Nigel Austin 

author of The Robin Gibson series

​​​Posted 23rd January 2017

America: a nation divided

My first blog of 2017 and I’m wondering where to begin. Actually, that’s not true. To use the latest euphemism for a falsehood to emerge from the Trump administration, I presented an ‘alternative fact’. It’s not a hard decision at all; there really is only one thing to talk about.

Wherever you live, you would have been aware of a weekend of extremes. From the grim invective of the 45th President’s inauguration diatribe on Friday to the exuberance of women’s protest marches on Saturday, we watched - or maybe even participated in - history being made, dramatically. The number of marchers in Washington alone vastly exceeded the inauguration audience (some of whom were there through obligation only) and, beyond the capital, figures are emerging of over 3m people joining the protests in cities and towns, large and small, across America. That women and other genders also turned out in their millions across the globe, from all walks of life, united in defense of women’s rights and in opposition to one man and all he represents, is as astonishing as it is unprecedented and provides a remarkable counterpoint to what should have been the crowning moment of the new POTUS’s election campaign. 

But let’s not fail to recognise it isn’t just women who are in the cross-hairs. Minorities of every description can expect to be the victims of an orgy of bigotry, hate, spite, vindictiveness and score-settling, as right wing states and so-called Christian institutions slaver to restrict freedoms and introduce laws to overturn rights and liberties enshrined in current statutes. It’s already happening in Wyoming, where a bill has been introduced to legalise discrimination against the LGBTQ community on religious grounds that, horrifyingly, includes the right to deny medical attention. Others, who have previously shown their hand, will follow, such as former Bible-guided Governor - now Vice President  - Mike Pence’s Indiana.

Those who therefore understandably fear the yoke of oppression from a leadership manifestly disinclined to represent them should take comfort and courage from Saturday’s demonstrations of solidarity. Much of the world is dumfounded, if not angered, by the election result and is watching. And we know there will be no shortage of subject matter to grab the attention. 

Donald Trump has certainly made his mark but in a way from which I doubt even he can derive lasting satisfaction. If he ever believed women were a soft target for his predatory nature, he must surely now realise the error of this facile view ..or maybe not; on the basis of evidence to date, he seems incapable of learning lessons about anything. If only he could pause - take his thumb out of his mouth and his twitchy tweeting finger off his ‘phone for long enough - he might reflect that not being so universally vilified would be a more appealing prospect and one that should assuage his bruised narcissism rather more than the gratification he gets from his spiteful temper tantrums and malice. But, then, how could the man-child entertain the notion of being less divisive when he has surrounded himself with baying hounds and, through his platform, is facilitating the Republican majority in Congress - by many of whom he is tolerated only because their desire to pursue outdated policies and grievances outweighs any sense of decency they may once have possessed?

It was appropriate, though no less worrying, that Trump’s press secretary, Sean Spicer, should have used his first White House briefing to attack the media for down-playing the size of the crowds gathered to witness the Washington ceremony. His  claim that it was the “largest audience to ever witness an inauguration - period - both in person and around the globe” was such a blatant lie - sorry, alternative fact - it’s laughable, except that it is also entirely consistent with his boss’s inveterate disregard for the truth and sets the tone for official communications over the next four years …or when Trump is removed, whichever is sooner (Go to jail. Do not collect $200m in back tax relief?).

Arguably, the US hasn't been so divided since the Civil War. Large numbers of Trump supporters are now enjoying their moment in a ‘suck-it-up’ gloat-fest, conveniently forgetting the Republican Party’s blatant campaign to undermine and disrupt Obama from day one, eight years ago, when he posed no such threat to their cherished freedoms. They seem incapable of acknowledging the legitimate concerns of the newly aggrieved, possibly because of long-harboured negative sentiments, given permission to surface by the demagogue they were so keen to elect. Building bridges seems inconceivable when the gulf is so wide but, in such circumstances, there has to be optimism and hope that opinions can be changed and threats successfully challenged. It will be a long, hard hill to climb and, as the momentum of resistance builds, this weekend’s show of strength will almost certainly not be the last….