When more than four million women marched in the US, the day after the inauguration of Donald Trump, it was a collective statement that they would resist the rotten terms of his presidency. Therein lies hope for the future...
Things will never be the same in America now that Donald Trump is installed in the White House. Might be worse, might be better. I’m going with better.
The key moment in the formation of the future came on the day after Trump’s harsh, sparse inauguration, when more than a million women marched in Washington, supported by hundreds of thousands of men, with a lilt in their steps and a song on their lips. “As we go marching, marching/ We bring the greater days/ For the rising of the women/ Means the rising of the race.”
The march mustered many more than had assembled to hear Martin Luther King declare, “I have a dream!”
On the same day, around three million people joined other women’s marches across the country. Four million fists aloft, a sudden eruption of mass resistance. A rally of around 400,000 in Los Angeles was described by the LAPD as the biggest crowd ever seen in the city. But such was the thrum of excitement everywhere, hardly anybody elsewhere noticed.
In the immediate aftermath of Trump’s election, in the dog-days of November, half the world, or so it seemed, slumped deep into depression. A few thousand here, a few thousand there, came together in plaintive protest. But their voices trailed off, swallowed in what seemed a vast futility.
The Republicans who had foul-mouthed Trump during the primaries and ringingly declared that he was unfit for high office, and solemnly pledged not in any circumstances to serve under him, now slunk into line, some more sheepish than others. We gotta work with him, people’s choice whether we like it or not, they mumbled, meaning, “Gimme a job!”
The Democrats were in disarray. They’d manoeuvred and manipulated, bad-mouthed Bernie Saunders and broken all the rules to smooth the way for Hillary Clinton in what was assumed to be serene progress towards the prize. But for all the sense of entitlement surrounding her, she was a useless candidate. She self-maimed with her suggestion that half of Trump’s supporters were “a basket of deplorables”, the sneer delivered at a LGBT for Hillary Gala at Caprini, a five-star eaterie located on Wall Street, signature dish Bellini and original carapaccio.
After the speeches, she and her husband retired with a few special friends for dinner on “the beautiful balcony with majestic columns overlooking the Financial District.”
The “deplorables” remark was, inevitably, overheard by rust-belt voters in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and a slew of other States which she had to win. Stupid. The point of reheating the incident is that it perfectly encapsulates the arrogance of the Clintons and their ilk and the disdain in which they hold the common people. People I know in America, and whose judgment I trust, tell me that this was the most telling reason for her loss of ground in the last weeks of the campaign. She was a perfect foil for Trump’s ebullient braggadocio. Her comeuppance was a major factor in the Democrats’ post-election lack of fight. Even Saunders pledged to try to find “areas of common ground” with the new administration.
Trades union chiefs rushed to the White House to promise to facilitate Trump in “bringing jobs back home,” and all that palaver.
What transformed this gloomy scene was not intervention or initiative by politicians or civic notables, but the convergence of women and others around a determination not to take Trump’s intentions lying down but to offer resistance. Not speeches in Congress nor stern editorials, but the sound of marching feet crunching towards confrontation. This is the source of hope now re-emerging.
The same is true, of course, here as well as there and everywhere. How come water charges were defeated in the North and are set for defeat in the Republic? A motion in parliament? Or the streets awash with people? What fuels active opposition to austerity across Europe? What put abortion on the agenda in Ireland? How was equal marriage won?
Everything ever achieved for the common multitude has been achieved by mass mobilisation, the achievement invariably then appropriated by leaders galloping breathlessly to catch up with their followers. I have even heard it said that Mary Robinson was key to the rise of the women’s movement in Ireland. In fact, it was the movement which gave rise to Mary Robinson.
The crowd are always written out of history, their attainments ascribed to supposedly great women, men, philosopher kings and such. Admit the agency of the masses and there’s no telling what their next demand might be.
We must be careful, too, not to seek refuge in revisionism. Obama an idealist who represented the people against the power? He’s the man who handed Trump a record, and a rake of laws sufficient to establish an imperial autocracy. More than 27,000 bombs dropped on countries America wasn’t at war with; the destruction of habeas corpus; the assassination even of American citizens deemed by secret agencies to present a threat to US interests; the prosecution of whistle-blowers as enemies of the State; the supply of billions of dollars of helicopters, armoured vehicles, heavy artillery (!) and surveillance equipment to local police forces. Etc. What more could any apprentice dictator want?
Nostalgics for Obama are living in delusion.
You are never free unless you free yourself. If I give you freedom, your freedom is in my gift. Free yourself and see the world suffused in all the radiance that a sudden sun discloses.
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