Cherwell

Do not go gentle into that good night

Donald J. Trump has won the 2016 Presidential Election. Hillary Clinton lost, but she’s not the only one. For we have all lost. Not just the election, not just the House, the Senate, the Presidency. We have lost the political decency that has shaped our institutions and norms: those that once governed the USA, and are now receding throughout the Western World.

This is a time for mourning. But in a way, it feels like mourning Trump’s victory at this very hour is comparable to watching a slowly approaching meteor, and feigning a cry of absolute shock and horror as it slams into Earth. We should have mourned Trump’s campaign long before he won – mourned it for the ignorant and dangerous views he perpetuated against religious and ethnic minorities, the mother waiting for abortion, the victim of sexual assault, the trans individual waiting for minimally decent treatment, the Mexican immigrant being told that they belonged in the gutter, the Asian-American accused of stealing the jobs of the average American. But instead, too often we took to Trump as fish to water: the media glorified and romanticised his words; newspapers framed his speech as acts of bravery and macho. We found Trump funny; he found us a joke.

This is a time for reflection: not just the glib lip-service that we pay by quoting “political disenfranchisement” and “economic disempowerment”, academic jargon trying to explain the decline of the political community in America. There is a need for us to reflect upon the political culture that we have perpetuated and contributed towards: a culture that has locked out individuals who – in despair and anger – turn to xenophobic, toxic imagery.

It is tempting for us to simply blame others: to blame the ‘uneducated’, sexists, racists, homophobes, and bigots. But let us not forget that many of these individuals have incurred grievances through decades of being shut out from the political system we champion as fair, accessible, and equal. The rise of populist politics in the USA should not have come as a surprise: we’ve seen it with Syriza in Greece, France’s French National Front, and here in the UK embodied in Brexit. These are signs that there is something seriously wrong with our politics: not just the “Establishment”, not just the way we govern, but the fact that we have embraced an individualism that has dissolved communities. We have created the political space and opportunities for populists like Trump to exploit for their personal, political gains.

Deep introspection must go hand-in-hand with action. This is a time for us to keep fighting the good fight. For with a diabolical populist assuming the leadership of the Free World, there is an ever-pressing imperative for us to fight on for values that we hold dear to our democracies; to fight on, for the possibility of reconciliation – however slim it may be; to fight on, by choosing to participate with decency and integrity, pressing on with what is praiseworthy in our democracies – rebuilding those communities we have lost.

“Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,

And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,

Do not go gentle into that good night.” – Dylan Thomas