Surprised there's President Trump? You're part of the problem

Surprised there's President Trump? You're part of the problem
Comment: Be upset, be angry… but if you were surprised at the US election results then you are part of the problem, writes Nargess Moballeghi
7 min read
11 Nov, 2016
"We need to get uncomfortable outside of our bubble and start listening" writes Moballeghi [AFP]

I knew Brexit was coming, and I should have known better than be shocked the day it did.

But in all honesty, for 24 hours, I was. Even as a journalist, who had gone to anti-austerity demos and EDL rallies; spoken to those who had lost their benefits, or their jobs or their homes during the recession and had visited food banks and A&E departments at breaking point.

And even as a journalist who had spent many years speaking to British people who were telling me that Brexit was going to happen, somehow the magnitude - and the fact that every poll had "evidence" that I was wrong - left space for a creeping doubt to enter my mind. It seemed like the journalistic thing to do.

But my shock only lasted a day, and next time, I wouldn't make the same mistake.

So when Donald Trump won the Republican primary, I knew better.

I thought he was going to win, and wasn't surprised when he did. Yes, it was unprecedented, upsetting even and worrying, but not surprising at all. But yet, even in Britain, where we had already experienced the Brexit vote first hand, the morning after the night before brought something akin to a sense of deja vu.

Shock, despair, questions; "Oh my god what has happened!" "The world has gone mad", "I just don't want to live in a world full of such stupid people", "why is this happening?!"

All of these questions by people who should - at least by now - have known better. The truth is, that if you were surprised by the US election results then you are a part of the problem. Because the only solution is to understand what is going on; the reality not the rhetoric, and know that the blame doesn't ultimately lie with those who voted for Brexit or for Trump.

The blame doesn't ultimately lie with those who voted for Brexit or for Trump

We live in a divided and divisive society; we are all to blame for that, and that includes the young, urban, educated, left-wing middle class who too often seem to think they are exempt.

We get angry when we see people blame immigrants, but we don't check our own language when we talk about those who voted Leave. We react emotionally to the Brexit result or to Trump, but don't give others the right to do the same – we don't give them the same excuses as we give ourselves.

Because, on the whole we still get our worldview from likeminded friends, universities and news outlets; we talk abstractly about what is happening outside of the borders of our cities and our countries, as if we have understanding, yet we instantly meltdown in to shock and despair when our worldview isn't reinforced by others.

We don't cope well outside of our comfort zone. But actually the realities that led to Brexit and Trump exist there, and the solutions require us to get uncomfortable.

It's ironic that many of those asking "why" and "how" would have turned to the same media that raised their false hopes to explain it all them, despite their analysis having being proved wrong.

This paradigm simply doesn't exist anymore; denial and nostalgia are not going to bring it back. We can withdraw further and further in to our comfort zone, but outside, a movement has started and it looks the way it does because the left has failed.

The ugliness of fascism is literally on our doorstep

In the aftermath of the result, author Naomi Klein wrote it was the Democrats' embrace of neoliberalism that won it for Trump; "we need radical change, the Democratic Party needs to be either decisively wrested from pro-corporate neoliberals, or it needs to be abandoned".

Meanwhile, civil rights activist Shaun King wrote The Democratic Party deserves so much of the blame; "The Democratic Party has mastered lying to itself and its core constituencies. It claims a progressive identity, but is as moderate and lukewarm as it has ever been on so many issues that matter to everyday people".

The same can be said about Labour in Britain, and in all honesty, maybe it can be said about us too.

In Britain, we have a real chance of a step forward in Jeremy Corbyn, and even just getting here has been a fight. Yet how many of us questioned him? How many of us let the press and pressure get in, and faltered towards maintaining the status quo, even after Brexit, and as Trump was sweeping America?

How many of us felt uncomfortable challenging the status quo, and risk being called "radical" or accused of being "hard left"? The truth is the hard right are showing they have a lot more gumption then the supposed hard left. Maybe that's why they've been winning.

If there is any doubt, then we are failing. There is no longer room for doubt. Now is the time for certain action. Because fascism isn't a word that we want to be politically correct and shy away from. It is here, and it's here because we didn't seriously demand real alternatives, not when this type of politics was destroying other countries, or when it started destroying other communities in our own. It has been a destructive road to where we stand now.

And where we stand now is that the ugliness of fascism is literally on our doorstep. Yes, we need to stand up to this fascism, but we must be careful not to smear everyone who voted for Brexit or Trump with that brush.

We need to acknowledge the deep-seated racism that both Brexit and Trump have unearthed, and stop pretending that it is new. Racism is not in the DNA, it is taught – who taught these communities?

The political establishment has not progressed. Our society is not progressing

We need to stop saying we have progressed, just because our small bubble has. The political establishment has not progressed. Our society is not progressing. We need to get uncomfortable outside of our bubble and start listening.

On Facebook, an African American teacher writes; "Today was a hard day for me professionally. I went to work not knowing what the day would be like and walked into a solemn room full of adults. It was interesting because my minority co-workers remained strong while my white co-workers were hysterical. I had one co-worker ask me why I wasn't upset, I had to tell her that I was, but as a black woman who knows oppression, this is nothing new."

On Twitter, one Native American wrote, I'm a native woman from the Rez. Trump becoming President is not the worst thing I've been through. It's not even in the top 10. Heck, 20. In reaction the actress and activist Shailene Woodley tweeted "white people who are outraged against Trump this has been happening for years just not to us. Time to wake up and take action".

If Brexit or the idea of a President Trump is the worst thing you have had to go through, if it is really causing you to melt down, recognise what a position of privilege that is.

While that isn't an exclusively white privilege on this occasion, it is still overwhelmingly so. You can turn that in to a positive if you make it a vitally important part of the solution.

We need to stop being shocked, start listening and understanding, and more importantly than anything else – we need to start acting now. If you aren't already uncomfortable - get uncomfortable and do something about it.

Nargess Moballeghi is an independent journalist and director of Merging Media. She has spent a decade as a news reporter in the Middle East and Europe and has a special interest in UK and Middle East politics as well as global social justice issues.

Follow her on Twitter: @JournoNargess

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.