Trump­is­tan

Jamaica Gleaner - - OPINION & COMMENTARY - An­nie Paul An­nie Paul is a writer and critic based at the Univer­sity of the West Indies and au­thor of the blog, Ac­tive Voice (an­niepaul.net). Email feed­back to col­umns@glean­erjm.com or tweet @an­niepaul.

SO AP­PAR­ENTLY I’m the only lo­cal jour­nal­ist to have pre­dicted Trump would win the US elec­tions, an­nounc­ing it in black and white when I wrote my last col­umn on Novem­ber 6, two days be­fore the fate­ful date. I’ve only been say­ing ever since I got the mea­sure of Trump, long be­fore he won the Repub­li­can nom­i­na­tion, that we were look­ing at the fu­ture pres­i­dent of the USA. Friends poured scorn and vit­riol over the idea, so pre­pos­ter­ous did it seem at the time.

A week be­fore the US elec­tions when I said again on Face­book that I was calling it for Trump, a host of friends protested, some even get­ting up­set with me. I was amazed at how in­vested they were in the US elec­toral race.

Basil Dawkins, the play­wright, even placed a bet with me that Hil­lary would win con­vinc­ingly. Fine, I said, get ready to name a char­ac­ter in your next play An­nie Paul if you lose, and you’re on. So sure was Basil that Hil­lary would win that he didn’t even spec­ify a con­di­tion in case I lost the bet.

Ergo post-Novem­ber 8, Basil has re­named one of the char­ac­ters in his forth­com­ing com­edy, An­nie. Ti­tled ‘Four Can’t Play’, the show de­buts in De­cem­ber.

So how did I know with such cer­tainty that Trump would be­come pres­i­dent-elect of the USA? The an­swer is mul­ti­fac­eted. For one thing, I have ac­tual ex­pe­ri­ence of the Bi­ble belt of the US, hav­ing stud­ied jour­nal­ism at the Univer­sity of Kansas, Lawrence, in the late 1980s.

In­su­lar­ity and ig­no­rance are not re­served for the so-called fly­over states of the US, how­ever. I re­mem­ber work­ing part-time at a small elec­tric parts assem­bly firm in small­town Mas­sachusetts in 1980 and be­ing hor­ri­fied to dis­cover that mem­bers of the sec­re­tar­ial staff there thought the whole world was Christian – Catholic, to be pre­cise.

Hard to imag­ine such in­no­cence and ig­no­rance today, but it ex­ists. The US, as I grad­u­ally re­alised, is not a ho­mo­ge­neous coun­try or peo­ple, de­spite the com­mon­al­ity of the ‘Amer­i­can Dream’. The turn of events that put Barack Obama in the White House was a fan­tasy come true for AfricanAmer­i­cans and lib­er­als, but a night­mare for other Amer­i­cans who not only saw a down­turn in their for­tunes but ex­pe­ri­enced an iden­tity cri­sis as well.

White­ness had been the norm in the USA, but all of a sud­den, African Amer­i­cans and waves of non-white im­mi­grants of var­i­ous re­li­gious and cul­tural back­grounds seemed to be gain­ing strength just as Amer­i­can jobs were be­ing out­sourced to the rest of the world. A mix­ture of the fall­out from glob­al­i­sa­tion and in­ter­nal Amer­i­can pol­i­tics had trans­formed the sta­tus quo, turn­ing a hos­pitable en­vi­ron­ment into a hos­tile one for many.

LACK OF UN­DER­STAND­ING

My friend, Sheri Che­rian, from the Univer­sity of Es­sex Eco­nom­ics De­part­ment ar­gues that “lib­er­als who have plum jobs and coun­try club con­ser­va­tives (Mitt Rom­ney, Jeb Bush, etc.) re­ally do not re­late to any of this, and any­body who points out that things are not work­ing for those out­side the top one per cent is la­belled any num­ber of choice ep­i­thets. Peter Thiel, the gay con­trar­ian in Sil­i­con Val­ley, is sin­gled out for os­tracism when he says that a lot of Sacra­mento, out­side the Sil­i­con Val­ley, is full of tent cities and peo­ple with rot­ting teeth as they do not have proper health care. Trump was not his first choice, but as he wants to chal­lenge the sta­tus quo, he is go­ing with Trump.”

As Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone mag­a­zine put it:

“The Demo­cratic Party’s fail­ure to keep Don­ald Trump out of the White House in 2016 will go down as one of the all­time ex­am­ples of in­su­lar ar­ro­gance. The party not only spent most of the past two years ig­nor­ing the warn­ing signs of the Trump re­bel­lion, but vil­i­fy­ing any­one who tried to point them out. It de­nounced all ru­mours of its creep­ing un­pop­u­lar­ity as vul­gar lies and bul­lied any­one who dared ques­tion its cam­paign strat­egy by calling them racists, sex­ists and agents of Vladimir Putin’s Rus­sia.”

Ac­cord­ing to Taibbi, the party’s wil­ful blind­ness was echoed by a sim­i­lar ar­ro­gance across Amer­ica’s in­tel­lec­tual elite.

“Trump’s elec­tion was a true re­bel­lion, di­rected at any­one per­ceived to be part of ‘the Es­tab­lish­ment’. The tar­get group in­cluded po­lit­i­cal lead­ers, bankers, in­dus­tri­al­ists, aca­demics, Hol­ly­wood ac­tors, and, of course, the me­dia. And we all closed our eyes to what we didn’t want to see.”

“And the whole time, The Peo­ple, whose in­ten­tions we were won­der­ing so hard about, were all around us, lis­ten­ing to them­selves be­ing talked about like some wild, il­lit­er­ate beast. The Peo­ple didn’t speak our lan­guage, true. But that also meant we didn’t speak theirs.”

This is a les­son that those of us who con­sider our­selves su­pe­rior by virtue of our higher ed­u­ca­tion, taste and in­tel­li­gence, ur­gently need to learn. Less con­tempt and self-right­eous­ness, more hu­mil­ity and open­ness. As my friend, Faizal Deen, says, “If we are go­ing to stop peo­ple like Trump from ever hav­ing a po­lit­i­cal fu­ture again, we must un­der­stand what makes them so suc­cess­ful in the pop­u­lar world.”

AP

Zheng Gao of Shang­hai, China, pho­to­graphs the front pages of news­pa­pers on dis­play out­side the New­seum in Wash­ing­ton on Novem­ber 9, the day af­ter Don­ald Trump won the pres­i­dency.

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