On Thursday I was on the BBC’s Briefing Room programme talking about Black Lives Matter UK. For those that listen, my intake of breath towards the end wasn’t deliberate and sounds more dramatic than it was meant to be!
I wrote my first article (in my personal capacity) for Christian Today about Trump, his critics and how their condemnations of his comments on women are revealing. It’s a different audience than I’m used to, and I’m still learning how to bring all of me more explicitly to the proverbial table – my faith, my feminism and of course my preoccupation with politics.
I think it’s safe to say that 2016 is a dumpster fire. Between the deaths, Brexit, the impending US election, rising xenophobia and racism across Europe, terrorism, natural disasters…
Every year has its horrors, but it does feel like the status quo is being given an almighty shaking down this year.
It’s not necessarily a bad thing in and of itself, but it’s scary. Some of what has been unleashed – racism here, for instance – is truly horrific, but I suppose it was there all along. Perhaps this is the year of things coming to light, being laid bare, a mirror held up to ourselves.
After all, there’s Trump and there are the baying crowds cheering him on.
There’s Farage and now the spectacle of so-called mainstream politicians nicking not only his clothes but his manifesto.
The Establishment, intellectually exhausted and/or simply unwilling to admit that the neoliberal consensus has failed the many, takes comfort instead in populism. It is willing to “listen” and”pander” to only the most extreme and rightwing voices, deriding the res of us as the “metropolitan elite” – as if prejudice is a justifiable response to poverty..as if only poor people are racist. They offer no solutions. We have big problems, but our politics is small, its view of our humanity diminished, its perspective on that of the “other” even more so.
For me personally, the last few months have been a wild ride – highs and lows, sweet moments and heartbreak. There comes a point when you start to fear that this might be “it”, maybe you can’t come back together again, hope – and in my case, sleep – deserts you. A few more things happen and you start to wonder, is this the worst year ever?
But you rally. You always do.
I am hopeful that the 2016 tide will also turn. Maybe we won’t have President Trump, though the effects of this vituperative campaign, as with Brexit, will be felt for a long time to come. Things have been said and done which cannot be undone.
T’was ever thus.
There are so many threads to this tragedy, which I’ll leave to cooler and wiser heads than mine to unpick. My heart breaks for the victims, their families, the injured and everyone whose life has been affected by this. I thought Obama put it just right when he described it as an act of terror but also an act of hate but that hasn’t stopped the “All Lives Matter” crowd from trying to whitewash it.
So far, Gary Younge’s reflection is the best I’ve read:
“The truth is it is, most likely, about lots of things. And the bolder the claim that it is about any one thing, the more vulnerable it will be to contradiction and qualification. While the act of killing so many so quickly is crude, the underlying factors are complex.” -Gary Younge
And Owen Jones’ riposte and reaction on Sky News Paper Review that exposes the callousness of the All Lives Matter brigade.
Ok, so let’s get the little stuff out the way. Sarah Woollaston MP’s defection from Vote Leave to the Remain camp – mainly on two issues: the NHS lies being peddled by Leave about pumping millions into the service if we leave, and the anti-immigration rhetoric which she says is “indistinguishable from UKIP”.
I think it’s great that a politician can think again and change their mind. I applaud her honesty. I do wonder what party she thinks she joined up to, though, as those “Go Home” vans pushed out by the Tories in the coalition were indistinguishable from the National Front and even gave Farage pause at the time.
But onto the big stuff.
The funniest article I’ve read this year, about a seagull that fell into a vat of chicken curry (it survived, but the write-up is hilarious):
“When he came in you wanted to feel sorry and concerned but he was making everyone’s belly rumble,” Lucy said.
“It was the weirdest thing we have dealt with here.”
And the monkey that caused a national power blackout in Kenya:
The monkey lost its purchase on the roof of the plant, and it tumbled down to land atop a transformer. What happened next played out like a catastrophic game of transformer dominoes: With a monkey on its back, the first transformer shut off its electrical flow, causing other transformers at the station to trip as well. KenGen said in its statement that “a loss of more than 180 megawatts” at the power station “triggered a national power blackout.”
How did we get to a place where a man who killed a boy is able to auction the gun because somehow the issue is so politicised that someone is willing to pay a quarter of a million dollars to own a grim piece of history?
Trayvon’s death lit the touchpaper for a movement in Black Lives Matter but he was someone’s boy. A boy who went to the corner store for sweets and was shot dead because of the colour of his skin.
