Yesterday countless millions marched against Donald Trump’s ban directed at the citizens of seven Muslim majority countries from entering the United States. The world’s leaders have stayed silent for the most part, in doing so they stand by his side. It is not however the same story for their constituents; to see the unity with which we have responded is heartwarming and hopeful, many have made their voices heard – we will not lie down before this new administration, we will not accept their draconian measures nor discrimination against any part of our community. We have said it clearly, and with volume.
We have seen now Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton speak out about the ban. We have seen, incredibly, Charles Koch, yes – Charles Koch and his minions promise to hold Trump to account in defense of open society. Starbucks have vowed to offer 10,000 jobs to refugees in response. Here we must be careful, these players, who would seek to cast themselves in such a gracious light are not so far removed the plays being made in the Oval Office, we would do well to remember the roles that they have played whilst we condemn Donald Trump.
It is sad to say and important to remember that these are not strictly speaking, new policies. The new administration is admittedly more blunt, more shameless than their predecessors, but the tide carries in the same direction and towards the same end. For decades US foreign and domestic policy has consciously ignored authentic paths towards reconciliation in the Middle East and towards its Muslim communities. Instead it has engaged time and time again in aggressive intervention and reactionary domestic measures for private gain. From the Gulf Wars One and Two to the funding, arming and protection of the Saudi regime and their Salafist project, from the Patriot Act to the tacit acceptance and encouragement of lies peddled by the media. The list goes on and on and on.
Beyond this one can recognise the stagnation of wages and the dire limits of the two-party system to have laid the foundations for Trumps platform too. If all had gone to plan and Clinton had taken the presidency the land of the free would have seen just two families and a token intermediary occupy the top seat of a supposed elected house from 1989 through to 2025. This nepotism is reminiscent not of an open democracy but of something much more sinister; its failings are directly responsible for the rise of this new populism and by proxy Donald Trump and his executive orders. A forsaken working and middle class has retaliated in the only way it is able to.
For decades the demonisation of the global Muslim population has been rife and largely accepted as part and parcel of our lives – only now have we taken to the streets. Now that the rights of Libyans, Somalis, the Sudanese, Syrians, Yemenis, Iraqis and Iranians have been denied by Trump there is uproar and an encouraging, staunch defence of their rights – the same outrage was not so forthcoming when those rights were forfeited by Obama, when many of those same citizens’ lives were ripped apart and destroyed by both explicit and proxy wars, by indiscriminate drone programmes and violent coups.
All were conscious policies, all have led to this. Western intervention in complex foreign affairs has fertilised a breeding ground of Islamic extremism that the president has embraced as justification for his new policy – Trumps’ closure of his borders is ugly and dangerous, but it falls under the bell-curve set by his predecessors. For those so sternly set against the idea of their earnings and their government building a border wall, it is worth taking a little time to look across the Mediterranean at the walls our complicity and US taxes have built around Gaza and the West Bank for decades.
These decades of shortsighted, violent, neocolonial policy have fostered a conflict in which dialogue seems no longer a viable option, neither camp is willing to concede to the futility of their aims and methods nor the virtues of long-term sustainable cooperation crossing generations and continents. Nor will they entertain the idea that we might stem the flow of our woes by targeting not the dreadful symptoms but the roots of international terrorism; fear, conflict, scarcity. These are the breeding grounds of the endless desperation that delivered these poor souls to their maker; people with no means of self-determination who have lost their families, their livelihoods and control of their fate have been offered fraternity, security and power, and we are surprised when they choose to seize it?
To root out the causes of this spreading disease is a task that will cross generations, the slow dripping of results will make no headlines nor soundbites nor garner votes, but it can offer the foundations we need to attain real solutions. For a people to legitimise this mandate they must be convinced of the strength and longevity of this method. Such an education arrives with the same slow-burn that does stemming international terrorism and will be hard to come by when people are baying for security, for blood and revenge, but what is the alternative?
We must say no to Trump, we must stand with our Muslim brothers and sisters and with all those that he seeks to oppress, but it is a dangerous game to fool ourselves into thinking that this charge is a new one, nor can we allow ourselves to romanticise the past that delivered us here, the challenges that we face are not so binary as to fall into the worlds ‘pre and post-trump’. We cannot let ourselves yearn for the devastating decades that laid the groundwork for the man now in charge. We must instead stay strong and united in the coming years and learn from the mistakes of the foreign and domestic policies that dug the trenches within which we now sit.
We must prepare for the world that follows his departure, we must build a dialogue that scrutinises the processes that built Donald Trump and imagines those that will secure a future of prosperity; political education and engagement, the separation of business and state, sensible regulations for campaign finance and the prioritisation of the working poor and middle classes. And whilst we do we must continue to make ourselves heard, we must rally, organise and lobby our elected officials and demand that they represent us in the face of the torture embracing, climate change denying, prejudiced sycophant that promises to do us and our home so much harm.
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