FYI: FRACKLE: an unnamed monster from The Muppet Show
Eight years ago, on the eve of my 50th birthday, I was standing in front of a TV screen with tears streaming down my face. I was consumed with joy that, in my lifetime, I was about to see the first black man elected to be President of the USA.
It was a sublime moment in history: a massive step for man, an even bigger one for mankind. The racism Barack Obama endured then and has endured since is a disgrace; but he, and his extraordinary wife, Michelle, have come through two incredible terms of office in which so much has been accomplished. There will be many who disagree with aspects of Obama’s policies, but when I decided, on that historic day, to come to America, I can honestly say it is a better place today than it was back then.
Although I have spent, and continue to spend time in the UK, it is America that I love with a passion. I am fortunate to be able to split my time between Los Angeles and New York, and, in the latter in particular, I have found extraordinary warmth and friendship in people from all parts of the world. America’s great strength is its lack of history; it’s what lends it a rather lovely innocence. But conversely, its great weakness is its lack of history, because it has few benchmarks that might have proven to be invaluable lessons along the way.
Because today, alas, I am one of many who awaits the result of an election that might see the very antithesis of Obama elected. Donald Trump. A man whose racism, misogyny, ignorance, tax evasion and bullying is being celebrated by millions. A man who, by his own admission – proudly - admits to all these things. A man who intimidates the vulnerable, exploits the power of money, cheats on his wives, loudly spouts drivel because he is preaching to the deaf. A man who has all the characteristics of a sociopath. A man who is, quite frankly, not a man.
There are many men like him. But there are millions who are not. There are millions of women who, bizarrely, are attracted to the monstrous behaviour Trump displays at every turn. I find it inconceivable that any human being in the civilised world would vote for him; but I find it especially offensive that any self-respecting woman would.
More than ever, in the chaos of our modern world, we need to stress, on a daily basis, the qualities that make us human: compassion, love, acceptance of our differences, tolerance, a belief in the need to strive to be better. In essence: goodness.
While I do not hold the religious beliefs I once had, I still maintain that Ephesians states that message beautifully and succinctly: “Be kind to one another.” That’s quintessential goodness.
Nothing that I write is going to change anyone’s mind about the way they vote today; truthfully, it never was, though I have been doing my bit in the vague hope of making the stubborn blind see. But if this election has taught us anything, it is the lesson about what it means to be a decent human being.
I am not saying that Hillary Clinton is squeaky clean (what politician is?) but I have studied her over many years and seen how she has championed the weak in her work as a lawyer; celebrated womankind both publicly and privately (and she has done so much for young girls and education that has conveniently been forgotten); and, whether you think she was wrong or right to stand by her erring man, Bill, she did. It’s called marriage. It’s called loyalty. It’s called staying power.
I sit here today, genuinely scared about the outcome of the vote. I am not alone. Saying yes to Trump is casting a vote in the ballot box of stupidity. For what sane person would want to live in a world that has, at its helm, a person who is openly contemptuous of everything we hold dear in society? It boils down to humanity versus inhumanity, and, cliché as it is, my heart feels heavier today than it has ever done.
This is no Brexit. Not even close.
Here’s the thing: “If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed.” Adolph Hitler. He also said: “It is not truth that matters, it’s victory.” Sound like anyone you know?
Today is either going to turn out to be one of the greatest in American history, or one of its saddest. One can only hope that sanity will triumph.
Until that moment, I’m uncorking a bottle of fine wine.
This could be our last day of freedom.
I want to remember it.