US election: Donald Trump created an Orwellian nightmare but Joe Biden can help America recover – Professor Joe Goldblatt
Upon the dramatically beautiful Scottish isle of Jura, George Orwell wrote his futuristic dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four: A Novel.
He had travelled to Jura for rest and isolation so that he could concentrate upon creating the concept of Big Brother. He succeeded and this book revolutionised publishing in 1949 with its tale of perpetual war, omnipresent government surveillance, historical negationism and propaganda.
Many folk may well believe that the fiction of 1984 has been turned into fact during the 2020 US presidential election. And some folk, such as the Chinese government, were so frightened by Orwell’s story that in 2019 they banned his books from their social media platforms.
Those of a certain age will remember that it was not always like this. In fact, in the actual year of 1984, the US Democratic convention featured a speech by the governor of New York state, Mario Cuomo. Nearly 80 million people watched this speech on their televisions and Governor Cuomo was interrupted by applause by the live audience more than 50 times. That was the year that President Ronald Regan had waxed eloquent about the US being “a shining city on a hill”. Cuomo contrasted this image by arguing that “the hard truth is that not everyone is sharing in this city’s splendour and glory”.
Barring any last-minute problems – like a successful legal challenge by Donald Trump – Joe Biden looks set to be the president-elect of the United States.
He was carried into the White House by a tsumani of folk who understood that he was talking about them when he said that the Covid pandemic “is not over”, adding “just ask the people who will look at an empty chair at their dining table this Christmas or reach over for a loved one in their bed out of habit only to find it too is empty”.
A voice of integrity, honour and truth
Biden and his vice-president-elect, Kamala Harris, held up a highly polished mirror to the American people as if to say, “Is this what you really want?” They answered on 3 November – and long before – with a resounding “No!”
As the world has become more and more dystopian since 1984, it is striking to me that even today amidst the stormy seas of mass electronic media, a voice of integrity, honour, and, yes, truth can rise above the madding crowd.
Combining the folksiness of Ronald Reagan, the sincerity of Jimmy Carter and even the righteous anger of the United States’ founding fathers, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were able to surmount all of the odds by finding their collective voice and asking a simple question.
Over and over again, they asked “Is this the America we want for ourselves, our children and our grandchildren?”
It is at once a question that is both simple and also profound. If you were to survey 300 million American citizens and ask them about their dreams for the future, you would find as many splinters as could be seen as a result of a giant tree being felled in the forest.
A new dawn
These splinter groups have always been part of the American experiment. However, due to recent poor national leadership, this noble experiment has been failing due to the sowing of seeds of division, rather than the building of coalitions of courage.
Now, the 1984 campaign slogan for President Ronald Reagan “It’s Morning in America” appears to be true once more with the dawn of new leadership, albeit from an opposing party.
The challenge now for the soon-to-be President Biden and Vice President Harris is that they must first heal the wounds of the recent past. And although these scars will be visible for many years to come, they shall always remind us of the American dream that is stronger and more enduring than any selfish despot, evil white supremacist group or salacious QAnon conspiracy troll.
Moving on from dystopia
When Governor Cuomo stood in the Moscone Convention Centre in San Francisco and addressed thousands of delegates, his voice did not thunder, rather, he softly and firmly reminded all Americans that their country was more of a “tale of two cities” than a “shining city on a hill.”
He then shone a strong spotlight upon the dark side of that hill by using statistical evidence to demonstrate how unjust America had become. He concluded by stating these words that whether in 1984 or in 2020, shall carry a profound sense of treasure and upward trajectory: “To succeed we will have to surrender some small parts of our individual interests, to build a platform that we can all stand on, at once, and comfortably – proudly – singing out.”
I believe that the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris has brought forth a new opportunity to move, step by step, from our dystopian past and present into a new chapter for America and her friends and admirers all over the world to stand together once more and proudly sing out that these are our values and that our hopes for the future shall be realised with a new leadership which cherishes truth, respect, kindness and, yes, love.
Professor Joe Goldblatt is emeritus professor of planned events at Queen Margaret University. He holds both Scottish and US citizenship and he has also been described as an “honorary Orcadian” as a result of his many visits. He voted for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. To read more about Professor Goldblatt’s views visit www.joegoldblatt.scot
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