The Popspoken Roundtable is a series of opinion pieces by the Popspoken Curators. In line with our site’s focus, this fortnightly series will discuss issues surrounding youth, art, and culture in Singapore.
It has been almost a week since Trump’s victory. Facebook is still trickling with posts that range from “Trump – Spawn of Satan” to “Trump will actually be the best US president ever”. But there is another camp, one that remains totally apathetic.
“Why is everyone suddenly an expert on USA politics anyway?”, “What does it even matter? We are a $1,000 plane ticket and a 20 hour flight away from US.” If you share this mentality, then this article is for you.
1) Everything Affects Singapore
If there’s one thing we have learned from Social Studies, everything affects Singapore. We are tiny and vulnerable, and are largely subject to international climate. As ambassador Bilahari Kausikan told The Sunday Times, “The US is like weather”, and Trump is a potential storm.
As already mentioned in The Straits Times, Trump’s ‘America First’ mentality will affect trade, which Singapore is extremely dependent on. A key concern is the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Free Trade Agreement, which has been promoted by Singapore, not yet passed by the US congress, and openly disapproved by Trump.
All this might seem far removed and irrelevant now, but Trump’s potential political actions will hit us young people the most.
Let’s also not forget that Trump has specifically called out Singapore for stealing American jobs. We laughed at that statement, mocking Trump for thinking Singapore was a part of China. Make no mistake, though, Trump knows exactly where Singapore is. He quoted American company Baxter Health Care Corporation’s movement of workers to Singapore, differentiating it from his statistics about China. We may be small, but as vigorous pushers of free trade, we are not under his radar and his desire for protecting American jobs.
All this might seem far removed and irrelevant now, but Trump’s potential political actions will hit us young people the most. Everything he stands for hints at disruption in international trade, which Singapore is so dependent on. If Trump abides to his election speeches, prepare for a tough few years post-graduation.
But all this has been covered extensively by the likes of The Straits Times and Channel NewsAsia and might sound too economical, too “above us”. This is a problem for investors and the government, you might think, and there is not much we can do. This is also mostly true. There is nothing we can do, so we should just not care, right?
Wrong. Underneath the obvious, there is another more pertinent problem at hand.
2) Trump is Threatening the Social Fabric that Singapore is Built Upon
Trump has expressed open hatred for Muslims, the LGBTQ+ community, and he has openly disrespected women. He has done this with unprecedented insensitivity and crudeness as a political figure in recent years. He has erased whatever civility, tolerance, and acceptance that was built with the election of Barack Obama eight years ago.
Since Trump’s triumph, cases of hate crimes have already begun spawning in the US. A deluge of social media posts describe how Muslims, members of the LGBTQ+ community, Asian-Americans, and African-Americans have already been targeted. Social filters have been removed, and we are seeing people devolve from civilised citizens to the personification of intolerance and bigotry.
What does this mean for multiracial, diverse, secular Singapore? This open disrespect of other races, of women, of the LGBTQ+ community, and of diversity, brings out the uglier side of people. As mentioned earlier, the US is like the weather, and skin colour is becoming all so sensitive again. Online, there have already been discussions about whether Singapore should reserve the 2017 presidency for Malay candidates, fearing Trump’s reaction to a Muslim leader.
I agree that Trump is not stupid.
Before arguments of the echo chamber are brought up, I agree that Trump is not stupid, I agree that the people who voted for Trump may not necessarily be old, cis, white males who are open haters of diversity. In fact, the data shows that a significant proportion of Trump voters are educated, and the group included women, people of colour, and members of the LGBTQ+ community. To a limited extent, I agree with some of their reasoning. I agree that Trump might not even build the wall, that it is too early to judge, and that Trump might end up being a decent president.
Trump’s supporters might not really support his bigotry, but they are all enablers of this ugly, hateful agenda.
But the truth remains: since the day Trump won, there have been real, indisputable social changes in the US. We see real, actual cases of open racial discrimination. Trump himself might not really carry out his racist, classist and sexist policies, and his supporters might not really support Trump’s bigotry, but they are all enablers of this ugly, hateful agenda.
Now we see fear – we see Muslim women in USA begging their children to not wear their hijab. We see parents begging their queer children not to proudly and publicly admit their sexual orientation. It’s not about Trump just putting on an act and playing on the anger of his audience. It’s about how Trump and his supporters enabled this hatred to gain traction and result in actual social changes. It’s about how the tolerance is gone, because Trump endorsed intolerance.
What’s Next for the World, and for Singapore?
Basically, the world as we know it is about to change. Whether hate crimes in the US will grow into something bigger or subside remains to be contended, and whether Trump will carry out his multi-fold agenda remains to be seen. If this continues, though, people will start to question why we should continue to stand by the Singaporean values of equality and be “one united people, regardless of race, language, or religion”.
We Singaporeans might not be the most sensitive people at times, but damn, are we tolerant and understanding. And at the end of the day, we need to remember that no matter how much the current world power is going “fuck diversity!”, our diversity is what lends us our edge, and we cannot and should not devolve back to the times of racial riots and division.
This is also a time to be sensitive – to recognise that just being a majority race in a country is a privilege. If it is any consolation, Trump dislikes the majority us regardless of race, language, and religion anyway. In this sickening sense, he is not discriminatory – he has shown dislike towards Chinese, Malays and Indians alike. In this sense, we really are one united people to him. There may or may not be tough times ahead, but as Bilahari Kausikan advised, “we can’t change it, so we adapt to it.”
Edited by: Jovi Ho
Cover Photo: Youth.sg