In 1930, speaking little English, Mary MacLeod set sail from the western
isles of Scotland to the shores of New York to begin a new life. An immigrant, she would settle down and live the rest of her days as an American. In 1946 Mary MacLeod would give birth
to a boy called Donald. Members of my own family belonged to the MacLeod clan and left the western isles not long before Mary. They moved east to the mainland and from there the bloodlines separated.
In 2016 Donald was voted into the most powerful seat in the world as he turned the ire of millions of Americans towards those fleeing war and those just hoping for the same opportunity afforded to his mother. Amongst others, he targeted Mexicans and proposed building a wall to stem the tide of immigration into the USA. At the same time as all of this, I was travelling across four continents with a soulmate, a Mexican American girl. Hate and love can come from the same root.
After weeks away, Liam and I made it home. We survived the bus ride with the tartan army up from London and after getting a couple hours sleep on our pal Diana’s sofa, woke up to hear from another friend, Felicity that there was a protest just beginning against the election of Señor Trump on the Royal Mile. I chased across the meadows just after midday to find people congregated around St Giles Cathedral and with the shaky sounds of a megaphone those speaking served up their platitudes against the election. There was never much of a choice for the people of the USA. It was piss poor on either side so when I heard the cheers in support of Clinton it made me wince. You may have held your nose and voted for her but any tacit support for her seemed superfluous when she was running to be the first woman allowed to sign executive orders on drone attacks.
I couldnae get on board with the feminist line for her despite her credentials over the other side. Though I’m loathe to fall into left, right divides, those who label themselves ‘Murican conservative have been right to call out the hypocrisies of protesting against a violent candidate by siding with a proven ally of nations with deplorable women’s rights records. Whether they are genuinely moralising and will challenge Trump domestically and the USA globally or are just point scoring is another matter. The retaliations I see to protest against the bouffanted one rarely supports Trump, it attacks Hilary as if there is and ever was just two sides of a dime to perspective.
People have to cultivate their own garden first though. That tagline #Imwithher was nothing more than a smoke and mirrors, PR hatcheted piece of vacuous nonsense where hopes, dreams and aspirations of little girls were used as trade materials to build a new shop front for the American military industrial complex. And it failed.
She certainly worked harder as a woman to get to where she was but is that all feminism is, women working harder for the same things as men? Or is feminism the push for female based thought to realign the things everyone works hard for? I want to see women lead the way changing the world, not just bringing continuity to it. When 50% of the population have failed to have 50% of the representation in history it suggests that the way things are done haven’t been done as well as they could. A female with such power would be sound but the candidate and the system she appropriated was tainted.
This march was not a march to overthrow the impending American government. This was a march to speak out and not be idle as this abhorrent force of personality seeped hatred and misogyny across the world. If you don’t speak out against this, when will you speak out? It was right that this protest was led by women. Women will feel this greater than men. No man has to worry that those with such power speak so openly about sexually assaulting them. No man has to worry about these powers controlling their bodies. It’s almost like women’s rights are human rights. And it’s not just ‘women’ issues that women and other historically marginalised groups should be leading the way on. Other than concentrated self interest, what are the arguments against following through on the intellectualism of intersectionality? An angry white man has taken power and angry white men historically don’t make decisions for the greater or long term good. Last time I tried to solve a problem with anger I broke my foot.
After a few speeches of people saying fairly inoffensive things, I watched my friend Molly stand up and hold the crowd. She spoke with fierce clarity on what as an American she saw as a failing of democracy to allow this to happen and a need in particular for women to stand up and speak out. She spoke with the same passion, connection and articulation in front of five hundred people that I see her speak in a roomful of five. I’d not vote for Hilary Clinton but I’d sure as hell vote Molly van Niekerk for President. #Imwithher
We marched down the Royal Mile, weaving through the old streets, watched over by statues of men who shaped this city but in their day stood belligerently against the rights and the opportunities of their female contemporaries. Let’s not waste breath judging them but let’s judge ourselves on how we act when these terms of repression are placed before us.
