“Welcome to Trump-land”

I groaned when my friend messaged me that he had just said this cheesy comment about ‘Trump-land’. I had been purposely NOT watching the inauguration, kind of in the same way I’ve resisted commenting in public about my own feelings about the election result. After all, who am I to judge? Who am I to pass comment when I’m not actually a voter in this country my family currently calls home?

But, like the irresistible magnet that draws our eyes to a train wreck, I typed ‘inauguration’ into my phone and began to watch. The texts between my friend and I flew back and forth across the ocean as we watched this moment in history unfold.

I think it’s perhaps in my nature to just stay sitting on the fence (in public at least) about most things, in the same way my Britishness demands that politeness and intellectual freedom are of utmost value.  (It’s an agonising moment to think back on an interaction and suddenly realise that the other person may have thought you rude – it’s the worst insult, also because it reflects on your upbringing and therefore family; I’m sure I’m not the only British person to cringe at this prospect!)

Anyway, back to my point. I haven’t commented on the election other than with close friends and family. I don’t want to be rude to people who have voted in this presidential race, indeed we are all entitled to our opinions and to vote as our conscience demands; however I do get upset when each side vilifies the other and campaigns are run on fear and lies. I will stand up for decency.  Can’t we have a respectful intelligent discussion?

I realise that Facebook is rarely the setting for respectful intelligent discussions, but we the people are using it, so actually we the people have the opportunity to use it in a respectful, intelligent manner – do we not?

In the vitriol, the lies, the dramatic headlines, the fake news and the suspected interference of foreign powers that marred the 2016 election, we lost the ability to have sensible debates on the issues that were truly at hand.

What if, instead of bad-mouthing ‘the other side’ and jeering as they are ‘taken down’ we had proper factually accurate debates on issues?

Then people wouldn’t swallow whole the lies that are fed them, simply because it’s what they want to believe. Any candidate can tell people what they want to hear and win their vote – but to have the integrity to only promise what you can actually deliver, that would truly be remarkable. If people had taken the time to find out the facts on the issues that mattered to them and voted accordingly, I can’t help feeling we would have had a different result.

Now, I must say, if I had been able to vote in this election I would not have found it a no-brainer. The crass one would never have got my vote, he went beyond rude and impolite to actually sound sexist and racist; whether he is or not, remains to be seen. I can only hope that the shackles of democracy keep him within the realms of decency, and that he gathers intelligent advisors around him who make up for his lack of political skill and experience. At least the outcome is shaking those of us with liberal ideals out of our complacency – we now need to be more active to ensure democracy and decency prevail, we can’t just take it for granted.

But then we had the alleged lies and cover-ups of the other side, so it probably wouldn’t have been an easy yes from me for her either. Gravitas yes, experience yes, intelligence and ability to do the job – actually yes too. Questions over integrity are always tough though, in business as in politics, and it would have at least given me pause for thought. Whether the rumours were true or not also remains to be seen (despite what the hecklers will shout), but it lost her the election. Hearsay and scaremongering are impossible to control, and they spread like wildfire through social media.  It was not a fair fight – but then elections rarely are. The party policies are relatively clear and consistent though, so that would have determined my choice in the end.

In a fairer system, third parties would get a look-in and real representative democracy would have a chance – Gary Johnson was the only one who actually seemed to have integrity as well as the skills. But gaining traction here as a third party is pretty much impossible so voting for them is seen as a lost vote that could have helped (or hindered) either the Republicans or the Democrats.

It does make me ache for home though, for the politeness of strangers and the ability to have an intelligent discussion about a topic without it being a personal affront if you disagree. Not that Britain is perfect by any means. (Indeed I heard that the Brexit campaign was pretty bloody and vitriolic on both sides as well!)  But someone like Trump would never have got beyond the hustings I am sure.

In the almost 3 years that I’ve been living in America I’ve learnt that it is difficult to have an open and frank conversation about many issues. The key ones that, to my view, separate the majority of Democrats from the majority of Republicans are their stances on guns, abortion, trade and the environment – and they’re all incredibly emotive.

