Not an alternate reality

There’s a very good story by Ray Bradbury called A Sound of Thunder he wrote sometime back in the 1950’s. It’s set in a future where travelling into the past has become possible. Hunters travel back to prehistoric times with their guides and are allowed to kill a dinosaur or somesuch already identified as being on the cusp of death to avoid any deviations from history and consequences through time. It’s very carefully managed. Everyone keeps to an elevated platform and are told under no circumstances to step from it, or to touch or damage anything but the target.

In the story a hunting group journeys back to kill a T-Rex, but upon sight of the snarling, terrifying beast one of the hunters panics and runs from it, inadvertently stepping off the path in doing so. They return back to present times and discover small anomalies. Common English spelling is different, and the fascist candidate for president they left behind is now the president of the country. Something has changed history. Looking at his boot the hunter discovers a butterfly crushed into the sole of it. The death of the butterfly has through the millennia resulted in a totally different destiny.

I’ve been reminded of that story many times over the last weeks. Trump is that fascist president, but this is not an alternate reality.

It’s only very early days, but it appears already that the Trump presidency will be as bad, if not worse, than our most diabolical fears. There was some hope that once in the big job he might moderate; that some sort of sense would prevail. Instead, he has gone hard and gone fast. He is about to change America fundamentally, and by connection the rest of the world.

It must be terrible to be a liberal American right now. To see your country and everything you believe in being torn so wilfully asunder would be devastating. What he has done, and what he threatens to do, is totally foreign to the idea of America through history. America is not perfect, nor has it ever been as great as it always proclaims, and it’s true the difference between the idea and the reality of it has often been marked – but America stood for something. Though occasionally insular and sometimes clumsy America has nonetheless since the end of the Civil War espoused principles of democracy, liberty and equality. That’s the idea.

That idea is changing now, and with that is the reality. Trump is a racist, sexist, homophobic fool. He is like a child spoiled with supreme power, and like a child, he wields it indulging his immature whims. Already – hardly a week after the inauguration – he is changing the face of America.

I have often railed at things in Australia, but as of this moment I would find it incredibly tough being a liberal American. I would be angry and scared and heartbroken. I would be doing everything in my power to overturn this, despairing that there was nothing in my power I could do.

As a citizen of the world I look on with utter dismay, but afraid also of where this may lead. During the week the doomsday clock was set forward 30 seconds closer to armageddon, the closest it’s been in living memory. It feels true though that we are that much closer to catastrophe. It’s been but a week! A week! How much more damage can he do? Where does it end? We live in truly unpredictable times.

You like to think it can’t last, and certainly there is a great hope that it won’t. But how does that happen? Who, outside the people, has that will? He is already dismantling the structures of governance. I’m sure he will do things worthy of impeachment, if he hasn’t already – but who will police that? He has a hard-core about him, and is hand-picking replacements for key roles in government, security and bureaucracy. And he has the rabid support of the ‘deplorables’. He has split American society in two.

At a time like this you would hope that the world community would band together to contain the poison. We had the same hope in 1938, and just as in 1938 there are already world leaders cosying up to the despot. Theresa May, leader of another soon to be rogue state, has lauded him and said she expects Britain to do business with Trump. Chamberlain said exactly the same thing about Hitler.

I know its old hat to compare tyrants of all ilks with Hitler, and mostly it’s pretty lazy. This time the parallels are significant. It’s a reasonable comparison.

As an Australian I hope we stand up to the tyrannical and undemocratic dictates of Trump, but I have no real hope of that. It’s hard to imagine a more spineless or ineffectual leader than Turnbull. And it’s hard as an Australian leader to assume the high moral ground when we have created our own brand of concentration camp. They spoke together this morning, Trump and Turnbull, and 10 to 1 I bet Trump praised Turnbull for offshore processing and being tough on ‘illegals’.

Still and all we’re a lot better off here than in the US, and even Britain, and indeed most places. If we’re smart as nation we should find what small advantage the circumstances offer and invite the best and brightest of liberal America to come down under. We can offer them a good life and more freedom than what they’re being threatened with in their home country.

I hope for Australia to be a better place, but have the direct evidence of how it could be worse. I’m interested to see what comes of Trump’s ascension in the next few years. There will be a reaction to him, there is now. Right now it’s all reflex, in time it will be something innate. Either there will be a clamour to join his club, or else the horror of what he does will drive the common citizen in the opposite direction. I’m hoping for the latter. For the US though if they don’t get rid of him inside of 6 months I think the future will be bleak.

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