Stephanie Diepeveen is a postdoctoral research associate in Politics and International Studies at Cambridge, with the Centre of Governance and Human Rights. Based in Jesus College, she is interested in Kenyan politics relating to the notion of citizenship and digital technologies. The views she expresses here are her own.
For those interested in watching the inauguration but limiting their contribution to ratings, King’s politics and the Talking Politics podcast are co-hosting a live screening of Trump’s inauguration at King’s College, Cambridge in Keynes Hall from 5.30pm onwards. The screening will be followed by a commentary and Q&A discussion with the Talking Politics podcast. See the bottom of this page for further information.
Gird your loins: 2017 is here.
On Friday 20 January at 12:00pm ET (5:00pm GMT), Donald J Drumpf will be inaugurated as President of the United States. In America, this is the culmination of an increasingly vocal politics of division, fear and protectionism that rapidly gained momentum through the 2016 election campaign. But it is not an isolated event. It is one manifestation of a much bigger swath of events that came to the fore in 2016 – from the racist and protectionist rhetoric surrounding the Brexit campaigns, to the rise of far right parties and reactions to refugees in continental Europe. Those of us in western countries that have long looked at ourselves as beacons of liberal democracy are being forced to reflect soberly on the division and narcissism that is embedded and becoming more visible in our own politics. We must acknowledge this fear-driven politics in ‘western democratic’ countries (read: Europe and the US) as a reality. A reality we must seek to understand and that we must overcome.
We need to be informed and aware. We cannot fight or build the world we wish to see if we fear or ignore the developments around us. Yet Trump as a narcissist wants— and is strengthened by— media attention. So, yes, watch the inauguration, but try to watch in groups and thereby limit the viewer ratings. And do not only give your attention to Trump. Consider giving some of your attention to other movements and events on the weekend of the inauguration. On Saturday 21 January at 12pm, people of all genders will be gathering in Washington DC, London and other cities globally to stand together to march “for the protection of our fundamental rights and for the safeguarding of freedoms threatened by recent political events.” We stand together against fear and division, to claim a vision and hope for 2017 and for the future that is not inspired and guided by narcissism, division and fear. Join your local march. Or if not, then follow the movements and share stories. Tweet. Donate publicity to movements and events aimed at showing that human rights matters. And that we will not stand idly by.
And then what?
So on the weekend of the 20th January, we can take a stand. We can seek to outstrip attention given to DJT’s clamouring for power and publicity by watching silently, and by giving our support loudly to movements for a positive, inclusive and caring world. But then what? We will wake up on Monday morning to an America where Trump is president, to a Britain that must deal with the fallout of the sentiments, conditions and divisions that led to Brexit, and to imminent elections in France, the Netherlands and elsewhere that threaten to expand the reach of the far right.
We each have our communities. Our voices, relationships and time. Our privilege. How best can we use these to contribute to a world worth fighting for? To limit the damage and build a world in which there is space and openness for the daily, grinding fight against hatred and division? While also keeping our heads high, continuing to laugh, live and enjoy being part of a community of diverse, frustrating and lovable people?
I’m asking you to take this seriously: To see the possibilities of the world that is unfolding, and be sober about the direction our communities are headed in. To not respond through despair, burying our heads in the sand or becoming immobile. But by continuing to laugh, live and by taking positive action. How we choose to use our time, direct our attention, interact with others, and lend our support can eat away at the power, publicity and division promoted through Trump’s campaign.
- Get involved in your community.
Volunteer. It’s still winter and homelessness, poverty and hunger are real in our local communities. In Cambridge, donate to the food bank or volunteer with Jimmy’s homeless shelter during the cold winter months. Or there’s Samaritans, volunteers who provide trained and confidential support for people to talk through their problems. Or join campaigns for refugee support. Whatever issues you are passionate about, are local to your community – get involved. Take direct action to build your community.
- Be smart about how you direct your attention.
There are people like Elizabeth Warren who are not giving up and not going to allow Trump to go unquestioned. Also, we, in our numbers, our ordinariness and our communities, can challenge him. Trump would like us to be his audience. For his tweets. For his sensationalism. For his nonsense. For his narcissism. We can refuse. By living and being different. By being smart and aware, but also by not giving him the audience he craves. By turning our attention and efforts elsewhere.
- Contact your representatives.
Know your representatives and their contact information. If you are American, find out the name and contact information for the district in which you are registered to vote. Download the app Countable, to receive information on ongoing debates, and to send emails to your congressperson as debates unfold. Join this mailing list to receive tailored scripts to use when calling your representative.
- Support organisations being threatened.
Whether it’s civil liberties, press freedom, reproductive rights, the environment, domestic violence, racial justice, accessible health services – do research and do support as you can. It might be financial it might be giving some time, or it might even just be signing a campaign. Be part of something. Don’t be complicit through silence. Let those who are acting more directly know that they are not isolated.
- Invest time in friends, family and community.
We can avoid the depression, exhaustion and fear of 2016 through laughter, by investing time in friends and family, and by remembering there are people, relationships and beauty in this world that are still here and still worth fighting for.
Yes, I am afraid. I am angry. And, like many of you, I care. And we can act to reclaim the world that we have let slide into division, hatred and fear. Let’s live, act and engage with others to make true, our hope that “The politics of fear and division have no place in 2017.”
Friday 20 January 2017, Keynes Hall, King’s College from 5.30pm
On Friday, January 20th, Donald Trump will be inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States. What will his presidency bring for the United States and the world? After an election year marked by anger and hate, what can concerned students and scholars do to contribute positively to politics? Join Kings Politics and the Talking Politics podcast, with speakers David Runciman, Aaron Rapport and Maha Rafi Atal for a panel discussion of Trump’s inauguration, what to expect next, and how you can get involved.
At 5.30pm we screen the inauguration speech. This will be followed by the panel discussion and Q&A from approximately 6.15pm onwards. We ask that everyone arrive at the Keynes Hall by 6pm so as not to interfere with the Talking Politics panel.