Dear Little B. I’m writing this post for you. Maybe you’ll read it as a teenager reflecting on life, maybe you’ll be wrinkly and rooting through the archives but, however you come across it, whatever you’re doing, you won’t be the four year-old in blue Tinkerbell pyjamas for whom it was originally written.
I’m going to assume you won’t remember the 9 November 2016 as it panned out. To you, it will have been much the same as any other day and that’s why I’m putting down these words. Nobody yet knows whether history will mark it significant, but I do know that when we woke up the entire world collectively held its breath.
You asked why you couldn’t watch Paw Patrol as you usually would with your jam bagel before school; I told you I wanted to hear the news because something important had happened overnight – maybe you should watch it too. You didn’t moan as I flicked between Sky and the BBC Breakfast and, instead of sulking or pushing for Nickelodeon, you simply asked what was going on. I said there’d been a competition and, a bit like Strictly or The X Factor, the person with the fewest votes was to go home with nothing. Frowning at the telly, you then asked the name of the man with funny hair. ‘Trump’ I replied. ‘And he won’. Your response was to blow farty raspberry noises, crumbs going everywhere. ‘You didn’t want him to win did you Mummy?’ you asked, sensing the mood. Not wishing to fill your head with unnecessary worries I shrugged it off saying he wasn’t the one I’d have picked. What I didn’t tell you about was the shock I felt, the fear, the disappointment, because this was a man who, despite repeatedly making derogatory remarks about women, inciting racism, and lying compulsively, managed to get considerable backing from the American people to become their next president. (As a side note, you can take comfort in the fact your American family in Minnesota was as appalled as any of us, and would have thought the result less of a farce had Ronald Macdonald been elected). Although this appointment doesn’t directly affect you, it will inevitably have far-reaching consequences so, in stunned silence, we watched Trump’s rambling but confident victory speech – an uninspiring, self-congratulatory stream verbal diarrhoea – and I forced myself to play devil’s advocate. Could change be a good thing? Four months earlier I’d spectacularly underestimated the mood of the British people when your fellow countryfolk voted themselves out of Europe. The sun might have been searing through the windows that day, but the mood in our house when we Brexited was as grey and miserable as the clouds we’ve just woken up with. People have been craving change on both sides of the Atlantic, they feel neglected by society, blanked by politicians. I don’t blame them for being seduced by a man who pointed this out but, unfortunately for them, he offers no solutions and I see no silver lining.
I’ve just taken you to school. Your pack lunch was the same as always: a cheese roll and some grapes (we ran out of banana “yum yums” so you’ve got a biscuit instead). Your tights got damp from the rain but, with your pink anorak keeping the rest of you dry, you seemed chipper. That is, until you arrived at the classroom door and hugged your teacher tightly, making me wonder if I’d unintentionally imparted some of my concerns. I’m sorry if I did, because maybe the impending doom that’s been forecast will never materialise.
I’m home now and continue to analyse what it all means. What it means for me, what it means for you and all your little palls I’d left you chalking skeletons with. Only time will tell. Maybe it won’t mean anything. Perhaps society will keep on keeping on and Trump will be just another US president who makes little difference to the landscape. Except, I’m not convinced. Society is divided, and if the American election and Brexit have confirmed one thing, it’s that. There is right-wing movement gaining momentum, and when you’ve got France’s most divisive figurehead applauding America’s new leader, you can’t help but worry. It gives those with extreme views the confidence to come out of the woodwork and speak up. Even parking the fascism for a second, I fret the people who feel unheard won’t be rewarded as they’ll expect and this, in itself, will be problematic. The Haves will get richer and continue to make or influence decisions that affect us all, the Have Nots will get angrier and seek vengeance in the wrong places and the Have Somethings will look down their noses in disgust – and ultimately do nothing.
