Let us be honest. Things are not going very well as we enter the age of BrexTrumpolypse – as it was so eloquently put on Twitter. Quite obviously, that is an understatement as the choice of representatives for the global hegemon of the world was Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. On the one hand, the Americans could choose the hawkish incarnation of the US establishment with her close ties to Wall Street (“close ties”, I should note, is also a substantial understatement). On the other hand, a brutish, sexist and racist man-child that we can only hope will lose the nuclear launch codes during one of his emotional tantrums. In other words, the choice was between the evermore-depressing status quo, and what by some was perceived not so much as change, but at least as a well-deserved middle finger to the Washington elite.
As one reads through the post-election assessments of what went wrong and what outrageous things President Trump has stated throughout his campaign, they often refer to The Wall – the physical manifestation of US xenophobia. It is done, and rightly so, with horror. But is it not here we should stop and think about our own policies?
The fact is that while we mock President Trump’s wall on the US-Mexican borders, we have simultaneously built our own wall to keep the Other out of our own front yard.
That is the thought that struck me as I found myself in the Syrian refugee camps in Northern Greece, outside of Thessaloniki, as an Arabic translator, talking to some of those who had fled from war and terror – and now found themselves in a residential limbo without the ability to go back home and without the ability to reach that one destination where they could build and create new meaningful lives; A situation where the hygienic standard is sub-par at best, and with viral diseases and wound infections spreading, and where the daily routine was waking up and waiting for the day to be over. Then, just perhaps, there would be some news and development the next day. In the meantime they checked Twitter, websites and Facebook for the latest news on immigration policies in the European countries: “How is it going to Norway these days? I hear Sweden is a no-go. Also, Denmark. Perhaps the Netherlands?”
One of them, a woman sitting outside of her tent started to show me pictures of her family: “My husband and son are in Germany. This is my two daughters who are still in Turkey. And I am here with one of my sons and one of my daughters. We did not get across the border before they closed it, so I am stuck here in Greece waiting to finally be reunited with my family”.
And as the Syrians and the Palestinians seem to be two of the populations that have to live with the greatest burdens of BrexTrumpolypse, things are not going to get better. In regards to the Syrian refugees, President Trump has already promised to create a so-called “safe zone” within Syria were all refugees will be concentrated on the borders instead of being allowed to go abroad as refugees. As Gilbert Achcar writes for al-Jazeera: “He boasted that he would make the Arab Gulf states pay for this as he would make Mexico pay for the wall that he intends to build on the border between the two countries”. All that can be said is good luck, and we can only hope that Trump’s promises for office were just an addition to his collections of lies.
Are there any reasons for maintaining hope? Well, as the fear of the BrexTrumpolypse struck our hearts, several of those who never would have voted for Hillary Clinton in the first place – and certainly not if the alternative was Bernie Sanders – started cheering on her, posting the rather impotent hashtag #ImWithHer. However, and this is important, the left cheering on Hillary Clinton would in many ways have made it much harder to create a popular mass movement to protest her hawkish policies – as hard as it can be going from active glorification to actively opposing someone’s policies without losing credibility.
It could be compared to Obama’s two terms after George W. Bush: Whereas the latter faced harsher, more intense and several more protests against his wars and policies, Obama – although he has bombed far more countries, persecuted far more whistleblowers, and conducted far more extrajudicial killings – has gotten away pretty easy by virtue of not being George W. Bush. (I am the first to admit that Obama is damn charismatic, I’ll give him that much).
With President Trump, on the other hand, there are no illusions. There is nothing that holds us back to protest his policies, continue the work of building a mass movement for the rights of workers, minorities, immigrants, the LGBT community and everyone that will benefit from it; Whereas BrexTrumpolypse is the time when we can potentially wipe the dust off the slogan of ‘68: “Be realistic, demand the impossible”, the election of Clinton would most likely have been the time when we wiped the dust off the slogan “be realistic, demand the imminently possible and remember that we could have had Trump”.
However, that does demand something from the European left as well. And that is to acknowledge that as we enter the BrexTrumpolypse, we already have our own “Mexican” wall. And our silence and hypocrisy is damning!