Tag Archives: United States

Unpresidented

I have a terrible boss.

He’s not a terrible man. He’s a husband and father – with another baby on the way, so his wife must think he’s doing something right. He’s quite cheerful most of the time. He’s not afraid to experiment with facial hair.

He’s terrible at his job. In fact, he’s literally useless at his job. If he left tomorrow, no one would notice. He barely turns up as it is.

But what makes him a terrible boss is that he feels no responsibility for his employees. He exhibits no duty of care towards anyone in his department. He could not give a solitary shit.

When you become a manager, it means more than a few extra dollars in your pocket. The role of manager comes with responsibility – notably responsibility for the people you are managing. And the higher up the ladder you go, on the whole, the greater the pool of people for whom you are ultimately responsible.

A great leader would take a bullet for his team. I’m pretty sure my boss would throw us all under the nearest bus and then pretend he’d been somewhere else all along. Probably playing golf.

President of the United States is perhaps the greatest boss role in the world. This is a boss responsible not just for his immediate team but for his entire political party; for his whole country; for the West.

What he says matters. His words resonate. They don’t just tell us what he thinks; they tell us what he believes we should think.

When Donald Trump bragged of grabbing women by the pussy, it made sexual assault okay. There are now horrifying videos on the internet of young men, university students, defending their right to rape – because if it’s good enough for their president, it’s good enough for them.

This week in Charlottesville NC, white supremacists marched on an integrated community that had decided to move a Confederate statue – a march that evoked an embarrassing racist past and which ultimately descended into fatal violence.

And in the aftermath, Donald Trump refused to condemn their actions. He decried violence ‘on many sides’. He said some white supremacists were ‘fine people’. And he claimed the people protesting the march were as violent as the neo-Nazis they opposed.

It doesn’t matter that almost no Republican politician has voiced support for these statements. It doesn’t matter that several have voiced opposing views. It doesn’t matter that some have expressly denounced the president’s words. It doesn’t matter that the leaders of America’s biggest companies have quit White House advisory councils in droves, rushing to distance themselves and their corporate policies from Donald Trump’s racist right wing rhetoric.

All of their words combined don’t have the power of the words of POTUS. What he says matters. His words resonate.

They resonate with the millions of people who voted him into power.

For me, one of the most damning indictments of Donald Trump came – fittingly – via social media. It was when white supremacists claimed that President Trump had actively refused to denounce them – proof of his support for them, and of the righteousness of their cause.

And in response – he did nothing.

Who knows, maybe some of Donald Trump’s best friends are black. Maybe they were until this week, anyway. But that doesn’t really matter either.

Donald Trump’s words resonate. They resonate around the world.

I can’t think of a single other boss, in any line of business, in any country in the world, who could expressly support white supremacists – and still have his job the next day.

Suddenly, my boss doesn’t seem all that terrible.

London Bridge

Why would anyone attack London?

London – without a doubt the most inclusive, diverse, welcoming, international, politically informed and intellectually engaged place I have ever lived – and I’ve called a fair few places home.

London – where voices can be heard, and arguments can find both informed support and intelligent dissent.

Why would anyone attack the very people that would willingly hear them out? Listen to their opinions without prejudice? Help them – or help them see another way?

Why would they have their children attack our children?

Religion can be a source of great love and community. I have seen this particularly in Europe and in South America – whole communities coming together, regardless of background or ethnicity or sexual orientation, to celebrate one another and support each other. The religion of these communities is not orthodox or radical or extreme. They do not hold up an ancient text written by different people living in a different community at a different time as the literal word of god. They take the tenets of that text – whatever the creed, it is some form of ‘be good to one another’ – and they live by them every day.

Religion can also be repulsive. I have seen this too – in other parts of Europe, in the United States, in Indonesia and in the Arab world. Communities divided by fear and misunderstanding. People persecuted for things that are beyond their control – who they love; their gender; the religion of their parents; abuses at the hands of others. Their religious communities take those ancient tenets and twist them to fit a modern context of their own invention. Their texts are not proclamations of universal love, but bitter rules about who to hate.

When people feel persecuted, they retaliate. But who had persecuted the terrorists who attacked London last night? They did not lash out at politicians, the military, religious leaders, members of their own communities they felt had abandoned them. They lashed out at regular people, civilians, the young. This was the third attack in three months. And like their fellow extremists, these three men had no arguments, no thoughts, no ideas. They had only weapons and a worthless desire to die.

You do not destroy us with your hateful acts of violence. You bring us together, in all our astonishing diversity. You do not make us hate you. You make us question what has made you hate yourselves so much.

We feel sorry for you. You feel alone, persecuted and desperate.

Your acts are upsetting to us primarily because they are pointless. Six civilians dead? In a city like London, probably not even all British? You gave up your lives for that?

For what?

A bit of back channel applause on Twitter?

Killing a handful of people in this glorious city does nothing for you or your cause. If you want to effect real change, you should stop attacking us – and try talking to us.

I defy anyone – whatever their history – not to find an open ear in London.