“The trend seems to be – whatever is the latest opinion about what will or won’t happen, Trump will succeed in the opposite.”
This article is part of a series of political and religio-sociological essays intended to provoke thought and discussion. You can find the first here.
There is good reason why so many people worldwide have been alarmed by the turn history seems to be taking in recent years. For many of us able to remember the destructive rhetoric thrown out by state heads in America and soviet Russia in the 80s it feels somewhat like we have returned to those fearful pre-apocalyptic days.
It is my contention, however, that what is obvious and highly visible in the media today is masking a storm which is brewing hidden behind the ‘curtain scenery’ of headline news.
There is no doubt that most of the world is anywhere between rather nervous and utterly terrified by the way Donald Trump has changed the political make-up both in America and globally. Since his arrival on the political stage, when he ran as the Republican candidate and was the ‘joke entry’, people have underestimated this man.
I was repeatedly told ‘he won’t be elected as the Republican candidate’, then ‘he won’t beat Hilary Clinton’, then ‘the majority of Americans hate what he stands for and won’t let him get into the White House’, then ‘the Senate will keep him in check – he can’t push through any of his policies.’ All of these have proven horrifically wrong and largely because of the naive view that Americans are, at the core, decent people. Many of the same people are still living in a state of shock, unable to believe that they got their country so wrong. Whatever, the trend seems to be – whatever is the latest opinion about what will or won’t happen, Trump will succeed in the opposite.
At the time of writing, he continues to exacerbate the patience of world leaders and to prod bears who are already dangerous enough and barely sleeping. Namely, the conflict with North Korea looks every bit as catastrophic as the worst of those 80s Cold War days (or indeed the times of the Cuban Missile Crisis?).
The predictions I am about to put forward may well prove false if Korea escalates; but then, it won’t really matter any longer. With China caught between a rock and a hard place and Japan feeling the weight of muscle-bound US support, a nuclear war would surely see an apocalyptic scenario dreamt of only in sci-fi movies. Then no one will be around to read these words anyway.
However – more likely – is that the two rival demagogues will do a bit of posturing on the front line while their aides work desperately in the background to diffuse and defuse the situation. In all likelihood, this is all yet more historical frilliness which hides the real issues. One can only hope so anyway.
“I recall one Christian friend openly telling me his opinion that all gay people should be put against a wall and shot.”
The real meaning of Trump
Assuming then that one way or another we won’t be entering a nuclear war, I think that there is a greater danger lurking in the shadows. What is often ignored is that Donald Trump is neither the instigator nor propagator of racism, prejudice and bigotry: he is a symptom. He is, in reality, a figurehead who has lit the slow-burning fuse of war. He is not the architect.
The real danger of Trump is the fact that so many have followed him. The reason he won the presidential elections is that he spoke for a sizable part of the nation. It is easy to dismiss this – many have spoken of people who detest the man and what he stands for but felt that Clinton was worst or, at least, that Trump made certain promises in areas which were important to them (jobs for Americans rather than immigrants and so on), and so they voted for him. While undoubtedly true in some cases, it is attempting to whitewash the general truth: A significant proportion of America hates non-Americans.
Before I’m accused of America-bashing, let me point out both the proof of my assertion and my defence against such an accusation. It is this: He speaks not just for prejudiced Americans but for the British and Europeans too.
There is no coincidence that in the last months of Trump’s campaign, Britain’s Nigel Farage joined him on the trail. We Brits have also had our own essentially prejudiced campaign – Brexit, as it is now known. Again, there were many reasons for voting the EU which were good ones and surely some people did indeed vote with good intentions. In fact, as the campaign began I was not certain myself whether we should remain or leave and both sides spouted utter rubbish as they predicted doom and gloom if the other side were to win. I’m still quite certain that, from an economic point of view, the result of the referendum is irrelevant. We will lose industries here and gain there. The economy will go down, the economy will go up. Whether Brexit is a disaster for many years to come or only for a short while, Britain will adjust and the economy will adjust with it.
But quickly it became apparent that this was really a war over a perceived ‘better Britain’ of the past where immigrants were not welcome, everyone was white and all were good Christian people. The fact that slightly more British people voted to leave than those who voted remain means – without wishing to point fingers at individuals – that there is a sizable number of racist and prejudiced people living in the UK today. The same story has been repeated in some form or other around Europe. From Le Pen’s popularity in France to the neo-nazi movements such as Greece’s Golden Dawn, it has become fashionable to be racist again in western society after so many decades of being driven underground and having to be couched in careful ‘politically correct’ language.
