It’s been 36 days since Trump took power in the US, and just over 30 days since real resistance to his actions exploded in the US as a result of the Muslim Ban.
Since then there’s been a few protests. The first one was the Monday immediately after the ban. It was good – tens of thousands of people. The first one was about expressing emotion – frustration, anger, horror at what was happening. The second one was about supporting refugees and lobbying against Trump’s state visit, and it just felt like the usual political bandwagon – trying to demand things that the government is never going to give, endless speeches of very varying quality and lots of people who were either full-time politics hounds or crazy conspiracy theorists: there was even a woman from the Maoist slavery sect handing out leaflets petitioning for their leader’s release. Honestly, the second one was a bit of a let-down. Two weeks of organisation – instead of three days – and it barely had a few thousand attendees.
The Labour Party, of which I am a member, has been hideously disappointing. At last Monday’s protest it felt like everyone had a speaker on the stage at some point. Except for Labour. The Green Party leader spoke for just a couple of minutes, but frankly she was great – energising, emphatic, empowering. It felt like she really cared, and it felt like she could lead. I desperately wish there had been a Labour leader or politician of similar ability on that stage.
This week, the incumbent government won a by-election for the first time in decades. The polls all show the Conservatives have are experiencing a substantial increase in support since their election. We could be looking at decades of this mess – a small-minded, fearful and racist government leading us into political and economic isolation whilst the rich in society fence off their wealth and abandon the rest to suffering without the support of a functional welfare state or health service.
Where is the political opposition? Labour should be resiting Brexit for all the harm it will do to the majority of the people in the UK, for the risk to the safety of our most vulnerable members. Where is the support for refugees, for immigrants, for EU nationals, for the people we love and who have loved and cared for us? I can’t be the only member of Labour with a loved-one who is an EU national, who is deeply afraid of what the future will do to their family. Where are the politicians fighting for us?
On the national stage it feels like there is nothing – no, it feels worse, because Labour instructed their MPs to vote for Brexit and against any of the amendments that would have tried to protect our EU nationals. It feels like a monumental betrayal. On the local stage, it’s no better. Right now, in my region the local Labour parties have all been rearranged – what a time to do it! – and are all still finding their feet. The focus seems to be on local issues, like the bloody Council budget, and it enrages me. I cannot find it in me to care about their squabbles with the Green Party council members, when both Parties should be working together to form a real, tangible resistance to the Conservatives.
When it comes to protest, on my list to consider attending in the future is the Science March, a “a celebration of progress, raising awareness of the accomplishments and impact of science over time, in hopes that greater awareness will support policy that protects and encourages important scientific research.” I was really keen on this at the beginning: I used to be a researcher, a scientist, and I still love doing a bit of data analysis on the side. It’s a march aimed at a group of people I strongly identify with, and considering the ‘alt-truth’ post-face world we seem to be living in, it felt like an important thing.
But it’s become more and more difficult to work up enthusiasm. There’s such a lot of “Science is apolitical, science is about truth” crap floating around that it’s depressing, As a reflective, critical person with a background in interdisciplinary research across both science and a variety of humanities it’s clear to me these statements just aren’t true. The whats and whys of research are always embedded in cultures and beliefs and we have to face up to that. And let’s not even get into the post from march organisers accounts asking why “females” don’t stay in engineering. Yuk.
On top of this, it’s getting harder and harder to be pleasant and compassionate and not just really angry every time the apparently delicate sensibilities of the right-wing (and they call lefties ‘snowflakes’!) get offended and I’m told to be ‘nicer’ and ‘more inclusive and tolerant’ of what seems to be frankly selfish, amoral, greedy (if not actively racist) philosophical/political positions. You feel there is a ‘worrying aversion’ to right-wing opinion in the place that we both work? Hmm. Perhaps you should consider why that should be? I know that I want to be compassionate and inclusive, and I’ve been doing that for years, but all that’s resulted from my tolerance is a ragingly fearful racist government and Brexit. Surely it’s no good being ‘live-and-let-live’ when the people you disagree with are the ones with the cash, the power, and the will to create conditions in which your life will be shattered?
Right now, I’m feeling pretty frustrated by where we (I guess I mean the ‘left’?) are. I knew this would happen – I knew that after the initial wave of horror and anger we’d all stop being so fired up. It’s hard to stay angry, it’s hard to keep reading about the awful things that are happening, it’s hard to put yourself through it. But dealing with the crushing disappointment in Labour, the blank disenfranchisement I feel about some of the protest movements, and the simmering frustration with the frankly wet and toothless form of left-wing compassion I’m supposed to embody is making it harder not to feel cynical and angry right now.
I don’t know whether I should continue my Labour membership. I don’t know whether I will go to the Science March. I am finding it more and more difficult not to be angry and people who say “it’s all too awful, I’m just going to ignore it” or “we should pity them” (to paraphrase comments on my Facebook recently).
I’d welcome any suggestions on where to go from here, who to talk to, what to do.