As a white man born in an English speaking country, I receive more inherent benefit than virtually everyone on the planet. It feels an act of cowardice to seek to materially improve my life at the cost of others when there is so much prejudiced suffering in the world and so many imbalances to be shifted. A ‘real man’ shouldn’t need such institutional advantages to succeed in life. It’s easy for me to say that though because for all my renouncing, I’m still steeped in privileges built on historical exploitation that still affect people around the world today and an ancestral line that mirrors the President elect. But why are people feeling so emasculated that they need to preserve this separate, dominant ideology? White men are acting like they’re on the ascendancy but what are they marching towards? And who wants to imbue themselves into a culture embodied by that? The patter would be shite. If you give up white patriarchal prestige you can spend your time forging deeper connections with sexy girls and eating homemade curries from your friends’ Indian aunties. It’s a privilege to renounce privilege and white men would be all the richer for doing so.
Our weeks were spent protesting what we perceived as injustices around Europe, I felt enthused about what we were doing, I felt optimistic. Within a few days the reality of the chasm in front of us was made much clearer but I felt renewed to take on whatever must be taken on. Maybe a Democrat victory would have papered over the cracks of heinous American foreign policy that people long ago accepted as normal. Will we continue to be complicit in the crimes of those in power when those in power now act so brazenly in their division of people? Will you stand by and do nothing? Times are changing anyway and you’re going to land on a side of history whether you want to or not. Which side is up to you.
Leaders have to begin coming from new places. Places are needing new leaders. The way politics are structured locks too many people out of the process and distorts who has access to it. The opportunities for this blustered billionaire man with no experience to lead a superpower shows that. Bloody coups or community potlucks, something has to shift in how everyone operates with the world around them.
We wound around eventually to the American consulate on Regent Terrace to stand and listen to more speeches. It might have been the more enclosed space but the words seemed of greater intimacy now. We stood around as a Muslim American woman spoke about the choice she was faced to make when her only viable options were a vocal Islamophobe or a facilitator of Muslim murder. We listened to a Mexican American lassie talk of the fear she had for her family still in the USA and the tentative steps she had taken to leave the house to attend the march having not done so since election day. She was jeered by a counter protest of pro Trump supporters from the Scottish Defence League. Actually, I give them too much credit calling them a counter protest,
there were nine of them. Yet such was the bizarre nature of the world we are now privy too, they were also the ones on the winning side. Their idea of politics has been legitimised at the highest level of office in the world.
Another close friend of mine, Elle, had no need for audio assistance as she belted out words against those who would seek to repress the female body with ‘pro life’ (unless it’s a refugee) politics. It is to my discredit that I have written this article too late on to have the transcript of what was said but though I have forgotten words, I haven’t forgotten the togetherness of everyone as Elle spoke. All around her, people held each other and supported one another as this new dawn of reality began to hit. Would Elle take $675,000 from Goldman Sachs to say the things she said? Not a fucking chance. Any day of the week, I’d vote Elle Glenny for President. #Imwithher
The march finished up after that but the passions were still running high. We walked back home, talking about the naive idealism that people live by that will now have to be questioned and the fight that now has to take place. I think continually of the main person missing in my life. She’s a Mexican American living in California who must face this all at home. I’ve never been more proud to know anyone and though I feel trepidatious about the world at times, I know that as long as lights like her keep burning, the world will find its way again. If Donald Trump wants to bring the fight to her and others like her, then he’s dumber than he looks. I’d vote Idmantzi Torres Robles for President and I’m always with her.
These two weeks were an awakening for me. History might show it was an awakening for many people. I was fortunate to enter this turbulent time in the throes of action and activism with others much more seasoned than I. It began with the chorus to ‘Join in the fight’ with hundreds in a square in Brussels and it ended side by side in the fight with similar numbers in Edinburgh. As I finish writing this up, the new president has come in. The actions he and his shady entourage have executed so far are confirming many of the darkest fears people harboured. But people are rising above it and finding ways to ridicule it. On January 30th, the hundreds marching through Edinburgh in November turned into thousands. Now is not the time for speculation, now is the time to choose. No one can do it alone and no one need be alone. Choose muslims, choose refugees, choose black lives matters, choose to fight like a girl, choose solidarity and making yourself proud as you look back at what you done when you had the chance. Choose you, choose me, choose them, we’ll all die eventually, we might as well have some fun and cause some mischief along the way.