What an angry week this has been.
Americans, Brits and pretty much people all over the world shouting at each other about the Inauguration of the 45th President of the United States, Donald J Trump.
I followed the build-up to the campaign with enormous interest. It was eight years ago that I decided to come to the USA when Barack Obama was elected President. I felt enormously proud to be living in a world in which a black man could, and had, reached such high office. I sat in from of my TV crying tears of joy.
This year, on the night that Hillary Clinton conceded defeat to Trump, I cried tears of despair. Racism, sexism, the language of intolerance, anger and hatred that would not have seemed out of place at a Nuremberg rally – I was not alone in thinking that we are living in dangerous times. The fact that Trump’s ongoing message is shrouded in what many believe to be the language of safety, caring and sharing makes it all the more frightening.
Who are these voters that can be so hoodwinked by empty rhetoric and cheap sound bites? Well, they are the same people who turned up yesterday to hear and cheer more of the same. True, there were (refreshingly) huge empty spaces on the streets and in the stands from which people watched the Inaugural Parade, and Trump comes in with the lowest approval rating of any President in modern times. He also lost the popular vote in the election by over three million votes.
But he has the gig and we must live with it. We can protest and shout and make sure that the voices of the people for whom he does not speak (in Vice President Mike Pence’s case, vociferously speaks against) are heard, over and over.
Whatever your politics, the bullying, both online and personally, is something that depresses me hugely. It happened with Brexit and is happening all over again with Trump. Yesterday, I posted a comment about enjoying the Inauguration on CNN. I also commented on the quality of the speakers.
You’d think I had suggested joining ISIS, so aggressive were some of the comments in response. In fairness, some were calmer and stating facts, but everyone missed the key thing: CNN. I was not saying I enjoyed the Inauguration per se (although I was hugely impressed by the military parade); I specifically referred to CNN. I am a TV critic; watching TV and writing and talking about it is what I do. I looked at all the stations and decided against Fox, which elevates my blood pressure to life-threatening levels, and I rejected Sky on the strength of Kay Burley’s puffa jacket. The BBC blew it when a black woman emerging from inside was described as "Not Michelle Obama."
CNN is always my first choice for news in the USA, and the award-winning Anderson Cooper is one of many jewels in an already glittering crown. Trump has been attacking the station of late and, yesterday, went out of his way to praise Fox News (no surprises there).
My enjoyment of CNN was ignored completely on Facebook. Maybe the very mention of the word Inauguration was enough to induce temporary blindness in people reading. Quite why anyone would think my talking about TV coverage means that I endorse Trump is anybody’s guess. If people had bothered to read my comments and articles over the past 18 months, they would have seen that I have done nothing but give my support to Hillary.
There was another kind of bullying, too. One person criticised my choice to live in the USA and wailed “I don’t know what you’re looking for.” I don’t have to defend my choices to anyone, but I want to point out (1) I am not “looking” for anything. I found everything I could ever want when I could first hold a pen and knew, without any shadow of doubt, that I was a writer. Not wanted to be one; it’s what I was (2) I love experiencing life on a daily basis, rather than saving up all year for a two-week holiday in Ibiza in August (3) It’s nobody’s goddamned business.
I have lived in England, Wales, France, Spain and, now, the USA. I love to travel, meeting new people and exploring new cultures. It’s something I didn’t get to do when I was younger as I spent many years studying and then working my way up the media ladder during many difficult years in London. When I hit my mid-forties (I am now 58), I found that the UK is not kind to older women. The TV presenting jobs dry up, one becomes a social leper if there is not a partner in tow, and any lifestyle that differs from the norm is considered suspicious.
In the States, I have found that being older is no deterrent to living life just as enjoyably as I did when I was in my prime (by British standards) in the UK. Paris, too, is kinder to older people, and I loved the six years I spent there. Spain looks after its elderly in the most beautiful complexes and has excellent health care. But in the UK, I started to feel that people were resenting me even for being alive. I don’t mean my family and close friends, of course, but I was tired of being asked whether I was married, had kids, or was “courting” (as they continue to say in Wales).
I truly am tired of the attacking nature of many people on social media; it’s why I sometimes take the decision to come off it. I’m glad I don’t have children, but I am extremely close to many of my friends’. If that’s what you enjoy, great. None Of My Business. I have friends who live all over the world. One moved to Thailand because she loves the lifestyle and the scenery. Personally, I would never live in a place that exploits and trafficks both children and adults for sex. But again, None Of My Business. And as for my lifestyle choices, here’s the thing: None of Your Business.
I am all for sharing ideas and enjoying discourse on social media, even with (especially with, often), people who hold different opinions from my own; I like to learn and see life from different perspectives.
But please, try to stay nice – and, most important, read what people have actually written before taking up your swords and hollering your war cries.
Yesterday, the world as we know it changed. As yet, we really don’t know what that will mean long term.
And now, I’m going back to watching CNN.
Live with it, people.