It is certain that I am not alone in saying that while I am not exactly happy that Donald Trump has been elected president of the USA, I am not unhappy that Hillary Clinton has not been elected.
But the election and its aftermath are fast becoming an object of fascination. Certain things seem to have been revealed even more starkly in their true colours; true in the sense of what they actually are, not necessarily what they should be.
So the sight of liberal voters rioting in Portland and elsewhere, arming themselves with bats to attack police and storefronts, hashtagging #notmypresident like there is no tomorrow (they all expect #Trumpageddon imminently), crying on Youtube videos, and forecasting the end of the American political order is fascinating. Actually, it is a more than a little pathetic.
In June the UK voted in a (admittedly technically non-binding) referendum to leave the European Union. The vote was reasonably close but it was clear. Many of us were not happy with the result but that was the democratically-determined consensus. Those who voted had the democratic right to complain, but not to reject the result, not to riot, not to spit the dummy, grab the ball and storm off home crying “I’m not playing any more”. Democracy cuts both ways, when our side wins and when our side does not. It is no good complaining about the inadequacies of democracy only when its outcomes do not suit us; it is unreasonable and unjustifiable.
For decades now minority progressive opinions have been able to shout the loudest by means of a mainstream media sympathetic to their agenda, and so impose their agenda on the majority. The majority is never as organised as a militant, motivated minority. Those who dared to oppose them were howled down with cries of “bigot”, “intolerant”, “homophobe”, without ever really engaging in arguing their case. The current phenomenon in universities (of all places!) of de-platforming speakers who oppose the dogma of the militant minority is part of this trend. These are not liberals; they are totalitarians in progressives’ clothing.
Such are those now rioting in the streets at the result of a properly-conducted democratic election. It is no good complaining now that the electoral college system is flawed, having accepted it happily enough till now. They did not get their way, and in fact a man who is diametrically and vehemently opposed to their agenda is now in power, and has come to power legally and democratically. Yet, understandably, this frightens them. The hegemony of their camp is under threat, and also the social engineering that has propped it up. It is possible that the abortion culture that had seemed to have become a fact of life will be seriously undermined and disempowered. The absurdity of unisex bathrooms is likewise in doubt. Has society had enough of being cowed into submission by militant minorities with revolutionary, and deeply un-Christian, agenda.
At the same time, we are seeing figures from the past who have better claim to the label liberal speaking up against this ascendent social totalitarianism, at least in Britain. Peter Tatchell, no friend of the Catholic Church and a “gay” rights activist, has complained about the failure of the court appeal by the Northern Irish Christian bakers against their conviction for discrimination for refusing to put a pro-same-sex marriage slogan in a cake. He stated the truly liberal position that “in a free society, people should be able to discriminate against ideas they disagree with.”
Germaine Greer, the doyenne and matriarch of Anglo-Australian feminism, was no-platformed for being “transphobic“, a modern mortal sin for the social totalitarians. Her sin? She dared to say that “transgenders”, men who have general reassignment surgery, are not thereby women: “I’m not saying that people should not be allowed to go through that procedure, all I’m saying is that it doesn’t make them a woman”. Pushed a little further she gave her Australian background more voice, one that is crude but brutally logical:
Just because you lop off your d**k and then wear a dress doesn’t make you a ******* woman. I’ve asked my doctor to give me long ears and liver spots and I’m going to wear a brown coat but that won’t turn me into a ******* cocker spaniel.
I do understand that some people are born intersex and they deserve support in coming to terms with their gender but it’s not the same thing. A man who gets his d**k chopped off is actually inflicting an extraordinary act of violence on himself.
In fact Greer is far more deserving of the label liberal, and she is far more faithful to the feminist agenda as classically conceived. For her, as for true feminists, transgenderism is the act of male imposing his own will and exercising proprietorship over female identity. For a true feminist, a male does not have the right to decide that he can be a female. He can be feminist, of course, as that is an ideology. Femaleness, however, is biology, and Greer implicitly accepts the Catholic teaching, affirmed recently by Pope Francis, that our sexual identity cannot be separated from our inherent natural biology.