You can’t talk about gun control without the passionate pro-gun people getting defensive about their amendment rights – when actually gun control doesn’t mean stopping them having guns, just having sensible measures in place to control who can get them. You can’t back up your argument by pointing to the tragedy of so many mass shootings, because they’ll just say a gun-carrying citizen could have shot the shooter. Let’s have a discussion on creating appropriate measures so that less tragedies happen, both children getting hold of loaded guns in the home and these terrible mass shootings.

As for abortion, that is probably even more emotive. People who are pro-life cannot see that there may be a terribly down-side to making it illegal. I cannot imagine that any woman would make that decision lightly, but it is their choice – and if they must do so, let them at least be able to have a termination in a hygienic, legal environment. I respect the Pro-lifers’ beliefs about God, and that human embryos are precious – I just don’t think we should force our opinions on others. Allowing choice allows freedom – which is a key value of American life.

Indeed I saw an interesting piece on Facebook about what a difference it would make if we made people go through the same counseling and vetting procedure for getting a gun as we do for getting an abortion! So there’s that…

Then we get into economic matters … I’m no economist but I’m pretty sure that if no-one wants to buy coal anymore, if the utilities aren’t building coal-fired plants but rather cleaner, more efficient natural-gas powered plants – then re-opening coal mines is not going to be economically feasible.  It just doesn’t add up, and it’s astonishing that he got away with that fantasy. Sadly I think that will turn out to have been an empty (though powerful and potentially election-winning) promise. Let’s hope that the president gets some skilled economists to help him make good decisions that generate real sustainable growth, the type that doesn’t add trillions to the federal debt.  Oh, and some good PR consultants to help explain why he won’t be upholding his election promises on coal.

Free trade or protectionism? Maybe there’s a middle way, I hope so.  Surely the countries of the world gain more by cooperating than posturing and fighting?

Let’s hope that climate change doesn’t get forgotten or sidelined; the signs were not good during the recent election campaign but it is at least being acknowledged as more than a ‘hoax’ now. Let’s listen to the actual scientists rather than dismissing it, and let’s each do what we know we can do to help the environment.  Small measures can make a huge difference – when shops started charging for plastic shopping bags in the UK, our usage of them dropped 85%. Whether you ‘believe’ in climate change or not, the images of birds and marine animals killed by choking on plastic bags are all too real. A simple change that everyone can make is to switch to canvas reusable bags for their shopping (article). This simple step would illustrate the value we place on environmental matters, and hopefully translate to wider positive actions at a governmental level.

There’s healthcare too, but I’m not even going to pretend that I understand a system that we pay thousands into for ‘insurance’ but then still have to pay again when we see a doctor, get a prescription or whatever else! It’s like a complete reversal of the NHS where you have to really push to get extra tests or treatment – here they hand them out easily, because the cost is kinda one step removed so it doesn’t seem real. It’s a complicated issue, but at least Obama made some headway in addressing it.

So this article is littered with my opinions, with which you may or may not agree, but I hope you will at least read with an open mind and consider if any of it fits for you too. If it does, great. If it doesn’t, that’s fine too.

My hope is that now that the election and inauguration is over we can stop fighting, whatever side we’re on, and start working to understand the views of the other side. I know a lot of people are saddened and scared by the outcome, but this is our reality for the next four years and we must come to terms with it. We must resolve to not give energy to the fear and negativity, or else it will grow. There is a darkness to this energy, and if we sink into it we will only fuel it all the more and make the healing even tougher.  It is vital that we find a way to put aside the negative, the darkness, the fear and instead resolve to keep our hearts and minds open, to let the light in. Love is the antidote to fear – especially when it feels like the hardest thing to do. #lovewins

Even if we don’t agree, we can listen. We can seek to understand why they think the way they do and respect their right to have their beliefs. If everyone could put aside the jeering and criticism for a while, we could communicate with open hearts, remembering that we’re all human and we’re all in this together, then from there perhaps we can unite to find a better way to run this great country.

As women from all around the world join together today for the Womens March on Washington DC, this is our time to unite and all rise together for love, peace and choosing faith over fear. We can.

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