Last night I took down the cards, the various decorations and the lights that I only have at Christmas. I have left the flamingo lights, one set of white lights in the hall, and I am still burning candles, though a reduced number. Then I turned on the television to watch the news. It wasn’t quite what I expected. Like much of the world I suspect, I was slack jawed in amazed disbelief at the scenes from Washington. It was like some dystopian film. A mob, really I cannot bring myself to dignify them by calling them protesters, swarming around, threatening, breaking and intimidating; braggarts, white supremacists, conspiracy theorists, while inside the building elected representatives were told to reach for their gas masks. Trump, from the safety of the White House egged on his followers, repeating over and over the lies about the election being stolen from him, about voter fraud. It was fascism in action. Ugly, dangerous, deluded.
Where were the police? Apparently close by, the lights of their cars flashing, but as so many have commented already their softly softly approach was markedly different to the one they took against a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest in the summer.
As I said a few days ago, I have been reading Lustrum by Robert Harris. I finished it and began the next book in the series, Dictator. So in the afternoon I had read about Clodius having lost a vote telling his supporters he had won, and encouraging them to violence. These events took place over 2,000 years ago, but the methods employed by Trump are the same. The will of the people is evoked, when it’s mob rule. How the US is going to heal itself I can’t imagine. And of course it’s not just the US, this populism is currently widespread. After the referendum here in 2016 we saw acts of violence, of hatred committed by nationalists with racist and xenophobic agendas proclaiming they were taking back their country, that they were patriotic. I have often written that patriotism and nationalism are not the same. Patriotism is love of country, but nationalism requires an enemy, a bogeyman it can attack. So it finds one, makes one up, spins lies and fear.
I shall be interested in how this plays out. Will Republicans who have stayed silent now speak up and condemn Trump, or are they willing to sacrifice their country’s honour and defend him? If the latter, it would seem to be because they believe Trump’s supporters will only vote for their party if it sanctions their extreme views. They will be ruled by the mob. We have seen here how the Conservative party, frightened by the support Ukip was enjoying, pandered to the far right. It hasn’t worked out well. It’s a time for people to stand up and be brave, to build bridges, and to be principled. Giving into nationalists and thinking they can somehow be controlled has not worked in the past – look at Hitler – it’s not going to work now.
Stay safe. Keep well. Pray for democracy.