A Line in the Sand–The 2016 U.S. Presidential Election

I need to get serious for a minute, and I hope you hear me out, because the world is watching.

I didn’t bring you here to send you elsewhere, so I’m going to call out parts of that post that speak to me.

“A President Trump will change lives far beyond the US. An American leader who believes climate change is a Chinese hoax, who believes terror suspects should be tortured and their family members killed, who believes that Saudi Arabia should have nuclear weapons, who is fascinated by nukes’ power of “devastation” and who has asked repeatedly why the US doesn’t use them; a man who says, “I love war”; a man who drools in admiration for Vladimir Putin and whose disregard for Nato, and refusal to promise to defend a member state if attacked, would all but invite Moscow to invade one of the Baltic states – such a man would plunge all of us into a dark future. That we are not living in the US will not protect us.”

 

“So a Trump presidency would exert a pull beyond America’s shores. Suspicion of migrants, loathing of Muslims, a desire to put up walls and roll back social progress – these currents exist everywhere. Were Trump to win, they would have the endorsement of the most powerful office in the world. For eight years, Barack Obama has been a cautionary voice, counselling against the global rush towards xenophobia and insularity. If Trump replaces him, white nationalism will have command of the world’s loudest megaphone. Racists and bigots everywhere will feel validated, vindicated – and mobilised.”

 

“The same is true of the contempt Trump shows for basic democratic norms. As much as the rank prejudice, it’s this that has serious people – including Republicans – fearing they are witness to something akin to fascism. His insistence that “I alone can fix” America’s problems; his threats to curb the free press, punishing news organisations that have criticised him; his hint that he would sack America’s generals and replace them with ones more compliant; his threats to jail his opponent and his winking hint that gun rights activists could find a way to deal with Clinton; his refusal to say he will accept the outcome of the election – with each of these steps, Trump has trampled on the foundation stones of liberal democracy.

 

“Should he win, it would be a victory for a candidate who has lied more than any in history, who is spectacularly unqualified for the job and who stands contrary to the very idea of expertise. (Asked who he consulted on foreign policy, Trump answered, “I’m speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain and I’ve said a lot of things.”) It would be a triumph over truth, facts and knowledge. It would be the start of a new age of endarkenment.”

 

Even Jonathan Freedland (no, the irony in his last name doesn’t escape me), who wrote these words, goes on to admit that this sounds extreme. I agree that, to someone who is complacent in the fact that America’s ideals are a given, this sounds extreme. Unfortunately, these same people have been surprised at Trump’s success every step of the way, and I’ve been one of those people.

It’s also worth noting that Freedland has no stake in bias. It would be easy to dismiss his words as partisan sensationalism that is trying to scare people and influence their vote, a similar tactic Trump essentially founded his campaign on (that is, scaring you into compliance). Freedland is British, and he’s writing for a British publication. They already have their own social dysfunction to deal with in the form of Brexit, which he suggests could be seen as an omen for what’s going on in the U.S. It’s that same social anxiety, the same general displeasure with the state of things. And its passage is seen almost unilaterally as a mistake, harming the global economy and sending Britain into turmoil.

But we can stop it here. Don’t let fascism rise in America. Don’t justify its rise in the rest of the world.

Our election is a line in the sand. If we cross it, it will be very difficult to come back.

Let’s take a quick look at history. The world climate bears a striking resemblance to the Great Depression. Granted, today, we are all clawing our way from the Recession, but in Trump supporters are the same sentiments that were in 1920s and 30s Germans who were harboring resentment from the strict reparations imposed after WWI. They devastated Germany.

So Germans wanted to make their country great again. Aryan nationalism grew, and a guy pointing out all of Germany’s flaws and claiming he, and he alone, could fix them came to power.

To escape from the Depression, Britain and the U.S. demilitarized and focused on actually making their countries great again, growing social programs that benefited people and infrastructure. Both countries enjoyed a brief period of prosperity. Then Germany started taking back by force what it lost after WWI. And then it just kept going.

But hey, the good news is Germany is doing pretty good for itself 70 years later, so worst case, we have that to look forward to.

Make no mistake. This isn’t a political issue. It’s a people issue. We aren’t afraid of legislation or policies. We are afraid of a man’s behavior, its consequences, and the people who support it.

Realistically, Trump isn’t going to start World War III. The world is a far more aware place, and I have faith in the measures we put in place to ensure another world war would never happen. But certainly, nothing good will come from a Trump presidency. Nothing good will come from telling the world that, not only do we think racism, sexism, xenophobia, anti-intellectualism, fascism, and demagoguery are okay, but that these qualities are ideals we hold in such high regard that we elected a man to the highest seat on the planet based on them.

Snap the hell out of it, America. This isn’t who we are. We are tolerant, pragmatic, intelligent, peaceful, loving people, and we lead the fight for all of those qualities in the world, because we are a great nation. Don’t let a demagogue fool you into thinking we’re not. Just because we absolutely have work to do doesn’t mean we’re not great.

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