Trump’s wall can’t match our Personal Walls.

There has been quite an outpouring of protest and grief since the election of Donald Trump as US president. This has grown considerably in the first few days of his administration. There a range of hashtags out there in which you may denounce the new president. #notourpresident sums up much of these feelings. I’m certainly supportive of people democratically registering their individual protest, but I want to argue that by doing this in response to Trump betrays a wall building mindset of our own in the west.

It is not surprising that we are seeing howls of outrage at Trump’s machinations. Some of his proposals seem positively draconian and as we speak he is enacting laws that appear very divisive. To be fair he was elected on much of this platform, wall building and restricting visas etc. The interesting side of this outrage is that it has surfaced solely because it is occurring in the west and it’s capital, the USA, and impacts heavily on the western world we inhabit, which is very much governed by powerful influences in the States. The US of course dominates institutions like the United Nations and the World Bank. It pilots the course for much of the world through a whole range of measures, very few that aren’t in the best interests of the US.

Against this backdrop we have had appalling human rights atrocities occurring in the non-western world for many a long year. The epicenter of this in recent decades has been the Middle East. Stunning numbers of innocent civilians in a number of Middle Eastern countries have lost their lives, and much of it the direct result of western intervention. (With western MSM dutifully grinding out the propaganda to support these efforts and cover up the slaughter with misinformation and lies). When a terrorist attacks in a western city we get wall to wall coverage and outrage from western leaders. When terrorist attacks happen on almost a daily basis in the Middle East, whether it be western bombs raining down on Syria or Yemen or suicide bombers in Pakistan, we are largely unmoved. We build our own personal walls to insulate ourselves from those unfortunates in destitute lands. Doing so allows us the righteous indignation to protest against Trump’s ‘evils’.

By constructing our own fortresses so that we may ignore the plight of non-western ‘others’ we are increasingly feeling safe and comforted by our enclosures, in a world that MSM tells us is becoming more dangerous by the moment.  We seal ourselves off from the notion of global justice and equity by protesting against visa bans, while dismissing the bombing of the very people these bans impact on. Western MSM conveniently tells us when to be outraged and by what and by how much. We throw a cloak of invisibility over the plight of  the Middle East and Africa and march triumphantly and tweet and Facebook to demand ‘our’ rights. If you are suddenly outraged by Trump’s presidency, I applaud you. I do ask that we try take down some of our walls, or at least peak over them to attempt to understand and possibly empathize with the horrific plight of others caused by western governments, but that don’t directly or indirectly impact on ourselves. I’m as guilty as anyone of diverting my gaze so as to avoid discomfort.

I believe that perhaps the way forward for all on the planet is for those in the west to begin dismantling our personal comforts walls and strive harder to protest against injustices that aren’t of personal interest to us and aren’t dictated by western MSM. The construction of barriers we build around ourselves are far more restrictive than anything Trump can build. We are essentially constructing our own personal prisons and greatly restricting our intellectual and moral freedoms.  We may pay heavily for this in the future.

I Hope My Students Don’t Think like Me.

Through many parts of the Western world and of course America, we are seeing mass protests against President Trump. I personally think, like many, many others, that Trump is ill-equipped to handle the presidency. But what is deeply troubling to me, is that among those calling for people to stand up and fight for compassion, understanding and tolerance, (which are surely worthy ideals) very few would have protested against President Obama for those same ideals. There are two possible reasons for this. One is that those protesting only value socially just principles for Westerners, or they are unaware of the appalling human rights record of President Obama in the Middle East and Sub- Saharan Africa. I like to believe the latter is more probable. Nonetheless, we surely want our students to grow up to be active participants in fighting for social justice for all on the planet, not just when those rights are visibly challenged in the West. For this to happen we need to help our students to be far better informed than we are.

Our views are of course shaped by our personal experiences and biases. If you follow me on Twitter you will be well aware that I post stories, many from outside Western Main Stream Media, that shine a light on an endless litany of human rights violations committed by the Obama administration in the Middle East and Africa. I’m sure many followers find this counter narrative to the ‘cool, caring and charismatic’ Obama, quite tiresome. It was brought on by a deeply moving personal experience with friends of mine who live in the Middle East. But we don’t and shouldn’t need personal experiences or an obvious narcissist bully like Trump to encourage our students to look behind the heavily laden propaganda curtain of Western MSM and seek out different points of view.

We surely want our students to ask the questions: Who is saying this, why are they saying it, and is anyone saying something different? We want them to ask, do I have all the information here, do I have enough knowledge to make an informed opinion? It’s not post-truth or brexit or Trump or fake news that requires us to make an extra effort to make sure our students are well-informed to rise to the challenge of combating intolerance and bigotry and injustice. It’s the acceptance on our behalf, the adults, that Western MSM has all the answers we need to be informed. We want our students to move beyond our own privileged, selective, hypocritical outrage. I don’t want our students to be horrified by western politicians who suggest we ban Muslim immigration, but indifferent or unknowing of western politicians who support and fund genocide in a Muslim nation such as Yemen.

If we want our children to fight for a more socially just future for everybody, we have to do more than stand up for the things that Western MSM instructs us to. We have to encourage our students to ask questions about the news and information they are receiving. Again, this is not because we are in some strange new world of fake news and post-truth evidenced by Trump and Brexit. But because Western Media has never been about truth. We regard with cynicism and a degree of mirth the journalistic restrictions in countries like Russia and China, while blissfully unaware of our own Western propaganda machine. Standing up for things that we see are unjust is right and proper. I want our children to grow up and challenge the injustices that us as adults don’t see.

For many in the west the election of Trump is seen as a nightmare. For many in the Middle East the election of Trump provides a glimmer of hope. A false hope perhaps, but a Clinton administration with a ‘business as usual’ foreign policy map was too much to bear. A personal experience that touched me in a profound way made me seek out different perspectives beyond the Western bubble in the way that I used to. Over the last few years I have become lazy and found it much easier to just hook myself up to the McCola generation of western fast food news. It’s terrible nutritionally because it’s basically empty of different perspectives, but it’s satisfying and rewarding and addictive. I want more stories about celebrities booing and hissing Trump, and beatifying Obama. I want to hear lots more about the evils of Putin and how the US are the last troubadours standing and singing songs of freedom for all. I crave the simplicity so that I may sit in righteous indignation in my media room, content with knowledge that I am ‘in the know’. I just don’t want the children in my classroom to grow up thinking like me.