Below is a reprint of a blog by my friend Claude Forthomme, a Columbia-educated European economist in Rome with a 25-year United Nations career culminating in her position as Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia for Food and Agriculture.
Claude’s economically erudite blogs are frequently over my head, but not this one!
This is how one Italian blogger sees the President-Elect – once Trump moves into the White House, since his wife Melania apparently has no desire to live there, expect this to happen:
Yes, the American Presidency, with Trump in the driving seat, has lost much of its dignity. Satirists around the world are waking up to the golden opportunity to make fun of him.
But is there really much to laugh about?
The first shocking thing are the numbers. Perhaps Americans, used to their bizarre Electoral Voting System are used to it and don’t see the inequity in it. But people who are not American cannot understand that a man who has garnered fully 2 million votes less than his opponent still wins the Presidency.
What kind of democracy is that? Where is social justice?
We are bombarded with frightening news coming out of America, and people who normally write novels and short stories have suddenly turned political. That is very unusual for American writers: in my experience, and at least this was the case through the Obama years, most of them refused to “take sides”. I couldn’t quite figure out why but I imagined they were afraid of losing fans and book sales. Being a European writer myself, I find that astonishing, over here, on this side of the pond, we are used to writers and artists taking sides – indeed, through most of the 20th century, most of them were Communists, starting with Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre in France – very few were on the right, Céline being the historic exception, of course (he was pro-Nazi, anti-Jew and a collaborationist).
So what are American writers saying now about Trumpian America?
So far, not many have come out. I was able to only identify only two so far and, oddly enough, both of them with articles published in the UK Guardian: Barbara Kingsolver, the author of 14 books including climate fiction masterpiece “Flight Behavior” and Dave Eggers, a prolific author spanning from non fiction, a best-selling memoir “A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius” to fiction, including “The What is What“an extraordinary novel about a Sudanese child immigrant in the US.
How about the New York Times and Impakter magazine coming forward with similar pieces? As a Senior Editor of Impakter, I would welcome such articles…
Kingsolver strikingly summed up post-election America like this:
Losses are coming at us in these areas: freedom of speech and the press; women’s reproductive rights; affordable healthcare; security for immigrants and Muslims; racial and LGBTQ civil rights; environmental protection; scientific research and education; international cooperation on limiting climate change; international cooperation on anything; any restraints on who may possess firearms; restraint on the upper-class wealth accumulation that’s gutting our middle class; limits on corporate influence over our laws. That’s the opening volley.
Quite a strong volley!
What’s left standing? Not much, it would seem – and hits to international trade and the fight against climate change can affect the whole world, cause a word-wide recession, perhaps a repeat of the Big Depression and even threaten the planet’s very survival as global warming proceeds unabated. We all need America on the front line of the climate change struggle, but with Trump in charge, can this happen?
Kingsolver minces no words, she calls on everyone to stand up and fight:
Many millions of horrified Americans are starting to grasp that we can’t politely stand by watching families, lands and liberties get slashed beyond repair. But it’s a stretch to identify ourselves as an angry opposition. We’re the types to write letters to Congress maybe, but can’t see how marching in the streets really changes anything. […]
But politeness is no substitute for morality, and won’t save us in the end.[…] So many of us have stood up for the marginalized, but never expected to be here ourselves. It happened to us overnight, not for anything we did wrong but for what we know is right. Our first task is to stop shaming ourselves and claim our agenda. […]
We keep our commitments to fairness in front of the legislators who oppose us, lock arms with the ones who are with us, and in the words of Congressman John Lewis, prepare to get ourselves in some good trouble. Every soul willing to do that is part of our team, starting with the massive crowd that shows up in DC in January to show the new president what we stand for, and what we won’t.
There’s safety in numbers, but only if we count ourselves out loud.
Dave Eggers piece is in many ways the opposite of Barbara Kingsolver’s: he manifests surprise, he is almost awed by the divided country he sees as he travels through it. It’s a long, thoughtful piece, beautifully written, but his concluding comment is no less moving than Kingsolver’s, he is deeply worried, he tells us, because:
Are you ready?