I’ve read more political analysis about the US election in the past two weeks than I ever have about any other single topic. Well, close to that, anyway. Maybe I spent more time on my geography exam when I was fourteen?
Analysis is no use, because some events defy analysis. Yes, there were alienated steelworkers and middle-class people scared for their kids. There were white supremacists, stay-at-home mothers and hardcore anti-Wall Street people. There were yahoos, rednecks, businessmen and Hillary-haters and people who despise newspapers that make them think. But the result was close, as was the result for Brexit. The tidal wave of change is really still a strong, strange ripple, no more.
But it’s what’s happening now. And I suspect that very few people, including the President-elect, grasp what it’s about. He is a pawn of an advancing tide. He rode it, but I fear (or hope?) that he has no idea what to do next. He is unsuited to high office and he thinks diplomacy is weakness. He likes to talk tough, but becomes furious when actors on a New York stage criticise his deputy.
And so on.
But things have shifted. We are starting, in our minds, to accommodate the idea of the man. He has made a couple of inept apologies and backsteps (no jail for Hillary after all, and white supremacists are [largely] unwelcome). But really, it’s just the stark fact that he is now lining up a bizarre government that makes us recognise he is the chosen one. For now.
Some of his ideas are worthwhile. Having immigrated to two different countries in my life, and done so with regard to their rules, I don’t sympathise with those who sneak across borders, then fear deportation. I respect a lot about Islam, particularly Muslims I’ve known who have fought against the worst aspects of their home governments; but I do not respect women who veil their faces. It is disrespectful to do so in my society. I think major financial insitutions are irresponsible and out of control. I accept that international trade deals promote trade, but I’ve never seen the immense human benefits NAFTA was supposed to bring. Somehow, it all seemed to come down to the ascendancy of WalMart.
Some of his attitudes I despise. A woman’s body is her own property, not the state’s. And very, very few women opt for an abortion without serious heart-searching. I like living in a multicultural society, and I hope my great-grandchildren will all have mixed blood. I try to be courteous, not abusive, to all, not because I ‘owe’ them anything, but because people reveal more interesting things about themselves that way.
But beyond all these pros and cons, there is a shift that nobody yet grasps. Not me; not the media pundits, who all have a different theory; and not the political science profs, who’ve discovered their subject scarcely exists as a science.
Otherwise speechless, I fall back on Yeats. Do I choose:
A terrible beauty is born;
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
I don’t know: maybe both? But this autumn of 2016 has marked the final end of a consciousness-wave that I have long held ‘hit’ in the autumn of 1966. It produced mass rebelliousness, astonishing musical creativity, and a lift in spiritual questing such as had not been recorded in long ages. This new wave is for different people, but it has its place in the human cavalcade. If I can’t see it, it is because it’s for other people than me to ride it.