As always, welcome to our weekly View round-up where we take a look at the hot topics that have had you talking. This week, as Donald Trump’s fight for a border wall continues and the dream of Brexit crumbles further, we aim to give you a flavour of the opinions that have driven debate across Europe and beyond over the last seven days.
For anyone trying to keep track of current affairs around the world, it can sometimes feel like tumbling down the rabbit hole into Wonderland. The boundaries between reality and fantasy are becoming increasingly blurred as new, once unfathomable realities present themselves. A case in point is US president Donald Trump’s latest push for a wall along its southern border with Mexico.
It could be argued that an increasing number of commentators – in the United States and further afield - consider Trump to be someone who epitomises this imbalance. Trump’s recent intransigence over the funding of a border wall has come to solidify this opinion more than most of his past actions over his last two years in office. We need only look at his recent Game of Thrones-inspired stunt – a mock-up of a poster with the words “The Wall is Coming” scrawled across it – to see that we may now have slipped beyond the looking glass.
This new America that Trump is fashioning during his tenure in the White House has led to many dystopian comparisons, not least to those depicted on the big screen. Contributor Robert Schlesinger contrasts some films in particular from the 1980s, “Blade Runner” and “The Running Man,” which predict what life may be like in 2019, to current events. In the case of the latter film, Schlesinger notes: “The film opens with a crawl describing a United States that could be straight from Trump’s ‘American carnage’ inaugural address: ‘the world economy has collapsed, food, natural resources and oil are in short supply.’”
Rather than look to the fantastical futures depicted in films from decades ago, Trump would do well to learn from the reality of history. Of course, it is not the first time in history that a wall has been built by autocrats to protect a nation from perceived enemies – or rather, as Nina Khrushcheva points out in her op-ed this week, to control people behind them. “Walls,” she writes, “have represented undemocratic forces.” The great-granddaughter of Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev should be somewhat of an authority in this field since her great-grandfather was the architect of the Berlin Wall, one of history's ultimate symbols of autocratic oppression.
Whether Trump likes it or not, he is being forced to reconnect with reality thanks to the change in majority party in Congress. While already in contention with him over the border wall, the Democrats are likely to hold Donald Trump’s feet to the fire over the next two years of what may be his first and last term. As Howell Raines points out in his View piece this week, “a Democratic House means a newly energized agenda of issues that won’t allow him to stick his head in the sand.” Still worse, with the newly-elected Democrat representatives taking their seats, he continues, “Trump is facing the reality of being a minority president who lost the popular vote and now has to worry about his true believers.”
Of course, America does not have a monopoly on skewed political realities. Brexit is lurching ever closer to farce as a deeply divided UK tries to break the deadlock on what should happen next. With no majority in the House of Commons supporting any of the Brexit scenarios on offer, the political elite are fast losing their grip on reality with just weeks before the UK crashes out of the EU. Some people who voted Remain still dream that Brexit will run out of steam and will be called off, but the reality is, as contributor Ronan McCrea points out, that Europe may no longer want the UK to remain in the Union.
For independence supporters in Catalonia, the dream of starting a new nation is a potent one. However, the realisation of this dream has encountered many of hurdles, not least the arrest of many of the movement’s leaders following an unofficial referendum in October 2017. In his piece for View, Aleix Sarri Camargo argues that allowing the trial of independence leaders to go ahead is leaving an indelible stain on the EU’s values. He writes: “The trial against the Catalan referendum will have wide consequences for the EU and any condemnatory prison sentences will be a huge blow for the democratic credibility of the European project.”
Other pieces that deserve a mention this week include blogger Ani Bundel’s piece on the disappointment of the Golden Globes bestowing favour on films based on real life stories which have been reportedly economical with the truth. Worse still, controversial winners like Bohemian Rhapsody and Green Book took the high ground on moral questions despite having troubling connections to sexual harassment claims and, in the case of Green Book – a story which explores racial relations – an all-white writing and directing team.
Also this week, contributor Ned Price delves into the curious case of American businessman Paul Whelan who has been held by the Kremlin on espionage charges. Arguably predicated on “fake news and propaganda,” according to Price, the story is getting widespread attention as the probe into Donald Trump’s dealings with Russia ramps up.
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