Other responses to the US election from the UK

IssueDecember 2016 - January 2017
Feature by PN

Wait and see... and act

One of the worst aspects of the election of Donald Trump is the feeling of helplessness which it engenders in the general public and also in members of peace and environmental groups. When Trump’s policies and proposed actions become clearer, I hope that there will be an opportunity for discussion, debate, and increasing membership of groups in order to take action, raise money, and argue the case against whatever happens to make the world less safe.

NATO and other alliances already feel threatened (especially financially) by the possibility of less US support. Unfortunately, this may have the effect of increasing military spending in Europe and all countries outside the US. If there is a perceived ‘gap’ in any alliance, other powers, eg Russia and China, will exploit the situation.

Peace groups should be sure of their facts before reacting to the supposed threat from the election of Donald Trump. There is a danger that Trump will make everyone else look foolish because he is in such a powerful position and can change his mind so quickly.

Hazel Costello, Campaign for the Accountability of American Bases – in a personal capacity. CAAB raises awareness and scrutiny of US bases in the UK.

Respectful disagreement

As in the context of Brexit, just because someone voted for Trump does not necessarily make them a person who agrees with violence. If a small fraction of the population now feel justified in their hate and fear, thinking that everyone voted for Trump for the same reason, is problematic as well as dangerous. However, as peacebuilders we cannot gloss over that some of the rhetoric that came out of the election gave a sense of legitimacy to the scapegoating that created violent backlashes.

We can support more ‘local-level’ initiatives that will help bridge divides across the country, to encourage dialogue and to create spaces for people who feel ‘left out’ by the system to voice their grievances about genuine issues, such as the economy, without that space being hijacked for political purposes.

For those of us working to build peace internationally, the election ‘brought home’ just how difficult it is to practise what we preach – to talk to those we consider the ‘other’.

How many of us have attempted to talk to those who voted differently than ourselves without anger or assumptions about the person they are speaking with?

I’ve tried to do this with my family members who voted for Trump, in a way that is respectful and allows me to still love them even if I completely disagree with them and it is really difficult.

In some cases, some people saw their fundamental core beliefs being challenged or undermined, and that is not something people can simply ‘get over’ in a timeframe that others find appropriate.

Perhaps the biggest opportunity, like with Brexit, is that a system has been cracked open to reveal much that needs repair, and in that is where our work begins. It will take us being more vocal but in a way that shows humility, knowledge of our experiences and an openness to understanding those who are different from ourselves.

Summer Brown, programme manager, peacebuilding advisory unit at International Alert. IA helps people around the world find peaceful solutions to conflict.

Who was boosted?

For decades now US foreign policy has been based on interventionism and arming some of the most repressive regimes in the world and that would probably have continued regardless of who won.

However, Trump won following a particularly bitter and divisive campaign that is only likely to inflame and exacerbate tensions. It is no wonder that arms company shares were boosted by his victory.

Peace campaigners must not lose hope, we must work across borders and unite in opposition to military aggression and conflict. The challenges ahead may be great, but out unity has never been more crucial.

Andrew Smith, media co-ordinator, Campaign Against Arms Trade.

Topics: Activism