Truth and Reconciliation

Today Trump has become the first President in US history to be impeached twice. I don’t really understand the system as apparently if the Senate don’t agree he won’t actually face trial – the longer this goes on the more I realise I don’t know the US constitution at all – but either way he’s done for. The Republican Party would have to be mad to nominate him a second time even if he does decide to run in ’24 – but then sanity hasn’t exactly been a key feature of right-wing politics in recent years. Still we can but hope that last week’s riot/insurrection/coup attempt will be a wake-up call for many as to where this is heading.

I’ve been very impressed by what Gary Younge has to say on this topic. Gary is a Guardian journalist and although I’d read some of his articles I didn’t have a very clear idea of what he was like. But yesterday’s interview on the Owen Jones channel was illuminating; Gary is black British and he cut through the debates on Trump, the invasion of the Capitol and the BLM movement in a thoughtful and incisive manner. This is exactly the sort of debate we need right now; considered as well as engaged; not shying away from the difficulties but also refusing to demonise anyone on the other side. And here’s the key to moving forward which, as with everything else, is a difficult balancing act, a fine line to draw. It requires restraint without silence and compassion without collusion.

It’s difficult to end things. The ending of systems of injustice can cause a backlash even worse than the original injustice. Consider the French revolution or the ending of slavery which I mentioned in yesterday’s post about the Melville Monument. CS Lewis knew this too, though he only touches on it; in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader Caspian enforces the end of the slave trade in the Lone Islands after he and his companions are captured and sold as slaves. Afterwards the man he has installed as leader asks him to stay: ‘This ending of the slave trade will make a new world; war with Calormen is what I foresee.’ People do not give up their privileges without a fight, especially if those privileges will undermine the way they make a living. Credit goes to those who foresee this and try to effect some sort of reconciliation, as Mandela did after the ending of apartheid. Without that initiative South Africa would have become a bloodbath; it’s still a pretty violent place but it could have been so much worse. There are some indications that Biden will attempt a similar approach after inauguration, to reach out to former Trump supporters and try to heal divisions. The danger in this is that you weaken your own programme so it’s a difficult line to tread.

In my own small way I’ve been treading that line too on Facebook. As I mentioned before I don’t normally bother debating with people online, but here was a person I know and like in real life who seemed to have been sucked into the cult of Trumpism. So I began to debate with her, to point out that there is no evidence for the election being ‘stolen’ and that some of the so-called ‘news’ outlets she was quoting are not in fact news outlets. I probably got quite vehement at one point and this morning she posted something asking people to debate respectfully so as not to upset others. I have no idea whether that was in reference to my responses though it might have been, so I replied that I hoped my comments had not upset her, but I stopped short of apologising because it seemed to me that to debate this person was the right thing to do. It’s a fine line to tread, to assert your own position without abusing others, and sometimes people do get upset.

So spare a thought for Biden, who may not be the leader we want right now but who has the difficult job of running a deeply divided nation with an ex-president whose followers will stop at nothing to reinstate him. Reconciliation is good – but first comes truth. And before truth comes evidence. So let’s follow that.

Kirk out

You Might Say That – I Couldn’t Possibly Comment

There was a South African racist on radio 4 last night, on the comedy slot.  No, it’s not what you think – this guy was half-white and half-black and spent most of his life until he left the country, trying to define himself in ways other than the state defined him.  When he went to America he was looking forward to being seen as black, but everyone thought he was Hispanic.  The one thing he could never be, though, was white.

To make comedy out of such experiences demands a special talent – and this guy is hilarious.  He reminded me of the best of Lenny Henry’s early stuff:

It set me thinking, though: why do we (by which I mean me and my family and most of my friends) call ourselves white?  We’re not white.  We should be more accurate – start calling ourselves ‘pinko-beige’ or something.  Except that that makes us sound like a rather bland bunch of Communists; which is an odd concept.  I mean, there were bright-red Communists, red as arterial blood – like Lenin and Trotsky – then there were grey, concrete-block Communists like Kosygin and Gromyko – but beige Communists?  I don’t know who that’d be: perhaps some left-over caucus in Barnsley.

It’s hard making your mind up about people.  Why we should feel the need to classify everyone according to race or colour, I don’t know, but we do.  Nowadays we live in a highly complex society where we meet new people all the time and have to make quick decisions about them.  We also need to make such decisions about people we hear and see on the media.  Who do we trust?  How do we know when someone is telling the truth?

Take this bloke.  He was a producer on radio 1 during the Savile years, and at first I thought he was talking quite honestly about what went on, saying that he regretted not taking action even though those were ‘other times’.  He spoke of his sorrow and repentance and I almost bought it – but the more he talked, the more something didn’t feel right.  It was all too easy, I thought; too glib – and when, having described himself as a ‘happily married man’ he equally frankly described having slept with lots of young women (‘though never under age’) I made up my mind: I didn’t buy it.

It’s about 2 hrs 10 mins in:

But how do we know?

How do you know when to trust someone?

Under-age sex and paedophilia was something we didn’t get around to discussing in our Drink and Think meeting.  Have things gone too far there as well?  Are we now so paranoid about the exploitation of children that we don’t allow them any freedom at all?

Kirk out