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Trump Is A Warning - We Can't Ignore It

14/11/2016 13:26

The problem with being prone to melodrama is that before something serious happens no one listens to your warnings. I blotted my copybook years ago when, upon hearing the news that Iain Duncan Smith had been elected Tory leader, I grabbed the door frame, cried out 'all is lost!' and collapsed in a whimpering heap. Only my Labrador, Sambuca, came to my aid, licking my face (though he could just have sensed weakened prey). My suggestion that we build a nuclear-bomb shelter was an exaggeration too far.

So, my last few months of 'Trump will win! Listen to me, people, Trump will win!' fell on deaf ears. I was patted on the head, smiled at kindly and fed more gin. But this time my prophecy was based on first-hand experience and not on a longing for Casablanca-style drama (I still feel I would have made a fine leader of the Resistance).

Having spent a good chunk of the last few years in the States, mostly in Washington DC, I saw America's division, suspicion and fatigue up-close. Far from being a society at peace with itself, there was an uneasy truce between communities, which you felt could be broken at any moment. All sides, though polite in public, seemed to be reinforcing the barricades and retreating further behind them. I saw that there was longing from all sides: for reparations of past wrongs; for a chance to be understood; for a lost America. Few, however, seemed willing to walk into the middle ground and find something new, together. This was Washington DC. Goodness only knows what it was like in Kansas (the election just showed us). I haven't seen such a fractured nation since my time living in India.

We've had Brexit but we aren't done with protest and isolationism. Social sunlit uplands aren't guaranteed to reappear after a few months of heavy fog. Things can get a whole lot worse unless we heed the warning from across the seas. We don't have America's toxic social history, but we do have its cocoons. Trump is what happens next if we don't break open the cocoons and reassess our approach to nation-building. But the duty is on all of us: the government, society and religious groups, but equally on those who fear or mistrust what's beyond their own barricades.

It's false hope to think that once the jobs come back and NAFTA gets cancelled the appeal of The Donald will fade. Trump was a social reaction more than an economic one. It wasn't just the economically dilapidated rust-belt who voted for him. Nor was it just the pitch-fork waving loonies: a significant chunk of college-educated America ticked his box.

Post-Tuesday night, my reaction has been to shut myself off from the world. It is a reality too bitter to contemplate. I, in dramatic fashion, have deleted my news apps, cancelled my news subscriptions and reached DEFCON 1 by unplugging my radio, silencing the Today programme. Sorry John Humphries, I can't cope with your raspy truth. Not yet, anyway. I had to stop myself reciting W.H Auden's 'Stop all the clocks' from a windswept heath, while wearing a black cashmere cape.

But we all need to face the reality Trump has exposed. There is a very serious risk of humankind halting its march toward a more enlightened place and taking refuge in the shadows. People are scared, and some are angry, and we need to quickly understand why. History is hammering us over the head with the lessons of what happens when we go backwards, divide and round-on each other.

Minds should not straight away turn to the economic benefit for Britain of a Trump victory and the possibility of a free trade treaty. If we ignore, even for a second, our duty to prevent further social dislocation in Britain, we won't have a nation to benefit from tariff-free Teslas.

I will soon turn on the radio and re-join the real world. I am not looking forward to it. But in truth, I am missing the 6-am beeps. The one benefit from Donald's win is that people may take my warnings a little more seriously in the future. I may be elevated in people's estimation from 'loon' to 'sage'. Given my new status, I must dress accordingly. The black cape may come in handy, after all. But I may accessorise it with a tin hat, just in case...

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