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.