I was reading the story of Stephen Akpabio-Klementowski during the morning after the Trump “coup attempt” had been put down and I realised: “Yes, the Western world’s future is not going to be easy, but there is the light of hope again.”
At that moment, as the Trumpism blame game was beginning, there seemed to be a lifting of the destructive expectations of the past four years and the opening of more positive and constructive options.
Akpabio-Klementowski is a British story. He was sentenced to 16 years in jail as – in his own words – the stereotypical black drugs dealer. He worked in the prison canteen in the day and studied in a lavatory at night. The result was three university degrees by the time he was released after eight years and a job as a criminology lecturer with the Open University, the UK’s biggest academic institution which has taught more than two million students (including me) since it was founded in 1969 by the democratic socialist prime minister Harold Wilson to give non-elites the chance of higher education.
As I considered whether to break my usual Facebook reposting pattern of animal and environment articles, I felt that Akpabio-Klementowski’s call for prisons to switch to stronger education and rehabilitation policies could now be heard on both sides of the Atlantic. In contrast, Trump used his day to sell off leases for the destructive drilling for oil in protected Arctic wilderness areas.
Or, put another way, it felt like a point where two strong political currents met and sheered in different directions – a sea change, hopefully, with one current carrying hope forward and the other carrying selfish destructiveness into the past.
It is not just racial and justice issues at stake as in the Akpabio-Klementowski story. Nor my special interests in animals, the weakest and most powerless victims of human greed and cruelty. Or even your good causes and concerns.
The hope today must be for the overall good of the planet and its life – a constructive future scorned by Trumpism. But make no mistake: the routing of the forces of narcissism, greed and the joy of oppression is not the end of the battle.
The campaigning, financed by the elites and foreign enemies who can invest billions of dollars into fomenting population strife through destroying the basis of democracy – the belief in its fairness – will not end. It will carry on with future targets and careful, hidden strategies.
As the UK’s Guardian newspaper pointed out in its coverage of the Washington rioting, modern European states have had their experiences of rightwing violence too. The fight goes on everywhere.
These forces are powerful and persistent. In the relief of optimism at today’s indications of a better future, we cannot let down our guard against the malevolent forces plotting to tear down democracy and plunder what they can from the rubble. And their dupes, of course.
Except “dupes” is not uniformly accurate in Trumpism. There cannot be 70m-plus right-minded people duped into Trumpism. There must be a significant number who have the same narcissistic mindset as “poor Donald”; who want to fight a race war they expect to win; who see cultural and economic benefits from a Trump dictatorship; who simply want to tear down the temple of democracy and settle disputes by combat; and who just made their best choices based on their assessment of the options.
Hopefully, as the emotions cool (if social media platforms rein in the extremism and conspiracy campaigning enough to allow emotions to cool), many people will return to the normality of making cool judgements on good and bad rather than being jerked around by irresponsible and inflammatory allegations and claims.
Mass media outlets are far from innocent in the building of the toxic state of political and cultural confrontation in the US. Most may not have played the incendiary role of Trump-supporting elements like Fox News but all have been ready to give publicity to small, vocal groups parading their hatred and polarising the population.
As the blame game was starting with fingers being pointed at Republican senators supporting Trump, the mass media was being examined too.
Salon, the progressive/liberal news website, accuses the mass media of being enablers of Trump. It says in an article: “There is an unambiguous reason why mental health experts have not been seen or heard or read in the national media during the past four years. The mainstream media has intentionally blocked these experts from speaking out about Donald Trump’s mental pathology and its dangerous impact on the public’s safety and welfare. The professionals who understand Trump the best have been gagged and muzzled. The media has been a major enabler of Trump — and that continues to this day.”
I like to think that today is a day to look forward with hope. President-elect Joe Biden has a massive job patching up the US and its relationship with the rest of the world. The sheer urgency of fighting the Covid19 pandemic understandably overwhelms the even bigger issue of climate change.
However, Mr Biden has promised a tough medical-science fight against the pandemic, and to keep the US in the Paris agreement on combating global warming … immediate signs that the US is ready to exit the realm of personal opinions and prejudices, and to rejoin its allies to again play an effective role at home and a leading role in world affairs.
John Keeble is a former staff member of the British newspaper The Guardian. He lives in Cuenca.