This doesn’t mean that we are surrounded by neo-nazi thugs pretending to be little old grannies. Prejudice comes in a variety of shapes and extremes. The majority of people I know who are prejudiced are what I would call ‘soft racists’: ones who distrust those who are different to them and don’t like them being around but would abhor the behaviour of anyone who would try to abuse or vilify anyone. I know too many people who admit they ‘don’t like/trust Muslims or blacks’ but work with them in their jobs or live near some or simply engage with them when they go collect their takeaway in the evening. Even just those who (erroneously) believe that immigrants are stealing our jobs and, while they have nothing against them personally, believe we need to sort ‘the immigration problem’ (another lie) so that no one will need to use food banks any longer. Far from standing with those who would chant “Go home Muslims”, these people are, nonetheless, racists.
Trump’s rise was the final piece of the jigsaw needed to make racism fashionable again. When I grew up, it was ok to attack (verbally or physically) gay people or anyone with non-white skin. In fact, in my early years, any couple living together but not married was right on the edge of acceptable abuse; certainly, they were shunned by locals. I recall one Christian friend openly telling me his opinion that all gay people should be put against a wall and shot. He was quite serious and the Christians surrounding him did not attempt to argue against him. During the 90s it became increasingly harder to hold such views openly. Many of us thought that the extremes were going the other way (I recall being told we should not refer to chalkboards as ‘blackboards’ any longer as they were derogatory to coloured people). But at least it was no longer popular to be bigoted and prejudiced.
Now, it is entirely acceptable again to believe in the superiority of your own ethnic clan and, if yours is the majority in your area or country, to abuse those who are different. Trump has made sure that for the next few years at least this will continue to be the case.
“…the intention of any successful attack would mean that Muslim countries would be compelled to retaliate with their own ‘war on terror’…”
A Prediction of war to come
While life is undoubtedly harder now for many non-whites – Muslims in particular – this is still not the sum total of what I believe is to come.
It is true that the majority of religiously-motivated terrorist attacks come from non-Muslim sources (on the whole, from Christian extremists) but it is also true that, on the whole, only the Islamic extremists are coordinated and working globally (usually under the banner of ISIS). This is one of the many reasons why both police forces and media are able to get away with dismissing white terrorists as ‘lone gunmen’ or ‘mentally ill’.
Islamists have the monopoly on suicide attacks as their (arguably erroneous) beliefs tell them they have a better reward awaiting them in Jannah. But I don’t think this will be for long.
I believe it is only a matter of time before white/Western version of ISIS will arise with the sole intention of wiping out Muslims, certainly from the western world, possibly from the planet. I’m surprised that it hasn’t happened already and theorise that we did not see a new kind of anti-Muslim army like this arise ten years ago because it would not have received support back then. Since November 8th 2016 when Trump won the election all that has changed. Such an army would, tacitly or more overtly, receive acceptance or at least reserved judgement.
The way attacks will occur will mimic those of the latest ISIS methods except that I think suicide runs will be fewer. Few atheists or Christians will advocate suicide – and only martyrdom under the right circumstances. These will be reserved for bombing mosques, or possibly carrying out mass shooting raids on them. The majority of attacks, however, will be smaller and carried out more like soldiers on covet military action – get in, kill, get out. Whereas Islamic extremists want to be found, their names to be known and live on to inspire others when they give their lives for Allah, the Western equivalent will seek to get out undetected, possibly to then become ‘sleepers’, lie dormant for a few years before carrying out another attack so the police are left guessing who will be involved or where they’ll attack in future.
But the major attack, which will come after some years, will be on the most holy of holies for Muslims all over the world – the Kaaba. In an attack which will mirror the audacious one of 9/11, the Kaaba will be destroyed and when it does so it will launch the world into a true war because no Muslim will want to sit back and accept what has happened. It will be the equivalent of Bin Laden’s ‘come and get me’ when he attacked the Twin Towers.
I am amazed in fact that no individual groups have attempted to attack the Kaaba already. I understand that the security in Saudi Arabia is incredibly tight, probably second to none. There have also been small attempts to cause damage which have been foiled. The Kaaba has been damaged and looted before today and most scholars agree that it is not central to the tenets of Islamic faith – Muslims would simply rebuild. But the intention of any successful attack would mean that Muslim countries would be compelled to retaliate with their own ‘war on terror’ as coined by George Bush after the NY attack.
