by Paulina French

As I watched the inauguration of the 45th American President I felt a sense of dread and sadness because it felt like I was living back in the 1930’s and 1940’s. The fights that have been fought for equality seem to have been wiped away in the minutes that the new American President took his oath to serve the people of America – who, he says, will come first.

It is interesting that the world seems to have become obsessed with this man. Anything he says becomes what we speak about at dinner tables, at the water cooler in the office or in the taxi on the way to work. Today’s society seems to be attracted to people who do and say what we don’t want to believe, or others actually think is right. Why do we give people like Trump so much air time?

Is it because their supporters have a tendency to recall information in a way that confirms their pre-existing beliefs? Their followers seem to be motivated by wishful thinking and they don’t objectively assess what is said at any point in time. They appear to pick out those pieces of information that make them feel good because these actually confirm their prejudices. Self-deception and false optimism seems to take over from real facts.

South Africa is far away from the United States but you can be assured that what happens in that country, will eventually affect us. Economically, with his “America first” policy,  we are likely to be near the bottom of their priority trade partners, unless we hit an oil field off our coast in the next few months!

In the last few days, since his inauguration, millions of people across the world have taken to the streets to protest against the new president. The aim of these protests was to highlight women’s rights which are believed to be under threat in the new dispensation. Many celebrities have come out in protest against Trump as well.

On the other hand, the fact is that many people believe that he is the right leader and will be a good one for the United States at this time. In our daily lives we too may be choosing to believe what we want to believe, thereby supporting our own prejudices. We may not realise that we are prejudiced against our fellow man and woman.

We can only live in hope that there will be some sense made out of all the happenings over the last few days. The Pope urges us to act like true Christians. In his prayer for Trump, Pope Francis expresses love and compassion: “I pray that your decisions will be guided by the rich spiritual and ethical values that have shaped the history of the American people and your nation’s commitment to the advancement of human dignity and freedom worldwide.”