Tag Archives: Donald Trump

USA 2017

Sidestep, sidestep, the liars’ gavotte

Gag the press and burn the lot

 

Buy the media, make them pay

Big the small man, make his day

Lay the pipeline, dig the mine

Build the wall and toe the line

 

See the future, it’s so bright

Jesus loves you if you’re white

Honor the flag and do your duty

Cry for us, American Beauty

 

Be a man, be unforgiving

Save the unborn, kill the living

Jail the immigrant, bash the gay

Mock the cripple, it’s okay

 

Shoot the black man, cross the street

Hammer the nail through the martyr’s feet

Fake the figures, tell the lie

Live the dream, American Pie

 

Liberty weeps while rich men rule

Line your pockets, play the fool

Silence the speakers, feed them bread

Bring on the circus, turn your head

 

Burn the native, take his land

Starve the child, twist the hand

Chain the woman, hear her scream

Wave bye-bye, American Dream

 

Sidestep, sidestep, the liars’ gavotte,

Gag the press and burn the lot

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Should we just get over ourselves?

Donald Trump possesses the vocabulary of a six-year old. There. I’ve said it. His soundbite reaction to the recent terror attack in Manchester, England, could well have come from a first-grader. Occasionally he’ll blurt out a big word he’s heard from a grown-up, but mostly he spouts a limited range of one- and two-syllable favorites: ‘loser’, ‘big’, ‘bigly’ (who’d have thought that was a thing?), ‘huge’, ‘very’. To us Europeans, and to most literate Americans he is an object of ridicule, but in a country where 87% of adults have a reading level of ‘less than proficient’*, Lord Dampnut is speaking a language the majority can understand. No rhetoric here, just plain, old-timey comic-book lingo that the average baseball-cap wearing, gun-toting good ole boy can understand without phoning a friend. Perhaps that’s not such a bad thing; maybe it’s time for those of us who have actually read a book or two to climb down from our high horses and, well, get over ourselves.

Don’t get me wrong, I love words. I live for literature. I eat novels for breakfast. I write for a living. As a librarian for some twenty-five years I fought against the snobbery shown by some of my colleagues when the craze for graphic novels and manga began. Reluctant readers, especially young boys, suddenly found something in books they could relate to. Kids who had never been to a library suddenly clamored for the next Pokemon adventure. It was OK for 8-12 year olds to read books with colored pictures. It was cool to be caught reading! There was palpable relief on the faces of parents who had previously been tearing their hair out trying to encourage their offspring to read. And although I would still see grandparents and well-meaning great-aunts wistfully eyeing the Beatrix Potters and untouched editions of Little Women, I would explain to them that it really didn’t matter what children read, so long as they read something. Even the back of a cereal box over breakfast was better than nothing; and from there to a non-threatening, short book, with bright, engaging pictures and not-too-many words on each page is but a short step.

I experienced a similar effect with the ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ phenomenon. Women (mostly) who wouldn’t voluntarily be seen dead in a library (a sort of inverse snobbery popular in my part of the UK), were now actually joining the library and bringing their friends along too. Not only that, but once they’d worked their way through the trilogy, they asked for more! M’Lud, I rest my case. Senior librarians threw their hands up in horror that I would encourage such liberated nonsense. There was a general feeling from the powers-that-be that they preferred falling visitor numbers and failing libraries to the radical concept of giving people what they wanted. They should be reading Dostoevsky or nothing!

So, let’s circle back to 45 and his down-to-earth, no-nonsense approach to the English language. And I use the terms ‘nonsense’ and ‘English language’ advisedly in his case. As I’ve said in previous articles, America is a kindergarten nation, ruled over by toddlers. If Great Britain was the same age, we’d be living in the 1450s. So perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised when America’s petulant president finds big words baffling, concepts confusing and manners mystifying. Perhaps we should exercise some patience and follow the ‘gold medal’ example set by the Saudis during Trump’s presidential visit; placate the baby with something shiny and distracting. The diplomatic equivalent of a gold star sticker for literacy progress. Is it time for us to dumb down, or for the leader of the free world to wise up?

 

* National Institute of Literacy, August 2016.

Notes From a Broad, November 2016: Trump’s Brave New World, Day 3.

