To see how disorientated we are in Trumpland today James Comey is the new Che Geuvara and Stormy Daniels is the latter day Rose of Sharon as she heads to the border to ‘save the children’. She is competing with Melania Trump for the saviour role, but Stormy is edging ahead after Melania’s Quadrophenia Moment. Arriving at the children’s detention center in McAllen, Texas, the First Lady was showing-off a Parka with white text scrawled across its back: “i really don’t care do u?” As the NYT has it: “the clothes she was wearing, in the context of her husband’s inhumane treatment of immigrants, and everyone else, constituted the most significant conjunction of clothing and incipient fascism since Hugo Boss débuted his collection for fall/winter 1938, unless you count the snapback maga cap.”
Meanwhile, back in the White House, Trump convened the ‘permanently separated’, people who’s relatives had been murdered by illegal immigrants. They held up life-size photographs of their loved-ones that had been autographed by the President. He said: “We are gathered today to hear from the American victims of illegal immigration. You know, you hear the other side,” Trump said. “You never hear this side. You don’t know what’s going on. These are the American citizens permanently separated from their loved ones.”At one point he held up the autographed photo of a murder victim and quipped that the man resembled “Tom Selleck, except better looking.”
It was a grizzly pantomime that seemed to be a new low – but how can we – who host Yarl’s Wood and Dungavel – sneer at America? And yes the child immigration crisis does have deeper roots to the Obama regime. And when James Comey, working the TV channels to promote his book claims: “This just isn’t us, this isn’t who we are” you know that’s just not true. The US state, with the sometimes tacit and sometimes explicit approval of its citizens have been doing violence to immigrant, foreign and native people for hundreds of years, in the country, outwith the country and all along its borders. The difference is the gaze of social media and that Trump and his followers are proud of this.
Our obsession with the Trump circus is infectious and mesmerising. But we need to keep remembering he’s a manifestation of the thing, not the thing itself. It’s worth remembering that if the politics of fear is a powerful force, this isn’t just ordinary populism. Lost among the show business craziness, we lose sight of the ideology.
Writing in the Salon Chauncey Devega states: “Stephen Miller – like other Trump advisers such as Michael Anton, Sebastian Gorka and Steve Bannon – is a white supremacist. Like other members of the so-called alt-right (a collection of far-right extremists that includes neo-Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan and other racists) Miller hides behind Trumpian slogans about making America great again and neutral-sounding terms such as “nationalism” and “populism” to advance a policy agenda where nonwhites are treated as second-class citizens and white people are empowered above all other groups.
Miller is also the principal architect of the Trump administration’s proposed immigration “reforms,” which would effectively turn the clock back to the 1920s and 1930s, a time when nonwhites were effectively not allowed to immigrate to the United States.”
He continues: “Stephen Miller is not just another policy adviser with unconventional views. Like Trump, he is the embodiment of a much larger cultural moment and a destructive and savage political ideology.”
But as we laugh at Trump and Stupid Americans we also witness our grovelling Prime Minister threatening to walk out of EU negotiations. As we laugh at Trump’s racism our own Prime Minister celebrates Windrush. Really. The UK is the only state in Europe that detains irregular migrants indefinitely, and there are more than 50 deaths recorded that occurred in British detention centres, prisons or privately run housing for asylum seekers.
If Trump’s toxicity and weirdness masks the ideology behind him, so too does Theresa May’s incompetence, awkwardness and inability to communicate hide her own racist policy agenda that has been apparent for many years. If Brexit negotiations appears to be a bumbling car-crash there’s a cultural and economic narrative behind it that’s not really spelt out. Instead we’re just given ‘the will of the people’ stuff on loop.
A Special Relationship
If Trump’s racism and May’s dysfunctionalism seem like new chapters from the slick Obama and the smooth Cameron, we should remember the continuity of British and American state power and violence. Their administrations are a sign of system failure and collapse. It’s a world where borderlands are in crisis: between Scotland and England, Northern Ireland and Ireland, between England and France, the Mediterranean sea and the Mexican wall, and the border between democracy and fascism. Old lines that we though were clearly marked or understood or managed are being defended, resurrected and broken down. The world can’t contain it’s own contradictions, capitalism can’t function and it’s systems are failing everywhere. Where May bungles Windrush and creates a ‘hostile environment’ and Trump creates ‘tender years’ detention centres Matteo Salvini, Italy’s interior minister talks of : “Mass purification. Street by street, quarter by quarter.”
If the system failure can be seen most acutely in Britain in food poverty and housing crisis it can be seen elsewhere, globally in many forms.
System failure takes many forms, and one of them is water.
As National Geographic reports Cape Town plans to shut off the taps to 4 million people. But it’s just one of many cities around the world facing a future with too little water.
“By summer, four million people in the city of Cape Town—one of Africa’s most affluent metropolises—may have to stand in line surrounded by armed guards to collect rations of the region’s most precious commodity: drinking water.”
While Flint Michigan has been without drinking water safe for human consumption since April 2014.
If Cape Town’s water crisis is driven by climate change, and Flint Michigan is driven by corruption and the breakdown of public democracy, both represent the tip of the iceberg. Jakarta, Mexico City, Sao Paulo and Melbourne may be next. If sanitation and public water represent the high point of human civilisation in urban centres – their deterioration may be the signal point to say we are in unchartered waters.
As the resource scarcity that ecologists have been identifying for decades begins to hit home it will inevitably exacerbate the sense of crisis the sense of ‘build a wall’ protectionism that is flooding America. At the very point at which we need unprecedented collaboration, solidarity, trust and vision, we have the opposite as politics operates around fear and turning back the clock, denying climate realities and privatising the public realm.
If Robert Mueller ever does get his man we may understand that Trump is just a symptom of a system that us out of control and not the subject of our current crisis. This kind of macabre mixture of evangelists, white nationalists and Republican goons may not sustain without him. When we greet him in Scotland next month it should be with the understanding of this, he is the product not the master of a world based on greed and fear and a collapsing world order in deep decline.