions brace themselves for what might be coming. Many opposers of Trump – including a big part of liberal media – has fallen into dark grief. Many feel like democracy has failed, and in a way it has. Economists are predicting unstable markets, historians are comparing the situation to Hitler’s Germany and The Guardian even published an article titled The US has elected its most dangerous leader. We all have plenty to fear. People are not upset – they are terrified. On Wednesday morning (Finnish time) when the results were still coming in and I was browsing a news article that showed Trump leading Clinton 244-217, a message from a friend popped up on my phone: Has the World ended yet?
But why would anyone vote for him?
If the Democrats had had a better candidate, it is likely that Trump wouldn’t have won. However, many disliked Clinton: her involvement in a few failed political endeavours in the 1990s planted the seed of mistrust in Americans, and her recent e-mail scandal hasn’t helped things either. Besides, Clinton has been a fixed part of American politics for decades now and many see her as an insider, part of the powerful political elite that the average voter can never fully identify with.
Trump, in turn, presented himself as a self-made man who paid for his own campaign and has come from the outside to tear down the walls of the White House: a true representative of American exceptionalism. Even when the picture he painted of himself was not truthful, the public took to his no-nonsense way of speaking that was so unfamiliar to them in political surroundings. Americans, just as many other nations, might be getting sick of politics.
(It will be a harsh reality for them to wake up to when they realise that Trump is no less of a politician than anyone else that has ever sat in the White House.)
Maybe it’s time that we consider a few things:
- That Trump isn’t dumb – instead, he is charming, manipulative and calculating.
- That Trump voters are not all racist, misogynist homophobes – instead, they are just as scared as the rest of us are, of terrorism, exclusion and elitism.
The Great Wall of America and other lies
Many have accused Trump of not having a plan for when he steps into office. Many will expect him to start chugging minorities out of the US of A any day now. The truth, whatever it is, will be revealed over the period of Trump’s presidency and will most likely be in between the two expectations.
As he’s starting the job of the most powerful man in the World, Trump has no political experience. His campaign became known for his outrageous promises: ban all muslims from the country, build a wall and make Mexico pay for it, jail Clinton, make a database of refugees, kick undocumented workers out of the country, make sure Americans can keep affording to play golf… (Source) You know the jist of it. However, his first speech after the election already presented a more composed, more presidential elect than the one we’ve been intently following on media for the last months. So far he has already been seen waving a rainbow flag, and a spokesperson has stated that he doesn’t intend to ban all muslims anymore. So, perhaps all that instigation was just a ploy to get him elected.
Most, if not all, political campaigns include a lie or a few. There is no way that Trump will do everything he has said he will – whether it’s because he doesn’t want to or because he isn’t able to.
Should we be scared yet?
Trump might not be as bad as we all think, but his followers are. Trump’s victory has reportedly caused a spike in hate speech against minorities – muslims are getting their hijabs pulled off, women are being harassed, ethnic minorities are getting told to “Go back to Africa!” and that “Now that Trump is the president, you don’t get to live here anymore!” Much reminiscent of the harassment that foreigners and ethnic minorities experienced in Britain after the Brexit vote, actually. Having a president like Trump is setting the worst possible example.
And of course, while some of Trump’s more imaginative plans might never come into action, there are still plenty of issues that he is planning to bombard. These plans include defunding Planned Parenthood and scrapping all environmental action against climate change. In addition, he hasn’t seemed too keen on involving USA with NATO as much as it has before, even saying USA might not defend its smaller allies under attack. Many Eastern European nations have grown restless, seeing that Trump is in good relations with and was supported by Putin, who has made it quite clear that he wouldn’t mind re-attaching some of its former areas to the grand total of Russia. (Even if you haven’t heard of it recently, the war in Ukraine is still going on, folks.) On Wednesday, one of my teachers, who has been involved in international politics, journalism and education for decades, told us openly that she was scared. “Now I wouldn’t mind if Finland’s seen as a Scandinavian nation and not as a Baltic one.”
When the world’s safest country has to fear war, something is terribly wrong.
The audacity to hope
But it is what it is.
We have to hope that we are right and Trump is a smart politician and not a crazy egomaniac.
We have to hope that the congress, even when in majority republican, can hold him back on some of his wilder ideas. (After all, Trump was never that popular within his own party.)
We have to hope that other nations won’t allow most of Trump’s agenda to happen. (Even when he intends to “put America first”, the US is still not a completely self-sufficient country and needs foreign co-operation to keep its wheels turning.)
We are allowed to feel angry, upset, scared, grieving or whatever else we’re feeling about this election.
But above all, we can do whatever we can to resist the resurgence of hateful speech. Some people have used the word “fight”, which I find a little bit absurd, but it definitely conveys the idea that this is not the time to give up on humanity and follow Thoreau into the forest to spend the next four years as social hermits. An average citizen can still affect politics by donating to right causes, contacting local politicians and interfering with hate speech (as long as you do it safely). As our all-time favourite political leader said it: “Happiness can be found in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.”
Yup, that was totally Dumbledore.
End of political rant. Thanks for reading!