Opinion

John Bird: Time for some new progressives to ride into the frame

"By the end of that fateful day in world history – as it may prove to be – I was Segwaying away"

I’ve finished my book. It awaits a professional eye. I wait for judgment, before it proceeds, or doesn’t, to a publisher. The first part was praised, the second part may be or may not be.

When I started 9/11 had just happened. That was a major change in the world. I finished, yes, on the 20th of January, the day of the 45th’s inauguration. That might well prove to be as big a shift as 9/11.

I’ve stuck in a bit about Brexit and Trump, but as a light scattering like sugar on a doughnut. I thought I ought to. But the major part of the work is as a history book.

The finest part of the book, or the most enjoyable part, was describing the winter of 1963. I was 17 and in an institution for delinquents. The snow was the worst for centuries. I was on the all-day snow gang for months. I could have gone off to another job. But I was convinced I wanted to be clearing what I was telling everyone was “God’s Snow”.

This was a kind of rite of passage moment. I became resolute and threw off a disdain for labour, which I had developed watching my father labour himself into the ground. There was no way I was going to do the same.

Let’s hope that the 45th remembers what’s it like to be an immigrant, what with his mum being Scottish and a grandfather German

But here I was clearing the snow and watching it come in blizzards again as soon as the roads were clear. And the more the snow came the more ‘real’ I felt.

Interestingly, the same day I finished my book and the 45th was inaugurated, I jumped on my children’s Segway for the first time. A 70-year-old man on a Segway for the first time might seem a courting of disaster. But after a few minutes of assistance I was off. And by the end of that fateful day in world history – as it may prove to be – I was Segwaying away.

And don’t believe that standing on a Segway is a laze. You utilise parts of your feet, back, legs and buttocks that may get forgotten about in everyday life. And your balance! That is immediately improved.

But as well you know, the biggest bit of the 20th of January was not me sending my history book away to my agent or learning to Segway. It was Washington that held us all. And the 45th being sworn in, and the world seeming to gasp in horror and fear; and rage. What does the strangest of incumbents of high office do with the future for us all?

When Nixon, the 37th, and Reagan, the 40th, came in there was similar fears. But on reflection they seem like social progressives compared to the menu the 45th has promised the world.

Are there any indications that the 45th might morph into something more anodyne like the ‘professionals’ that previously offered themselves for the job? Or is this one really going to break the mould?

Watch the Pride special collection.

Our LGBTQ+ film playlist offers a new and interesting angle on LGBTQ+ love and struggle – giving an international overview by taking us inside some of the most and least sexually liberated countries in the world.  

Sign Up Now

Bear in mind that the ‘professionals’ who have had the job mainly for decades, soaked as they are in office and political ambition, do seem to bring multiple wars in their train; and the most recent ‘progressive professionals’ have seen the destruction of American communities with the exportation of US jobs.

When Tennessee lost its big denim factories, for instance, to the Far East, this was not because some casino-owning, hotel-owning dude had ordered it so. That was under the progressive Clinton administration, with its liberalising of world trade: globalisation.

We must hold our breath, admittedly, but we must also hope that different ‘professional progressives’ grow out of this situation. Not the usual suspects who seem as tied to Wall Street and international capital as supposed react-ionaries who have held the highest office.

Could you imagine the 45th on a Segway? Does he have the balance and the knees and buttocks for it? He is, after all, exactly the same age as me. That White House is a pretty big place and a Segway would cut down walking time.

I will not though be Twittering the 45th that he gets on a Segway. He has a more serious task. He has to convince the world that all of those bestial promises were just to get into power. And that, like what progressives promise, it was and is only a load of election hot wind.

Let’s hope therefore that he was lying about the wall, for instance; stopping Mexicans returning to the lands that they were evicted from in the 19th century. And that Islam will not be further vilified to keep with an idea of the hatred of ‘the Other’. Let’s hope that the 45th remembers what’s it like to be an immigrant, what with his mum being Scottish and a grandfather German.

And let us hope that we keep our cool and learn to engage in politics that is not the usual jumble of satire, piss-taking and outraged resignation. This might be our opportunity to get real.

Support the Big Issue

For over 30 years, the Big Issue has been committed to ending poverty in the UK. In 2024, our work is needed more than ever. Find out how you can support the Big Issue today.
Vendor martin Hawes

Recommended for you

View all
Ultra-processed food is often blamed for obesity – but we should be looking at government policy
Mark Game

Ultra-processed food is often blamed for obesity – but we should be looking at government policy

Billionaires are making a killing during cost of living crisis – we can't afford to accept this
Daisy Pearson

Billionaires are making a killing during cost of living crisis – we can't afford to accept this

Christopher Eccleston on his love affair with running: 'I always feel better after a run'
Christopher Eccleston

Christopher Eccleston on his love affair with running: 'I always feel better after a run'

Healthcare for trans youth is a human right – it should matter to us all
trans rights human rights
Chiara Capraro

Healthcare for trans youth is a human right – it should matter to us all

Most Popular

Read All
Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits
Renters: A mortgage lender's window advertising buy-to-let products
1.

Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal
Pound coins on a piece of paper with disability living allowancve
2.

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over
next dwp cost of living payment 2023
3.

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know
4.

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know