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Viewpoint / Editorial: Standing up for liberal values

THE FORTY or so individuals who turned out on the streets of Lerwick to express their solidarity with women and minorities who – quite understandably – fear for their future under the demagogic, newly-inaugurated US president deserve to be warmly commended.

It is heartening to see civic engagement of this sort, whether to do with local, national or global affairs.

That people in Lerwick took their place alongside 100,000 in London and millions more worldwide against a man who has bragged about sexually assaulting women might be a small gesture, but it is an important one.

Those who came out to express their opposition to the misogyny, bigotry and insularity of this man appear to have enraged a fair few locals. They vented their spleens on social media, counselling the protesters that their time would have been better spent taking to the street to campaign on matters closer to home.

Guess what, guys? It’s not a binary choice. Annoyed about what’s going on with Shetland Charitable Trust, local government funding cuts or the price of getting in and out of Shetland? Why not stage your own protest march? You might well find some of those you are castigating happily walking alongside you.

Social liberalism is on the run in many Western democracies. Trump and the more extreme Brexiteers have unleashed a new ugliness and disregard for the truth in politics on both sides of the pond, one which a few individuals locally sadly seem all too eager to imitate.

It is probably the case that those most agitated by a peaceful Women’s March in Lerwick on a Saturday lunchtime betray that a form of Trumpism resides amongst us too.

Speaking to American friends and associates over the past few weeks and months, it is clear that demonstrations and messages of solidarity are anything but a waste of time to liberal-minded US citizens disillusioned and alienated as a result of the election of a frankly farcical human being.

As Michelle Obama said a few weeks ahead of the election, “If a candidate traffics in fear and lies on the campaign trail… well, that is the kind of president they will be.”

It is not “virtue signalling” to women, LGBT people, religious and ethnic minorities who will need all the moral support they can get if a fraction of the dangerous ideas spouted during last year’s campaign are enacted.

We are, rightly, a proud island population never shy of speaking the truth to power when it is in our own interest to do so. Speaking up on behalf of others when they need it most strengthens, rather than weakens, that voice.

Shetland News