I was greatly encouraged by the overwhelmingly supportive reaction to my previous essay ‘The New 9/11’. Having begun this series as a light-hearted look at life in the USA from the point of view of a newly-arrived immigrant, I fear that the theme may now take a darker turn, at least in the short term. I spent the past two days (has it really been only two days?) in a state of shock, as have most of my friends. By Wednesday morning I felt like I had aged twenty years overnight. My body ached; I couldn’t get warm. I felt like we were all survivors of a massive tragedy, hugging each other as though clinging to an upturned life raft after hitting the iceberg. That evening, I met my friend J.P. outside the theatre, ‘Welcome to America’, he said.

The irony is that, having spent so many months and so many thousands of dollars and pounds trying to get into the USA, I am now planning my escape. My timing, as far as emigration is concerned, was seriously awry. Despite the reassurances of my friends that as a legal permanent resident I probably won’t be on the list of deportees, I am of the firm opinion that

1) you can’t trust the word of a man whose policies right now are changing from day to day (I will scrap Obamacare, I will keep some bits of Obamacare) and

2) I cannot in good conscience remain in a country whose president-elect encourages hatred against, well, almost anyone who is not a heterosexual, white, able-bodied male.

My observation, for what it’s worth, is that between now and next January when Trump takes office, there will be a process of ‘normalization’. The public have such short memories and the shocking actions and rhetoric will be forgotten; the pageantry and razzamatazz will blind the populace so that the lawsuits, threats and mockery become acceptable, become the norm. And that is the point at which it all becomes much more dangerous.

I am very careful not to take everything I read at face value. I choose which news sources I read, I don’t have television. I don’t watch Fox News. Snopes is a pretty good fact-checker. I am not clever enough to argue and debate politics, and really don’t know how to respond to those who say ‘He might do something really good!’ or ‘It works both ways – if we support Trump then we are accused of being racists!’. Well, yes. If you really think Trump is actually quite a good chap then I’m sorry, but you are supporting his bigotry and his intolerance.

Right now the USA is the laughing stock of the western world. We thought Great Britain was bad enough with Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage, but this takes, as we say, the biscuit. Prior to moving to America, I truly thought the grass was greener over here. We looked up to the USA as a world leader, progressive, inspirational. Now, looking back over the past twelve months since I arrived with one suitcase and a heart filled with hope for a new beginning, I realize that the USA is a third world nation. Its lack of affordable healthcare, the poor education of much of its population, treatment of minorities and gun culture mean that life is cheap. The general air of civility barely masks the undercurrent that a big fight will break out at any moment, like watching rival drunks in a late-night bar. Strangers strike up conversations with me, bragging about the bravado they display when they shout at Latinos to ‘go home’. I want to shout back at them ‘I’m an immigrant too!’ but I am too much a coward. I almost resent the fact that I am considered ‘acceptable’ because my skin happens to be white and my accent middle-class. I feel like the banished writer of Brecht’s poem, dismayed when the Nazis don’t burn his books along with the rest of the ‘forbidden literature’. ‘Burn me!’ I want to yell. ‘Burn me!’.

Notes From a Broad, November 2016: The new 9/11

Over the past few weeks Americans have cast their votes, but today will go down in history as the new 9/11. 9th November, the day America self-destructed. In my head I’d been mentally preparing for this by thinking of it as ‘Brexit all over again’, but in fact it is far, far worse than that. This morning we find ourselves living in Donald Trump’s dream world, and for some of us it is not a restful sleep.

I awoke this morning to discover I now live in Clusterfuck, Arizona. A small, self-important Republican town, which, with delusions of grandeur, calls itself a city. The Walmart has an aisle of preppers supplies for ‘keeping your family safe in troubled times’. Government buildings sport polite signs asking patrons not to take their firearms inside. There is an air of resolute expectancy, as if the zombie apocalypse could happen at any moment. And, in a way, it has happened today.