Here we see the true colours of those more truly deserving to be called liberal. This is not say that I agree with them on everything; a Catholic cannot. Yet they represent a category of modern thought with whom a conversation can be conducted on civilised lines. They have arguments and will address the arguments of those who disagree with them. They would have no truck with “no-platforming”, which is denying a contrary opinion any voice on the grounds that the expression of such an opinion might harm someone, and so universities need to be safe spaces for such people. Even the Church’s arch-enemy Richard Dawkins cannot accept such bilge:
Australia’s socially liberal and left-leaning ABC also allowed space for argument against the totalitarianism of no-platforming Greer:
While the stated aim of this approach is to reduce harm, the end result is enforced ignorance. No-platforming does not change people’s hearts and minds, it intimidates people into silence. It is an anti-Enlightenment movement.
Greer, Tatchell, Dawkins, despite so much of their body of opinion being contrary to Christian teaching, are people who are at least committed to the principle of arguing one’s case, and allowing the contrary argument to be heard. Greer may have burned her bra, but i do not recall her picking up a bat, joining a mob and taking swings at policeman because someone was elected to whom she objected.
Yet perhaps the rioting totalitarians are making the further mistake of not allowing Trump to show his true colours. It may be argued, very reasonably, that his remarks about women, immigrants and some other social issues show his true colours in a personal sense, and that these colours are not very attractive. Fair enough.
However, we are yet to see the true colours of his government. There is an emerging body of opinion which believes that Trump never really wanted to be President, but that he was campaigning as a business strategy and as an assertion of ego. It could have be argued that his more outrageous statements might have been made precisely to scuttle his own ship. To some degree unwittingly, he tapped into a core of dissatisfaction with a social and political elite that imposed its agenda on society as a whole and became their voice. So when he opines that Christmas should be celebrated as Christmas even in state schools or public property, and this because it is part of American socio-cultural identity, he speaks the opinion of those who lament the wittering away of their cultural identity. Ironically, faithful Muslims would agree with this position, as religious freedom for Christians implies religious freedom for them.
Trump is now assembling his cabinet, and it is in this team we will begin to see the true colours of his government emerge, no matter what he has revealed of himself as a person. He has pledged to govern for all; he has pledged to avoid interfering in other nations’ affairs when it does not directly affect America’s; he has voiced a desire to deal with Daesh/IS more conclusively; he has promised to defund the satanic slaughterhouses of the Orwellian-named abortion provider, Planned Parenthood. He looks likely to ease tensions with Russia. If these prove to be the true colours of his administration then perhaps the future is not so apocalyptic, and Trumpageddon might not be imminent.
Whether we like it or not, we have President (-elect until January) Trump. Unhappy Americans can either spit their dummies and assault police, or they can follow Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama’s exhortation that he be given a chance to govern. World leaders who expressed alarm at Trump before the election are now getting on with the take of preparing to work with him and make the best of things. With Americans, the rest of us can do something far more constructive than rioting by praying that God will make of this new order something that will bear fruit for his glory. The Lord ever moves in mysterious ways, his wonders to perform.
There are parallels to this political situation in the Church of the last 50 years, but that is for another post.
Update. My nephew, Fr Christopher, who labours not in an affluent suburban parish but in the remote far north-west of Western Australia, where probably the majority of his flock are indigenous Australians of largely less affluence than the rest of the population, has pointed me to a video (below) which confirms what I had been hearing on the grapevine. If Mr Trump backs these encouraging words with positive action, then he will have gone a long way to make a supporter of me. The presence of Mr Pence as Trump’s Vice-President gives one cause to think these words might not be mere rhetoric. Though he is not a Catholic, Pence is a firm and committed Christian, and very much pro-life.
On a previous post a commenter defended Planned Parenthood because it offers other, positive, services apart from its lucrative task of abortion. This is hardly enough to exonerate PP from the opprobrium it deserves. Hillary Clinton favoured abortion right up till birth (may God forgive her) and was a loud and active advocate of PP and “reproductive rights” (more Owellianism). Trump and Pence could defund PP without too much trouble, and they will have a Congress to support them. As for the positive services that may be offered by PP, the Church has been doing such good works for centuries, and far better than PP ever could. The funding that went to PP would be far more productively and beneficially spent supporting the work of the Church and other pro-life Christian organisations that are committed to helping women who have got themselves into difficulty and do not want to blame the unborn child for it.