Undoubtedly, to inflict the greatest damage, this would need to be an airborne attack with a bomb powerful enough to destroy both the Kaaba and surrounding area. Ideally, this would be a nuclear bomb capable of making it impossible for Hajj to take place for many years to come. Nuclear bombs today are many times more powerful than those dropped on Japan in the Second World War. You would need one less powerful than the Hiroshima bomb to destroy the Kaaba and surrounding area. I don’t know much about nuclear bombs and their sizes but I suspect that a drone would be capable of dropping one before authorities could detect it.
Would this terrorist unit need to be large to operate worldwide? No. Taking a leaf from the book of ISIS, small units would be able to work globally and build a following not dissimilar to that of the Islamic State’s membership throughout the world. Less than one thousand men and women would be enough to create a media-presentable organisation which would strike terror through the use of multiple small attacks. ISIS has, in fact, taught anyone forming a group how to do it and be successful.
“If we sit back and let history unfurl without taking sides then history will also judge us…”
An alternative ending?
I have brooded over writing this article for a long time – a couple of years in fact – and not gone ahead because, originally, there was no Trump. While the rise of UKIP in the UK and similar European groups gave me great alarm and I predicted (correctly) that things were going to get much tougher for Muslims in the West, I could not believe that we would see a Bin Laden kind of figure emerge to be the figurehead for a coming counter-army. Farage certainly did not cut the muster for that role – he was always nothing more than a dangerous buffoon.
From the very beginning of Trump’s campaign to be Republican candidate though, I saw the potential and every victory of his made me a little grayer. I am quite convinced that he will win a second term. For once we have a president who is visibly and actively trying to carry out his election promises (just when we don’t want him to) and even failures – where he is blocked by court judges and so on – work in his favour. Those who voted for him see him as sticking to his promises and see the ‘system’ was working against them as it works against him. I believe he’ll win by a greater margin next time. No one believed he would win in November. Now everyone knows he can.
What I can’t predict is how it will end. I don’t even want to think about it quite honestly. All I do know is that such a war would be lengthy and bloody on both sides.
But there is a hope for something better and brighter than I have proposed here.
While 50% of Americans (roughly) voted Trump in, 50% didn’t. While a slim majority voted for Brexit, a sizable minority didn’t. Without wanting to push the UK’s Jeremy Corbyn into messianic heights, this man of principle who has ignored all advice, all criticism and all attempts to make him play ball and ‘do up his tie’, has faced the odds not once but three times in as many years. Like Trump, no one believed he could win either the leadership challenge or the General Election. Instead, he won the first in the most incredible of ways and brought Teresa May’s government crashing to its knees, almost snatching victory. We live in polarised times. While the hate-mongers are bold and brash today, so are the peace-makers and the die-hard honourable believers.
What is important here is that Corbyn inspired thousands by his principles (including myself, alarmed to find my odd ideas were finally in line with what others think after decades of being an outsider) and his rallies are always packed with fans who genuinely believe in him. Everyone I have spoken to who have worked with Corbyn in the past tell me this man has been like this for decades. What you see with him is what you get. He’s not alone and, more to the point, many people ‘get it’. He’s not a loony fringe person (despite the media doing its best to portray him as such). He speaks for a lot of us.
It is not Corbyn himself which matters in this article, but like Trump for his supporters, what matters it is what Corbyn represents: a people who say no to injustice, prejudice, racism and fascist ideology. If such a counter-army as I’ve described does evolve out of theory and into reality, it will need the anti-Trump supporters and the ‘Remoaners’ and the ‘Corbynites’ et al to also rally up and actively seek to re-educate those who would be easily won over and find such a cause to be attractive. We will need to take sides more actively than most of us do now. If we sit back and let history unfurl without taking those sides then history will also judge us as it judges those of Nazi Germany who sat back, watched it happen, and did nothing.
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Writer and journalist D K Powell is the author of the bestselling collection of literary short stories “The Old Man on the Beach“. His first book, ‘Sonali’ is a photo-memoir journal of life in Bangladesh and has been highly praised by the Bangladeshi diaspora worldwide. Students learning the Bengali language have also valued the English/Bengali translations on every page. Ken has two new books coming out over summer – don’t miss them!
Both ‘The Old Man on the Beach’ and ‘Sonali’ are available on Amazon for kindle and paperback. Published by Shopno Sriti Media.
D K Powell is available to speak at events (see his TEDx talk here) and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org