I actually began this post some weeks ago, after the first presidential debate, but merely opened it up with the title and then closed it while I had a thunk, mulling over what I wanted to say. My goal was to try to channel the voice that's been most missed during the course of this campaign season, his acerbic wit and incisive mind having been lost to us almost five years ago, and this was intended to be a tribute to him and an attempt, however palsied, to say some of things I feel he would have said, albeit with nowhere near the eloquence.
I'm talking, of course, about Christopher Hitchens, one of the great writers and thinkers of our age. Described by one of his colleagues* as:
'the greatest writer of our time, who could talk off the top of his head better than most of his colleagues can write'It isn't difficult to envision how he would have appeared - in his customary dishevelled elegance - on the news channels. Our palpable glee as we lapped up his carefully-crafted epithets, or the force with which he shredded shoddy thinking and unconscionable policy.
That was what I intended. Still unsure about how to proceed, events have overtaken me, and precipitated this outing as it now stands, because I simply can't remain quiet any longer, even if I wanted to. The news the last couple of weeks since that debate has been disturbing, but not nearly the most disturbing thing about it. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
As I said in my possibly too-flowery opening, most of us are mere passengers in this process. I choose that term advisedly because, while those of us outside the US have no real voice beyond the little influence we can exert from a distance via our words and pleas, the simple fact is that the train is rushing headlong toward whatever destination, we're all along for the ride. It seems not to occur to a lot of Americans that the outcome of this election affects us all, even those of us sitting too far away to reach the emergency brake.
There's been a sea change in world politics in the last couple of decades. The United States, once extremely insular, has finally begun to look outward, but is still largely unaware of how its policies are felt around the world. Great Britain, even while entirely aware of its influence on the wider world, has done exactly the opposite and turned inward, even to the point of vilifying 'outsiders' whose contribution to the well-being of our society over the past few decades has been easily measurable. Riding on the lies and impossible promises of a buffoon and a smarmy liar, our nation has determined to sever its ties to Europe in the most self-immolating manner imaginable, swapping one un-elected body for another, and heralding the return of a brand of conservatism that I'd thought we'd left behind after the decimation of the country's economy by the Grantham witch.
If you'd asked me in May whether I thought there was really any chance of a playboy moron with no business acumen, no social grace or skill, no observable functional neurons and no discernible connection to reality, being in the running for the most powerful job in the world, I'd have laughed at you. Yes, Sarah Palin got closer than we'd have liked, despite the fact that she'd have impressed most of us if she could tie her shoelaces without assistance. Yes, Michelle Bachman got closer than we'd have liked, despite inhabiting an intellectual stratum to which the appellation 'intellectual' doesn't really apply - I mean, seriously; she made Palin look like a genius. But Donald Trump? Do me a lemon! You can't be serious, right? Right?!!
Then the unthinkable happened. By the narrowest of margins, the British people spoke, and voted to leave the EU. I'm not going to rehash Brexit here, other than to say that I thought it unlikely and that I think it's a classic own-goal on the part of the British people. The point here is that it happened and, of course, some of what's come after is an indicator of the flavour of things to come, and now I'm not as sure in my conviction that the general populace of the planet isn't as dumb as a bag of hammers.
I've said before that I'm Irish. It seems a bit of an odd thing to interject with here, but there is a reason. I was born in England to Irish parents. Many would say that that means that I must be English, and that I'm wrong to describe myself as Irish. I grew up mostly here in Manchester in the '70s, a bitter time in some respects, as my developing experience was massively coloured by a political situation I had no voice in and no influence over. I suffered abuse at the hands of peers and superiors growing up, ultimately leaving school at the age of 12 with no academic achievements under my belt, despite being a very good student, and obtaining a scholarship to a brilliant school. I loved school, and I was on a sound academic trajectory, all but guaranteed entry into one of the world's premier music institutions for my further education. Ultimately, the abuse became too much, and I bowed out of academic life. Not without problems, of course. I became firm friends with several education welfare professionals (truant officers), but ducked and dived until I reached school-leaving age. All of this for no other reason than that I have an Irish name.
I've had some clear advantages in that time, of course, over those of other ethnicities. All other considerations aside, I don't and didn't look any different from my peers. My accent was the same as my peers (mostly; I had quite a few different accents as a child, from living in other countries and other cities growing up). In fact, you had to know my name to draw any Irish connection. I grew up hating my name, which is a strange thing to admit.
When I started working as an entertainer, I took a stage name. Not for the usual reasons of evading tax, etc (I was too young to pay income tax at the time), but simply because I hated the name and thought it would put me at a disadvantage. I was well into my twenties before I accepted my name. Interestingly, the thing that triggered the change was my taking the time to find out what my name actually meant. I discovered that it was an Anglicisation of a Gaelic name meaning 'sea warrior'. I'm happy to report that I don't suffer these slings and arrows any more, nor have I for a very long time. Of course, this is in part due to the fact that I'm nothing like the easy target I was in my callow youth, but also because, I thought, attitudes have changed.
The point to this digression is that, during my childhood, I developed a keen sense of some things that those not subject to them might not even recognise for what they are. There's a term that's taken on a new usage in recent years that deals with it; privilege.