Last night when I arrived home my husband and a friend, both university professors, were watching the results come in. They had both been crying. We watched with mounting horror, hugging each other and steadily hitting the gin bottle in the hope that it might soften the blow when it came. But it didn’t. Our friend is married to a beautiful South American woman who was having to cope with the news down in Phoenix, alone, with her two small children. He was torn between wanting to call her to find out if she was OK, and not wanting to call for fear of waking her with the bad news if she was already asleep. We discussed exit strategies, noting that the Canadian immigration website had already crashed earlier in the evening. Trump’s ‘no foreigners’ policy is already beginning to take effect, before he is even in office. Our friends will probably escape to South America. As a recent immigrant I’m on a temporary Green Card until I can apply for citizenship in two years’ time. Now I don’t know if that will happen, or if Trump intends to deport all non-Americans, regardless of family ties. He’s not been exactly clear on this issue. Possibly in my favor is the fact that I’m white, although being a slightly overweight, left-handed LGBT female will probably count against me. Who knows what criteria the Witchfinder General will apply once he gets the chance. Above all, the most frightening thing is what he will do with the nuclear codes when he sees that big, shiny red button. Like all spoilt little boys, Trump will want to push it first. We cry ourselves to sleep.

This morning my Facebook page fills with sympathetic comments from friends back in the UK, but none of them can be feeling the desperation that we feel here in America. Being an immigrant in a small-minded, insular mountain town is not easy. I stand out, I talk funny, my UK qualifications don’t count for anything here; I can’t get work. Trump’s strategy has worked; the fear is contagious. I don’t know how people will react to me today when I leave the house. Our tenuous bubbles of safety have burst, and xenophobic America is seeping in.

I hear a snapping sound from the garden. Something has shorted the electric fence. That’s how I feel about America this morning. The thin wires which yesterday kept our garden safe from predators have broken down. We have been wrong about everything, and now we don’t know how to keep ourselves safe. Driving into town, a deer leaps into the road from the creek, as if sacrificing itself as roadkill is the preferred option to waiting for the zombie apocalypse of Trump’s Brave New World.

Trump: a toddler in a kindergarten nation

The USA is in its infancy. Colonised by the English in 1620, it became the United States, an independent nation, in 1776. That’s only 240 years ago. Is it any wonder then, that its people are so naïve when it comes to politics, culture and gun law?

In the UK we marvel at how a sad, dangerous and uncomfortably comedic figure like Donald Trump can possibly be allowed to hold a position of power. Since moving to the USA I’ve been trying to comprehend how such a ridiculous turn of events has come about, and I have been fortunate, in a way, to experience the Trump phenomena from both sides of the Atlantic.

In England, Magna Carta, the Great Charter of the Liberties, or the first written laws, if you like, was signed in 1215, or shortly after lunch. The Declaration of Independence, arguably the American equivalent, was signed in 1776. That puts England roughly 560 years ahead of America in terms of social and political maturity.

560 years ago, in England, we were in the 1450s. Henry VI was King, and we had just lost the Hundred Years’ War to the French. If you believe Wikipedia, the earliest known reference to knitting in England occurs around then, and more memorably someone up north started the Wars of the Roses. We were still fighting battles with longbows; firearms had only recently been introduced as weapons of war. Executing women for ‘practising witchcraft’ was still 200 years in the future. We probably made up the rules as we went along.

Imagine a politician or a soldier from 1450 having access to modern weaponry, the internet, nuclear technology, motor cars. Imagine, if armed with little education, or mindfulness, how dangerous that could be. That’s where the Americans are today. They have all the bravado, enthusiasm and naivety of a new nation, but with none of the hindsight, maturity or lesson-learning that England has gathered in the intervening 500 years. It is a frightening thought, but goes some way to explaining the air of invincibility that the US wears like a suit of armour. Trump blunders around like a petulant teething toddler on the verge of a tantrum because he is a product of this dangerous combination.

Here in Arizona, folks are still living in the Wild West. Gung-ho, gun-toting enthusiasm is rife, privacy laws virtually non-existent. It’s like living in a culture which is a cross between The Virginian and 1950s Britain. Men strut around town wearing Stetsons and holsters. I can’t get a decent radio signal. This part of the state has a pervading small-town mentality. Is it any wonder, then, that when it comes to voting habits, its inhabitants want to be on the side they see as the winning team, with all the accompanying glitz and glamour? Policies really have nothing to do with it. You might as well have a shiny new convertible running for President, or a brand-new washing machine. Small town America just wants to win the Star Prize, regardless of whether or not it breaks down after the first couple of weeks’ use.

 

Marnie Devereux is an English writer living in the south-western United States.