But what do I know? I live – we live – in the champagne socialist bubble that is London. We are out of touch and that became clear after the European Referendum. In summer, I lambasted the ‘naivety’ and ‘ignorance’ of those who chose to divorce us from our continental lovers. ‘How is having no say better than having some say – even if that say doesn’t always go in our favour?’ I reckoned back then. I get it now. When you feel like you’ve been screwed and your pleas fall on deaf ears, the only thing you’ve got is a chance to stick two fingers up to the bastards ignoring you, so why wouldn’t you hit them where it hurts? I’m not saying that darker forces aren’t at work, but it’s not as simple as blanket racism and, in their position, I might have done the same.
With no crystal ball, I can’t predict the future. I might be making a mountain of a mole hill, it might be OK or the world might self-combust, in which case you’ll not get the chance to read this at all. But you don’t need to be a psychic to see the split in society is getting bigger. And if it isn’t addressed more problems will arise. There has been a lot of mud-slinging lately: for every latte-slurping Facebooker hailing the end of days, denouncing ‘Stupid Americans’ or ‘Backward Brits’, there’s someone who contributed to the status quo, panicking over the cost of central heating, praying for any possible change to their current situation. So, I’m going to stick my neck out and say we all have to take responsibility for where we are. We co-exist in bubbles but we’re all too busy bouncing around in them to realise. Even those who profess to care (and Darling, I am guilty) fall victim to the ‘me first’ attitude at times. I see it everywhere. It’s the white van parked in a parent and child bay, the fully able Suit coming out of a disabled toilet, the woman sneaking away from the self-service checkout with a free sandwich just because it didn’t scan properly. If we can justify our selfishness to ourselves we think we are well within our rights. No immediate effect? No problem. Slowly, we let ourselves get away with a bit more and a bit more until our moral compasses stop functioning all together. But let me tell you now: just because you can’t see the ripples when a butterfly flaps its wings, doesn’t mean it has no impact.
I’m no saint, Boo: I’ve paid builders in cash to get better deals without blinking. What if then, that builder didn’t pay his taxes? What if everyone did that and, consequently, less went into the pot of the national health service? We all have a good moan at the underfunding of that… You’ve got to think about these things. There are always consequences. I’ve sneered at tax-dodging multi-national corporations in disgust before – the hypocrisy, eh?! It’s easy to blame the greedy bankers and misogynistic politicians for taking the ripe old piss out of us (because they are), but when we aren’t being the best people we can be to our neighbours, resentment builds and in sneak the Farrages and the Trumps of this world ready to exploit us all.
So what am I saying here? If we’d looked at the bigger picture more, we’d have noticed the cracks forming sooner. There hasn’t suddenly been some whopping great 8.5 on the Richter, we’ve just been too absorbed in the Bake Off final, or too mad about inconsistent rail networks to do anything about it. That’s why I think we are ALL a tiny bit responsible for what’s happened in America. You can’t just blame a bunch of knuckle-scraping red-necks for putting a sleazy REALITY FUCKING TV STAR into the Whitehouse. We allowed it to happen.
But what can we do now? I’ve been sat here scratching my head. I’m not someone who will be trying to reverse the decision of either Brexit or the US election. I may not like the result but I believe in democracy. And while it feels like there is very little we can do, actually there’s a lot. Maybe we can be nicer to one another. Be that bit more considerate, think how our actions might affect others. If the establishment are going to shit on us, let’s not make it easier for them by shitting on each other. At risk of sounding like I’ve had my legs in the lotus position, fingers pinched, humming through my nose for too long, I am going to make a real effort to do the right thing from now on. Be more involved in the local and wider community.
Having lived through monumental happenings such as 9/11 and the death of Princess Diana, I know where I was on those days and what I was doing. But memories fade and they blur with what you pick up from other sources. With this in mind, I wanted to give you some context for today. And, in lieu of the fact you don’t have an opinion, but there’s every chance it will impact your future, I’m filling in the blanks so at least you’ll know where your mum stood on 9 November 2016. Anyway, signing off with all my fingers crossed… here’s hoping for a happy, peaceful future xx