It's very easy for somebody not on the receiving end of discriminatory behaviour to entirely fail to recognise that it's even there. The outrage, for example, at the Black Lives Matter campaign, and especially the All Lives Matter hashtag, as well as other outpourings of public indignation from those areas of society for whom the question of whether their lives matter simply isn't one they ever had to think about, such as those directed at the LGBTQ community. What I'm struggling to articulate here is that this indignation isn't just misplaced, it's highly irresponsible, and only serves to promulgate the attitudes that the BLM and LGBTQ contingents are attempting to address. Such issues have never been addressed by remaining quiet, and the indignation precisely mirrors the indignation levelled at uppity nigger Rosa Parkes not relinquishing a seat on a bus.
Since the Brexit vote, there's been a rise in the sort of behaviour that I haven't seen this openly since my youth. I was about to say that it's redolent of the National Front, which hasn't openly been seen in decades, and then I remembered this, from the day after the vote:
You'll note the NF logo in the top right corner. I'd thought that this organisation was dead yonks ago, but apparently these fuckwits have just been in hiding, only emerging again once the racist morons EDF and their political arm, the moronic, toxic UKIP, major architects of our DIY rhinectomy, found a voice.
This problem has never really gone away in the US. In the less liberal or progressive areas, such as the Midwest, I know racism is still rife. I lived in Iowa for a time as a child, and my sister's recently been back, and tells me that she couldn't quite cope with the degree of quiet bigotry that, she says, seems commonplace.
Since the presidential debate, the aforementioned Cheeto-in-chief has gone into full meltdown, starting with a Twitter-storm about a former Miss Universe and some of the horrendously misogynistic things he said about her, and advising his supporters to check out her (non-existent) sex tape.
Of course, it's no surprise to anybody that he harbours these attitudes. It's crystal clear from his behaviour the disdain he holds for any group he feels is beneath him, not least in his uncouth interruptions of Hillary Clinton during the debate itself. When we engage in a little fact-checking, we find that every single instance of him denying having said something was a lie, as the evidence presented afterwards shows all too clearly, in the form of captions from his Twitter account of him saying exactly those things, or in the form of videos and audio clips.
See, he sounds like he knows what he's talking about...
It's also worth noting that his comments reflect reported behaviours from other sources, notably a business partner who alleges that, in 1992, Trump did exactly what he admits to in this video.
There's something in the way that this is being reported in the popular press that's a little disconcerting. It's being reported as 'making lewd remarks'. Let's not be afraid to say what it is: A straight-up admission of sexual assault.
Setting aside all of this, Trump stands accused of several counts of rape and attempted rape, at least one of which was with a 13 year-old girl in the company of a known paedophile and registered sex offender.
Now, let me be clear, I'm no fan of Hillary Clinton. I don't think she's anything like the best candidate to have been in the primaries. In any other circumstance, I'd say that voting down the ticket was a perfectly acceptable move. This isn't any other circumstance, though. Voting down the ticket is essentially voting for Trump, and this is unconscionable.
The evidence is clear. He's a criminal and a sexual predator who wants to impose his own views on women's reproductive rights. A racist who has no problem tarring an entire nation with a brush that, on the basis of the overwhelming weight of evidence as detailed above, is best applied to himself, who wants to build a wall to keep them out, and who's got a record of poor treatment of minority tenants in his real estate holdings. A bigot who's happy to call for the the exclusion of all members of a religion†, up to and including forced deportations, in a move that would make a good plot for an Arthur Miller allegory. A man who called for the death penalty for a group of innocent kids who, when shown to be innocent by virtue of the actual perpetrator of the crimes they served prison time for being caught and being tied to the crime by DNA evidence, still insists they're guilty. A man who ran and runs shady businesses, has clearly bought his way out of prosecutions and investigations when caught out. Has a record of failing to pay for work he's contracted, and is glib about it. Thinks that not making proper contributions to the governance of the country he purports to be qualified to lead is 'smart'. He has no political or social intelligence whatsoever, nor any other kind of intelligence that this commentator can discern.
It's telling to me that vast swathes of life-long republicans are endorsing Clinton, news organisations who have either never or rarely endorsed any candidate or have always endorsed republicans, military and intelligence leaders and, most damning of all, two former republican presidents, are all endorsing Clinton.
If you're seriously considering voting for this odious twerp, I urge you to ask yourself the following:
Given all of the above, as well as the voluminous damning evidence of his rapacious and immoral behaviour over several decades, coupled with his self-centredness, do you actually think he gives a flying fuck about you? Do you think he reflects your values? Do you think he gets you, or is a 'man of the people'?
I get it: You're fed up with career politicians and their unfulfilled promises. You feel disenfranchised and let down. Do you honestly think somebody who's consistently failed in business, who seems entirely incapable of planning five seconds into the future, who has already demeaned the alliances and partnerships that ALL nations need, is the right man to represent your nation on the world stage?
I'm truly sorry that the Hitch isn't still around to have saved me the agony of this presentation, and that I've felt it necessary to inflict my views directly on you all, but that yawning chasm is only partly figurative. The world at large is in a very dark and dangerous place at the moment. The last time the world faced such a looming threat to stability, the result was tens of millions dead.
