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The Editorial

Polarised society

President Trump is now a reality.

John Benton, Editor

Figure Image

Donald Trump’s inauguration as the 45th President of the USA took place on 20 January amid protests in Washington and across the world from women’s groups and many others. These protests were reminiscent of those in Britain after the result of the Brexit referendum was announced. The election of Trump and Brexit are seen as part of a conservative (small c) backlash against multi-culturalism and the moves towards globalism of recent years. ‘The world has changed’, we are told.

It may be a generalisation but it seems that Western society is becoming more polarised. We are dividing into camps. The culture wars of liberals versus right-wingers are beginning to create deep splits at the political level which from time to time spill over onto the streets. Both sides are prepared to use what amounts to propaganda and ‘fake news’ to wage their battles. With the news media being seen as run mostly by liberals, President Trump seeks to circumvent the journalists via his continual use of ‘tweets’.

Some experts say that the bitterness and acrimony of elected representatives of both sides will lead more people to lose faith in the democratic process and opt out of political engagement in disgust. If that is the case, our prospects look grim. Others say that polarisation will do the opposite, stirring thinking folk to get involved and recover the situation with some common sense. We will have to wait and see how things develop.

Working for exclusion

With his inauguration slogan of ‘America first’ still ringing in our ears and the threat of Islamic extremism in his mind, President Trump soon followed through on his election promise to bring in swingeing immigration restrictions. Having just met with our PM, Theresa May, the first head of state to visit him, he signed an executive order banning people from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen from travelling to the US. Even Muslims who are British were included. This brought howls of disapproval from many quarters. The policy, currently hampered by the courts, led to Mr. Trump being accused of enforcing a de facto ‘Muslim ban.’

I don’t hold any liking for Trump’s policy. There are better ways to deal with terrorism. But the criticism of him did have the pungent whiff of liberal hypocrisy. This policy is about exclusion. Shock! Horror! But how many liberals have worked for the exclusion of people who are not terrorists from university campuses or public life simply because they have a set of values at loggerheads with their own agenda? How can you petition against a state visit by the US President when you have campaigned to de-platform those who happen to disagree with you over such things as abortion or transgenderism (remember Germaine Greer). Isn’t the freedom to express an opinion a human right too?

North and South?

Both camps are actually prepared to use the same methods. In his book The Gathering Storm, Sir Winston Churchill, referring to the Nazi party soon after WWI, uses a classic piece of understated irony about their strong-arm tactics: ‘They differed from the Bolsheviks whom they denounced no more than the North Pole does from the South.’

In this divided world Christians must stand on different ground completely. In responding to subtle and not-so-subtle political tyranny, the faithful church seeking to exert a good influence needs to avoid two things – collusion and withdrawal. Now is the time for salt and light if ever there was one.