On Being a British Liberal in a Nationalistic World

by Amy Gaskin

Today is the 10th November 2016, and it’s only just hit me that Donald Trump is now the most powerful man in the world. Of course I was angry, but overall, I found the way I reacted to Trump becoming President disturbing. Why? I barely reacted to it.

At least, not initially.

I think it was to do with Brexit. I had my hopes up for remaining in the EU, and when we voted to leave, I reacted as if I’d just been dumped. Sobbing furiously for hours. Panic attacks. Hiding from the world. The values which I had spent hours campaigning for were torn away from me by populism and UKIP-fuelled falsities. I was utterly distraught. All I could see was an act of socioeconomic suicide.

With that in mind, maybe I was indifferent to the American election because I’d already dealt with the grief once before. Maybe I wasn’t as optimistic for this election as I would have been beforehand and so I could mentally prepare myself for an apocalypse.
I was also very sceptical this time around. People told me that “Trump could never win!” and “Clinton will win a landslide!” Now, I’m not going to get pious and jeer “I told you so!” – thus emphasising my so-called liberal elitism- but very reluctantly, I saw this result coming. I am a scientist, and scientists look at trends. Hasn’t anyone else noticed the nationalistic spring across the Western world? It’s happening right now, so now is the time for moderates like me to suppress our in-denial natures and openly deal with the fact that extreme politics are becoming an epidemic. And as with any other epidemic, it could very easily become a pandemic if we don’t realise the severity of the issue and remain apathetic.

Look at the parallels: “Take Back Control” vs. “Make America Great Again”. Both equally wishy-washy as each other, and yet extremely effective. These slogans initially perplexed me because there was no logical substance; only a wave of emotion! In science, head tends to trump heart, but I’ve learned in politics that it’s the complete opposite. What I failed to realise was this wave was made up of raw anger, which represented the frustration held at the establishment. I mean, I don’t blame the anger, because who wants statistics thrown in their face when they’re struggling to make ends meet? Understandably, they want to see some real change after being unfairly ignored for an unacceptable amount of time. And so, they probably feel like they do want to take back control and make their country great again. I don’t speak for those people, but the slogans did, and so people responded in ways experts could never have predicted five years ago.

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I may be biased as a Lib Dem, but meeting Nick Clegg at his book signing confirmed he knows what he’s on about when he defends liberal values

Moreover, this epidemic isn’t unique to the US and the UK, either. Nick Clegg (2016) detailed in his book about the sudden rise of popularity for nationalistic leaders in Europe: France’s Marine Le Pen, The Netherlands’ Geert Wilders, and Austria’s Norbert Hofer are probably overjoyed at Trump’s presidency! They feel their ultra-xenophobic views are now legitimised on a mass scale, which can only negatively influence society. The UK has already seen – as of July 2016- a 42% increase in xenophobic hate crimes since the 23rd June (Mortimer, 2016), and I wouldn’t be surprised at all if a similar result is replicated around the Western world in the very near future.

These nationalists in Europe and elsewhere have a deluded idea of what freedom is. Freedom does not mean kicking out immigrants, building a wall, and leaving the EU; these are stupidly simple and illiberal solutions for extremely complex problems. Democracy can be long-winded and therefore, frustrating, but I urge every moderately minded person out there that we must cherish our common liberal values and work together. It’s not about implementing a niche ideology for temporary political gain anymore- because I welcome opinions which contradict my own. Rather, it’s about keeping us secure in the long-term, and no, that is not scaremongering  fiction. I firmly believe that teamwork is currently the best way of providing a stable, safe world for future generations. We must collaborate to combat climate change and save our fragile environment. We must collaborate to fight for people who are not allowed to be who they want to be.

“But how?” I hear you cry.

Stand up for liberal values. Please don’t be scared to do so. I wasn’t even a part of a political party until the General Election happened and I knew something worse was just about to emerge from the shadows. We’re now in an age of darkness, and all I ask from you is to shine the light.

Even if you can’t vote and/or don’t want to formally join a political party, you can get involved and effect change. We have to unite and put slight differences aside (while maintaining identity) and effectively act as a team. No more petty tribalism. No more silence. This team is united by sharing the voice of hope for our future generations, so it is vital that you provide the voices of moderate politics, of liberalism and hope whenever you can, because they are needed now more than ever. Too much is at stake to carry on fighting amongst ourselves.

Respect each other, but challenge climate-scepticism, economic inequality, views of racism, xenophobia, sexism, homophobia, and the like. But please, do not let history repeat itself, and do not give Donald Trump the fuel he needs to keep his fire burning.

 

References

Clegg, N., 2016. Politics: Between the Extremes. 1st ed. London: Bodley Head.

Mortimer, C., 2016. Hate crimes surge by 42% in England and Wales since Brexit result. [Online]
Available at: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/brexit-hate-crime-racism-stats-spike-police-england-wales-eu-referendum-a7126706.html
[Accessed 10 November 2016].

Featured image credits: http://media.salon.com/2015/09/donald_trump31.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

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