By Hannah Brandt
As you can imagine, I really do not know where to start this month. Last month seems like a world away. The entire Earth seems to have changed in a manner of weeks. Of course, in reality, the world changes bit-by-bit every day. And the more things change, the more they stay the same. Meaningful, positive change seems to be painfully slow, while tragedy and chaos erupt very quickly. When I taught history, my high school students struggled to understand this, as did I.
When we published last month, Fresno was awaiting the arrivals of all three presidential hopefuls. That was quite unprecedented for this area and the election was the biggest thing on many people’s minds. As the recently anointed GOP presumptive nominee, Trump’s campaign brought with it a sense of fear and loathing for those of us with Progressive values, while Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders’ competitive campaigns for the Democratic nomination provided many of us with a sense of hope and change.
In the weeks since some of that enthusiasm has faded in the wake of accusations of massive voting problems in the California primary. As has been argued in past elections, the process is convoluted and even prohibitive. We have seen a tightening of restrictions and a rolling back of voting rights laws in other states. Although new rules in California allowing Independents (now listed as No Party Preference) to vote in the Democratic Primary, also caused confusion. Lawyers supporting the Bernie Sanders campaign even sued the state of California to inform voters with media-wide public service announcements. They lost the suit and information to the public was sporadic.
Although hundreds of thousands of votes are still be counted statewide, Hillary Clinton officially declared victory as the presumptive nominee. Lagging behind much of the rest of the world, it is historic for one of our two major political parties in the U.S. to have a likely female presidential nominee. For those of us who grew up waiting for this day to come, it is a huge milestone. I do not have the space here to do the subject justice, but I cannot say loudly enough that representation matters. I also do not have the space to expand on how representation is not everything. We go forward in a world with somewhat wider horizons.
That widening is always in danger of contracting, as we have also seen this month, with the horrific shooting deaths of 50 people in a gay nightclub in Orlando and that of a British member of Parliament (MP). Both were examples of fear and intolerance leading to hate and violence. Jo Cox, the liberal MP, was a vocal advocate for the most vulnerable, embracing immigration and supporting refugees. Her shooter was a far right nationalist, such as has been rising worldwide with disturbing speed and power.
Following soon after, the British people voted to exit the European Union in a referendum that stunned many. As someone who has spent time in Europe before the E.U. was instituted in 1993 as well as after, someone who has used both euros and pre-euro currency, it is something I have watched more closely than did many Americans. Until now. Over the past 20 years since I lived in France for six months, I have also seen that Europeans and Brits are as likely to become radicalized toward right wing intolerance as Americans. Or people from any other part of the world.
I have faith that some Brexiters really did want out of the EU for rational reasons, but the tone of the Brexit campaign was too close to that of our own Donald Trump. For too many, it was deep-seated racism to “Make Britain White Again.” Too often those of us who abhor racism, are too timid to call it out when it is veiled in cloaks like nationalism. Donald Trump’s campaign to “Make America Great Again” is without question racist, xenophobic, and misogynistic. And we must say so.
It was revealed this past week that Trump is accused, in disturbing detail, of raping a 13-year-old girl in 1994. Just a few years after his wife accused him of brutal, violent marital rape. Very few news outlets are covering this development. How is it possible that such a man can still be a presidential candidate? I am still baffled and enraged that he is a very real possibility for U.S. president. But after the lighter-than-light sentence a Stanford student got for raping an unconscious woman in an alley, with two eyewitnesses present, it is hard to be surprised at anything. So many other rape victims experience similar atrocious in our justice system.
Despite that hopelessness one can often feel after a month like this past one… We must not lose hope. We must not back down. We must move forward.