I don’t see how right wing ideologues have lost all sense of compassion for Trayvon’s family, who have to endure this spectacle. It demeans all who took part but it demeans us all, for fostering such a bitter political environment that this grisly idea was even viable. Zimmerman feels like a hero, it would seem, for shooting an unarmed child in cold blood.
The disgust I feel is visceral. I couldn’t even write this post yesterday, but here it is. Just a lament at what we have come to.
Ah, what more to say about Hitler that hasn’t already been said?
There is that old maxim, that once you’ve invoked Hitler in an argument, you’ve already lost. Then there are those who just keep on digging.
Exhibit A: Ken Livingstone. I still don’t know what point he was trying to make, but given that Naz Shah had correctly apologised for anti-semitic actions, his gallant* riding to her defence was perplexing** and then annoying as he made it all about him. 20 times he repeated his bizarre Hitler analogy over the weekend and while I’ve since read some commentary from an Israeli scholar explaining his point, the fact that it didn’t lend itself to being easily understood by the wider public and was invoked unnecessarily and he persisted in flogging his horse before crucial local elections showed that this was about Ken and ego and not much else.
Exhibit B: Boris Johnson, over-egging the Brexit pudding. He appears to think that the EU is like Hitler. But not. But totally like Hitler. (?!) Of course, when questioned about these views, which by the way are a direct contradiction of what he’s said about the EU in the past, and are also patently not true, he doubled down. *sigh* (curiously, the big threat from the Brexit camp is the neverendum – that we’ll have another referendum if this one is lost narrowly. Conceding defeat…?)
And finally, on the topic of digging in – it turns out that Labour party members have been undeterred by months of ad-hominem and hysterical attacks on Corbyn (so much so that legitimate critiques are lost) and being told repeatedly that they’re deluded and/or stupid. They still support Corbyn. Two-thirds of members would vote him in again as leader. It’s almost funny to watch the dismayed headlines, the headscratching at the various opinion tables.
I personally think Corbyn could do better – too many easy wins are lost. However, the party as a whole needs to make up its mind, does it want to spend the next few years infighting and then losing the next election, or being an Opposition and fighting like hell to win?
*patronising patriarchal move, much? The woman was handling her own business.
**Listen, if someone does something racist, I reserve the right to look at them askance, even if they’re not a fully paid up cross burning KKK member. Same with anti-semitism. Naz Shah apologised; but if some people looked at her askance, it’s not without reason. It’s up to her to continue to prove that those comments are no longer her views. But her friends riding in to announce how she’s not an anti-semite? That’s as dismissive as people doing the same to other racists. If you’re the group affected, you may understand this intellectually, but it still feels dismissive, like you’re being told how to feel about this. In summary: If you’re not a duck, don’t quack. If you’re a dog and you quack from time to time, it’s entirely reasonable for the cats in the area to be a bit wary (and confused).
For once, the polls weren’t far off. Sadiq Khan won with a record share of the vote, which I found affirming. And relieving.
Ironically, as the results rolled in pictures were circulating of Sir Lynton Crosby, the architect of the racist politics that Zac espoused in his campaign, being awarded his knighthood for “services to politics”. He’s also the mastermind behind Boris’ previous campaigns and the Tory party General Election win so I can see why they adorn him with laurels.
But London? My London said no.
I don’t think there’s much more to be said on this than what was written by Media Diversified’s Chimene Suleyman.
Liberal food for thought:
I’m genuinely concerned.
Tomorrow London may vote in Zac Goldsmith, endorsing his racist, scurrilous campaign. Like so many others, I used to like him. I respected his independence and his environmental campaigning. But the fact that he has allowed his campaign to be so debased has become a matter of character.
And character shows when the chips are down. Yes, he was behind in the polls, but the decision to go negative like this (and, worse, double down) shows that at best he’s weak and at worst, he agrees.
But the question now is, what’s London’s character?
Polls are meaningless after the General Election. They consistently show a Khan lead but the fact is, in the privacy of the ballot booth, people may vote for Zac – either as dyed in the wool Conservatives, or because he’s cute, or because the dog whistling has worked.
The only reason that will matter to the Tories (and all political parties) is the latter.
I really don’t care if we elect a labrador with a colander on its head I just don’t want Zac’s politics to win. I desperately don’t want my city to choose that. Even better would be if Khan, who has fought an honest and hopeful campaign (even while disowning Corbyn) wins.
It’s a question of character.