I recall when Jerry Falwell died, and the Hitch appeared on TV saying variously that, if you'd given him an enema, he could have been buried in a matchbox, or that he should be standing on a corner selling pencils from a cup. I'm pretty sure he'd agree with me that Trump's talents don't reach such dizzying heights, and that selling pencils from a cup is entirely out of his intellectual reach, or that, if you gave him an enema, there'd be nothing left of him to bury.
He also commented that it was something of a shame that there was no hell for him to go to. I put it to you that, if this shameful, toxic and utterly reprehensible individual is elected Groper-in-Chief, he'll create that hell, and this will be it.
Please, America: Just say no!
Valé Hitch. You're still greatly missed.
Edit: Since I posted this, there have been many leaping to Trump's defence concerning the recording. Most of the defences have been addressed above in one way or another, having revolved around the lengthy interim since the recording took place - not that my outing was entirely centred on the recording, of course; that was merely the catalyst.
Some of the defences of this despicable behaviour have dismissed his comments as mere 'locker-room banter', and some have even gone so far as to suggest that this is the sort of thing that all men engage in. This is simply not the case, so let me set things straight here and now.
While it's true that men - and women - engage in salacious talk, often via innuendo, it is not the case that we openly admit to what constitutes a crime. That's what this is.
I was an entertainer for many years, and I'm known to have a sense of humour bordering on the tasteless. I've spent a lot of hours in locker-rooms and, while many men - and women (yes, I've been in both) - will titillate and talk about whose arse they find attractive or who makes them wet. We talk about who we find attractive, and we can sometimes do it in less-than entirely flattering terms. We can talk about how much we love boobs (they are magnificent, after all). We can talk about what salacious acts, given consent and participation, we'd like to engage in with a particular individual. We can express our fantasies. These can be expressions of admiration. They can be expressions of longing, of romance, of love or of pure animal sex. What we do not do is deliver open admissions of violations of the personal space or the person of others, or even to consider such violations. What we don't do is to demean. what we don't do is to say 'I do this thing all the time that is tantamount to rape'. Don't kid yourselves, that's what sexual assault is, it's rape.It has little to do with sex, because rape has little to do with sex and everything to do with power and violence.
Over the course of my 47 years, I've encountered violence in many forms, some of which are detailed above. Much of my early life was centred around violence in one way or another. I know it intimately. Anybody who shares this knowledge and experience can see this man for what he is. He's a violent thug with a Napoleon complex. I'd say he was Neanderthal, but that would be insulting to our hominid cousins.
I have many friends, male and female, with whom I engage in playful banter of the sort that could be described as 'locker-room', but they do not sink to the level of telling another about committing sexual assault and being untouchable for it.
This was not banter, it wasn't funny or humorous, it wasn't innocent, and it was a clear admission of violating the personal space of others.
There was some outrage recently, quite rightly, about a man still referred to as a swimmer by those who won't call him what he is, a violent, invasive sexual predator, who was caught doing what the orange fuckwit is not only accused of, but actually admitted to in this recording. This makes this not banter, but a credible admission of an actual crime. This swimmer, coming from a wealthy white family, was given functionally no sentence. Meanwhile, there are those serving indefinite sentences for offences that hurt nobody (note: hat-tip to Obama for recognising this in at least one case this week).
In another case, a black man accused of a similar crime received five years in prison and another five on parole, and he was innocent.
This orange cretin, because of his colour, financial standing and celebrity, looks set to walk away scot free.
Trump is running as the law and order candidate. He's certainly shady, has admitted to being a criminal, whether mere braggadocio or not, has definitely engaged in shady dealings, has fiduciary ties to enemies of the state, and is a complete twunt in every single measurable respect, yet there are still people defending him.
Frankly, if you vote for this oxygen-thief, you deserve him. The only problem is that the rest of your compatriots don't, and the rest of the world who have no say in the matter do not.
Since the original post, the second debate has taken place. There are those who said that Trump did much better, but it's also clear that he's still being graded on a curve. Clinton, meanwhile, who in my mind represents the better of a bad lot, but still lightyears ahead of her opponent is, as one of my twitter friends put it, living proof that it doesn't matter how qualified or experienced you are as a woman, you still have to compete with lesser-qualified men for the same job.
I'll say it plainly. If you vote for this fucking idiot, you're a fucking idiot as well. Donald Trump represents the single biggest threat to world security that we currently face. He's a science-denier, a responsibility-denier, unaware of the world and his place in it, and his running-mate is little better.
If you can find a worse pairing than these two carpet-chewers, I'll show my arse in Harrods' window.
I don't beg, but I'll happily beg for this. Think, America. Don't do it, for your own sakes and for ours. Trump is toxic, not just to women, and not just to America, but to the world.
*Michael J Totten, journalist and author.
†It's well known that I have no love for Islam, nor any other religion. They represent the worst of the world's failures of thought. I always draw the distinction between the idea and the people who hold it, though. Ideas are fair game, and not to be respected. Failing to respect people, however, is failing to respect yourself.